In honor of what would have been Saul Bass’ 94th birthday this week, we highlight some previously unseen photographs from the Academy’s Saul Bass Collection. In arguably his best known and most acclaimed film, “Why Man Creates” (1968, Academy Award® winner for Documentary Short Subject), the section entitled “The Process” features photographs and voices of influential figures. The sequence, which includes Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemingway and Albert Einstein, addresses how these individuals persevered when encountering difficulty.
The Archive recently found outtakes for “Why Man Creates” that include staged vintage portraits of Bass, labeled as “Saul As Old Creator.” Bass’ daughter Jennifer says a couple of these were on the wall in his office and were taken as part of experiments for creating the look of the sequence. Since they were transferred to 16mm film, it seems possible they were once considered for inclusion in the film. Like his colleague Alfred Hitchcock, Bass did pop up on occasion in his own films, and while he did not ultimately appear in “Why Man Creates” he did provide the whimsical voice effects of a bouncing ball in that film’s “A Parable” sequence. Bass’s playful side can be heard and seen in “Why Man Creates” and is evident in these images as well.
The Academy’s Saul Bass Collection includes 132 linear feet of papers and 15.2 linear feet of photographs at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and over 2,700 moving image items at the Academy Film Archive. The Academy has preserved Saul Bass’s “Why Man Creates” and Academy Award® nominee “Notes on the Popular Arts” (1977).
Images courtesy of the Saul Bass Estate.
In addition to his groundbreaking film title sequences for Vertigo, Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm and Spartacus, and the television anthology Alcoa Premiere, Saul Bass created iconic logos and trademarks for many businesses and corporations ranging from United Airlines and Lawry’s Foods to the Girl Scouts and AT&T, for which he crafted the famous globe still in use today. Bass’s logo for Alcoa, the Aluminum Company of America (that introduced aluminum foil in 1910), has represented the 125-year-old company for the past 50 years.
In the late 1950s, Bass developed an aluminum foil gift wrap line called “Designs for Giving” for the Reynolds Metals Company of Reynolds Wrap fame. The wrap, test-marketed during the 1958 Christmas season, featured designs with bold, attractive colors and unusual patterns, taking full advantage of the luxurious foil. It was packaged like bolts of fabric in tray packs, which allowed the consumer to see more of the pattern than in a traditional roll.
Typical of the designer, Bass conceptualized all elements, from in-store displays to accessories such as wrapping tags. Though ephemeral, traces of the gift wrap survive among the Saul Bass papers in the Margaret Herrick Library’s Special Collections, in the form of sample sheets and a promotional spiral-bound brochure. The former site of the Reynolds Decorative Foil Division on South Robertson in Los Angeles is now a neighborhood filled with boutique shops from Ralph Lauren to Lisa Kline.
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