Slide Show: 8 Classic Saul Bass Movie Posters Going to Auction

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Turner Classic Movies is teaming up with Bonham’s for Picture Perfect: the Art of Movie Posters, a July 20th auction of more than 200 movie posters dating back  to the late 19th century and the very beginning of the art form.

The genre took a while to evolve. The earliest ads for Thomas Edison’s The Passion Play look like crude WANTED posters out of the Old West. One even has a big portrait of the inventor in the center. By the 1930s and ’40s, the studios employed artists Al Hirschfeld, pinup king Alberto Vargas, and William Rose to create gorgeous paintings to promote films.

A new level of elegance was reached in 1954 when director Otto Preminger hired Saul Bass to design a poster for Carmen Jones. The Bronx-born designer, who would become an icon of branding and logo design, crafted an image that so resonated with the director that he invited Bass to produce an opening sequence for the movie.

Bass said his job was to “symbolize and summarize” the heart of a story in a poster. He went on to create graphics for Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese and formed a Bass style that is still emulated by artists today.

The Academy Award-winning filmmaker commissioned a Case Study House in Altadena in 1958 where he worked until his death in 1996. “I want to make beautiful things,” he once said, “even if nobody cares.” Eight of his beautiful designs will be on view at the Bonham’s showroom on Sunset Boulevard starting July 16.