The art that has not been lost
Renato Maria Deolindo Fróes (Salvador, Brazil, May 19, 1922 - Salvador, Brazil, January 5, 2014) used to refer to his job as a designer of advertisements for cinema sessions as "the art that got lost". It was like that, poetic as his trait, the definition he found to explain the end of an era that he knew like few others. Ré — as he was affectionately called — began to love Cinema as a child, in the early 1930s, when silent films still existed and moving images could only be seen in the movie theaters.
It was at the end of that decade, at the age of 17, that Renato Fróes started working as a posterist for the cinema ads, which were shown in the newspapers of Salvador. In 1939, a colleague from the typewriting course, who was an employee of Cine Excelsior, saw Renato's drawings and invited him to make signs in the cinema's waiting room, which was located in Praça da Sé, in Salvador. As payment, Renato watched the films for free.
José de Araújo, Warner, Paramount and RKO distributor in Salvador, noticed the new signs and wanted to know the author, inviting Renato to a meeting in his office. He proposed to the young artist to make, just as a test, one of those movie ad posters that were published in the newspapers. Renato returned to the office with the poster in hand, accompanied by Elísio, manager of Cine Excelsior, and was hired to make one poster a week.
But in the early 1940s, after the Portuguese artist Ângelo Martins — the great posterist at the time — needed to be hospitalized, Renato suddenly took over the work that Martins was doing for the biggest cinemas in the city. He then went to the hospital and told the Portuguese that he did not want to take his place, making it clear that the situation was only temporary. The two became friends, and Martins was Renato's great reference in the profession.
In 1943, with the creation of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, Fróes was drafted to fight in World War II. He went on to train at the São Pedro Fort and in the Battalion of Hunters, at Cabula, but he was dismissed before embarking for Rio de Janeiro — the final stop for the soldiers before going to Italy.
Renato Fróes did his work in a completely handmade way, using cardboard, glue, gouache, graphite and ink, combined with the material sent by the distributors. Throughout his career, he worked for the main cinemas in Salvador, such as Excelsior, Gloria, Pax, Liceu, Tupi, Bristol, Jandaia, Guarani/Glauber Rocha, Art and Iguatemi.
Sometimes he watched the films in a special session before making the posters. On other occasions, he had to do them without even having seen the films, and even without receiving any graphic material from the studios. But he always relied on the vast cinematographic knowledge that he acquired over the decades.
Renato illustrated the advertising posters for the films of many of his idols. He was a fan of directors such as Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, Ernst Lubitsch, Frank Capra, Anatole Litvak, Carol Reed, Stanley Kubrick, Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Glauber Rocha, among many others. But his favorite was John Ford, “because he is the best”, he summed up, calm and emphatic.
The skill with the hands was also used by Renato in other works, such as record covers, advertising designs for matchbox labels and even the Pope's visit booklet to Bahia. He also restored images of saints, an activity he performed even when he had the strength. But it was Cinema that was the protagonist of the screenplay of Renato's life, who used to spent his day in front of the big screen in his youth.
From childhood matinées to the times of the Clube de Cinema da Bahia, led by the legendary essayist Walter da Silveira, Renato knew everyone who was somehow related to the cinematographic universe in Bahia. From exhibitors, distributors and producers to newspaper clicherists, to critics, actors and directors, he remembered everyone with the same importance. Among his favorite works is the advertisement poster for Redenção (1959), by Roberto Pires, the first Brazilian film in cinemascope.
Renato Fróes saw appear and disappear movements, technologies and aesthetics that were part of the history of Cinema, including his own work. He even thought about throwing away the posters he still had, but ended up convinced to keep the material. In 2017, his posters were shown for the first time to the public, in the foyer of Cine Glauber Rocha, during the XIII Panorama Internacional Coisa de Cinema.
Renato ended his long journey, but his posters were left as a legacy and will now be seen in the original format, colored and restored. With the Centenário Renato Fróes virtual exhibition, your art will no longer be lost and your posters will be on display forever.
As he said when he liked something: “Mucho bom”.