Piper was a keen chronicler, and since childhood he had been fascinated by the ghosts of Britain’s architectural and typographic past, delighting in everything from medieval churches to Victorian shop fronts. He spent the war years travelling the length and breadth of Britain as a war artist, attempting to record its buildings before they were lost to bomb damage or modernisation.
Already well known for his architectural drawings, he had also completed a series of aquatint prints of Brighton for a limited edition publication in 1939. These same sketches inspired the use of sweeping Regency architecture that dominates the poster, lending a distinct air of authenticity, while also placing it in dialogue with Piper’s wider body of work.
The melodramatic nature of the film – a tale of romance and murder in late Victorian Brighton – is expressed through the ornate typeface chosen for the title. In a world dominated by the utilitarian typefaces of wartime propaganda, it nods to the diversity and eccentricity of 19th-century lettering; something that Ealing would repeat in later posters, including Fitton’s artwork for Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).
Piper’s pink skyline evokes the sunset world of Victorian England. The burnished hues are also reminiscent of Piper’s earlier wartime sketches, which were replete with smouldering ruins. Much like the image of Googie Withers, Piper’s poster is one that looks knowingly over its shoulder to the past, but is unable to leave behind the gentle bite of present-day reality.