Saul Bass' Production Sketches for 'West Side Story's' Prologue

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Design maestro Saul Bass contributed his legendary talents to Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ screen adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical, West Side Story . Bass was credited as a visual consultant on the film, but his role in the romantic tragedy tale exceeded his ambiguous job title. He storyboarded the famous prologue (in collaboration with his wife Elaine Bass), which features two rival gangs — the typically all-American-looking Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks — strutting around the city (dancing, really) in a turf war tease, chasing each other off their territory. The artist also designed the ending title sequence and made the eye-catching theatrical poster.

Old Hollywood recently shared Bass’ production sketches for the opening dance number, and although they’re roughly drawn, there’s something absolutely perfect about their simplicity. Upon closer inspection, the colorful drawings do show some trademark Bass characteristics. They’re also a reminder of how passionately involved the artist was with all of his projects. We’ve shared the sketches past the break. Let us know if you dig them like we do.

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass

Image credit: Saul and Elaine Bass