Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 1963, 1986. Archive of three title card maquettes hand lettered by Harold Adler for the 1963 film. Also included are two fascinating autograph letters, both elaborately designed and executed in a calligraphic style, from Adler to author, illustrator, and editor Fridolf Johnson relating to Adler's work with Hitchcock.
Harold Adler was a calligrapher who created hand lettered titles on over 100 films, worked frequently with Alfred Hitchcock, and was a favorite of legendary title sequence designers Saul Bass and Pablo Ferro. In addition to "The Birds" (1963), his credits include "Comanche!" (1956), "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955), "The Seven Year Itch" (1955), "Carmen Jones" (1954), "Psycho" (1960), "In the Heat of the Night" (1967), and "Justine" (1969).
In 2012, an exhibition of Adler's work was organized by noted typographer and design historian Jill Bell at the American Advertising Federation, Kansas City.
In the first letter, dated May 16, 1986, Adler describes, after touching on other topics, meeting Hitchcock and then presenting him with layout ideas for the titles. He then goes into detail regarding his answer to a question about the techniques of artist Eric Gill, stating that Hitchcock "was amazed" by this answer, and after that would "request 'to be sure to bring that nice you[ng] man along" (meaning Adler) whenever he had a job for Adler's firm.
The second letter, dated June 10th, 1986, focuses almost exclusively on Adler's work on "The Birds," going into some detail regarding both the creative and technical processes of producing hand lettered titles for films. He also describes Hitchcock as "an unusual person to work with. He was a master at what he did, knew what he wanted [and] smoked the finest cigars." He then concludes the letter with some brief remarks on how his approach to title lettering evolved over the course of his career.
The letters themselves are works of art, executed in a variety of inks in Adler's detailed penmanship, with Johnson's name on each in particular receiving full calligraphic treatment.
Also included are draft title cards for the film, stylistically similar to each other, but much different from the titles used in the finished film. Two of the cards are marked as "camera ready" in holograph colored pencil, with titles executed in white paint on black board. The third card, photo stat on black paper, which accompanied the June 10th letter, has been annotated by Adler on both the recto and verso, explaining the in more detail the technical process of putting the lettering on film.
Overall, a significant collection of material illuminating a little explored aspect of film design, with a direct and significant connection to a seminal work by a director known for personally overseeing all aspects of production.
Each letter 19 x 24 inches, single leaf, rectos only. May 16th letter folded twice for mailing, June 10th letter folded three times. Two long diagonal creases to the May 16th letter, else both are Fine. Original mailing envelope for the May 16th letter included.
"Camera ready" title cards 22 x 14 inches. Lightly rubbed and about Near Fine. Third card 18 x 4 inches. Near Fine.