Remembering Saul’s Drive-Time Interviews

Today would have been the legendary Saul Bass’s 93rd birthday and Google Doodle has paid tribute to him on its homepage by piecing together some of his signature film title sequences – “Vertigo,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,” “Psycho,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” “West Side Story,” among others.

This brought to mind my brief encounter with Saul. About two years before he died, I was assigned to interview him for an article on film title sequences. In his late 70s then, Saul had downsized his Sunset Boulevard studio maintaining what he called “a repertory group,” a small core staff with additional expertise brought in on an as needed basis. At the time, he was doing a title sequence for his friend “Marty’s”(Scorsese) film, and explained that at this stage in his career, he only wanted to work with “nice people who respect and like us and who we respect and admire…I don’t want to deal with clients who think we’re just doing a job for them. With rare exception, all our clients think we are wonderful and we think they are wonderful.” From a career standpoint, that seemed to me like the ultimate luxury.

Because Saul’s time was limited, we agreed that we should conduct the interview via his car phone while he was commuting to work. So off-and-on for about two months, he would call at unexpected moments and enthrall me with his wonderful insights on design and storytelling. These were delightful chats that I think he enjoyed too. I loved the fact that I could be an audience of one. I was reluctant to tell him that I had finished writing the article and didn’t need to interview him anymore. All of this came back to mind, when I looked at the Google Doodle tribute. I still think fondly of these “drive time” interviews with Saul.