I’ve always thought Clark Gable was awesome. He is one of the most recognizable faces in American movie history and rightly so. A winner of an academy award for best actor, and nominated for three other academy awards, Gable was referred to as “The King of Hollywood” during his prime. With all these achievements under his belt it is a wise choice to feature him on the 1940 movie poster “Combat America” featured in the Ballyhoo! exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery.
The poster is very simple by today’s standards. A brilliant shade of orange makes up the entire background with no gradients or shading of type. The color is quite bright and lively however and seems to help excite one’s senses. Standing tall and proud is Clark Gable dressed in a World War II’s pilot uniform, with leather hat and all. He seems, intelligent, capable and tough, just the sort of man you’d want to see defending America. He doesn’t even have to be depicted in color to represent this ideal, as he stands in black and white against the orange background. As if that were not enough, a large white box infront informs us of his rank as a major and that he produced and narrated the story. All of these visual aspects make the poster effective at selling the movie. We want to see what this man can do to help us win the war. We have faith in his ability to stand up for us. This encourages us to buy the ticket and see the film.
The use of text in the poster is reserved and direct as well. 23 words in total, all in capitals and no tag line to be seen. The limited use of text seems to be a direct result of the time the poster was made, when foods and other products were limited and rationed to help with the war effort. The poster tells one the bare essentials one needs to know; the title, who’s in it, what the movie is about. If that were not enough there is one last reminder to be patriotic as it urges it’s viewers to buy war bonds.
All apsects considered, this poster is a perfect example of the mindset of America during World War II. As much as it would appeal to a movie go’er of its time, it appeals to us as a way to glimpse into the past.