December 2007 Archives

December 15, 2007

Woody Allen's Windsor

Is this fetish or brand identity?

Woody Allen’s Windsor

White type on black opening titles rolling on old jazz or classical music became a part of Woody Allen brand.

In a time when movie titles become more and more of a clueless "me too!" affair1, Woody Allen’s unique (and relentless) typographic style is entirely praiseworthy. His white type on black opening titles rolling on old jazz or classical music became a part of Woody Allen brand, just like his neurotic dialogues and "his black-rimmed glasses"2 are.

The white type being Windsor-EF Elongated, by Elsner+Flake foundry.

Here is how describes EF Windsor Elongated:

Windsor is an unusual design cut by Stephenson Blake3 in 1905. Windsor is a bold face with heavy rounded serifs and strong diagonal stress. Capitals M and W are widely splayed, P and R have very large upper bowls. The Lowercase a h m and n of the Windsor font have angled right hand stems, e has an angled cross-stroke. The overall effect is one of friendliness and warmth. Use the Windsor font in advertising, on posters and for general display work.

Ed Benguiat, the "printer"

How did Woody Allen chose this typeface? In a previous iteration of this post, the mystery of Woody Allen's typeface of choice was solved by this amazing story posted by Randy J. Hunt in the comments (thank you, Randy):

Benguiat had an affinity for Windsor and suggested it to him that morning. He’s used it in every film since.

I'm currently taking a typeface design course with Ed Benguiat, and just last night he described a time when he would have breakfast at the same New Jersey diner every morning. Among the other that would dine there was Woody Allen. On one occasion, referring to Benguiat as a "printer," Allen asked him what a good typeface was. Benguiat had an affinity for Windsor and suggested it to him that morning. He's used it in every film since.

This New Jersey breakfast with Ed Benguiat must've happened sometime between '75 and '77, because in Love and Death (1975) the titles (although already white type on black background) are set in another serif, while in Annie Hall (1977) Windsor is there, in the largest size of all his titles.

It is also interesting that after Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen betrays WindsorInteriors (1978) titles are set in a News Gothic-ish sans serif—only to return to it for Mahattan in 1979.

Down to business

So I dug up my movies (okay, most of them are borrowed, while Stardust Memories, September, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice and Shadows and Fog screenshots are from Scott Steffens' Contact Sheet) and took some screenshots where the titles complied to the consistency rule of one line Windsor-EF Elongated on black background. Where the title didn't comply I mentioned that in bold text.

Woody Allen's filmography, as referenced by IMDB:

1. What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)—doesn't comply;
2. Take the Money and Run (1969)—doesn't comply;
3. Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971) (TV);
4. Bananas (1971)—doesn't comply;
5. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)—doesn't comply;
6. Sleeper (1973)—doesn't comply;
7. Love and Death (1975)—doesn't comply;
8. Annie Hall (1977):


9. Interiors (1978)—doesn't comply;
10. Manhattan (1979)—doesn't have an opening title (except the famous monologue and a "Manhattan" neon building signage) but its closing credits comply to the rule:


11. Stardust Memories (1980):


12. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982):


13. Zelig (1983):


14. Broadway Danny Rose (1984);
15. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985):


16. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986);
17. Radio Days (1987);
18. September (1987):


19. Another Woman (1988):

[%(caps)Woody Allen%], Another Woman (1988), screen capture

20. New York Stories (1989) (segment "Oedipus Wrecks"):


21. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989):


22. Alice (1990):


23. Shadows and Fog (1992):


24. Husbands and Wives (1992);
25. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993):


26. Bullets Over Broadway (1994);
27. Don't Drink the Water (1994) (TV);
28. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)—it's interesting that this one is the only title I found set on two lines (the rest are one-liners):


29. Everyone Says I Love You (1996):


30. Deconstructing Harry (1997):


31. Celebrity (1998):


32. Sweet and Lowdown (1999);
33. Small Time Crooks (2000):


34. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001);
35. Sounds from a Town I Love (2001) (TV);
36. The Concert for New York City (2001) (TV) (segment "Sounds from the Town I Love");
37. Hollywood Ending (2002);
38. Anything Else (2003):


39. Melinda and Melinda (2004):


40. Match Point (2005):


41. Scoop (2006):


42. Cassandra's Dream (2007);
43. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) (in post-production).


Truth is, I don't know whether this is a Kubrick-eque case of typographic fetish4 or if Woody Allen built a visual identity in order to brand his products.


As you can see, the are a few titles left without a confirming screenshot. If you happen o have (or have access to) the respective movies, please submit the missing screenshots (along with your name and URL if you don't want to remain anonymous).

1 See Trajan is the Movie Font, a satire on Trajan clueless overuse in cinematic typography.

2 From Manhattan (1979) opening monologue: "Chapter one. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.—I love this.—New York was his town and it always would be."

3 Wikipedia page on Windsor specifies: "Windsor is an old style serif display typeface created in 1905 by Eleisha Pechey. Besides the basic font it is also available in two other styles, Light and Roman. Various foundries introduced minor variations so that today there are versions by Linotype, Elsner+Flake, URW+++, Mecanorma and Stephenson Blake."

4 "Futura Extra Bold was Stanley's favourite typeface. It's sans serif. He liked Helvetica and Univers, too. Clean and elegant." Citizen Kubrick, The Guardian, Saturday March 27, 2004.

December 5, 2007

Slow and furious

 Dsc0011 440 P-1

Date: last night. Muscle: Volvo S60. Distance: 500 meters. Time: 50 minutes. Whoa, it might've been a new record, I don't know.

The rain was poring, so this time nobody abandoned cars on the boulevard, like in the good old summer times. The resemblance with the static shots from The Road to Hell video was uncanny.