Artist and designer Saul Bass was one of the most influential forces (along with Maurice Binder) in the field of designing main titles for movies. Prior to Bass, most main titles were pedantic and unimaginative. Bass, however, brought an element of modern art into his work. The images were often minimalist but always powerful. Bass also designed many classic film posters including such films as Anatomy of a Murder,West Side Story, Exodus and In Harm's Way. The poster for the latter was particularly off-beat considering it was a big budget war movie top-lining John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. However, instead of taking the obvious road and showing depictions of these two great stars, Bass opted to use a simply white outline of an admiral's sleeve pointing ominously in an easterly direction.
Similarly, Bass minimalist design of a dead body for Anatomy of a Murder was so compelling that Spike Lee "borrowed" virtually the exact same design for his film Clockers. When the media noticed the similarity, Lee called it a tribute to Bass while Bass himself said it was a rip-off of his work. Among Bass' greatest triumphs was the extended main title sequence for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The brilliantly designed cartoon went on long enough to qualify as a short film and remains one of the most memorable aspects of the 1963 hit. The web site Not Coming to a Theater Near You presents a superb collection of in-depth essays and illustrations pertaining to all of the movies Bass designed the titles for. To read click here