Enter the graphic movie world of Saul Bass

Saul Bass Advice and Content, © 1962 Thanks to Otto Preminger Films, Ltd

Saul Bass invented the contemporary film opening title sequence. The American graphic artist created some of the most memorable title graphics in movie history, as well the most iconic poster art, and his work remains as visually strong as it did in the 1950s and 60s when he was at the height of his career in Hollywood.

The team here at Spinach Branding are huge Saul Bass admirers and are thrilled to receive the latest book on the graphic artist, Saul Bass: 20 Iconic Film Posters. The generous size and handy removable 12 x 16-inch posters, make this a great way to observe the artist’s work.

Bass introduced a minimalist style – a unique blend of simple type, stop-frame animation, and intriguing symbolism to the genre. His graphics come to life. They are animated, they move, they incorporate image, text, and credits. Bass gets his graphics to perform a choreographed dance to the soundtrack. Up until Bass, opening credits were a tired affair, created by an in-house film team. He made the opener part of the cinematic experience. Bass elevated it to an art form.

Saul Bass St John © 1957 Thanks to Otto Preminger Films, Ltd

Hollywood took notice of Bass around 1955 following his work with Billy Wilder on The Seven Year Itch which opens with an engaging, all-graphic sequence that became the Saul Bass signature, highlighted by the jazz-inspired hand-painted titles of Harold Adler who collaborated on many of his later projects.

It was a style Bass had begun experimenting with the previous year working on Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones and took further on the opening sequence of the director’s The Man with a Golden Arm. Starring Frank Sinatra as Frankie, the troubled anti-hero drummer battling with drug addiction, and to the music of Elmer Bernstein, it remains one of the most advanced, and stylish opening credits in film history (watch the animation here)

Saul Bass The Cardinal © 1963 Thanks to Otto Preminger Films, Ltd

Working alongside his wife Elaine, whom he married that year, Bass began collaborating with Hollywood’s greatest. With Alfred Hitchcock he completed North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho, he designed the opening credits and film poster for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and later worked with Martin Scorsese on Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence and Casino.

Away from the movies, Bass was also responsible for some of the most classic logos, including the original AT&T 1969 ‘bell’ logo and the 1980s Kleenex symbol. Never distracted by fleeting fashion, the average lifespan of his logos is some thirty-four years.

Saul Bass: 20 Iconic Film Posters is by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham is published by Laurence King

Images © Saul Bass: 20 Iconic Film Posters 

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Saul Bass The Man with the Golden Arm © 1955 Thanks to Otto Preminger Films, Ltd
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