One of the greatest but perhaps less heralded of British actors, Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003) is being deservedly feted over the next week at the Quad Cinema in New York with the retrospective series Alan Bates: The Affable Angry Young Man. The title makes sense: before he had acted on film Bates was in the original West End and Broadway productions of Look Back in Anger, but he played not the disaffected anti-hero Jimmy Porter, made famous on film by Richard Burton, but the amiable Welsh lodger Cliff. Though a performer of great virility, intelligence and passion, he often played second fiddle to his more demonstrative co-stars—whether Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek (1964), Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl (1966), Julie Christie in Far From the Madding Crowd (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), or Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978). Consequently, he is often in the background—or in the corner—of the posters for his more famous films, if he appears in them at all. (Naturally, Jill Clayburgh and Lynn Redgrave dominate their posters for An Unmarried Woman and Georgy Girl, but I have found alternate Japanese and German designs that feature Bates.)
Alan Bates may also be the only serious actor to have been upstaged by his own bare ass in movie posters: in the French and American posters for Women in Love and the American posters for King of Hearts his tush features more prominently than his face.
All that said there are still plenty of striking Alan Bates posters—at least from the first two decades of his 40-year career—like those for his first big starring role in A Kind of Loving (1962) and for two of his lesser known leading roles in The Fixer (1968) and The Shout (1978), the latter of which, seen above, is especially terrific.
The Quad series leads up to a week-long revival of the anti-war cult classic King of Hearts, starting February 23. This time not only do we get to see Sir Alan’s face in the re-release poster but there is also a remarkable animated version of it which you can see here and, I assume, in the lobby of the Quad.
For more Alan Bates I recommend you listen to his appearance on Desert Island Discs from 1976.