Harold Adler (1914-2002) was a calligrapher and a giant of Hollywood hand-lettering. He lettered more than 100 film titles since the beginning of his career in 1946 and was a frequent collaborator of designers Saul Bass, Maurice Binder, and Pablo Ferro.
Adler trained at the Frank Wiggins Trade School and the original Art Center in Los Angeles. Later, he co-founded the Society of Calligraphers. He was responsible for the lettering of many of Saul Bass's title sequences, including those for Alfred Hitchcock. His lettering was featured in Saul Bass's Carmen Jones titles and the iconic The Man With the Golden Arm poster. For The Seven Year Itch, Adler painted a total of 28 individual cards, most comparable in size to a postage stamp.
He also worked closely with Pablo Ferro for many years, contributing to title sequences for films such as Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair. Pablo Ferro and his son and collaborator Allen Ferro speak about Harold in this interview excerpt from August 2015:
Pablo: [Harold] would do rough lettering and when he was finished with it, it was beautiful! Sometimes if I was looking for something beautiful and rough, I would go over to his studio to watch him work and say “Stop! Don’t touch anything else, I think that’s great, Harold!” and he’d say “No, no, I gotta do this or that!” – “Don’t touch! That’s exactly what I want. You got it.”
Allen: [laughs] It’s hard to get people to accept their mistakes.
Pablo: On Thomas Crown Affair he did over 66 images for just one frame. He was amazing.
Allen: We had a relationship with Harold for a long time. Pablo and Harold go way back. Harold was a master calligrapher with a steady hand up until the day he died.
Pablo: He could do any lettering. He used to do the actual posters for this theater downtown, which didn’t have any money for advertising. He would do a poster and some panels and that’s how he learned to do all that stuff.
Allen: He was a master. At one point Pacific Title had possession of the glass plates that Harold did for a lot of the movies. These are painted glass plates for the movies that were to be overlaid and shot practically…
Pablo: Yeah, I had him do on glass the Rolling Stones movie Let’s Spend the Night Together.
Allen: I don’t know where they are but I hope someone rescues them.
Many of his works can be seen at the Book Arts & Special Collections Center of the San Francisco Public Library. Additionally, many of Harold's hand-painted glass and cardboard titles can be seen at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Man With The Golden Arm
The Seven Year Itch