Posts Tagged ‘Saul Bass’
Saul Bass was one of America’s premiere graphic designers through the second half of the Twentieth Century. He created some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America: e.g., the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and the successor AT&T globe (1983), Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969), United Airlines (1974), and Warner Communications (1974).
But for your correspondent’s money, his major contribution was his extraordinary series of movie titles and posters, created for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese. Prior to Bass, movie title sequences had largely been a series of “credit cards,” functioning in effect as title pages. Bass developed the opening as a way to set the emotional stage for the film to follow. As screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi said of Bass and his second wife and collaborator Elaine, “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 the broadest sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as descendent of Bass’s innovative work. In particular, though, one can detect the influence of Bass in the title sequences for some recent movies and television series (especially those set in the 1960s) that have purposely emulated the graphic style of his animated sequences from that era: e.g., Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the opening to the AMC series Mad Men.
* Saul Bass
As we mute our cell phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Alfred Hitchcock’s muse, the Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.
Domineering mothers, icy blondes, mistaken identities and wrongly accused men, erotic train tunnels, plunging spiral staircases (explored with long tracking shots), and, of course, good, old-fashioned murder– Alfred Hitchcock! To celebrate his 114th birthday this month, Guardian designers Adam Frost and Zhenia Vasiliev channeled The Master’s go-to graphic designer, Saul Bass, to create the infographic from which the image above is excepted, quantifying all of Hitch’s idées fixes in one infographic.
As we check into the Bates Motel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959, one month after its release, that North By Northwest set a record for U.S. non-holiday box office gross. One of Hitchcock’s tales of mistaken identity, NXNW has a 100% Critics rating and a 93% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and ranks #11 on their “Best Movies of All Time” list (based on each film’s Tomatometer Score); NXNW accounts for 20% of all of the DVD sales of Hitchcock’s films (The 39 Steps, for 13%; all of the 50 others, for the remaining 67%).
Via the always-rewarding Dangerous Minds, a simple– and simply wonderful– graduation film made by Jurjen Versteeg, who explains the idea behind his project:
Designed as a possible title sequence for a fictitious documentary, this film shows a history of the title sequence in a nutshell. The sequence includes all the names of title designers who had a revolutionary impact on the history and evolution of the title sequence. The names of the title designers all refer to specific characteristics of the revolutionary titles that they designed.
This film refers to elements such as the cut and shifted characters of Saul Bass’ Psycho title, the colored circles of Maurice Binder’s design for Dr. No and the contemporary designs of Kyle Cooper and Danny Yount.
This title sequence refers to the following designers and their titles: Georges Méliès – Un Voyage Dans La Lune, Saul Bass – Psycho, Maurice Binder – Dr. No, Stephen Frankfurt – To Kill A Mockingbird, Pablo Ferro – Dr. Strangelove, Richard Greenberg – Alien, Kyle Cooper – Seven, Danny Yount – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang / Sherlock Holmes.
As we remember to “tell ‘em what we’re going to tell ‘em,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the first Cannes Film Festival opened. It had originally been scheduled for September, 1939 as an “answer” to the Venice Film Fest, which had become a propaganda vehicle for Mussolini and Hitler; but the outbreak of World War II occasioned a delay.