Author Pat Kirkham discusses the opening titles for Cowboy, from her authoritative book Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design.
Cowboy is based on the real-life story of a former hotel clerk turned tenderfoot cowboy (Jack Lemmon) who joins a cattle drive led by a tough trail boss (Glenn Ford). Set in the Old West, it conveys some of the unglamorous realities of the cowboy way of life in nineteenth-century America.
Describing the title, Saul stated:
“The title attempts to recapture the ﬂavor, the excitement and the rich humor of that period by the use of the typical pen and ink line drawings and typography of the time. It opens with the appearance of horizontal, typographic border elements that turn into a front page of a newspaper of the period ... over which some credits appear. As we pan into the newspaper, we discover that subsequent credits are continued in the various and several advertisements, bringing us ﬁnally to a 'hat' advertisement that eventually dissolves, leaving one hat which is then ﬁlled by a Western character. After a lassoing incident, in which only his boot is retrieved, we ﬁnd ourselves back in the newspaper in a 'boot' ad. As the spurs pop on the boots, we dissolve to the open range. The spurs become twinkling stars which, in turn, are transformed into twinkling brands. The brands zoom up to ﬁll the screen in a series of quick cuts, after which the ﬁnal brand zooms back to come to rest on the rump of a cow. Color is strong and bright, mainly in ochers, reds, oranges and lavender. A musical score, composed of a potpourri of Western folk themes, is closely cued to visual mood changes in the title.”
Pat Kirkham is Professor in the History of Design, Decorative Arts and Culture at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design & Culture, New York. She has written and edited a number of books, including Charles and Ray Eames (1998) and Women Designers in the USA 1900–2000 (2001).
©2011 Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Used with permission.
Titles Designed by: Saul Bass
Music by: George Duning
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SAUL BASS: A LIFE IN FILM AND DESIGN
By Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham