February 27, 2009
The Incredible Shrinking Artist
Hollywood studios seem to have a habit of disrespecting talent, at least until someone shows them how much money the talent can make them. Long after Hollywood realized the potential drawing power of their stars, they continued to treat their poster artists like beasts of burden. In his book The Art of Noir, Eddie Muller writes:
Figure 10: Vertigo (1958) – Saul Bass employs a dizzying spiral design to evoke the feeling described by the title.
As the business boomed, a more factory-like efficiency was imposed on the product—and the “paper.” The growth of suburbia, with its thousands of new theaters, the demand for more movies, and the strident clamor for attention in an increasingly competitive marketplace conspired to transform poster art. In the 1940s, studio publicity departments became sweat-shops. Most postwar paper—especially for B-films—was created by anonymous artists who held no copyright or claim of authorship once their work was shipped to the printer. (Muller 10)
Poster artists really began to gain respect in the 50’s. The director Otto Preminger was a pioneer of the scorched earth style marketing campaign that is common place today. Preminger helped bring fame to Saul Bass when he hired the designer to work on the posters and an animated title sequence for The Man with the Golden Arm in 1955. (King 6-7) Bass ushered in a new era of film credits, moving away the dull, stationary lettering of the past. (Rennie)
Bass would go on to become a legend in the world of movie posters, working with horror/suspense master Alfred Hitchcock. Among other’s, Bass’s partnership with Hitchcock produced the famous poster for Vertigo. (See figure 10)