A nocturnal perpetrator is revealed thanks to key evidence.
Above you see a beautiful paperback cover, both front and back, for Gerald Kersh's classic drama Night and the City, basis for the famed 1950 film noir. We have a copy of the book, so we may get back to it later. We're sharing the cover because it was painted by Sandro Symeoni. Back when we first stumbled upon this genius more than a decade ago there was little online about him. Now he has a Twitter page, a dedicated website currently in mid-build, plus a recent Facebook group. All of this means his profile is growing, which in turn means more attributed pieces appearing.
But attribution can be tricky. Symeoni was a chameleonic artist, with a style that evolved so much that even with the presence of his signature removing all doubt as to the provenance of the work, it's still hard to imagination that he painted with such range. And of course, some of his pieces don't have signatures, often because it was covered or cropped, and in those cases a little detective work is needed. The above cover is a good example. It's not signed, and has not been attributed to Symeoni anywhere, but it's him.
Note the background perspective on the left side, the chain of streetlights that draws the eye beyond the female figure. For a while this was Symeoni's thing, and it appeared in much of his work. For example, check this section at right (or above if you're using a mobile device) of his cover for the Peter Cheyney novel He Walked in Her Sleep (full cover here).
And directly below that example you see another, more subtle version of it in a crop we've made of his poster for La strada della vergogna (full poster here). Again you see a pretty chain of light receding from the viewer, plus a few impressionistic dots of nocturnal illumination. We have a few more examples below, but what you've already seen is probably convincing enough. These are all unmistakably by the same hand. Simultaneously, Symeoni used another stylistic trademark on the Kersh cover—flourescent yellow. You see that in the first two posters of this group. Sorry to ask you click over there, but if we added those examples here the post would become a real mess. In any case, you see what we mean about the light. With both the perspective and dayglow yellow characteristics noted, plus the general similarity of style, there's little doubt this is Symeoni's work. The final piece of evidence is simply that he's known to have produced pieces for Ace Books between 1958 and 1960, if not even a year or two later. This is an Ace cover, thus the case becomes open and shut. Well, maybe it wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for here. Verdict reached: Symeoni. Below we've uploaded a few movie posters, confirmed as Symeoni's, in which he uses the perspective technique noted above. They'll help to reinforce our conclusion. Again, stylistically he was wide ranging. In addition to what you see here he painted portraits, delved deeply into color blocking, painted with abstract and blank backgrounds, drew in ink, painted humorous pieces, and created scores of unique fonts. But of all his styles we like these nighttime masterpieces best. More from this virtuoso later.
This art is both a Sym-ulation and the real deal.
Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni signed this 1959 Ace Books cover for Peter Cheyney's He Walked in her Sleep just “Sym,” but however he marks his work, we'd know it at first glance. For years we thought he was a movie poster and record sleeve artist only, then we suddenly started finding his paperback covers. All are brilliant. Oh, and speaking of brilliant, this is an awesome title for a thriller. It was originally published in 1946 as part of the Cheyney collection He Walked in Her Sleep and Other Stories, but Ace got hold of it and typeset it to novel length. More from Cheyney and Syemoni soon.
James M. Cain spins a tale about an unusual love and an unusual life.
Vintage Ace paperbacks are considered highly collectible for a few reasons, including the fact that the company popularized the double novel. But we like Ace because it often did well with art. This front for James M. Cain's The Moth is about as striking as cover illustration gets. It's uncredited, but we know exactly who it is. It's Sandro Symeoni. How do we know? Because the cover at this link is confirmed to be Symeoni, and there's no doubt the artist is the same as above. Not only is the style a match, but so is the time period. This came in 1958, and Ace used Symeoni's art several times between ’58 and ’60. That makes this paperback a super discovery, because Symeoni, a brilliant Italian artist who specialized in movie posters, rarely painted book covers. It's possible that, as with Arthur Miller's Focus (you clicked the link above, right?) the art was borrowed from one of Symeoni's posters, but if so we don't know which one. Doesn't matter. Sandro kills again.
Moving on to the novel, Cain, one of the towering figures of pulp literature, stretches himself here to tell the life story of a man through his first thirty-five years, spanning the Great Depression, Prohibition, and World War II; his various jobs, schemes, and hustles; and his ups, downs, ups, downs, ups, downs, ups... We're not putting an end on that sentence in order to avoid giving a hint whether he ultimately triumphs or fails. For a time Cain's protagonist works in the oil business. For years he's a hobo riding the rails. For part of his life he's a renowned soprano. But no matter where he goes or what he does, there's a past destined to come full circle to stare him in the face. This is Cain's longest book, but it's pretty involving. Its only flaw—if it can be called that—is that is doesn't surprise. You know which untrustworthy friend will come back to haunt him, and which unlikely love will reappear to offer a chance at redemption. Still, a good read. We recommend it.
When you're rich you're never insane. You're just a little eccentric.
La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, premiered in Italy today in 1971, and is an Italian made, set-in-England, gothic giallo flick for which we shared an unusual Greek poster some years ago. The art on that was retasked from the original poster, which was painted by Sandro Symeoni, a genius we've featured often. If you don't know his work, click his keywords below and have a look. He's worth your time.
In the movie a British lord violently obsessed with his deceased redheaded wife goes nuts and is committed to a mental institution. When he gets out he immediately brings disrepute to the entire psychiatric profession's notion of “cured” by going on a redhead killing spree. While he's busy reducing rural England's carrottop population one pale person at a time, his headshrinker, who knows nothing of the murders, is encouraging him to remarry in order to get over his dead wife.
That doesn't strike us as responsible psychiatric advice, but as we mentioned, there are lousy doctors in this film, so the Lord indeed picks out a suitable spouse, who's blonde, importantly. Things go fine until Mrs. Lord notices a redheaded maid in the manor. This is impossible, you see, because the Lord hates (and kills) redheads. So it goes without saying he'd never hire one. Who was this woman, and why was she there? Soon we're treated to the reliable giallo staples of imposters, unknown people creeping through the woods at night, disappearing corpses, and the question of whether what's happening is real, or is an attempt to induce insanity.
What might induce insanity for you is the screenwriting of the female characters in this flick. They're pure murder magnets. For example, whenever the Lord meets a redhead he yanks painfully on her hair to see if it's real. “Ouch! That hurt!” “Sorry, I thought it might be a wig.” “Oh.” Here's some advice: kick him in the gonads and run like Flo-Jo. Yet the women instead decide painful hair-pulling is just a cute quirk, and later meet their bloody ends.
There's also an incredible scene where the Lord slaps his wife around until she's bloody-mouthed, only to finally be stopped by the appearance of a friend, who asks, “Why were you fighting?” Why were you fighting? A more appropriate line might be, “Why were you beating the fuck out of your beloved?” But with this latter incident there may actually be a plotworthy reason the Lord is forgiven. We could reveal it, but that would be a spoiler. Of course, saying it would be a spoiler is a spoiler too. Oh no! Everything is spoiled! We have to murder a redhead now. Is that a non-sequitur? No, it's just giallo.
Two bunglers cook up a kidnapping scheme that goes disastrously awry.
It's been a couple of years, so today we're getting back to one of Italy's greatest poster artists—the prolific and eclectic Sandro Symeoni. He painted movie posters, book covers, album sleeves, and ads, and was excellent at all of them. He painted the above poster for the comedy Noi gangster, which was originally made and released in France as Le grand chef, but based on the U.S. writer O. Henry's short story “The Ransom of Red Chief.” We took a look at the film and it's a screwball comedy starring Fernandel and Gino Servi as two bumbling gas station workers who concoct a kidnapping plot in hopes of escaping their poverty. Kidnapping schemes never work. Too many variables. They aren't clued in to this fact but quickly learn when they snatch a millionaire's young son and are dismayed to find that the little terror is too much for them to handle. He climbs onto a high rooftop, goes renegade on a hospital trolley, and generally drives them insane with his unpredictable behavior. Think Martin and Lewis in French with one of the Little Rascals on the side and you'll know what to expect.
This was Fernandel's and Cervi's second team-up after 1955's Don Camillo e l'on. Peppone, and this go-round is inferior to the previous film in every way, but even the dumbest screwball comedies have good moments. An extended gag involving a slippery block of ice works—or maybe we liked it because we too live in a building with a spiral staircase and no elevator, and the scene reminded us of the time we dropped a bottle of wine and it bobsledded all the way to the ground floor. The neighbors don't take kindly to that at 1 a.m., but that's the problem with wooden stairs—most anything you drop survives the entire downward journey. Consider Noi gangster a spiral stair—it sort of goes monotonously in a circle but once it ends you'll have a nice sense of accomplishment. It premiered in Italy today in 1959. Incidentally, are you wondering why there's a smiling woman on the poster? We suppose because Symeoni wanted her there. She sure isn't in the movie. You can see plenty more art from him by clicking here.
Focus on both the writing and the art.
Focus was Arthur Miller's first novel, written in 1945, with this Ace Books edition appearing in 1960. If you haven't read it, basically it tells the story of a man who buys a new pair of glasses that alter his appearance to the extent that he is constantly mistaken for being Jewish. From harboring the same prejudices as others, he is suddenly cast as an enemy, as the hatreds around him are revealed. It's a very good, very earnest book. We've actually shared this, though, because the cover was painted by the Italian artist Sandro Symeoni, and it's the first time we've found his work on a paperback. It was originally used on his poster for the 1957 Michelangelo Antonioni film Il Grido, and appears here slightly cropped but pretty much identical in all other respects. It's a very nice piece.
Sandro Symeoni presents an Italian vision of Japan.
We often share Japanese movie posters, but today we thought we’d look at Japan through the eyes of Italian illustration master Sandro Symeoni. This poster is for La strada della vergogna, which was a Japanese movie made by Kenji Mizoguchi entitled Akasen chitai, aka Street of Shame. No shame in this art. 1956 on the original film, 1959 on this poster.
Sandro Symeoni comes down with a case of Vertigo.
After focusing on Italian paperback artists lately, we thought today would be good for getting back to poster artists—namely Sandro Symeoni, who we’ve marveled at before. Symeoni veered from the realistic to abstract in style, and this very graphic poster for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red, sees him working in the latter mode, which we’ve also noted on pieces like the Suono Libero album sleeve, viewable in panel four here. This is also a clear homage to Saul Bass’s famed Vertigo poster. For a look at many more Symeonis, just click his keywords below. Profondo Rosso, by the way, premiered in the U.S. this week in 1976, and is well worth a look for fans of Argento and/or giallo.
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