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Pablo Ferro – Maverick Genius Behind Master Film Titles

Abhishek Srivastava - 79 weeks ago

It’s a pity that the Academy Awards does not have a category in title designing. Had there been one, Pablo Ferro’s trophy cabinet would have held many. The man who designed the title sequences of classics like A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, Midnight Cowboy, LA Confidential and As Good As It Gets has left behind a rich legacy after his death.

Described as a genius by Stanley Kubrick and ‘the best designer of film titles’ by Silence of The Lambs director Jonathan Demme, Pablo Ferro ushered the use of videos in narrative storytelling and long hand drawn lettering in title sequences. The man who once assisted Stan Lee and was responsible for cutting Michael Jackson’s Beat It, has to his credit 12 films which were nominated for best film Oscar. 

Born in Cuba in 1935, Pablo’s family emigrated to New York when he was just 12. After earning a degree from Manhattan’s High School of Industrial Art, he joined Atlas Comics as an artist. The following years were spent as animator and finally in 1961 founded his own production studio. It was only after seeing his commercials that Stanley Kubrick offered him to edit the trailer of Dr. Strangelove and also suggested him to make London as his base. But fame came running to him only after he did the title design for the film which almost revolutionized the the domain of film title designing. Among the prominent directors he worked with in coming years, apart from Kubrick, were Jonathan Demme, Norman Jewison, John Carpenter, Wiliam Friedkin and Barry Sonnenfeld. 

TFHY picks up five of his best work which redefined title designing in Hollywood. 

DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (Director - Stanley Kubrick, 1964)

The elongated hand lettering is considered a classic in title designing. With this film he also made his debut in the field of art designing having previously been hired by Stanley Kubrick to produce the trailer of the film. The title design of this film was a clear departure from popular titles of that era. 

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (Director - Norman Jewison, 1968)

The technique adopted by Ferro this time was multi-screen. The design was aimed at giving viewers a peek into the many lives of Thomas Crown, played by Steve McQueen. The title helped in establishing all the characters of the film. 

WOMAN OF STRAW (Director - Basil Dearden, 1964)

Pablo employed a new technique for this now forgotten Sean Connery starrer and made use of a high contrast in which the black and white textures were subjected to red filters. The aim was to bring out tension from the film’s realism and abstract features. 

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! (Director - Norman Jewison, 1966)

The only brief that was given to Pablo by Norman Jewison for the Cold War comedy dealing with American invasion by a submarine crew was that he wanted something on the pattern of Paul Revere’s famous Coat of Arms. The research led him to typo books which presented him with a reversed ‘R’. The hammer and sickle in place of ‘G’ was suggested by his friend. 

TO DIE FOR (Director - Gus Van Sant, 1995)

The title designing for Gus Van Sant’s To Die For was jointly done by Pablo and his son. The challenge for Pablo was to establish the identity of his lead character just before the actual film starts. Through the usage of tabloid headlines and logos Pablo painted a picture of media which successfully informed viewers about the character of Nicole Kidman.

Tags

Pablo Ferro / A Clockwork Orange / Midnight Cowboy / LA Confidential / Stanley Kubrick / Jonathan Demme

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