Master of the movie poster

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We've all seen his work on movie theater walls, video packaging, and television trailers for blockbusters like "E.T.," "Back to the Future," and "Beauty and the Beast." But Drew Struzan is best known for his stunning posters for the "Star Wars" series, including this summer's "The Phantom Menace." (You know the one; we couldn't get permission to run any "Star Wars" posters here, though.)

Mr. Struzan is now the subject of a career retrospective at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. "Drew - Art of the Cinema" is on display through Oct. 31.

After graduating from the renowned Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Struzan quickly attracted projects from record companies. He illustrated album covers and posters for everyone from Liberace to Alice Cooper to Tony Orlando and Dawn.

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Soon the movie industry was keeping him busy, too. But his big break came in 1977 from a fellow Art Center classmate, air-brush artist Charles White III. White had been commissioned by George Lucas to create a special poster for his "Star Wars" movie. White asked for Struzan's help with the character portraits. The end result became one of the most popular and memorable posters in movie history.

More than 20 years later, Struzan's work again trumpeted the arrival of the latest "Star Wars" saga. His original acrylic paintings and drawings for the recent film poster, along with 50 other original works and more drawings, are featured in the Rockwell Museum show.

Struzan's commissions transport the viewer to a world of fantasy and romance, of pirates and dancing teapots. The images are beyond photographic. His hyperreal movie stars glow with life and attitude.

"A poster becomes that one image that represents the entire film," Struzan says. "If it is accurate and truthful and has good spirit, it resides with you forever."

Today, movie-poster illustration is a dying art. Most posters are made by combining and manipulating photographs by computer. Changes can be made with the click of a mouse, an ideal feature for revision-happy Hollywood.

The fact that Struzan still commands respect in the film community speaks to his talent for memorable imagemaking. He is the recognized master of an art form we sometimes take for granted. But one of the reasons we love a movie is that, consciously or not, we love the poster.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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