Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Birthday coincidences

Today marks the 79th birthday of Sean Connery, who is probably most famous for playing James Bond, although he had quite a distinguished career in other movies as well. It is, however, an interesting coincidence that today also marks the birthday of Maurice Binder (1925-1991).

You may not recognize the name, but you've certainly seen his work. He was a title designer, and designed the opening sequence for Doctor No, the first of the Bond movies. Binder was later brought back to do the titles for Thunderball, and continued to do the titles up until Licence to Kill, the last of the Bond movies made before his death. Binder is the man who probably bears most of the responsibility for all those opening credits "washing" against the bodies of scantily clad Bond girls.

Binder wasn't the first to come up with inventive opening titles, although it was particularly uncommon before the middle of the 1950s. Saul Bass came a few years earlier, with the angular lines revealing the opening credits to The Man With the Golden Arm, and used a similar idea when he did the credits to Psycho. Bass is also responsible for the spirograph patterns at the beginning of Vertigo, as well as the New York skyline that changes color which opens West Side Story.

However, before that, most opening credits were on flat, often gray, backgrounds. Sometimes, when Hollywod was adapting a novel, they would get so inventive as to have the opening credits seem to be on the pages of a book. Or, in a movie like Mildred Pierce, the titles would appear to wash ashore with the waves, only to be washed back out to sea when the next wave crashed in to the strains of Max Steiner. One of the few early innovative opening credit rolls might be in the 1930s version of My Man Godfrey, with the credits appearing to be in light-bulb signs, either on the tops or sides of buildings.

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