Entry no.: 389
15 Dec 2007, 11:39 PM
Is this fetish or brand identity?
White Windsor typeface on black
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.
Here is how Fonts.com describes "EF Windsor family":
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 Windsor—Interiors (1978) titles are set in a News Gothic-ish sans serif—only to return to it for Mahattan in 1979.
Update: Mr. Benguiat confirmed—thank you, sir—and shed further light on this in comment № 50 below:
All very nicely worded and all technically correct. Thank you all for the factual feedback on Mr. Allen. One other person needs a little thanks for his opinion on the use of Windsor was Corbet Monica, who was at the dinner every Sat & Sun. He played in the movie "Broadway Danny Rose."
Story confirmed. What a beautiful surprise!
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 captures.
Woody Allen's filmography as a director, as referenced by IMDB, non-compliant titles in red:
3. Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971, IMDb), TV, title needed but most probably non-compliant;
Mere Anarchy (2007)—out of his many books, it seems that only this one complies to the rule:
It seems Windsor Regular though, not Elongated, nor Condensed.
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.