The most important objects in a film are often more interesting than the most important characters. And the best-known objects in film history are as unforgettable as its most famous actors. Sometimes even more so: not every child who watches The Wizard of Oz remembers the name Judy Garland but no child could forget the ruby slippers. I wrote "Rosebud Sleds and Horses' Heads: 50 of Film's Most Evocative Objects" [Intellect Books, $18.00] to celebrate the best things on film.
It's an illustrated book that aims to be an interesting object itself. And so, instead of using film stills to depict the evocative objects I discuss, the book features original artwork by illustrators Jayde Perkin, Charlie Marshall and David McMillan. It's their pictures you can see in this slideshow.
Some onscreen objects exist to educate audiences about the characters they are watching (the .44 Magnum that Clint Eastwood's title character wields in "Dirty Harry," for example, or Marilyn Monroe's white dress in "The Seven Year Itch"). Other objects drive entire plots, bringing characters together and forcing them apart. No one in The Maltese Falcon is really interested in the other characters they encounter (or fall in love with, or steal from, or murder). They only care about acquiring the antique treasure in the title.
Some objects don't so much drive the action of their films as comment upon it. The little girl's blood-red coat in "Schindler's List" speaks of the blood shed by millions of victims of the Holocaust and provides a succinct visual summary of events too horrific and chaotic for us to understand as a whole.
The greatest film objects become icons, as familiar and evocative as great works of art. These objects are not props. They are inanimate movie stars.