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Subject: ARCHIVE: May 8, 1920 ~It was a century ago Saul Bass, Hollywood film graphic designer and Oscar-winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion-picture title sequences, film posters, and corporate logos, was born. ~Happy 100th! ...
During his 40-year career, Bass worked for some of Hollywood's most prominent filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. Among his most famous title sequences are the animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict's arm for Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm, the credits racing up and down what eventually becomes a high-angle shot of a skyscraper in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and the disjointed text that races together and apart in Psycho.
Bass designed some of the most iconic corporate logos in North America, including the Bell System logo in 1969, as well as AT&T's globe logo in 1983 after the breakup of the Bell System. He also designed Continental Airlines' 1968 jet stream logo and United Airlines' 1974 tulip logo, which became some of the most recognized airline industry logos of the era. He died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Los Angeles on April 25, 1996, at the age of 75.
Saul Bass was born on May 8, 1920 in the Bronx, New York, United States, to Eastern European Jewish immigrant parents. He graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx and studied part-time at the Art Students League in Manhattan until attending night classes with György Kepes at Brooklyn College. In 1938, Saul married Ruth Cooper and they had two children, Robert in 1942 and Andrea in 1946.
He began his time in Hollywood in the 1940s, designing print advertisements for films including Champion (1949), Death of a Salesman (1951) and The Moon Is Blue (1953), directed by Otto Preminger. His next collaboration with Preminger was to design a film poster for his 1954 film Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed with Bass's work that he asked him to produce the title sequence as well. This was when Bass first saw the opportunity to create a title sequence which would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and contribute to the mood and the theme of the movie within the opening moments. Bass was one of the first to realize the creative potential of the opening and closing credits of a movie.
Film title sequences
Bass became widely known in the film industry after creating the title
sequence for Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).
The subject of the film was a jazz musician's struggle to overcome his heroin addiction, a taboo subject in the mid-1950s. Bass decided to create an innovative title sequence to match the film's controversial subject. He chose the arm as the central image, as it is a strong image relating to heroin addiction. The titles featured an animated, white on black paper cut-out arm of a heroin addict. As he hoped, it caused quite a sensation.
For Alfred Hitchcock, Bass provided effective, memorable title sequences, inventing a new type of kinetic typography, for North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), working with John Whitney, and Psycho (1960). It was this kind of innovative, revolutionary work that made Bass a revered graphic designer. Before the advent of Bass's title sequences in the 1950s, titles were generally static, separate from the movie, and it was common for them to be projected onto the cinema curtains, the curtains only being raised right before the first scene of the movie. In 1960, Bass wrote an article for Graphis magazine called "Film Titles a New Field for the Graphic Designer," which has been revered as a milestone for "the consecration of the movie credit sequence as a design object." One of the most studied film credit designers, Bass is known for integrating a stylistic coherence between the designs and the films in which they appear.
Bass once described his main goal for his title sequences as being to "try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story". Another philosophy that Bass described as influencing his title sequences was the goal of getting the audience to see familiar parts of their world in an unfamiliar way. Examples of this or what he described as "making the ordinary extraordinary" can be seen in Walk on the Wild Side (1962) where an ordinary cat becomes a mysterious prowling predator, and in Nine Hours to Rama (1963) where the interior workings of a clock become an expansive new landscape. In the 1950s, Saul Bass used a variety of techniques, from cut-out animation for Anatomy of a Murder (1958), to fully animated mini-movies such as the epilogue for the Best Picture Oscar winner Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and live-action sequences.
In 1955, Elaine Makatura came to work with Bass in his Los Angeles office. By 1960, with the opening to Spartacus, she was directing and producing title sequences, and in 1961 the two married, beginning more than 40 years of close collaboration. After the birth of their children, Jennifer in 1964 and Jeffrey in 1967, they concentrated on their family, film directing, and title sequences. Saul and Elaine designed title sequences for more than 40 years, continuously experimenting with a variety of innovative techniques and effects, from Bunraku-style maneuvers in Spartacus (1960), live-action sequences in Walk On The Wild Side (1962), to time-lapse photography in The Age of Innocence (1993), and even chopped liver in Mr. Saturday Night (1992). Their live-action opening title sequences often served as prologues to their films and transitioned seamlessly into their opening scenes. These "time before" title sequences either compress or expand time with startling results. The title sequence to Grand Prix (1966) portrays the moments before the opening race in Monte Carlo, the title sequence to The Big Country (1958) depicts the days it takes a stage coach to travel to a remote Western town, and the opening montage title sequence to The Victors (1963) chronicles the twenty-seven years between World War I and the middle of World War II, where the film begins.
From the mid-1960s to the late '80s, Saul and Elaine moved away from main titles to focus on filmmaking and their children. About this time away from title design, Saul said:
Elaine and I feel we are there to serve the film and to approach the task with a sense of responsibility. We saw a lot of pyrotechnics and fun and games and I suppose we lost interest. At the same time, an increasing number of directors now sought to open their own films in ambitious ways rather than hire someone else to do it. Whatever the reasons, the result was "Fade Out." We did not worry about it: we had too many other interesting projects to get on with. Equally, because we still loved the process of making titles, we were happy to take it up again when asked. "Fade In"
In the 1980s, Saul and Elaine were rediscovered by James L. Brooks and Martin Scorsese, who had grown up admiring their film work. For Scorsese, Saul and Elaine Bass created title sequences for Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), and Casino (1995), their last title sequence. This later work with Martin Scorsese saw the Basses move away from the optical techniques that Saul had pioneered and move into the use of computerized effects. The Basses' title sequences featured new and innovative methods of production and startling graphic design.
Screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi said of Saul and Elaine Bass, "You write a book of 300 to 400 pages and then you boil it down to a script of maybe 100 to 150 pages. Eventually you have the pleasure of seeing that the Basses have knocked you right out of the ballpark. They have boiled it down to four minutes flat."
In a sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as a legacy of the Basses' innovative work. In particular, title sequences for some recent movies and television series, especially those whose setting is during the 1960s, have purposely emulated the graphic style of Saul Bass's animated sequences from the 1950s. Some examples of title sequences that pay homage to Bass's graphics and animated title sequences are Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the openings to the AMC series Mad Men and TBS's Conan.
Logos and other designs
Bass was responsible for some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America, including both the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and successor AT&T globe (1983). Other well-known designs were Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969) and United Airlines (1974). Later, he would produce logos for a number of Japanese companies as well.
Selected logos by Saul Bass and their respective dates (note that the links shown point to articles on the entities themselves, and not necessarily to the logos):
=AT&T Corporation (1969 and 1983)
=Avery International (1975)
=Boys & Girls Clubs of America (1978)
=Continental Airlines (1968)
=Frontier Airlines (1978)
=Fuller Paints (1962)
=Geffen Records (1980)
=General Foods (1984)
=Girl Scouts of the USA (1978)
=Japan Energy Corporation (1993)
=J. Paul Getty Trust (1993)
=Kibun Foods (1984)
=Kose Cosmetics (1991)
=Lawry's Foods (1959)
=Minami Sports (1991)
=Minolta (1978 and 1981)
=NCR Corporation (1996)
=Quaker Oats (1969)
=Rockwell International (1968)
=Security Pacific Bank (1966)
=United Airlines (1974)
=United Way (1972)
=US postage stamp, "Science and Industry" (1983)
=Warner Communications (1974)
=Wesson Oil (1964)
An analysis of a sample of Bass's corporate logos in 2011 found them to have an unusual longevity. The most common cause of the end of a Bass corporate logo (in the selection analyzed) was the demise or merge of the company, rather than a corporate logo redesign. The average lifespan of a Bass logo is more than 34 years. In 2014, Frontier Airlines resurrected the stylized F logo originally designed for Frontier by Bass in 1978, and discontinued when the airlines when bankrupt in 1984.
Movie Posters ...
Saul Bass designed emblematic movie posters that transformed the visuals of film advertising. Before Bass's seminal poster for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), movie posters were dominated by depictions of key scenes or characters from the film, often both juxtaposed with each other. Bass's posters, however, typically developed simplified, symbolic designs that visually communicated key essential elements of the film. For example, his poster for The Man with the Golden Arm, with a jagged arm and off-kilter typography, starkly communicates the protagonist's struggle with heroin addiction. Bass's iconic Vertigo (1958) poster, with its stylized figures sucked down into the nucleus of a spiral vortex, captures the anxiety and disorientation central to the film. His poster for Anatomy of a Murder (1959), featuring the silhouette of a corpse jarringly dissected into seven pieces, makes both a pun on the film's title and captures the moral ambiguities within which this court room drama is immersed.
He created some of his best known posters for films directed by Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and Stanley Kubrick among others. His last commissioned film poster was created for Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), but it was never distributed. His poster work spanned five decades and inspired numerous other poster and graphic designers. Bass's film posters are characterized by a distinctive typography and minimalistic style.
Selected posters by Saul Bass, and their respective dates:
=Carmen Jones (1954)
=The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
=Edge of the City (1956)
=Storm Center (1956)
=Love in the Afternoon (1957)
=Saint Joan (1957)
=Bonjour tristesse (1958)
=The Big Country (1958) (style b poster)
=Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
=The Magnificent Seven (1960) (design not used)
=One, Two, Three (1961)
=Advise & Consent (1962)
=It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
=The Cardinal (1963)
=In Harm's Way (1964)
=Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
=The Firemen's Ball (1967)
=The Two of Us (1967)
=Why Man Creates (1968)
=Very Happy Alexander (1969)
The Shining poster designed by Bass (which he intended
to be red, but was changed by Stanley Kubrick to yellow)
=Such Good Friends (1971)
=Notes on the Popular Arts (1977)
=Bass on Titles (1978)
=The Human Factor (1979)
=The Solar Film (1979)
1980s and 1990s
=Schindler's List poster designed by Bass,
his last commissioned film poster (not distributed)