Outside of this material, shown below, designed by Saul Bass and drawn by Al Kallis, the advertising for “On the Threshold of Space” is abysmal.
Fortunately, ads based on the first five illustrations (below), with just a few changes, are in the pressbook as ads for the film. Drawing No. 6 below was clearly meant to be a 24-sheet billboard — and numbers 4 and 5 could have been used as 24-sheets as well — but I can find no evidence that any of these illustrations actually became billboards. In fact, the pressbook shows a 24-sheet billboard for the film that uses art totally different than the work Kallis did for Bass. [In the Bass collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences they have color versions of illustrations No. 4 and No. 5 below. Kallis says Bass had them tinted to see what they would look like if they were used as billboards.]
After the Bass-Kallis ads below, please find my theory about how Bass came up with some of the elements in these ads. After that you’ll find the ads as they are listed in the pressbook for the film.
One other anecdote. Kallis tells me that after Bass gave him this assignment he contacted the studio, Twentieth Century Fox, to come to the set and try on a space suit, so he would know how it would feel to maneuver with the suit on. Unfortunately for Kallis, he quickly found out that he had claustrophobia, and was in a terrible panic as the studio prop people rushed to get him out of the space suit.
About a year before Bass designed the ads above, he designed a new menu (below) for the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, which had remodeled using a space theme. Right below the menu I have turned it sideways, and I believe that’s how Bass got the idea for the planets revolving in the illustrations above. Kallis says that it’s possible that Bass showed him the menu cover when he got the assignment to do these drawings, but that he just doesn’t remember.
Here are the actual ads for “On the Threshold of Space” as they ran in the pressbook for the movie. Unfortunately, in each of the ads jet planes were added, as you will see.
Here’s the real ad that was used based on drawing No. 1 above:
The real ad based on drawing No. 2 above:
Here’s the real ad based on drawing No. 3, above:
Here’s the real ad based on drawing No. 4, above:
Here’s the real ad based on drawing No. 5, above:
Here is the cover of the real herald that was used based on drawing No. 3, above:
After “On the Threshold of Space,” Bass and Kallis worked together on just one other film, “Storm Center,” which was released in July, 1956. With the success of his work on “Man with the Golden Arm” in late 1955 and early 1956, a lot more of Bass’s movie posters and ads became less figurative. As he became more successful in general he was able to work more and more on the movie side with those who believed in his vision that less was more. He was well on the way to producing a lot of the work that so many of us identify with him today.
In 1955 Al Kallis started a long run creating the art and ad campaigns for American International Pictures. He was also became one of the founders of the International House of Pancakes — IHOP.
When I first spoke to Al several months ago he gave me this assessment about Bass:
“Fine art is the looking through a window. If you go to museums you can look through a 14th century window, you can look through a Rembrandt Dutch window, and you can see what the life of that time was like. You can see what they valued. Prior to the Gutenberg press, you could see only through the art what the times were all about. With the invention of the camera, that necessity was eliminated. That’s what confronted [Georges] Braque, [Pablo] Picasso, and those at the turn of century. They were fighting an impossible fight. No matter how good they could get at rendering, or composition or color, or anything else, they were going to be up against this monster.
“So what I think happened with these men is that they came up with the idea that they had to invent a new language. Their language. So that if you looked at a Picasso, or if you looked at a Braque, you were forced to look at their language to understand what they were doing, because they were not going to be presenting you with realism. And by doing this, they were pioneers in opening up a new planet, a new place, a new century. That pioneering said to anyone with talent, ‘Create your own vision.” And we’ve had wonderful painters and wonderful designers, wonderful people who create cloth and clothes and everything else who have come through that door.
“And guess who used it first? After the Armory show in 1913 [in New York City], that introduced modern art to America, Macy’s and Gimbels [department stores] in their windows. Their windows exploded with color and fabrics and changed America.
“All of this is a long way to say that Saul wanted to be part of that. He was willing to put in the time to study Bauhaus and (Gyorgy) Kepes and to explore and to experiment.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think Saul really wanted to be in advertising per se. I think what he wanted to do was create images for advertising — whether in his film work or in his corporate work — which in themselves became iconic and then people would identify with the product.”
[To read an essay I wrote about Al Kallis two months ago, please click here.]
The links below take you to the other Bass/Kallis work in this current story: