Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Paula - Saul Bass 60s Graphic Designer.
SAUL BASS (1920-1996) was not only one of the great graphic designers of the mid-20th century but the undisputed master of film title design thanks to his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese.
Bass certainly bought a new dimension to movies as he realised that the opening credits and titles to this point had not been exploited in a graphic way. When the reels of film for Otto Preminger’s controversial new drugs movie, The Man with the Golden Arm, arrived at US movie theatres in 1955, a note was stuck on the cans - "Projectionists – pull curtain before titles".
Until then, the lists of cast and crew members which passed for movie titles were so dull that projectionists only pulled back the curtains to reveal the screen once they’d finished. But Preminger wanted his audience to see The Man with the Golden Arm’s titles as an integral part of the film.
The movie’s theme was the struggle of its hero - a jazz musician played by Frank Sinatra - to overcome his heroin addiction. Designed by Saul Bass the titles featured an animated black paper-cut-out of a heroin addict’s arm. Knowing that the arm was a powerful image of addiction, Bass had chosen it – rather than Frank Sinatra’s famous face - as the symbol of both the movie’s titles and its promotional poster. That cut-out arm caused a sensation and Saul Bass reinvented the movie title as an art form.
Born in the Bronx district of New York in 1920, he was a creative child who drew constantly. Bass studied at the Art Students League in New York and Brooklyn College. He then completed apprenticeships with Design Firms in New York.
Bass worked as a freelance graphic designer or "commercial artist" as they were called. Chafing at the creative constraints imposed on him in New York, he moved to Los Angeles in 1946. After freelancing, he opened his own studio in 1950 working mostly in advertising until Preminger invited him to design the poster for his 1954 movie, Carmen Jones. Impressed by the result, Preminger asked Bass to create the film’s title sequence too.
Over the next decade he honed his skill by creating an animated mini-movie for Mike Todd’s 1956 Around The World In 80 Days and a tearful eye for Preminger’s 1958 Bonjour Tristesse. Blessed with the gift of identifying the one image which symbolised the movie, Bass then recreated it in a strikingly modern style. Martin Scorsese once described his approach as creating: "an emblematic image, instantly recognisable and immediately tied to the film".
Eventually Bass returned to commercial graphic design. His corporate work included corporate identities for United Airlines, AT&T, Minolta, Bell Telephone System and Warner Communications. He also designed the poster for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Overall I would say the changes Saul Bass made to the movie industry where long standing and definately made a trip to the movies more interesting for everyone even to this day.