Friday 25 April 2014

High Plains Drifter Tie in Paperback Artwork - SOLVED

Here's an interesting story for all you people that like a debate... A good Eastwood friend of mine (Kevin Wilkinson) sent me an email tonight with a rather interesting question. 

We are of course, all familiar with the great poster artwork for Eastwood's western High Plains Drifter (presumed to be by artist Ron Lesser), but Kevin asked me about the artwork used on the paperback tie in novel - which is in itself, a very fine piece of art. Kevin wondered if it was ever or might have been originally painted for a poster design. Good question, right? 

I have to admit, I never really considered it before, I simply looked upon it as a paperback. I'm going to have to dig it out to see if there is any artist credited on the back or inside, it has certainly got me very curious... For those unfamiliar with the tie in book, here is the artwork used, perhaps we can try and establish the background of it or in deed its origins?
Well amazingly, we got to solve this in less than 24 hours - but it was something of a Roller-coaster ride in the end. Firstly I contacted Random House in New York who took over Bantam. Spoke to a very nice person there who tried her best - even contacting other people in order to help. Unfortunately and because of the date of the book, everyone was drawing blanks. I was looking at the artwork again this morning, specifically at the Marianna Hill section. I started to wonder if there was a possibility of it being the work of Bob Peak - I looked at it for so long, I finally talked myself out of it. From the moment Kevin presented me with this headache (cheers Kev), I opened it up to other Eastwood fans. As I went to check in this morning, my friend James Anthony Phillips had left a two word comment 'Bob Peak'. I had to do a double take on it first. Contacting James, he explained how he thought the painting (particularly around the eyes) looked like Peak's work. Nevertheless, James suggested I obtain a second opinion. I then contacted friend and film poster expert Thomas Nixdorf in Germany. Thomas immediately took an interest and began to investigate. 

Several hours passed, when I also called upon another Eastwood friend of mine Davy Triumph. Davy has also collected Eastwood posters for a great number of years. I think we were all a little oblivious at one point, after all - this was just the artwork for a paperback book. However, it is such a nice piece of art - could it have possibly been an early design for a High Plains Drifter film poster... Well, this was something that we would probably never find out, and because of that, focus shifted more on identifying the artist. A short time later, Davy joined us and also suggested Bob Peak, it wasn't just a suggestion - Davy had also uncovered some great evidence. Obviously, he had been looking hard at the artwork and stunned us all when he discovered a signature! And yes, to the untrained eye, it certainly looked like 'Bob Peak'. The signature seemed to be the final part of the puzzle, yes it was faint, but we were looking for Bob Peak, and we saw Bob Peak... Fantastic - mission accomplished, or so we thought.

I wasn't familiar with Bob Peak's signature, but I could certainly see it - every time I looked at it... I decided to contact Thomas so as to not waste any more of his time. In the meantime we was all smiles and feeling pretty damn good in fact! That was until Thomas came straight back to me and revealed that it wasn't Bob Peak's signature. The fact was, as soon as Thomas saw the signature that Davy had uncovered - it became easy for Thomas. The man is an expert - and quickly identified the artist as LOU FECK - naturally, when we all looked again - we all saw Lou Feck

According to an internet biography, Feck was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 8th 1925 and died November 4th 1981. it appears that a great deal of his work has been associated with paperback covers, particularly in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre. So how did Thomas recognise the signature so instantly? Well, Feck apparently did get a commission to paint some film art, for a little movie in 1978 - its title - JAWS 2. 

So. perhaps we should not rule out the possibility that this was an early film poster concept for High Plains Drifter. Perhaps Eastwood reconsidered the design and wanted more emphasis on the 'flaming red' element of Tidyman's story. But I guess only Clint can tell us that. It's been a great education Thomas! A big thank you to everyone who got involved with this project, it was a very cool 24 hours. 


James Anthony Phillips said...

Darren, this is the kind of informed commentary that I enjoy interacting with from the internet. I've learned a lot, and I must say that Clint Eastwood has a love of poster art.

Clint's archive said...

James! Thank you so much, that is so very kind of you, we've become part of a very capable group of people, and it's certainly rewarding being part of that circle. Really appreciate your comment thank you James :-)

Tim said...

Great research! The original movie poster art was indeed by Ron Lesser with the sign done by Al Pisano.

Guy Callaway said...

As great as the 'Drifter' 1-sheet is, that goofy looking pistol always bothers me. What were they thinking?

Unknown said...

Just curious if anyone knows where the Lou feck archives are? I am interested in tracking down information about his 1972 book cover for Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" published by Bantam press. Any thoughts?