Equally renowned for his work in film (posters, titles, and sequences) as he is for the iconic corporate logos he created for AT&T, Quaker Oats, Minolta, Warner Communications, and United Airlines, Saul Bass (1920–1996) left a design legacy as varied as it is significant. Working with an all-star roster of film directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese, Bass produced some of cinema’s most memorable titles, including the decomposed type treatment for Hitchcock’s Psycho, the architectural treatment for North By Northwest, and the cut-paper maze for Preminger’s tale of heroin addiction, The Man With the Golden Arm.
Bass’ relationship with Preminger began in 1954, when he designed the poster for Carmen Jones, starring Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, and Pearl Bailey. The following year, Preminger asked Bass to design the poster for The Man With the Golden Arm, starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak (see a few variations, above). Preminger was so impressed with the evocative graphic of the distorted angular arm—a shrewd depiction for a tortured tale of addiction—that he asked Bass to create the title sequence, too.
The pair continued to collaborate throughout the years on poster and title sequences for a number of films, including Saint Joan (1957), starring Richard Widmark, Sir John Gielgud, and Jean Seberg, Bonjour Tristesse (1958), starring Seberg, David Niven, and Deborah Kerr, Anatomy of a Murder (1959), starring James Stewart, Exodus (1960), starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint, Advise & Consent (1962), starring Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, and Henry Fonda, The Cardinal (1963), starring Tom Tryon and John Huston, In Harm’s Way (1965), starring John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal, and Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), starring Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley, and Sir Laurence Olivier—just to name a few. The posters for all these films featured Bass’ singular hand lettering and either illustrations of his own or of others that he art directed.
In 1971 they continued their fruitful collaboration on a lesser-known work in Preminger’s canon, Such Good Friends, starring Dyan Cannon, James Coco, and Jennifer O’Neill. The film’s poster is split between two panels: the upper features a calendar datebook with handwritten entries, and in the lower half we see a disembodied pair of woman’s legs, art directed and designed by Bass and illustrated by Art Goodman.
The AIGA Design Archives, however, contains the film’s script cover with the legs only, and the same elegant hand-drawn typeface (stacked on three lines as opposed to the poster’s horizontal rendering). Without the distraction of the datebook, Goodman’s style and line work really come to the fore, and the overall effect is even stronger than the poster itself. Seen alone, the illustration recalls Milton Glaser’s Big Nudes poster from 1966.
Preminger and Bass would collaborate another two times, on Rosebud (1975), starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Attenborough, for which Bass designed the title sequences, but for the first and only time when working with Preminger, not the poster (that was seen to by Bill Gold). And lastly for The Human Factor (1979), starring Attenborough, Nicol Williamson, and Derek Jacobi, for which Bass once again designed both the titles and poster. No matter that the film itself wasn’t exactly a smash hit; the poster still did its job of distilling a movie’s central theme down to a single image. Or, as Bass put it, “Symbolize and summarize.”