May 8, 2020
7:13 am

To Love Movies Is to Love the Work of Saul Bass and His Associates. He Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today. A Tribute

Who was Saul Bass? He was “one of the great figures of twentieth century design and filmmaking,” write his biographers. “In the mid to late 1950s he expanded the boundaries of graphic design to include film title sequences – a genre that he transformed. He is best known for a series of title sequences, posters and trademarks, featuring impossibly compressed and highly evocative images of intense clarity and subtle ambiguities….” The biography is “Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design,” by the esteemed art historian Pat Kirkham and Bass’ daughter, Jennifer.

Four years ago next week, I wrote the following piece about Bass. About it, Print magazine columnist Michael Dooley was kind enough to write, “What else can be said about Saul Bass? Plenty, as TV Week’s Chuck Ross demonstrated a few days ago when he posted twelve pages featuring “A Treasure Trove of Previously Unpublished Works,” with detailed commentary.” As a tribute to Bass on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, we are reprinting that piece below.

One would think a centenary celebration of Bass’ birth today would be a natural for Turner Classic Movies, but it’s not–unfortunately TCM has not been the same since its wonderfully passionate movie buff host Bob Osborne passed away.  However, the Criterion Channel is celebrating Bass, which you can find if you click here.

Please stay safe and healthy during this scary pandemic. And as you wash your hands today, sing “Happy Birthday” to Saul Bass, as we celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday. One more quick note: Al Kallis, who you will read about in the article, was 90 years old when I wrote this piece. I spoke to him several weeks ago, and he’s doing great at age 94.

A Treasure Trove of Previously Unpublished Works: More Than 50 Movie Posters and Ads Designed by Saul Bass and Illustrated by Al Kallis. Devilishly Fun

By Chuck Ross

It was love at first sight. The first time I saw the work of Saul Bass I fell madly in love with it.

What I saw that first time was the title sequence of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” It was 1973, and the movie was being shown at the Bing Theater in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of a tribute to Hitchcock organized by the Bing’s program director, the late Ron Haver. Here’s what I saw (watch it in full-screen mode if you can):

Also displayed at the theater was a one-sheet movie poster, by Bass, for “Vertigo.” It was unlike any other movie poster I had ever seen:


How creative. The titles and poster are just right.

Bass once wrote this delightful anecdote about what he did:

“My mother has a definition for creativity. For years she’s wondered what I do: that is, what I really do. She knew I did art work — and actually she was very happy about it despite some vagueness that surrounded the matter. Her only concern was that I should make a living and I seemed to be doing all right. But finally her curiosity overcame her timidity and, I think with some prompting from the neighbors, she finally asked me what it was that I really did.

“I pulled out a proof of an ad that I had designed and I showed it to her and said, ‘Mom, that’s what I do.’ She looked at this and said, ‘Oh, I see …’ and she pointed to a photograph in the ad and said, ‘That’s what you do?’ I said, ‘Oh no, you see, there are photographers — they are specialists — they know all about cameras and things of this kind, and they make the photographs.’

“‘Oh,’ she said, disappointed. ‘Then this is what you do?’ I said ‘No, that’s typography … you see there are special organizations who do nothing but set type — you know, Garamond, Caslon, etc. — these people do that.’

“Again, she was a little disappointed. She pointed to the lettering and we went through this again. Finally she looked at me somewhat concerned and said, ‘Well, now, what do you do?’ I said, ‘Well, you see, I conceive the whole thing, and then I get all these people together and get them to carry out the process.’

“She looked at me very coyly, and said, ‘Oh — you devil!’

“That’s my mother’s definition of creativity”

Academy Award-winning director Marty Scorsese once wrote: “Saul Bass. Before I ever met him, before we worked together, he was a legend in my eyes. His designs, for film titles and company logos and record albums and posters, defined an era. In essence, they found and distilled the poetry of the modern, industrialized world. They gave us a series of crystallized images, expressions of who and where we were and of the future ahead of us. They were images you could dream on. They still are.”

Scorsese wrote that in the foreword to the most complete book yet published about Bass and his work, “Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design,” from 2011. It’s a coffee table-size opus of 400 pages or so, filled with wonderful pictures of Bass’ work. It’s also a biography of Bass. It took years to put together, and kudos to its authors, Jennifer Bass (Saul’s daughter) and art historian Pat Kirkham. Saul himself died in 1996, just about two weeks shy of his 76th birthday.

I think what Scorsese wrote captures how a lot of us feel about Bass’ work. It’s certainly how I feel. I was a junior at UCLA when I saw “Vertigo,” and soon after seeing the movie, in my spare time, I started researching other work Bass had done, and started collecting what I could.

I’ve been particularly interested in the posters and ads Bass did for the movies. And a lot of times they were connected. For example, you’ve seen his poster for “Vertigo,” above. Here’s a copy of an ad for the film, which ran in at least two colors, in Life and Look and many of the top magazines of the day:


In this case the poster and the ads were virtually the same, and they both might be thought of as quintessential Saul Bass. But “Vertigo” didn’t come out until 1958, when Bass was 38 years old. By that time he had been working on movie ads, on and off — mostly on — for 20 years. The more interesting question, to me, is “How did his movie work evolve during those 20 years.”

The problem with answering that question is that we’ve only got sporadic information on which specific films Bass worked on earlier in his career.

Bass was born in the Bronx section of New York in 1920, and was already working on movie ads by the time he was 18.

While in New York, Bass worked for United Artists, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. He also worked at some advertising agencies.

It was sometime during this time frame in New York that Al Kallis, now 90, recalls first meeting Bass. Al’s dad, Mischa — aka Maurice — an accomplished artist himself, was a top ad executive at Paramount Pictures, based in New York City. “Saul did lettering and paste-up, mostly for other studios,” Kallis told me. “I was interested in becoming an artist myself and I’d be hanging out with my Dad at his office and I recall meeting Saul.”

Maurice Kallis lost his job at Paramount and was then hired by Universal-International. But to take the job Maurice had to move to Los Angeles, which he did in 1943.

Three years later, Bass himself moved to Los Angeles, to work at the then-brand-new Los Angeles office of the ad agency Buchanan and Company. Through the agency, Bass started working closely with independent producer Stanley Kramer, who, according to an oral history done with Bass by Douglas Bell of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, “desired to be personally involved with the production of advertising” for his films.

In 1949 Bass came up with an ad for Kramer’s “Champion” that Bass said was considered a breakthrough in movie advertising. Here’s the ad — it’s all black and white except for the word “Champion,” which appears twice in the ad:


Says Bass in the Academy’s oral history, “It was a breakthrough ad generally. It was more a function of the audacity of using such a concentrated bullet in the center of the page. It really caused a tremendous stir at the time. You have to understand the abysmal state [of most other ads] … (laughs).”

Bass continues, “It’s a fairly, how shall I say, classic, emotional ‘POW!’ There’s nothing terribly — it’s not a sophisticated notion. If you took that same shot and blew it up, it would be embarrassing. It would be part of the things we joke about Hollywood, and … Hollywood advertising.”

He adds, “But what made it work is that it didn’t matter how outrageous or how corny the condition was — after all, Kirk Douglas standing there bare-chested with his hands at his side, his chest out, and his feet planted in the ground, the champion, you know, and then the lady wrapped around [him] — it’s a cliché. It’s a cliché which, however, when embedded in this new condition, transcended its clichéness.”

The same image from the ad was used as the 24-sheet to advertise the “Champion” on billboards, according to the pressbook for the movie.

After “Champion,” Bass continued doing consumer material such as ads (and sometimes posters as well) for various Kramer films, including “Cyrano De Bergerac,” “The Men” and “Death of a Salesman.”

“Death of a Salesman” came out in December 1951. In 1952 Bass left the agency world and became a freelance designer.

Another major breakthrough for Bass came in 1955. While working for Otto Preminger he came up with the iconic poster and ad campaign — consumer and trade — for “The Man With the Golden Arm.” Here’s one of the trade ads from that campaign that I found in an issue of Motion Picture Daily from Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1955.


As for the posters and other consumer movie material Bass worked on through the mid-1950s, work still remains to be done to get it all identified and made public. Not the least of this would be a definitive list of the movie material Bass worked on for Howard Hughes and RKO — if it’s even possible, at this late date, to ever compile such a list.

This article deals particularly with actual examples of Bass-designed movie ads and posters in 1954, 1955 and 1956 that were drawn for Bass — under his very specific instructions — by Al Kallis. They are mostly rough sketches, drawn in black and white, and a lot of them were not actually used. The value of those pieces is that they tell us what ads and posters Bass wanted to do for those films. As for the work that was used, it gives us, for the first time publicly, work that can now be definitely identified as Bass’s — since none of the material involved included his “designed by Saul Bass” signature.

I was very excited when Al Kallis recently shared with me the 66 movie-related pieces he drew for Bass, and I am equally excited that’s he’s agreed to let me share this work with you.

In a few interviews over the years — including one with Pat Kirkham, the co-author of the authoritative “Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design” book — illustrator Al Kallis has spoken about the work he did for Bass.

By the summer of 1954 Bass had been on his own for several years. Al Kallis was also in L.A. by then, and was working as a freelance illustrator.

The first movie project they worked on together was for “Magnificent Obsession.” Interestingly, it was a Universal-International film, so Al’s Dad, Maurice, was ultimately responsible for the campaign.

In his 2015 memoir, “Living the Gift of Time,” Al Kallis writes, “My most interesting client was the gifted designer Saul Bass. Early in his career Saul was primarily involved with motion picture advertising. I made rough layout art based on his ideas and also created finished art.

“Saul was my only encounter with an art director with an original eye. He was beyond the basics of earning a living and pleasing the client. He believed the design was of equal importance to the message. I found it inspiring to work with him.”

Kallis was even more expansive in the interview he did with Pat Kirkham that appears in the Bass book she co-wrote: “No matter how small an image or job, Saul articulated exactly what he wanted. In the explanation of a job, he showed a deep understanding of the motivation of the material. He spent a lot of time on that sort of thing. It was rare to get such an intensive briefing from anyone else. Others would state briefly what they wanted. It was over in five minutes. With Saul it was different. He knew exactly what he wanted you to do!”

One can only imagine their conversations, back in 1954 — Bass the independent art director, at 34, giving the independent, freelance illustrator Al Kallis, five years his junior, explicit directions on what he wanted.

Fortunately for us, Kallis kept photographic copies of the movie work he did for Bass. Kallis kept the copies for the simple reason that he was a freelancer and needed them to show others examples of his work.

To see the work Kallis did for Bass, I’ve created a page for each film. Here they are, in order of the film’s release date. Each line below is a separate clickable link:

“Magnificent Obsession” — Universal-International — release/premiere date: Aug. 4, 1954

“A Star is Born” — Warner Bros. — Sept. 29, 1954

“Carmen Jones” — Twentieth Century Fox — Oct. 5, 1954

“The Racers” — Twentieth Century Fox — Feb. 4, 1955

“Not as a Stranger” — United Artists — June 28, 1955

“The Shrike” — Universal-International — July 7, 1955

“The Virgin Queen” — Twentieth Century Fox — July 22, 1955

“Mister Roberts” — Warner Bros. — July 30, 1955

“My Sister Eileen” — Columbia — Sept. 22, 1955

“The Rose Tattoo” — Paramount — Dec. 12, 1955

“The Conqueror” — RKO — Feb. 22, 1956

“On the Threshold of Space” — Twentieth Century Fox — March 29, 1956

[NOTE: The opening line in this essay I borrowed from the first line of Joseph Heller’s great novel “Catch-22.” One question you might have is why Pat Kirkham only included two of Kallis’ publicly unseen movie works for Saul Bass in the book she and Jennifer Bass had published in 2011, “Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design.” Kallis said he showed her most if not all of his Bass movie work, and she indeed refers to some of it in the book. And the two pieces that are in the book give no credit to Kallis for actually drawing them. It may be that Kirkham and Jennifer Bass primarily wanted to focus on Bass’ finished products. Likewise, Jan-Christopher Horak interviewed Kallis for his 2014 book “Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design.” He also mentions the unseen work Kallis did for Bass, but only requested to put one of Kallis’ sketches — the one for “The Shrike” — into his book. Finally, in 2015, Al published seven of his movie posters/ads that he drew for Bass in his own memoir, “Living the Gift of Time.” Today, however, marks the first public presentation of all 66 movie-related drawings Kallis did on assignment for Bass. I want to thank Al and his wife, Trudy, for their hospitality during the several afternoons we’ve spent together, and Al’s generosity in allowing me to share all of his Bass work with you. The story Bass wrote about his mother and creativity that I cite above is included in an essay Bass wrote for the book “Creativity, An Examination of the Creative Process,” which was published by the Art Directors Club of New York in 1959.]

Feb 9, 2020
3:27 pm

Printable Oscar Ballot (TVWeek)

Please click here for your printable Oscar ballot.

Feb 9, 2020
3:15 pm

Printable Oscar Ballot Already Filled in With Our Choices (TVWeek)

As usual, if you want a ballot with our choices already filled out, we have that too. It’s been filled out by our editorial director and publisher, Chuck Ross. No guarantees, of course, but Chuck usually does pretty well with his choices…

To get that ballot, please click on the link below:

Oscar Ballot 2020-Filled Out

Jan 31, 2020
1:54 pm

Chuck Ross, Vet Scribe Covering TV and Ad Industry, Pinkslips Self; TVWeek to Shutter (TVWeek)

By Chuck Ross
Editorial Director and Publisher, TVWeek

As someone born and raised in the shadow of Hollywood, I’m thrilled to have a Varietyese headline of my own choosing.

It’s time to move on. I turned 68 this month and I’m retiring. I’ll still write — I can now devote all my attentions to a book I’ve been researching for several years — but myself and my colleague and friend Dennis R. Liff, our executive editor — who has done most of the heavy lifting for this site for a long time now — are calling it quits for TVWeek. Primarily it’s been just the two of us who have been putting out TVWeek for a number of years now.

We’ll leave the site up for anyone who wants to check out old stories, but we’ll no longer be publishing our daily links to TV stories around the net. If you are interested in another site that aggregates stories about TV, we heartily recommend TVNewsCheck, run by our good friend Harry Jessell.

Today ends almost 38 years of continuous publication. We started on May 3, 1982, as Electronic Media, which became known as EM. The publication was the brainchild of Rance Crain as a spinoff of Advertising Age, which Rance’s dad, G.D., founded in January 1930.

Rance changed our name in 2003 to TelevisionWeek, and in 2009 we became an online only publication.

When I first joined EM in 2000, as its editor, it was a bustling, vibrant publication with about 50 employees, equally split between the business side and the edit side.

All the stories we published then were written by our terrific staff. Unfortunately, marketplace conditions dictated a path for us that led to our becoming a publication that aggregated and linked to stories published by others, with little original reporting.

By the way, I think I have (finally) figured out a way for TVWeek to return to those glory years. That would be if it’s adopted by a journalism school. As the owner of TVWeek for the past five years, I’d be willing to sell the pub to a J-school for a dollar.

The plan would be for journalism students to make up much of the staff, as they experience what it’s like to run a real-life trade publication that has accumulated an excellent reputation over its 38-year lifespan. With a full editorial staff, TVWeek would once again become a publication filled with crisp, perceptive, original reporting.

Dennis Liff has told me that he would be open to staying with the publication if a J-school took it over. In partnership with the new owner it would be decided which other positions needed to be filled by professionals who would work with the  J-students.

That’s the idea in a nutshell. I ran it by one dean of a J-school who liked the idea but said he didn’t think he could swing it budgetwise (paying to support a website and paying some professionals to work with the students) and that it didn’t really fit with the way his school’s current curriculum works.

I do think it would be a win-win for the right partner. There are a lot of J-schools out there, but it’s rare for one to also be able to give its students the opportunity to write for a real-life national trade pub serving a major industry, with the J-school owning the publication.

In the premiere issue of EM back in 1982, Rance Crain wrote: “Our exclusive niche will be defined as the wide range of electronic media, in all its new, old and emerging forms. We believe in the need for a publication that will blow away all the smoke and pull together, in a meaningful and useful way, the relationships involved.”

That need is still there.

I can be reached at chkross@tvweek.com if anyone is interested. Dennis Liff can be reached at dlifftv@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, I have a lot of people I want to thank before I sign off. To read those acknowlegements, please click here.

Jan 30, 2020
6:49 pm

Twentieth Century Studios Production President Resigns (Variety)

The president of production for Twentieth Century Studios has resigned, ending a run at the company that lasted two decades.

Variety reports that the departure of Emma Watts “comes after mutterings that Watts was unhappy about not being given more to do at Twentieth after the company was acquired by the Walt Disney Company in 2019. In her resignation letter, Watts cited a need to ‘pursue new opportunities.’”

The report adds that Watts is “the latest in a long line of Fox veterans and top executives to leave the company following the sale, joining the likes of studio chairman Stacey Snider (with whom Watts previously clashed, and who is now leading the production outfit Sister), domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson (now at Paramount), and Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler (safely ensconced at Sony in a deal that will have her develop movies based on Harper Collins properties).”

Other longtime Fox executives remain in place, Variety notes, including the Searchlight team of Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley, along with Fox Family head Vanessa Morrison.

“Watts’ existing creative team will stay in place and a new leader is expected to be named in the coming weeks,” Variety reports, adding: “Watts was seen as a key ally to many veteran Fox filmmakers such as Ridley Scott, Matt Reeves, Ryan Reynolds, James Mangold, James Cameron and Simon Kinberg, and was also credited with helping turn ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ into a hit after the original director Bryan Singer was fired and replaced by Dexter Fletcher.”

Jan 30, 2020
6:47 pm

Which Celebrities Have Been Arrested the Most? According to a New Survey, a Familiar TV Face Is the Unlikely No. 1 — by a Lot (ToppCasinoBonus, NY Post)

A newly published survey ranking celebrities by the number of times they’ve been arrested finds that the No. 1 “arrestee,” by a huge margin, is Martin Sheen. The survey by the gambling website ToppCasinoBonus.com determined that Sheen, who had a long run as President Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing,” has been arrested 66 times.

The New York Post notes that Sheen’s record is attributed to protests and civil disobedience, including appearances at anti-war and anti-nuclear demonstrations.

“Sheen vastly outranks the second-most-arrested celebrity: Libertines and Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty, who has been arrested a mere 26 times,” The Post reports.

The paper adds that none of Sheen’s arrests were for serious crimes, “unlike those of British rocker Doherty, 40, whose brushes with the law have mostly involved drugs, traffic crimes and robbery.”

Others ranking high on the list include DMX with 24 arrests, Suge Knight with 15, Bobby Brown with 14 and Dennis Rodman with 12.

Among female celebrities, Courtney Love and Lindsay Lohan are tied with 10 apiece.

Jan 30, 2020
6:44 pm

CW Pulls Plug on Reboot (Deadline)

A reboot that has been in the works at the CW won’t be going forward, with Deadline reporting that the broadcast network pulled the plug on its planned one-hour follow-up series to the football comedy “The Game.”

The project came from Mara Brock Akil, creator of the original 2006 half-hour comedy, and “American Soul” co-creator Devon Greggory.

“Based on the pilot script by Akil and Greggory, I hear the CW brass made the decision not to move forward with the CBS TV Studios-produced project in its current form but were open to redeveloping it with Akil,” Nellie Andreeva reports in the Deadline piece. “I hear Akil, after consideration, declined the redevelopment offer as she and Greggory had executed her vision of what a next chapter of ‘The Game’ should look like.”

Andreeva adds: “Written by Akil and Greggory, the new incarnation of ‘The Game’ was to have a new Baltimore setting. The idea was for some of the original cast members to come back as the show’s out-of-touch old-timers are determined to help a bunch of knuckle-head new-schoolers navigate the ruthless game of football on and off the field.”

Jan 30, 2020
5:59 pm

CBS Series Gets Four-Season Renewal (TVLine)

CBS just gave a four-season renewal to a drama series that has been airing on the network for 48 years. TVLine reports that the network picked up the daytime drama “The Young and the Restless” through the 2023-24 television season.

TVLine notes that “Y&R” has been the No. 1 soap for 33 years running.

“The past season marked cast member Melody Thomas Scott’s 40th year with the show,” the report adds. “Her leading man, Eric Braeden, will mark the same milestone next month.”

CBS’s other soap opera, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary, also appears to have some good news on the way.

“An Eye insider tells TVLine that ‘B&B’ is already in the midst of a three-season renewal pact that will keep it on the air through the 2021-22 TV season,” the story reports.

CBS President Kelly Kahl is quoted saying in a statement: “Having the No. 1 show for any length of time in any daypart is a tremendous accomplishment. But ‘The Young and the Restless’ has been daytime’s top drama for over three decades. The last time any other show was on top, Ronald Reagan was president, and the Berlin Wall was still standing. It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to the extraordinary cast, gifted writers, talented producers and supremely passionate fans, as well as our tremendous partnership with [‘Y&R‘s’ studio] Sony Pictures Television.”

Jan 30, 2020
4:17 pm

Berlanti, DuVernay and Lear Loom Large at 45th Humanitas Awards (TVWeek)

The recipients of the 2020 Humanitas Prize were honored Jan. 24 at the Beverly Hilton, and among the honorees were some household names in the industry.

TV legend Norman Lear, 97, was in attendance to receive the first Norman Lear Award, honoring social impact and personal responsibility. Greg Berlanti received the Kieser Award, a lifetime achievement award for television and feature film writers whose work not only entertains but also enriches the audience.

Ava DuVernay was honored in the Limited Series, TV Movie or Special category for “When They See Us,” and also received the inaugural Voice for Change Award.

TVWeek Open Mic writer Hillary Atkin took in the festivities and filed a full report. Click here for a rundown, including the full list of winners.

Jan 30, 2020
4:11 pm

Kobe Bryant Tribute on Tap for Super Bowl (AP, ET)

The late basketball legend Kobe Bryant will be a part of this Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities in Miami, with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira announcing Thursday in a joint press conference that they will be paying tribute to Bryant during their halftime show.

The singers’ 12-minute performance will also pay tribute to Latino culture and will carry a message of empowerment, the AP reports.

“Shakira and Lopez have separately released a number of chart-topping hits that dominated both the pop and Latin charts in the last two decades,” the AP notes. “While rehearsing days ago, Lopez said her beau Alex Rodriguez came to her in tears to let her know Bryant, a friend of his, had passed away. Lopez said Thursday she wanted to send love and support to Bryant’s wife and family.”

Lopez is quoted saying Thursday: “We have to love people when they’re here and not wait. I think about Vanessa as a mom and losing her best friend and partner and losing her child, you know, how awful that must be for her right now, and I just wanted to send the message and praying God guides her through every moment because she has three more babies to take care of.”

Both Lopez and Shakira said Bryant had attended their concerts.

Said Shakira: “Life is so fragile. And that’s why we have to live every moment as intensely as we can. And I think we’ll all be remembering Kobe on Sunday. And we’ll be celebrating life and celebrating diversity in this country. I’m sure he’ll be very proud to see the message that we’re going to try to convey onstage.”

Here’s a video report posted by “ET” with clips from the Shakira-Lopez press conference …

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