In Harm’s Way: The Title Credits

Features / 08 August 2005

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Preminger’s take on Pearl Harbor is a surprisingly effective film, and while it was made to coincide with the 20th anniversary of V-E Day, it is not an overly jingoistic affair. Again, the director provides a surfeit of locations, subplots, and minutes of running time, and again there is a glut of characters and big-name actors, but the acting is typically strong, featuring a fairly good, relatively vulnerable performance from John Wayne.

The credit sequence that Saul Bass contributed to this film came at the end of the film (a rather novel idea at the time) with only a single title card at the beginning. As it stands, the end credits fit In Harm’s Way ideally, lending the film the gravitas that it requires without burdening the Duke with overly portentous dialogue. Instead, Bass provides an entire narrative in credits and ocean photography. Backed by the rise and fall of Jerry Goldsmith’s score, Bass’ titles follow the sea’s whims from calm to violent – culminating in a montage of explosions and mushroom clouds – and then to calm again. The imagery is an adequate suggestion of the course of the war after the film’s events, a wordless and objective expression in nature’s terms, and as such, it allows the drama of the film’s characters to resolve itself without any grand history lessons.

Leo Goldsmith | © 2005 notcoming.com

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Leo Goldsmith

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Titles Designed by Saul Bass