May 21, 2011

What happened at Celebrating Orphan Films? Part 2 -- Saturday

The headline for the day is that the 28mm projector worked flawlessly, while the computer projection of PowerPointy slides had to be hand-cranked, as it were. Not surprising, but work noting.

Chris Horak gave a presentation entitled "Designed by Saul Bass: The Alcoa Account." A healthy number of film scholars know that Bass (1920-1996) created amazing credit sequences and posters for Alfred Hitchcock and others, and some also know that Bass directed some films, especially the Oscar-winning short Why Man Creates (1968 -- which for some reason was shown on the very first episode of CBS's 60 Minutes). But to see some of this work in a bunch, as we did, is something of a revelation. The ingeniousness of Bass design is striking. Horak demonstrated the designer's influences from Bauhaus artist György Kepes and filmmaker/theorist Sergei Eisenstein.

Horak began by showing the opening title sequence from North by Northwest ("not an orphan film") and followed with numerous Bass-created logos and other film clips. The more memorable, and surprising, was from a lesser-known feature film, Something Wild (1961).  The lengthy black-and-white montage consists of shots of New York's skyline and a placeless sky in which we see only the sun and flocks of birds in formation. I can't say what the rest of Something Wild is like, but the Bass-made sequence alone makes me want to see it. That, and the fact that those credits consist of an interesting set of names: lead actress Carroll Baker, cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan (see Metropolis [!], etc., etc.), and director Jack Garfein (who was married to Baker, a fellow Actors Studio veteran). This was one of only two feature films that the theater director Garfein made, the other being the underappreciated, underdistributed The Strange One (1959, based on Garfein's Broadway debut effort, End as a Man). In praise of UCLA Film & Television Archive, it must be noted that the archive, in this same Billy Wilder Theater, paid tribute to Garfein in September 2010, showing both features and his third film: the documentary A Journey Back (1987) is about his revisit to Auschwitz, where he'd been imprisoned as a teen.

But I digress. Horak's presentation makes one anticipate all the more his forthcoming book on Saul Bass, for which he was awarded an Academy Scholar grant.

Throughout Saturday, Mark Quigley programmed very short "interludes" between panels, most from the UCLA collection. Animated TV station indentification reel (early 1960s) showed the work of TV Graphics Inc., an advertising company owned by Lee Blair, husband of Disney artist Mary Blair; featuring the work of Lee's brother, animator Preston Blair. The brief appearance of a logo for WOR-New York, drew a smattering of applause from some of the city's ex-pats. 

Love this handsome photo of the Mary and Lee Blair on a drawing tour of South America.

To be continued . . . .