John Alvin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Alvin
John Henry Alvin

(1948-11-24)November 24, 1948
DiedFebruary 6, 2008(2008-02-06) (aged 59)

John Henry Alvin (November 24, 1948[1] – February 6, 2008[2]) was an American cinematic artist and painter who illustrated many movie posters.[2] Alvin created posters and key art[1] for more than 135 films, beginning with the poster for Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974).[2] His style of art became known as Alvinesque by friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry.[1]

Alvin's work included the movie posters for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Blade Runner, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Color Purple, The Little Mermaid, Batman Returns, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Space Jam, The Emperor's New Groove, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.[1] He also created the anniversary posters for Star Wars.[1]

Early life[edit]

John Alvin was born on November 24, 1948, in Hyannis, Massachusetts.[1] His parents were in the United States military and the family was relocated often.[1] The Alvins settled permanently in the area of Monterey, California, where John Alvin graduated from Pacific Grove High School in 1966.[3] His early interest in movie posters reportedly began with movie advertisements in the Sunday newspaper.[2] Alvin graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1971[1] and began work as a freelance artist.

He lived in Linda Mar, in Pacifica, California from 1958 to 1961, then moved to Monterey, Ca. January 1, 1961.[citation needed]


Alvin's first official movie art campaign was the poster for Blazing Saddles, directed by Mel Brooks, in 1974.[2] Alvin, who was working as an animator at an animation studio at the time, was invited to work on the Blazing Saddles poster by a friend.[1] Alvin took an unusual path when designing the movie poster. He designed a serious movie poster, which incorporated unusual and quirky elements from the film.[1] For example, in the poster, Alvin depicted Mel Brooks, who plays a Yiddish-speaking Native American chief in the film, wearing a headdress inscribed with the phrase, Kosher for Passover.[1] The joke had been suggested by Alvin's wife, Andrea.[1]

Alvin's work on Blazing Saddles was liked by Mel Brooks, as well as by others in the industry. He went on to work on a number of Brooks' later films, including Young Frankenstein, which was also released in 1974.[2]

Another of Alvin's iconic posters was his work for Steven Spielberg's 1982 film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[1] It showed E.T.'s finger touching the finger of his human friend, Elliott, finger tip to finger tip.[1] The fingers create a glow where they touch. The idea for the poster was reportedly suggested by Spielberg, and was inspired by Michelangelo's painting, The Creation of Adam.[1] Alvin used his daughter as the human hand model for the poster.[1]

Alvin created artwork for more than 135 film campaigns over the span of three decades.[1] His work for such film studios as New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Disney Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd., included Blade Runner, Cocoon, The Lost Boys, Predator, The Princess Bride, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Jurassic Park, and Space Jam. He also created the anniversary posters and other artwork for the 30th anniversary Star Wars Celebration.[1] In later years he created posters for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter film series and Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films.[2] According to John Sabel, an advertising executive at Walt Disney Pictures who often worked with Alvin, "There was a reason why The Lion King did the numbers that it did... There was a reason why 'Hunchback [of Notre Dame]' became a big success. It's because of the images that were produced, and a lot of those were John Alvin's paintings."[1]

Alvin's poster for The Phantom of the Paradise was selected by the National Collection of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution Smithsonian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art to be included in "Images of an Era (1945–1975)," a collection of posters that toured Europe as part of the US Bicentennial.

In later years, Alvin focused more on cinematic fine art as the importance of movie posters was usurped by newer forms of digital advertising.[1] Alvin's fine art portfolio centered on movies artistically, rather than on advertising.[1]

The Art of John Alvin, a book collecting a large portfolio of his work by Andrea Alvin, was published on August 26, 2014 by Titan Books.[4] ArtInsights, exclusively retail Alvin's original works to the public.[5] The book includes examples of publicly used artwork, as well as previously unseen paintings and sketches,[6] with a foreword by Jeffrey Katzenberg and commentary by his widow.[7][8]

Personal life and death[edit]

Alvin met his wife Andrea at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where they were both students. They had one child, actress Farah Alvin. On February 6, 2008, Alvin died at his home in Rhinebeck, New York from a myocardial infarction.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Stewart, Jocelyn (February 10, 2008). "John Alvin, 59; created movie posters for such films as 'Blazing Saddles' and 'E.T.'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 14, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Movie poster artist John Alvin dies, Campaign designer worked on 135 movies". Variety. February 8, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  3. ^ "In Memory of John Alvin". Pacific Grove High School Class of 1966. 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  4. ^ Peter Sciretta (August 7, 2014). "Unused 'Jurassic Park' Posters Designed By John Alvin". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  5. ^ Leslie Combemale (August 31, 2014). "Unused ARTINSIGHTS SHOWS ART AND PRESS FOR THE ART OF JOHN ALVIN!". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  6. ^ Amazon (August 26, 2014). "The Art of John Alvin". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  7. ^ Angela Watercutter (August 8, 2014). "The Man Behind the Most Iconic Movie Posters of the '80s and '90s". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  8. ^ Vi-An Nguyen (August 7, 2014). "Exclusive: Never-Before-Seen Alternate Movie Posters for E.T., Jurassic Park, The Goonies, and More". Retrieved September 30, 2014.

External links[edit]