11/26/07

OTTO PREMINGER'S DOORMAT

anatomyofamurder

Below I've posted two of the best Saul Bass title sequences designed for Preminger's films. And here's an excellent, non-Wikipedia link on Bass's work.

"Anatomy Of A Murder" is generally thought of as Preminger's best film (along with "Laura")--the score, by Duke Ellington, is minimal, hip and jaggedly convincing although completely unlike any other film score, and the acting--especially George C. Scott--is top notch (which is, weirdly, not always the case in Preminger's films. In the Hirsch bio, he gradually makes it clear that Preminger's tense, dictatorial style of direction tended to freeze up a lot of actors who might have done better in a more relaxed atmostphere). By the way, Ellington provides an amusing account in his memoir "Music Is My Mistress" of Preminger keeping him and his collaborater Billy Strayhorn on salary throughout the film, ostensibly to compose the themes as they go and be part of the development of the process...etc, etc. Ellington admits that all they did was party and that the entire score was ultimately written in the three days leading up to the final recording session. I also included the Bass designed title sequence for "Bunny Lake Is Missing", a mid-sixties London set noir which contains one of the best late Laurence Olivier performances extant.

So pleased with Bass's work was Preminger that he incorporated the designer's aesthetic into his personal life. Bass designed the lettering on the door of Preminger's offices at 711 Fifth Avenue (black doors, small white lettering: o t t o p r e m i n g e r.) Preminger's taste was severely modern--his home and office were identically decorated with only white and black furniture, Eames chairs, marble tables, and millions of dollars of modern art on the walls. Lots of speaker-phones (then very cutting edge) and Henry Moore sculptures. At his townhouse on East 64th Street (which sort of resembled Preminger--it was tall, hulking and bald looking), he had Bass design small white lettering with the address (1 2 9 E a s t 6 4) on the black front door, and a giant doormat, with the letter "P" on it.

One day, about five or so years after Preminger's death, a friend of mine noticed that the house seemed deserted. (It's since been sold and completely remodled in a fussy, Empire style that Preminger would have loathed). My friend noticed the doormat and thought, "what the hell is going to become of this artifact?" So he took it. For many years he hid the doormat guiltily in a closet in his apartment. Later, when he moved to a house in the suburbs, he took it out, cleaned it and placed it on his front doorstep, turning it upside down so that the letter "P" now formed the letter "d"--which is the first letter of my friends last name. I wonder what happened to that guy, anyway...



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