(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Movie Posters

“Symbolize and summarize”*…


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.


See a more complete frame board of Bass’ North By Northwest opening here; browse more of his extraordinary canon here— all courtesy of our old friend Christian Annyas.

* 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.


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April 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time”*…


The “many-worlds interpretation” is a reading of quantum mechanics that implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”). That’s to say, the hypothesis holds, that there is a very large—perhaps infinite—number of universes, and that everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes…  All very well, but what does it mean?

Happily, Sean Hartter is here to illustrate:  his “Alternate Universe Movie Posters” give one a peek at one-sheets one might have seen if one lived a couple of universes over…

Many, many more glimpses across the folds of space-time at Sean’s site.

[TotH to Dangerous Minds]

* Professor Edward P. Tryton, Columbia University (as quoted by Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything)


As we take a mulligan, we might send very carefully-crafted birthday greetings to Jacques de Vaucanson; he was born on this date in 1709.  A mechanical genius, de Vaucanson invented a number of machine tools still in use (e.g., the slide rest lathe) and created the first automated loom (the inspiration for Jacquard).  But he is better remembered as the creator of extraordinary automata.  Among his most famous creations:  The Flute Player (with hands gloved in skin) and The Tambourine Player, life-sized mechanical figures that played their instruments impressively.  But his masterpiece was The Digesting Duck; remarkably complex (it had 400 moving parts in each wing alone), it could flap its wings, drink water, eat grain– and defecate.

Sans…le canard de Vaucanson vous n’auriez rien qui fit ressouvenir de la gloire de la France.  (Without…the duck of Vaucanson, you will have nothing to remind you of the glory of France)

– Voltaire



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February 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

When the posters were better than the films…


In the days before focus groups and digital enhancement, from the late 1940s into the 1970s, movie posters– “one sheets”– were the film business’ barkers, luring viewers into theaters.  The creators of these enticements were unsung (as their work was unsigned)– except, of course, within the industry they served.  A number of illustrators– Bill Gold, Frank McCarthy, Howard Terpining, and yesterday’s honoree Saul Bass, among others– earned insider prominence.  But the undisputed champ, the granddaddy of the poster artists’ Golden Age, was Reynold Brown.

In 1952, Brown, who’d been a commercial illustrator, delivered his first poster…

… thus kicking off a string of some of the most famous movie posters of all time.  From the epic…

…through the dramatic…

… and the terrifying…

… to the titillating…

… and the just plain trivial…

… Reynold Brown “put butts in seats.”

See more of Brown’s wonderful work here,  here (from whence, images above) and here.  And watch this charming documentary on Brown and his work:

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As we salt our popcorn, we might recall that this is the Feast Day celebrating the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (as observed by the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine Catholic churches and the Church of England, (including many national provinces of the Anglican Communion).

“Salome and the Apparition of the Baptist’s Head” by Gustave Moreau (the Reynold Brown of the mid-19th Century)




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August 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

Now See The Major Motion Picture!…

From Tim McCool (a Boston College art student who “has been Photoshopping people’s heads onto other people’s bodies for nearly a decade”), via Hyperallergic (a nifty art blog overseen by husband and husband team, Veken Gueyikian and Hrag Vartanian), “Artists Go Hollywood: The Movie Posters,” a series of posters for artists’ biopics that might– nay, that ought to— be made.  Consider, for example:


See them all here.

As we smell the popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London.  Young Charles toured the U.S. in 1910 and 1912 with the Fred Karno troupe of vaudevillians, rooming with fellow performer Arthur Stanley Jefferson, who later became known as Stan Laurel.   Jackson returned to England (later to return); Chaplin stayed…  and became, of course, the most famous motion picture performer of his time, one of the most successful writer-producer-directors of the era, and one of its biggest entertainment moguls (having co-founded United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford).

Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp

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