The Full Wiki

Saul Bass: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saul Bass
Born May 8, 1920(1920-05-08)
New York City, New York, USA
Died April 25, 1996 (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Occupation Graphic designer, Filmmaker
Years active 1954 — 1995

Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996) was an American graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker, but he is best known for his design on animated motion picture title sequences.

During his 40-year career he worked for some of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers, including most notably Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. Amongst his most famous title sequences are the animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict's arm for Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm, the text racing up and down what eventually becomes a high-angle shot of the United Nations building in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and the disjointed text that raced together and was pulled apart for Psycho (1960).

Saul Bass designed the sixth AT&T Bell System logo. He also designed AT&T's "globe" logo after the breakup of the Bell System. Bass also designed Continental Airlines' 1968 "jetstream" logo, which became the most recognized airline industry logo of the 1970s.[1]


Early career

Saul Bass was born in May 8, 1920, in New York City. He studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan until attending classes with Gyorgy Kepes at Brooklyn College. He began his time in Hollywood doing print work for film ads, until he collaborated with filmmaker Otto Preminger to design the film poster for his 1954 film Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed with Bass’s work that he asked him to produce the title sequence as well. This was when Bass first saw the opportunity to create something more than a title sequence, but to create something which would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and contribute to the mood and the theme of the movie within the opening moments. Bass was one of the first to realize the creative potential of the opening and closing credits of a movie.

Film title sequences

Bass became notorious in the industry after creating the title sequence for Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). The subject of the film was a jazz musician's struggle to overcome his heroin addiction, a taboo subject in the mid-'50s. Bass decided to create a controversial title sequence to match the film's controversial subject. He chose the arm as the central image, as the arm is a strong image relating to drug addiction. The titles featured an animated, black paper cut-out arm of a heroin addict. As he expected, it caused quite a sensation.

For Alfred Hitchcock, Bass provided effective, memorable title sequences, employing kinetic typography, for North by Northwest, Vertigo, working with John Whitney, and Psycho. It was this kind of innovative, revolutionary work that made Bass a revered graphic designer. His later work with Martin Scorsese saw him move away from the optical techniques that he had pioneered and move into computerized titles, from which he produced the title sequence for Casino.

He designed title sequences for 40 years, for films as diverse as Spartacus (1960), The Victors (1963), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and Casino (1995). He also designed title sequences for films such as Goodfellas (1990), Doc Hollywood (1991), Cape Fear (1991) and The Age of Innocence (1993), all of which feature new and innovative methods of production and startling graphic design.

Selected film title sequences and respective dates

Logos and other designs

Bass was responsible for some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America, including both the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and successor AT&T globe (1983). Other well-known designs were Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969) and United Way (1972). Later, he would produce logos for a number of Japanese companies as well. He also designed the Student Academy Award for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[2]

Selected logos by Saul Bass and respective dates (note that links shown point to articles on the entities themselves, and not necessarily to the logos):

Movie posters

All of Bass's posters had a distinctive style. After his first film project Carmen Jones, he frequently collaborated with Otto Preminger as well as with Alfred Hitchcock and others. His work spanned five decades and inspired numerous other designers.





  • The Shining (1980)
  • Very Happy Alexander (1980)
  • The Solar Film (1981)

He received an unintentionally backhanded tribute in 1995, when Spike Lee's film Clockers was promoted by a poster that was strikingly similar to Bass's 1959 work for Preminger's film Anatomy of a Murder. Sims claimed that it was made as an homage, but Bass regarded it as theft.[3] The cover art for the White Stripes' single The Hardest Button to Button is clearly inspired by the Bass poster for The Man with the Golden Arm. The original Tahi poster for Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe is also influenced by Bass' work.


Bass claimed that he participated in directing the highlight scene of Psycho, the tightly edited shower-murder sequence, though many on set at the time (including star Janet Leigh) disputed his contention of "direction". However, it can be argued that said dispute was simply semantic in nature with Bass's use of the term "directing" reflecting his own perspective on the “directorial” value of his influential graphic contribution to the scene, while the position of Leigh and the others on set was based on the scene being literally directed by Hitchcock as the film director ultimately in charge of all artistic decisions.

Bill Krohn's recent work of scholarship on Hitchcock's production of Psycho (Hitchcock At Work, Phaidon Press), validates that Bass in his capacity as a graphic artist did indeed have a significant influence on the visual design of that famous scene. Hitchcock had asked Bass to produce storyboards for the shower-murder scene and a later murder scene (which was truncated). [4] For this, Bass received a credit as Pictorial Consultant as well as Title Designer. [5]

Krohn noted that Bass's 48 drawings introduced key aspects of the final shower-murder scene, namely the fact that the attacker would be seen as a silhouette, the shower curtain torn down, a high angle shot of the murder scene with the curtain rod used as a barrier and also the famous shot of the transition from the drainage hole of the bathtub to Marion Crane's dead eye which as Krohn notes is reminiscent of Bass's iris titles for Vertigo. Krohn also concludes that Bass did not literally direct the shower-murder scene, proving Hitchcock's presence on the set throughout the shooting of that scene conclusively. It should be noted however that Hitchcock firmly denied that he used any of Bass' storyboards in his interviews with Francois Truffaut. In the interview he states that Bass only contributed the titles and attempted to board the scene where Arbogast proceeds up the staircase to his doom, a scene that Hitch also let Bass film while the director was at home with a temperature. However, Hitchcock states that once he saw the sequence he didn't use it, or the storyboards because it "wasn't right".[6] Also, as Janet Leigh points out in Stephen Rebello's book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho Hitchcock met with Bass and gave him detailed instructions concerning the scene, from which Bass then made storyboards - therefore the authorship of the sequence is clearly Hitchcock's.[7] The shower scene was shot with two cameras at least part of the time and Hitchcock working from the paradigms set up by Bass's storyboards would trim the shot footage into a proper montage that he believed would produce the right emotions on the audience. Hitchcock showed a rough cut of the scene during production to his editor George Tomasini and even brought a Moviola on the set to gauge the exact sequence of scenes which ultimately was shaped according to his decision and approval. [5]

In 1964, Bass directed a short film titled The Searching Eye and shown during the 1964 New York World's Fair, coproduced with Sy Wexler. He also directed a montage “dream” sequence in the 1966 film Grand Prix directed by John Frankenheimer and later made a short documentary film called Why Man Creates, which won an Academy Award in 1968. That film was broadcast on the first episode of the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes, on September 24 of that year.

In 1974, he made his only feature length film as a director, the visually splendid though little-known science fiction film Phase IV, a "Quiet, haunting, beautiful, [...] and largely overlooked, science-fiction masterwork".[8]


"My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film's story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it."[9]
"Design is thinking made visual."

See also


  1. ^ Serling, Robert J., Maverick: The story of Robert Six and Continental Airlines (ISBN 0-385-04057-1), Doubleday & Company, 1974.
  2. ^ Student Academy Award[1]
  3. ^ Entertainment Weekly 1995
  4. ^ Saul Bass storyboards for Psycho shower scene[2]
  5. ^ a b Krohn, Bill, Hitchcock at Work, London: Phaidon Press, 2003.
  6. ^ Francois Truffaut, HITCHCOCK By TRUFFAUT. The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock, Simon and Schuster - Touchstone Books, New York, pp.273, ISBN 978-0671604295
  7. ^ Rebello, Stephen Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 1990, pp.109, ISBN 0-312-20785-9
  8. ^ Thomas Scalzo. "Phase IV" (review). Not coming to a theater near you ( 8 August 2005 (accessed 16 October 2008).
  9. ^ Haskins, Pamela. "Saul, Can You Make Me a Title?": Interview with Saul Bass. Film Quarterly, Autumn 1996:12-13

Further reading

  • Joe Morgenstern: Saul Bass: A Life in Film Design. Stoddart, Santa Monica 1997, ISBN 1881649962.
  • Tomislav Terek: Saul Bass on Titles: Film Titles Revealed. Defunkt Century 2001, ISBN 1903792002.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address