Saturday, 28 January 2017

Magnum Force, alternative promotion photo by Philippe Halsman

This week I was reading about Philippe Halsman (2 May 1906 – 25 June 1979). He was an American portrait photographer - born in Riga in the part of the Russian Empire which later became Latvia, and died in New York City. He was very successful in the industry and especially for his cover shots used for Life magazine. Celebrities photographed by Halsman include Alfred Hitchcock, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy.

It was while studying his portraits that I came across his well-known shots of Clint that were used for the incredible publicity campaign for Magnum Force (1973). Like me, a great deal of fans place this advertising campaign among their favourites. In particular, the American half sheet poster that featured Clint in a multi-image shot (Halsman liked a great deal of movement in his photography). It’s a real stand out piece of work and is the most treasured of posters in my own collection. So while looking through Halsman’s photographs, I was quite amazed to find an alternative version of this familiar image. I have to say, I still think the image used in the final version is the correct choice. Eastwood’s face has a very cool and lethargic look, Harry almost looks innocent – which I think works incredibly well. In the alternative version, Eastwood’s face is a great deal more serious, there’s a far darker intent about it.

I still find it incredible when more photos such as this begin to surface. After some 40 years of collecting, you can’t help but think (perhaps rather naively) that you’ve seen pretty much everything - and that nothing else can possibly emerge to surprise you.

How privileged and how lucky we are when proven wrong…  
Magnum Force, final design for the Half Sheet poster
Magnum Force, alternative unused photo image
Below: Two shots of the original photograph which was displayed during the Philippe Halsman exhibition of 2016.
Footnote: To avoid any confusion, it is of course acknowledged that the great Bill Gold is credited for the Magnum Force poster concept - but Gold hired Philippe Halsman to photograph Eastwood wielding the Magnum with a wide angle lens, blowing up the gun to surreal proportions for the Magnum Force poster.

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