Appellate Judge James A. Stewart missed the last rose of summer, but he's watching for the last leaf of autumn.
"In my career, I've covered an enormous range of subject matter and hope never to to be confined to just one, but to the community of art critics, there's something unsettling about a person who won't be indelibly stamped with a narrow label."—Robert McGinnis
When we first see the artist in Robert McGinnis: Painting the Last Rose of Summer, he's painting natural landscapes near his Ohio home. When you get to see some of these later, you will—or should—appreciate them, but the documentary quickly moves on to the subjects McGinnis is best known for: "dangerous beauties."
In the 1950s and 1960s, McGinnis' artwork, usually featuring some dangerous dame, graced the covers of paperback novels about characters like Mike Shayne—and are even believed to have boosted sales of Carter Brown novels. From there, he went on to play a role in making the Sixties swing by painting the posters for James Bond movies.
"There was no one better," United Artists art director Donald Smolen said. Couldn't he have said "Nobody does it better" and made it a really great quote? Anyway, watch for a discussion of his Diamonds are Forever poster and a quick reworking by UA.
McGinnis has also been known to paint elegant nudes, which hang in galleries without shame or irony, and romance novel covers.
Last Rose of Summer also shows a side of McGinnis that a lot of people might overlook. In addition to those landscapes, McGinnis does illustrations for Guideposts magazine, paints nostalgic scenes, and creates vast Western landscapes that are best summed up in his own words: "An artist is a one-man theater. He or she conceived the plot, writes the scripts, stages, directs, and acts out the roles." Whatever words you use, they're impressive, and they show McGinnis unbound by the narrow confines of a paperback cover or a movie poster.
As you'd guess, a lot of screen time is devoted to showcasing McGinnis' canvases, but there's still room to give viewers glimpses of him at work. Last Rose shows concept sketches for a paperback cover and his initial canvas work. And, yes, one of those paintings he's doing appears to be "The Last Rose of Summer." It's an elegant nude, and you will get glimpses of breasts.
If you're looking for titillation, there isn't much in the documentary itself, but the bonus features—a short called "The Spy Girls!" and a trailer—have plenty of it. "Spy Girls" shows five models and their canvas incarnations, with glimpses of nudity in each version. I'd have liked to have actually seen more of McGinnis at work or a photo gallery instead.
The picture appears to be video of reasonably good quality, with minimal flaring or other problems. The sound is at a lower-than-normal volume, but clear throughout.
Robert McGinnis: Painting The Last Rose of Summer will pique the interest of anyone who's seen those paperback covers or movie posters and should satisfy artists and collectors. Not guilty.
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• "The Spy Girls!"
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