As you might be able to tell from the name-above-the-title tagline above, George Segal, who died last month at the age of 87, was a big deal in the 1970s. By the ’90s, when I started getting into the films of both Segal and his one-time co-star and fellow traveler Elliott Gould, both of these New York-born Jewish superstars of the ’70s had been reduced to playing sitcom fathers on TV: Gould in Friends and Segal in Just Shoot Me. (And by the 2010s Segal was best known as a sitcom grandfather on The Goldbergs.) But Segal’s films in particular have not survived well in the public memory, perhaps because he devoted his career mostly to comedy and a kind of dark, sophisticated relationship comedy at that. California Split, the film he made with Gould for Robert Altman in 1974, may be the film that he is now most revered for, but films like Loving (1970) and Blume in Love (1973) deserve to be much better known.
Segal first made his mark in 1966 holding his own against Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (his performance gave him his only Oscar nomination) and throughout the 1970s played the perennial harried (or harrying) husband opposite the likes of Glenda Jackson, Susan Anspach, Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda. If he had made these films in the ’90s or beyond the posters advertising them would be nothing to write home about—they would be very much of the side-by-side surprised-look-to-camera or thumb-pointing look-at-this-guy variety (imagine Jason Bateman or Steve Carrell comedies). But, it being the ’70s, the posters for Segal’s comedies are remarkably well designed, ranging from Drew Struzan’s Norman Rockwell parody for The Black Bird to the airbrushed illustration for California Split (artist TBD) to the melancholy minimalism of Blume in Love. I present them here as a tribute both to Segal and to 1970s graphic design.
By the ’80s, however, things had changed and the borderline offensive poster for Denzel Washington’s debut Carbon Copy was very much of the surprised-look-to-camera variety. After that Segal rarely got star billing on movie posters again and two golden ages came to an end.