Close up on a masterpiece

portrait image of Saul Bass
image of Saul Bass's signature


After working for Howard Hughes at RKO, Bass set up his own firm in 1952. In 1954 he began his long collaboration with director Otto Preminger with the title sequence for 'Carmen Jones', but it was in 1955 that Bass changed the face of film advertising and graphic design forever with his groundbreaking campaign for 'The Man With The Golden Arm'. The film's subject matter was gritty and highly controversial, and the stark simplicity of Bass's conception was both apt and visually like nothing else audiences had seen. Frank Sinatra, in one of his very best performances, plays jazz drummer Frankie Machine, battling to stay clean of heroin. In some accounts inspired by the damaged arm of his long term art director Art Goodman, Bass conceived of a jagged cut-out arm as the central image of the film's promotional material, symbolic of Frankie's drumming and its crippling by addiction. Making a symbol, rather than the stars, central to a poster was a bold move in Hollywood (as it remains to this day) and Bass was obliged to feature the star images in varying ways on most of the posters, in some cases to the detriment of the design. However, in this imposing 3 sheet poster Bass brilliantly finessed small images of the actors into the layout's periphery in a way that arguably raises the overall design even higher. In our opinion, the 3 Sheet is the single best poster on the film.


Once he became an art director, Bass employed the services of other creative talents to realise aspects of his vision. On 'The Man With The Golden Arm', Bass conceived the overall concept, layout and design. Harold Adler - a movie advertising artist and title design letterer who worked for National Screen Service - designed the lettering; further assistance was provided by artist Phyllis Tanner.

SOLD - please inquire if you'd like us to source this for you.

Broken arm graphic pointer to link image of framed posterSee the framed poster

Movie Poster Art Gallery
1 Colville Place
London W1T 2BG
Tel: 020 7637 7441


The Man With The Golden Arm 3 sheet poster