Big time transition here from the 1180s to the 1930s but that’s my life! As even the casual reader of this blog may know, I’m an avid classic film buff who is regularly tuned in to Turner Classic Movies–on which I watch (or glance at, while I’m doing other things) even bad movies. It doesn’t matter: if the plot doesn’t hold my attention something else will: the sets, the costumes, even the titles. The other night an extremely lightweight Ann Sothern film from 1936 entitled The Smartest Girl in Town (working model “Cookie” Cooke seeks rich husband and reluctantly falls for a man whom she presumes is another model but is in fact–and of course–a millionaire) caught my attention simply by its title sequence, featuring an amazing font which I had never seen before. I taped the film and have since gone back again and again just to look at these letters:
And aren’t they amazing? Look at all those circles and parallelograms–they really liven up what looks (to my untrained eye) like a pretty standard 1930s font. My preoccupation with this particular title drove me to look for those of some of my favorite films from this era, and led me to discover a great resource: the website of Dutch graphic and web designer Christian Annyas, who has collected hundreds of screen shots of film titles from the 1920s to the present in his The Movie Title Stills Collection. You can search by title, designer, director, or actor, but the best thing to do is just browse through the decades so you can see the evolution of letters on film. I did that briefly, and then went right back to the 1930s, which produced my favorite films and my favorite fonts, and here are just a few of them:
Design for Living (1933): almost as good a title as The Smartest Girl, but a much better film. It’s very modern, and is basically about a menage à trois!
The 39 Steps (1935): Hitchcock attended to every little detail–all his titles are great.
Theodora Goes Wild (1936): not sure this is as classic as some people say, but it is charmingly well-acted by Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas–and I love this font!
My Man Godfrey (1936): more 1930s shadows–the “forgotten man” gets into the picture!
Dead End (1937): a more realistic Depression-in-New-York film by William Wyler with Humphrey Bogart and one of my favorites, Joes McCrea.
Only Angels have Wings (1939): I don’t really care for this sandy font, to tell the truth, but as this is probably my favorite movie of that stellar movie year 1939, I felt I had to include it. You can tell we’re about to go through a typographical transition…….