Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tom Adams, James Wedge, and John Fowles' The Magus.

I've recently been re-reading John Fowles' wonderful 1965 novel of mystery and metafictional trickery The Magus.  I'll probably blog about the novel itself in the near future, but this post is about the cover of Pan's 1971 paperback edition.  The first edition of the book featured a fantastic painting by Tom Adams, pictured above.  Adams was a prolific cover artist in the 70s, bringing a distinctive, surrealistic style to bear on the hard-boiled world of Raymond Chandler, and even the staid whodunits of Agatha Christie:

Although Adams' painting for the original edition of The Magus is doubtless the definitive version, I maintain a particular fondness for the early 70s paperback edition, which was a variation on the original painting.  This edition was in my attic when I was a child, an oddity in the midst of various Harold Robbins and Arthur Hailey airport boilers.  The cover of The Magus held a considerable fascination for my brother and myself, for more or less obvious reasons: 

Well, it has everything, no?  Recently finding a copy at a second hand stall gave me the opportunity not only to re-read the novel, but also to learn a little bit more about the somewhat arresting cover. The back credits Adams for the painting with the addition "girl from the James Wedge photo." Wedge, whom I wasn't aware of, turns out to have been a figure out of the swinging London of Antonioni's Blowup.  A talented fashion designer, he established the chic boutique Top Gear on King's Road with model, photographer, scene-maker, and author of romantic fiction Pat Booth.

Wedge and Booth gravitated towards fashion photography in the 70s, with Wedge developing  a distinct style of hand-tinted, often surrealistic imagery.  Here we find the lithe siren whom we last saw astride his Satanic goat-head Majesty on the cover of The Magus in her original appearance: 

The Magus was filmed in 1968 by Guy Green.  Despite an impressive cast (Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, and Anna Karina) the film was notably NOT a success, with Caine regarding it as one of his worst, and Woody Allen famously commenting that if he had his life to live over, he would do  "everything exactly the same, with the exception of watching The Magus."  The film has, however, acquired a cult following over the years; I find it hard to believe isn't at least somewhat entertaining. A cracking trailer at any rate: 

Incidentally, John Fowles met Michael Caine at Cannes prior the filming of The Magus. The author's reflections on Caine in his diary are hilariously prissy and uncharitable: "He can't act, but takes himself very seriously; hot for birds, for the dolce vita, for prestige.  Very ugly, these new ultra-hard young princes of the limelight."  Still, though, what a turn of phrase - the new ultra-hard young princes of the limelight -  a perfect name for a band, or anything.

No comments: