Roger Hall and Sam Peffer photographed in 2005.
Roger Hall began earning his livelihood as an artist painting front-of-house display material for cinemas, a career path also followed by his good friend, the late Sam Peffer. Like Sam, Hall moved on to produce book covers and dust jackets for many British publishers and, later, found work with Design Bureau, whose artists were responsible for many of Hamlyn's "All Colour Paperbacks" in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It was here that the two finally met, remaining good friends until Sam's death earlier this year.
Roger Hall was born at St Barts Hospital on Boxing Day 1914, the son of a stoker who worked at Wimbledon Power Station. Hall grew up in Islington and showed an early interest in, and talent for, drawing. A few months after leaving school, he became a junior at the London Art Service, a firm specialising in cinema display work. At the age of 15 he worked on lettering huge, 48-sheet posters, banners and other advertising material.
After a while, Hall became desperate to move onto the artistic side of the operation in the studios below. One of the firm's artists, Bill Wiggins, suggested that he draw some specimen illustrations to show to the company's chief artist Oscar Brown and, using a Saturday Evening Post cover as his reference, Hall painted a town crier. Brown's terse response was to instruct Hall to "start downstairs on Monday".
Now aged 18, he joined Art Display Services, a new firm based in a former banana warehouse off Shaftesbury Avenue who supplied hand-painted cut-out displays for cinema foyers. One of his most memorable assignments was a 20-foot high picture of Charles Bickford, made up from twelve pieces of 5 x 5-feet plywood, for the Regal, Marble Arch.
Hall continued this work until he was called up in 1941. Demobbed at the end of 1946, he joined Pulford Publicity to paint posters. For £16 a week—more than double the average wage— he painted between 200 and 300 posters for the firm, the first a quad poster featuring a large portrait of Michael Redgrave for Fame Is The Spur (1947). Other posters included Circle Of Danger (1951) and The Adventurers (1952).
In the 1960s, he returned to painting film posters for Geoff Wright but, due to work commitments elsewhere, passed on the work to Sam Peffer in 1971. Hall, meanwhile, was working in television and film production work, also illustrating 14 Ladybird books in their 'Famous People' series.
Hall also illustrated three popular series for Collins: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators. In the late 1960s, Hall contributed cover illustrations to IPC's Princess Tina and, in the early 1970s, painted illustrations for the nursery comic Hey Diddle Diddle.
Hall moved to Spain in 1986, but travelled widely. He held three exhibitions before returning to the UK in 2003, retiring to Gloucestershire, where he continued to paint landscapes and local scenes.
The Three Investigators (internal illustrations only):
1 The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1967.
3 The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1968.
4 Mystery of the Green Ghost by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1968.
5 The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1968.
6 The Secret of Skeleton Island by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1968.
7 The Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1969.
8 The Mystery of the Silver Spider by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1969.
9 The Mystery of the Screaming Clock by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1969.
10 The Mystery of the Moaning Cave by William Arden. London, Collins, 1969.
11 The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur. London, Collins, 1970.
12 The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow by William Arden. London, Collins, 1970.
13 The Secret of the Crooked Cat by William Arden. London, Collins, 1971.
14 The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon by Nick West. London, Collins, 1971.
20 The Mystery of Monster Mountain by M. V. Carey. London, Collins, 1974.
21 The Secret of the Haunted Mirror by M. V. Carey. London, Collins, 1975.
22 The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle by William Arden. London, Collins, 1975
25 The Mystery of the Dancing Devil by William Arden. London, Collins, 1977.
28 The Mystery of the Deadly Double by William Arden. London, Collins, 1979.
Freshwater Fishing by Colin Gamble, illus. with Glenn Steward & Sam Peffer. London, Hamlyn, 1972.
The Piper of Hamlyn retold by Anthony Toyne. London, Oxford University Press, 1972.
Sir Prancelot Goes to Sea by Jane Morey. London, Collins, 1972.
Stories of Special Days and Customs by N. F. Pearson. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1972.
Elizabeth Fry by L. du Garde Peach. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1973.
Michael Faraday by L. du Garde Peach. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1973.
Charles Darwin by L. du Garde Peach. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1973.
Roads by James Webster, illus. with Gerald Witcomb & Martin Aitchison. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1974.
Samuel Pepys by Nicholas Abbott. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1974.
Bonnie Prince Charlie by L. du Garde Peach. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1975.
The Story of Our Canals by Carolyn Hutchings. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1975.
Robert Louis Stevenson by Barbara Brill. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1975.
Deserts by P. H. Armstrong, illus. with Gerald Witcomb. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1976.
Queen Victoria by J. R. C. Yglesias. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1976.
Elizabeth Gaskell by Barbara Brill. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1977.
Cooking With Mother by Lynne Peebles. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1977.
The Ladybird Colouring Book of ABC, illus. with others. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1978.
Marco Polo by Audrey Daly. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1980.
William Shakespeare by Geoffrey Earle. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1981.
Tea by Michael Smith, illus. with David Palmer. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1981.
Miracles of Jesus: Loaves and Fishes by Sylvia Mandeville. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1982.
Water Into Wine by Sylvia Mandeville. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1982.
(* Most of the biographical information above is derived from Sim Branaghan's British Film Posters, BFI Publishing, 2006. My thanks to Phil Richards for the scan of Trapeze.)