The Mr “A” Messages

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So, back in December I stuck a clip on YouTube of the title sequence of Tony Richardson’s Marguerite Duras adaptation THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR. I’d had the film on tape for about eight years without ever watching the film (that’s me, I’m afraid), but had looked at the titles and found them awesome, and I wanted to share.

Well, one of the people out there in YouTubeLand whom I was sharing them with, it turned out, was seminal sixties illustrator Alan Aldridge, designer of said sequence, who left a comment for me at my YouTube account ~

AA: “hi I designed these titles way back in 1965……..ive spent the last 35 years trying to get a copy……….then today voila I at least get to see small version…….Id really be grateful if you would get in touch and maybe I can make copy of your rusting vhs……..I live in LA……….e-mail your phone number and I’ll give you a call all the best , alan”

I was very delighted. And, being a mercenary type, I immediately proposed an interview in exchange for a DVD-R of the mouldering tape. Success!

I already knew a bit about Mr. Aldridge’s career, and boned up on him by reading other interviews. At the time of SAILOR, he had revolitionised the design of Penguin paperbacks with his stylish and punchy collage art and illustrations.

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Me: “How did you get the job on SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR? Who did you meet from the movie? I see Tony Richardson actually appears in the sequence, how was he to deal with? What kind of discussions did you have? Did you work with Raoul Coutard, the cinematographer?”

AA: “Tony Richardson rang me and asked me to meet him at the Woodfall Films office in Mayfair.I also met ~Neil Hartley with him – they talked about me doing the titles for Sailor and briefly explained what the film was about.I also got a tape of the music which i thought was very beautiful. Tony Richardson is not in the title sequence…….I went off and did a storyboard and got it approved by Tony- then went to Bob Brookes a film director and he shot the sequences…..which took a lot of time. for instance for the last shot of a mans profile as an island they had to biuld a pool in studio. get a model to lay down in the water then the model boat was pulled by on rails.”

The chap at the end, appearing under the director’s credit, does look a little like Tony Richardson, or am I deluded? Oh well, it’s not him…

Me: “Obvious standard question: what were your influences for this sequence? Or, what was the brief?”

AA: “I had no influence…..just did series of interesting visuals”

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Reading stories about Alan’s beginnings as an artist, this really does seem to be the case: his talent blossomed, seemingly from nowhere, and without conscious influence, although he must have been soaking up something that was in the air, in order to so effectively capture the zeitgeist of the sixties.

Me: “The internet isn’t very informative about title sequences (according to the IMDb, Richard Williams has only done about four, which we KNOW isn’t right). So I’m wondering if there are any other Aldridge titles out there?”

AA: “Never did any other titles.”

A great shame!

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Me: “The other big movie connection I have for you is the CHELSEA GIRLS poster. How did that come about?”

AA: “Chelsea Girls was done for the Arts Lab in London – they were premiering ChelseaGirls and Warhol had asked them if they could get me to do the design..he would later say- he wished the film was as good as the poster.”

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Me: “It would be great to hear something about your current plans, the exhibition, movies, etc.”

AA: “I’m working on two film projects- one about Edgar Allan Poe the other John Lennon.”

Looking at Alan’s art, I think the prospect of either of those projects coming to fruition is mouthwatering. Hope they both do.

To finish, I asked about this Pink Floyd music video — my late friend Lawrie Knight, who was involved in its production, had told me that he invited Aldridge to design it.

AA: “Yeah I think I did some storyboards..not sure they were ever used – they were thought to be too expensive to do and too difficult.”

 I sent him the link so he could look at it and see whether the finished work had his influence.

AA: “well the ballet dancers are definately not mine…maybe some of the trippy backgrounds.alan”

So now we know, and by now Alan hopefully has his complimentary copy of THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR — at last!

 

Alan’s just had an exhibition at the Design Museum, and his new book The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes, is available.

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10 Responses to “The Mr “A” Messages”

  1. ——-
    I’d had the film on tape for about eight years without ever watching the film (that’s me, I’m afraid)
    ——-
    I have L’avventura and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid on tape for years, neither of which I have yet seen, hélas.

    Alan Aldridge’s design of the SAILOR FROM GIBRALTER sequence is indeed brilliant, as is the CHELSEA GIRLS poster.

    I met Ian Bannen briefly one time in Stockholm. I had a number of days work as his stand-in during the filming of Gorky Park.

  2. I seem to recall from Tony Richardson’s diaries that he LOATHED Bannen. Something about Bannen punching Moreau after an argument about who ate the last scone, or something… How did you find him? Any stories from Gorky Pk? (I like that film!)

  3. Thank-you for this. I really really love Aldridge’s work and this was really fascinating. That Chelsea Girls poster is breathtaking.

  4. He was lovely to speak to — I was quite blown away to hear from him. Only sorry I couldn’t make it down to see his exhibition and meet him face to face.

  5. kevin mummery Says:

    Nice interview, David…could you see what you’re able to dig up on Peter Blake? Not that he’s done anything for film, I just like his work a lot.

  6. Maybe he HAS done something for film, and it’s just as unknown as Aldridge’s work was? I’m not really a researcher, just a stumbler, so it might be a while before I find anything out…

  7. kevin mummery Says:

    Some of your best entries have been things you’ve stumbled upon…hopefully you’ll find something really rareified, like a poster Blake designed for a Karloff/Lugosi film festival, or Blake meets The Goons, or something equally enthralling.

    Cheers!

  8. I’ll keep it in mind. I do like his stuff!

  9. Love the the credit sequence. Beautiful. Reminds me a bit of Saul Bass’ work.

    (Found your blog through a link at DVD Savant and will be bookmarking for future reference….)

  10. Cool, stick around! Saul Bass is indeed the guv’nor as far as titles goes. Amazing Aldridge reached such a standard with just one attempt.

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