The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

Writers' Showcase

Never Judge a Book by its Cover - Saul Bass
by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

I was about 26 or 27, had long light brown straight hair forever parted in the middle and wore trendy maxi skirts. I was passionately in love with my Anglo French fiancée Philippe Amos an impoverished artist. Our relationship was turbulent and I was in crisis when my old friend, the pioneer film animator Stan Hayward, called to invite me over to his historic Victorian artist studio in Talgarth Road, Barons Court for a soirée to welcome an American graphic designer and film animator to London. I had met Stan after he had come back from living in Australia and damaged his ear drum deep sea diving and snorkelling as a Club Mediterranean instructor. We met in a French class when he was teaching animation at Imperial College and remained lifelong friends.

Stan was the creator of 'Henry's cat' which became a well known merchandising character and TV film programme working together with the film animator Bob Godrey throughout the 70s and 80s. He was also one of the judges on the Zagreb film animation festival  board and had contacts all over the then Communist world. When I went to Budapest, Warsaw and Prague, Stan would always generously give me introductions knowing how I loved and appreciated animation. Eastern European graphics were so different from the Western and the difference was visually exciting.

The evening in question, I was introduced to an 'ugly' Jewish New Yorker with thinning brown hair, side burns, and a prominent nose called Saul Bass. I suppose he was in his mid 50s but to me, in my mid twenties, he seemed old! Saul wore an expensive looking light tan leather three quarters jacket and matching flared leather trousers. He walked stiffly and Stan explained he had not one but 2 gamy legs!

In those early days I was not in to the art of conversation. I didn't bother to ask Saul about his life in LA, he only seemed to be interested in my ordinary life in the days when I was teaching English to foreigners.  I confided in him about my hard up artist Anglo Frenchman who would leave me alone in the evenings, even though we lived together, and give girls my phone number as he didn't have a phone of his own. He didn't tell the girls he was in a relationship and so they fell for him because he was so charming and attractive.

Ooh la la but when Saul spoke, it was like music to my ears. His voice was so rich and cultured that I forgot he was physically 'ugly'. He mesmerised me with his velvety refined New York accent. I was enchanted. Saul was very understanding and father-like and even invited me to Elstree to watch the shoot in order to cheer me up.  Today I would have asked him to send a car with a driver but then I had to refuse because I had no idea where Elstree was. It was easier to get to the Eastern Block by plane than to catch a train to Elstree! However, he offered me his business card saying to call should I ever be in Hollywood!

I kept the card for 4 years and then did end up in LA staying at the show business lawyer Tom Pollock's house in Laurel Canyon. Shrewd Tom had invested in the hit movie 'American Graffiti' taking a percentage of the gross turnover instead of his usual legal fee. I had brought Saul's card with me. 'He's famous.' was his reaction. The first time I had showed the precious card was to Ed Badajos, the American  illustrator of 'Filipino Food'  in London and had got the same comment but Saul had given me his office number and not his personal number. I never called because they told me he was famous! What could I say to someone famous? I  forgot that under the mask of fame there was a real human too.

Decades later, when I founded and owned my own archive, Retrograph, specialising in the history of graphic design,  I checked out Saul's famous iconic graphics for the film posters of 'Psycho' 'The Man With the Golden Arm', 'Anatomy of a murder', 'Vertigo' 'North by North West' and 'West Side Story'. I even recall the cat slinking along with Elmer Bernstein's music in the title sequence of 'Walk on the wild side' because, like Stan, I was a cat lover.

If only I had had the experience I have today meeting international people, I would have had a stimulating evening with Saul but we didn't speak of him and how successful he was, this modest man advised a damsel in distress, little mixed up me.  Never judge a book by its cover!

Written on 26.12.17 at St Benedict, Hastings.


Wikipedia - Saul Bass
Wikipedia - Stan Hayward
Wikipedia - Henry's cat
Wikipedia - Tom Pollock
Google - Ed Badajos - Filipino Food 1971
Google -
Google - Photo Archive News - Retrograph Archive  

Broadcasted on BHCR on 19.1.18.