January 5th, 2014
I recently re-watched one of my favorite films, the Coen Brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy. I love this film for many reasons. The opening monologue alone is something that inspires me every time I hear it. But even after spending all of my previous viewings admiring the gorgeous costumes, deftly decorated sets and wonderful performances, this was the first time that I truly appreciated what a large role typography plays in the film. I'll try not to spoil the plot for anyone who may not have seen it (and for those you who haven't, this blog post is my recommendation to do so), but I've included below a few examples of the way typography is portrayed in the film.

The only other post I could find on the subject was this one, which mainly criticizes the historical accuracy of the typography. But in this case I think the potential period-inaccuracy of some of the type and lettering was intended to fabricate the film's own nostalgic aesthetic. A combination of many eras and ideas reflected in the entire film.

Note: Click any of the images for an animated version.

One of the most interesting aspects to me is the way that elaborate typographical props are sometimes only shown on screen for a moment. In the 'blue letter' scene, for instance, I noticed a large (I assume custom made) channel sign with bulb lighting, which remains on screen for all of 2 seconds.

Some of the largest plot elements are denoted by a piece of type or lettering. A sign painter is shown several times, painting and removing employees names from glass doors. A large clock with beautiful art-deco numerals is essentially its own personified character in the narrative of the film. These choices are admirable to anyone who loves looking at letters as much as I do, but furthermore I'd like to commend the actual execution of these ideas. Its true that for any designer or typographer, seeing Helvetica on-screen in the wrong era breaks the 4th wall. But this film is about an amalgamated version of the post-war era. And I think the visuals above convey that idea very well, even if they sample from earlier art-deco typography and Bodega Sans (1990). Almost as if it's the past that we collectively remember, and not the past that literally was. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to add it to your list!