The film posters of Saul Bass

The film posters of Saul Bass

The undisputed king of film title design, Saul Bass had a unique ability to identify the one image that would symbolise a movie. This he honed for some of the titans of 20th century cinema, including Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Otto Preminger, producing a series of extraordinarily simple but powerful title sequences and posters, which are now on show at London’s
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When he died in 1996, the graphic designer-cum-director’s obituary in the New York Times hailed him as ’the minimalist auteur who put a jagged arm in motion in 1955 and created an entire film genre... and elevated it into an art form.’ Created for Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, that disembodied appendage caused an almighty stir when it was first unveiled, but it also set his career in motion.

The film’s theme was a jazz musician’s battle with heroin - a taboo subject at the time - and an arm was a potent symbol of addiction. Choosing it as the emblem for both the movie’s title and poster, instead of a more obvious image of lead actor Frank Sinatra’s face, was a starkly controversial move.

After The Man with the Golden Arm, Bass went on to produce title sequences and posters for many of the last century’s most iconic films - Psycho, The Shining, North by North West and Schindler’s List to name just a few - all represented at Kemistry Gallery. He also stepped behind the camera himself, directing his way to an Oscar with his short film Why Man Creates in 1968. But it’s for his graphic magic he’ll be remembered best, as this exhibition bears testament.

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