Saturday, September 8, 2018

In Search of The Omega (Wo)Man!

by John Scoleri


In the opening scenes of The Omega Man (the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend), Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) walks into a Ford dealership to help himself to a brand new Mustang. His eyes catch something off screen and he stops dead in his tracks.


From his POV, we see a calendar on the wall, establishing a future date to this 1971 film. The camera pans up from the March 1975 calendar...






...across the legs of a pin-up illustration...


...ultimately pausing on the woman's face.







Neville approaches the calendar, pausing momentarily...


...before grabbing it...




...and tearing it down.




As a fan of The Omega Man, I've often wondered about the calendar that appears in the film. It wasn't an off the shelf calendar, as they needed a prop with a future date. But it also seemed unlikely that the set decorator would commission a piece of original art for the calendar, so I thought I might be able to identify the artwork used and find a copy for my collection.

Last month, I finally set out to see if I could track down the art and artist responsible for the pin-up. With a couple of screenshots at my disposal, my first stop was reaching out to a couple of pin-up fan groups to see if anyone was familiar with the piece. Though I had no luck finding anyone familiar with the specific pin-up, I was contacted by someone who, while unfamiliar with the specific piece, was quite certain it was the work of artist Fritz Willis.

According to Wikipedia, Willis got his start painting pin-ups for Esquire magazine in 1946. And beginning in 1961, Willis was responsible for what appears to have been a popular Artist's Sketchbook pin-up calendar.

Fortunately, once I had a name to search on, the woman I was looking for was a mere Google search away. May I introduce, "The Wheeler Girl."


Once I had identified the piece, it wasn't difficult to locate a period print of the artwork. I was quite pleased with my discovery, and couldn't wait to receive the print I found online.

Once it arrived, I realized that upon closer inspection, while very similar to the pin-up seen in the film, the two pieces of art are not identical. The artwork used in the film is rougher, and lacks some of the detail in the finished painting.
You can see numerous discrepancies in the woman's face, flowers, outfit and feet.




The differences lead me to wonder if the piece used in the film was perhaps an early comp for Willis' "The Wheeler Girl" painting, or a wholesale knock-off produced by another artist specifically for use in the film.

I've put out some feelers to see I can find out more about Willis' process to determine if the artwork seen in the film is in fact his, but in the mean time, my search for the actual Omega Woman continues...

8 comments:

Jack Seabrook said...

Why does he tear down the calendar?

Will said...

Well that's interesting.

John Scoleri said...

Jack - the pin-up is a reminder of things long gone. In particular, the companionship of a lady. Neville is otherwise pretty well settled in to the new world order. It's interesting to note that in the screenplay I have (dated 9/1/70), it briefly describes his seeing a semi-nude calendar, and tearing it off the wall without looking at it. Either Heston or director Boris Sagal changed that, as he stares at it both afar and once he's right in front of it, before tearing it down. And in the screenplay, they had him going to a Mercedes dealership rather than Ford. Curious if that was a case of product placement, pro-America sentiment, or a little of both. :)

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks for the explanation, John. This was an interesting article. I haven't seen the film in decades.

Peter Enfantino said...

A fascinating post! I want to see more from John Scoleri, the writer.

Todd Mason said...

Also, Heston's character is angry it isn't the original painting.

BIG Joe Eagljoegale58@gmail.com said...

I used to do a Security Mobile Patrol at night & one Building I guarded, had a Pin Up, very similar. 1980s. Always reminded Me of that scene!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting research!