SAUL AND ELAINE BASS “I want to make beautiful things, even if no one cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.” - Saul Bass
SAUL BASS… Saul Bass was a designer and filmmaker, best known for his work on opening title sequences. ➤ During his 40 year career, Saul worked with some of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. ➤ He was born in 1920 in the Bronx in New York to Eastern European Jewish immigrant parents. ➤ He began working in Hollywood in the 1940’s by designing print adverts for films. ➤ He designed prints for The Moon Is Blue directed by Otto Preminger who then asked Bass to work with him on his next opening title sequence. ➤
ELAINE BASS… ➤ Elaine Bass is an American title designer and filmmaker. ➤ She was the wife and partner of Saul Bass for over 40 years. ➤ Elaine was born in 1927 in New York, her parents were Hungarian immigrants. ➤ Her childhood was full of singing and drawing. ➤ From age 12 to age 18 she and her sisters sand professionally as the Belmont Sisters. ➤ Before working with Saul, Elaine worked in the ready-to-wear fashion industry in New York. ➤ In 1947 she then got a job in the design department at Capitol Records. ➤ This was when she moved to Los Angeles.
THEIR LIFE TOGETHER… In 1955 Elaine became Saul’s assistant. ➤ In 1960 Elaine worked solo for the first time and directed the opening title sequence for Spartacus. After this most of Saul’s work was made in collaboration with Elaine. ➤ They got married in 1961 and had their first child in 1964, and their second in 1967. ➤ During the 60’s they worked on numerous title sequence together, such as West Side Story (1961), Nine Hours to Rama (1963), Grand Prix (1966) and more. ➤ After the births of their children, the Bass’ decided to step away from titles to concentrate on their family. ➤ In this time they worked on a short film called ‘Why Man Creates’ (1968), which won an Oscar. ➤ In the late 80’s, the Basses were urged to return to main title designs. ➤ Their last title together was ‘Casino’. ➤ Saul died in 1996. ➤ Their influence on other filmmakers remains evident in current films today. ➤
WEST SIDE STORY - opening title sequence
It starts off with a design which although it only presents a series of black lines, it quite clearly resembles the New York skyline - this slight bit of information helps us to make assumptions about where the film is going to take place. ➤ For about 5 minutes the design stays the same but slowly the background changes colours. ➤ This allows us to focus on the music in the background - it starts off with a whistling call and then fades into music - the music is a mixture of some of the songs that are featured in the film. ➤ In a way the sequence is like a showcase for the music so it can be appreciated without distractions on the screen. ➤ The music then builds to a crescendo and the title ‘West Side Story’ appears on the screen under the design and turns white. ➤ The screen then fades into another scene which is a drone shot of Manhattan Island, the pattern forming the outline of the buildings. ➤ A whistle call similar to the one at the start can be heard as the camera shows a montage of the city from a birds eye view - the sound is very ominous and a lot less energetic than before and the colours on the screen are a lot darker. ➤