Paul Crifo, Designer of Iconic Film Posters, Dies at 98

Paul Crifo
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Paul Crifo

He did work for 'In the Heat of the Night,' 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail," 'Marathon Man,' 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Urban Cowboy.'

Paul Crifo, who designed the posters for such films as In the Heat of the Night, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Marathon Man, died Sept. 22 of natural causes in Roslyn, New York, his son Peter reported. He was 98.

From 1942-86, Crifo worked on 400-plus motion picture advertising campaigns and designed more than 120 film posters. He was recognized for his contribution to his craft in 2007 at The Hollywood Reporter's Key Art Awards.

Crifo illustrated 45 film posters of his own design; in addition to In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), those included artwork for The Producers (1967) and A Bridge Too Far (1977). His photography-based efforts were seen with The Great Gatsby (1974) and Urban Cowboy (1980).

Crifo also collaborated in the design of posters for The Great Escape (1963), The French Connection (1975), another best picture winner, and Marathon Man (1976) and contributed uncredited original design work for the first four James Bond films.

One of 11 children, Crifo was born in New York City in 1922 and studied illustration at Pratt University in Brooklyn. He worked as a freelance designer and artist apprentice before joining 20th Century Fox in the early 1940s as in-house designer.

In the early '50s, he was hired by Diener/Hauser/Bates, an advertising powerhouse in Manhattan. He rose through the ranks to become vice president and senior art director, creating print campaigns for MGM, United Artists, Fox and Paramount, independent film companies, foreign film distributors, Broadway productions and the New York Racing Association.

Crifo's designs have been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, the Art Directors Club of New York and The Advertising Club of New York. A show of his work, "The Art of the Movie Poster," was held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills in 2009, and a documentary about him, Mr. Movie Poster, was released in 2016.

Survivors include his sons Kevin and Peter.