HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAUL BASS

In honor of what would have been Saul Bass’ 94th birthday this week, we highlight some previously unseen photographs from the Academy’s Saul Bass Collection. In arguably his best known and most acclaimed film, “Why Man Creates” (1968, Academy Award® winner for Documentary Short Subject), the section entitled “The Process” features photographs and voices of influential figures. The sequence, which includes Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemingway and Albert Einstein, addresses how these individuals persevered when encountering difficulty.

The Archive recently found outtakes for “Why Man Creates” that include staged vintage portraits of Bass, labeled as “Saul As Old Creator.” Bass’ daughter Jennifer says a couple of these were on the wall in his office and were taken as part of experiments for creating the look of the sequence. Since they were transferred to 16mm film, it seems possible they were once considered for inclusion in the film. Like his colleague Alfred Hitchcock, Bass did pop up on occasion in his own films, and while he did not ultimately appear in “Why Man Creates” he did provide the whimsical voice effects of a bouncing ball in that film’s “A Parable” sequence. Bass’s playful side can be heard and seen in “Why Man Creates” and is evident in these images as well.

The Academy’s Saul Bass Collection includes 132 linear feet of papers and 15.2 linear feet of photographs at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and over 2,700 moving image items at the Academy Film Archive. The Academy has preserved Saul Bass’s “Why Man Creates” and Academy Award® nominee “Notes on the Popular Arts” (1977).

 Images courtesy of the Saul Bass Estate.

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