Saul Bass


Title Designer

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
May 08, 1920
Died
April 25, 1996
Cause of Death
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Biography

Few did as much to alter the aesthetics of commercial and popular culture in the second half of the 20th century than Saul Bass. A New York-born graphic designer, Bass broke with the industry's standardized text-based opening credits template to create an iconic animated opening sequence for Otto Preminger's film "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955). He went on to compose similarly styli...

Photos & Videos

Advise & Consent - Movie Poster
Anatomy of a Murder - Movie Poster
The Man with the Golden Arm - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Elaine Bass
Wife
Collaborated with Bass on his title designs for Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas" (1990); survived him.

Biography

Few did as much to alter the aesthetics of commercial and popular culture in the second half of the 20th century than Saul Bass. A New York-born graphic designer, Bass broke with the industry's standardized text-based opening credits template to create an iconic animated opening sequence for Otto Preminger's film "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955). He went on to compose similarly stylized intro/poster combos for a number of Preminger films and become a go-to design man for directors of Hollywood's prestige films, including Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (1958) and "Psycho" (1960) and Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1958). He went behind the camera and ultimately earned an Oscar for his animated documentary film "Why Man Creates" (1968), and in 1974, directed his only feature film, the sci-fi outing "Phase IV." Bass' corporate work would shape a multitude of brand imprints for a Who's Who of corporate America, and he returned to film title design in the 1980s and 1990s, notably in a run of films by Martin Scorcese. Emulated in countless entertainment graphics - including more recent opening sequences of Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) and AMC's Emmy-darling series "Mad Men" (2008- ) - Bass did more than just alter the look of film, Scorcese suggested in the book "Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design, he "found and distilled the poetry of the modern, industrialized world."

Saul Bass was born on May 8, 1920 in The Bronx, NY, the son of Ukrainian Jewish émigrés, his father a furrier. Bass showed an artistic bent early on, drawing everything he saw. Just 15 when he graduated James Monroe High, he went on to study at the Art Students League of New York, supplementing that with night classes at Brooklyn College with Hungarian-born artist Gyorgy Kepes. After some entry-level commercial art jobs, Bass landed a job with Warner Bros.' New York office, and in 1946, moved to Los Angeles looking to freelance for the studios. Bass opened his own shop, Saul Bass & Associates, producing by-the-numbers movie ads and picking up some advertising clients. In 1954, he hired designer Elaine Makatura in 1954, with whom he would begin a relationship. That year, he worked for the first time for Otto Preminger, creating a poster for the director's adaptation of the musical "Carmen Jones," and the work blossomed into an ongoing relationship between the two creators. Preminger brought Bass back to not only render a poster but the opening credit sequence of "The Man with the Golden Arm," a narrative study of addiction starring Frank Sinatra as a jazz musician hooked on heroin.

Bass created a cut-paper arm framed by the film title in disjointed text and animated the credits around the central icon set to a frenetic jazz score, setting the tone of the artist's obsession. A first in effecting the film's ethos from its very first moments, it made Bass much-in-demand, working most immediately on Robert Aldrich's bleak inside-Hollywood noir "The Big Knife" (1955) and the Marilyn Monroe comedy "The Seven-Year Itch" (1955). Becoming an aesthetic force in the industry, he ushered titles and poster art away from imagery strictly representational of the narrative and more toward iconographic treatments evocative of mood. He worked on such classics as Preminger's "Saint Joan" (1957), "Anatomy of a Murder" (1958) - its particularly memorable central graphic featured an iconic human body cut into seven pieces - "Exodus" (1960) and "Advise and Consent" (1962), Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960), Billy Wilder's "One, Two, Three" (1961), Robert Wise's "West Side Story" (1961), and John Frankenheimer's "Seconds" (1966) and "Grand Prix" (1966).

Bass designed titles and posters for a string of Alfred Hitchcock's films, including "Vertigo," "North by Northwest" (1959) and "Psycho," but went above and beyond for this director. For the latter project, Bass storyboarded key sequences, including Janet Leigh's famous shower scene and the staircase sequence with Martin Balsam. Kubrick and Frankenheimer similarly brought his aesthetic eye to bear on narrative elements. In 1959, Bass created the famous red swirl signature design for Lawry's seasonings and went on to expand his work outside the film world. In 1962, he collaborated with Lenore Klein on the children's book, Henri's Walk to Paris. In 1964, he collaborated with Elaine, whom he married in 1961, on a short coming-of-age film, "The Searching Eye," which premiered at New York World's Fair. His filmmaking reached its zenith with "Why Man Creates," a half-hour documentary that examined the historical development of humankind's creativity and its role in effecting and deriving meaning. The film won the Oscar for best short-subject documentary in 1969. Bass and Elaine's later shorts, "Notes on the Popular Arts" (1978) and "The Solar Film" (1980), would also draw Oscar nominations.

In 1968, Bass created the signature bell logo for AT&T, initiating a run of work for major corporations seeking new brand IDs. The late 1960s and 1970s would see him concoct new corporate identities or brand imprints for companies such as Continental Airlines, Rockwell, Quaker Oats, Avery International, Dixie paper products, United Airlines, Warner Communications, Minolta, as well as non-profit groups such as the Girl Scouts, the United Way and the YMCA. The 1970s also saw Bass helm his only feature film, "Phase IV," a stark horror thriller about an uprising of ants who develop a collective intelligence. Released in 1974 after clashes between Bass and the studio on the cut, the film was little seen but became a cult favorite. In 1987, writer-director James L. Brooks lured Bass back to films for the title design of his hit comedy "Broadcast News," which re-opened the door to cinematic work. He put his stamp on Penny Marshall's blockbuster comedy "Big" (1988) and returned to stylish crime fare with "Goodfellas" (1990), beginning a collaboration with Martin Scorsese that would continue through the director's gutty noir remake "Cape Fear" (1991), the period potboiler "The Age of Innocence" (1993), and his Mafia classic "Casino" (1995). Bass died of cancer in Los Angeles on April 25, 1996.

By Matthew Grimm

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Phase IV (1974)
Director

Art Director (Feature Film)

Psycho (1960)
Pictorial consultant

Visual Effects (Feature Film)

Such Good Friends (1971)
Titles
West Side Story (1961)
Titles & visual consultation
The Facts of Life (1960)
Titles Designer
Ocean's Eleven (1960)
Title Designer
Psycho (1960)
Titles Designer
Exodus (1960)
Titles Designer
Spartacus (1960)
Main titles and Designer consultant
North by Northwest (1959)
Titles Designer
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Titles Designer
Vertigo (1958)
Titles Designer
Saint Joan (1957)
Titles
The Pride and the Passion (1957)
Titles Designer
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Titles Designer
The Man with the Golden Arm (1956)
Titles Designer
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Titles Designer
Carmen Jones (1955)
Title Designer
The Big Knife (1955)
Titles Designer

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

Seconds (1966)
Main titles
Grand Prix (1966)
Visual consultant, montages & titles
In Harm's Way (1965)
Titles
Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
Main titles
The Cardinal (1963)
Titles
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Main titles
The Victors (1963)
Prolog & title Designer
Nine Hours to Rama (1963)
Title Designer
Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
Title Designer
Advise & Consent (1962)
Title Designer
Something Wild (1961)
Titles
The Big Country (1958)
Titles Designer
Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Titles Designer
Cowboy (1958)
Title Designer
Edge of the City (1957)
Titles Designer by
Storm Center (1956)
Titles Designer
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Pub
The Shrike (1955)
Titles Designer

Title Design (Feature Film)

Psycho (1998)
Titles
Casino (1995)
Titles
Higher Learning (1995)
Titles
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Titles
The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Titles
Cape Fear (1991)
Titles
Doc Hollywood (1991)
Titles
Goodfellas (1990)
Titles
The War of the Roses (1989)
Titles
Big (1988)
Titles
Broadcast News (1987)
Titles
The Human Factor (1980)
Title Design
That's Entertainment! II (1976)
Titles

Cast (Special)

Preminger -- Anatomy of a Filmmaker (1996)
Himself

Life Events

1946

Founded Saul Bass & Associates Inc.

1954

First film as title designer, "Carmen Jones"; also marked first collaboration with director-producer Otto Preminger

1958

First collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, "Vertigo"

1962

Directed six short films; the first, "Apples and Oranges"

1974

Sole feature as director, "Phase IV"

1979

Last collaboration with Otto Preminger, "The Human Factor"

1987

Began working regularly in film titles design again when asked to undertake work on "Broadcast News" by director James L. Brooks

1990

First collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, "GoodFellas"

1996

Retrospective of Bass' design work held at the School of Visual Arts in New York NY

Photo Collections

Advise & Consent - Movie Poster
Advise & Consent - Movie Poster
Anatomy of a Murder - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster designed by Saul Bass for Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder (1950). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Man with the Golden Arm - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters from Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1956), starring Frank Sinatra. The main poster design is by Saul Bass.
Exodus - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster (designed by Saul Bass) for Exodus (1960), produced and directed by Otto Preminger. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Casino (1995) - Street Guys Like Us Opening with the narration that continues throughout the film, Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, from the script by director Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the underlying book Casino: Love And Honor In Las Vegas, from Casino, 1995, co-starring Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone.
Carmen Jones (1954) - Open, Bizet Overture, Saul Bass Titles The unmistakable overture from Bizet's original opera and notable titles by Saul Bass, opening Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones, 1954, starring Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey.
Vertigo (1958) - Opening Credits Alfred Hitchcock turns things over to composer Bernard Hermann and artist Saul Bass for the opening credit sequence, plus the still remarkably close shot of leading lady Kim Novak, in Vertigo, 1958.
Psycho (1960) - These Extended Lunch Hours Producer-Director Alfred Hitchcock letting designer Saul Bass and composer Bernard Hermann drive, the opening to Psycho, 1960, then introducing already-disrobed Janet Leigh as Marion and John Gavin as her lover Sam, in a cheap Phoenix hotel room.
North By Northwest (1959) - No Such Thing As A Lie One of designer Saul Bass’ best-known openings, Bernard Hermann’s music highlighting, then the director’s cameo, as Cary Grant and Doreen Lang (as ad-man Roger Thornhill and secretary Maggie) fly into Ernest Lehman’s original screenplay, in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, 1959.
Walk On The Wild Side - Open, Black Cat Memorable opening, Edward Dmytryk directing, titles by Saul Bass, music by Elmer Bernstein, from Walk On The Wild Side, 1962, from the Nelson Algren novel, starring Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda and Barabara Stanwyck.

Trailer

Man With The Golden Arm, The - (Original Trailer) A junkie (Frank Sinatra) must face his true self to kick his drug addiction in Otto Preminger's groundbreaking movie, The Man With The Golden Arm (1955).
Facts of Life, The - (Original Trailer) Suburban marrieds (Bob Hope, Lucille Ball) are tempted to dabble in adultery.
Exodus - (Textless trailer) Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint lead an all-star cast in Otto Preminger's epic about the formation of the modern state of Israel, Exodus (1960).
Edge of the City - (Original Trailer) An army deserter and a black dock worker join forces against a corrupt union official in Edge of the City (1957).
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - (Original Trailer) Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder star in Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Edith Warton's The Age Of Innocence (1993).
Seven Year Itch, The - (Textless Trailer) A married man whose wife is on vacation falls for the blonde bombshell (Marilyn Monroe) upstairs in Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch (1955).
Big Knife, The - (Original Trailer - textless) An unscrupulous movie producer (Rod Steiger) blackmails an unhappy actor (Jack Palance) into signing a new contract in The Big Knife (1955), directed by Robert Aldrich.
Around the World in 80 Days - (Wide Release Trailer) A Victorian gentleman (David Niven) bets that he can beat the world's record for circling the globe in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
Spartacus - (Re-issue Trailer) A heroic slave (Kirk Douglas) leads a revolt against the corrupt Roman Empire in Spartacus (1960), a historical epic directed by Stanley Kubrick and winner of four Oscars including Best Cinematography.
Ocean's Eleven (1960) - (Original Trailer) The original movie and the ultimate "Rat Pack" adventure, Ocean's Eleven (1960) starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Psycho - (Original Trailer) Alfred Hitchcock takes you on a personal tour of the set of Psycho (1960).
That's Entertainment, Part Two - (Original Trailer) Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly dance together again for the first time in more than 30 years as they introduce scenes from That's Entertainment, Part 2 (1976).

Family

Jennifer Bass
Daughter
Survived him.
Jeffrey Bass
Son
Survived him.
Andrea Bass
Daughter
Survived him.
Robert Bass
Son
Survived him.

Companions

Elaine Bass
Wife
Collaborated with Bass on his title designs for Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas" (1990); survived him.

Bibliography