Merv Bloch was the creative force behind the marketing and specifically the trailers for countless films iconic films through more than three decades. Copywriter, art director, radio commercial producer for Columbia Pictures and MGM, he also held the positions of assistant advertising manager of Paramount Pictures, advertising manager of United Artists. He guided the ad campaigns for some of the most notable and successful films of the ‘60s, among which 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I did the very first trade ad for 2001, two pages in the Hollywood papers. They did it for the Wall Street people to show them MGM was really on the move, but the picture wasn’t in production yet, so I had no production stills or anything. I had nothing to work with, so I went to the Hayden Planetarium and went through their 35mm chromes of space stuff. I had this line—“This space is reserved for 2001”—and I found this nebulae photograph. We bought a reproduction, and that was the very first ad for 2001.
My concept was to do three separate posters, with Bob McCall, the top illustrator who was doing all of NASA’s work. It was the first time a movie used three separate pieces of art, which is common today, but I told MGM, “It’s called ‘The Odyssey.’ We’ve got to explore.”
I grew up on 101st and Broadway in Manhattan. I remember when it was a real ghetto, when the Eastern European Jews who were lucky to get out before the war came to live on the Upper West Side. So I’m living at 210 W. 101st St., and one day I discover that there’s a film crew shooting a movie in the building. The filming was taking place on the sixth floor, and I live on the seventh. I can see a huge amount of light coming up from the stairwell below my floor. I’d never watched a movie being made…and I go down there, and sure enough, there’s the cables, there’s the Mitchell camera, there’s the people scurrying about, there’s a mic boom, and this young guy is behind the camera, and they say, Let’s do it again, let’s do it again, and I’m mesmerized by this whole experience. When they were all done I went upstairs and sketched it. I sketched the camera, I loved those Mitchell cameras, blimped and everything, the mic boom.
Flash-forward. 1967. I’m working on 2001. MGM sends me over to Borehamwood Studio in England, where the picture is being made. In the course of presenting the poster to Stanley Kubrick, I said, “Stanley, you’re esssentially responsible for my career….” And I tell him the whole story, about this kid who comes down to watch this movie being shot…because the guy shooting the film that day was a young Stanley Kubrick, who was shooting his second feature film, Killer’s Kiss. That was a great moment for me. It means nothing to the executives today.
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