SAUL BASS: THE NAME BEHIND THE TITLES

Saul Bass (1920-1996) was a graphic designer and filmmaker, perhaps best known for his design of film posters and title sequences.

During his 40-year career Bass worked for some of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, and Martin Scorsese. He became well-known in the film industry after creating the title sequence for Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm in 1955. For Alfred Hitchcock, Bass designed effective and memorable title sequences, inventing a new type of kinetic typography, for North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.

Bass also designed some of the most iconic corporate logos in North America, including the original AT&T “bell” logo in 1969, as well as their later “globe” logo in 1983. He also designed Continental Airlines’ 1968 “jetstream” logo and United Airlines’ 1974 “tulip” logo which have become some of the most recognized logos of the era.

In 1955, Elaine Makatura came to work with Saul Bass and after the opening title sequence to Spartacus (1960), which Elaine co-directed and produced, the two were married. Much of Saul Bass’s title design and film work thereafter was made in close collaboration with Elaine. After the birth of their children, the Basses concentrated on their family, short films, and title sequences. Their first joint venture into short filmmaking was with promotional films for pavilions at the 1964 World’s Fair, “From Here to There” for United Airlines and “The Searching Eye” for Eastman Kodak. In 1968, they made the Oscar-winning short film Why Man Creates.

From the mid-60s to the late 1980s, Saul and Elaine moved away from main titles to focus on filmmaking and their children. Of this time, Saul has 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’…”

Toward the end of his career, Saul Bass was “rediscovered” by James L. Brooks and Martin Scorsese, who urged the Basses to return to main title design.

For Scorsese, Elaine and Saul Bass created title sequences for Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, and Casino, their last title sequence.

SOURCE: The Art of the Title