• Steven Brower

Don Record: Hollywood’s Other Lost Title Designer

Johnny Got His Gun movie poster, 1971

Back in 2011, I wrote an article for the August issue of PRINT on movie title designer Wayne Fitzgerald, responsible for scores of iconic opening film images in the later half of the 20th century. More recently, while researching the film poster for Johnny Got His Gun, the 1971 film directed by Dalton Trumbo based on his 1938 book of the same name, I happened upon the work of Don Record.

Turns out Record too created a vast array of title design work, as well as complete movie advertising campaigns and posters, yet his name is little known today. He was born on September 1, 1936, purportedly in Los Angeles, although he rarely discussed his childhood, having been raised in nearby Long Beach by family friends and not his biological parents, Dorothy and Bud Record. Record began drawing as a young child and remained self taught.

Dr. Dolittle Movie Title Design, 1967

Dr. Dolittle original artwork by Don Record

Dr. Dolittle line art by Don Record

Record began his career at Pacific Title and Art Studio, founded in 1919 by Leon Schlesinger, which originally produced title cards for silent films and later opening titles for talkies, as well as providing editing and post-production to the industry. Record soon established his own design studio and hired employees, designing movie titles, which led to film logos and studio ad campaigns.

Mrs. Pollifax–Spy opening title, 1971

Planet of the Apes movie titles, 1968

Beneath the Planet of the Apes logo sketch, 1970

Record met and married the former Judi Clutinger in 1958. She was an actress and poet (stage name Cori Kimball) who had attended to Pasadena Playhouse with classmate Dustin Hoffman, whom she had dated. The Records had two children, Tracy, born in 1959 and Eric in 1961. At first they lived in San Diego, but relocated to Los Angeles as his career began to take off. After they divorced Record married Ruth Aster, mother of his third child Laura, born in 1969. That marriage also ended in divorce.

Record won the first prize in the “Key Art Test” award for his work on “Johnny”, sponsored by the Hollywood Reporter, which reported the event in a front-page headline on August 17, 1972. He developed the titles, ad campaign, logo design, poster and trailers for the film. According to Record, his process was to work on “a blueprint concept” which he evolved through a series of “structural moods and improvisations.” Hollywood Reporter noted he was regarded as “among the foremost producer–director–designers of film and graphics.” They also reported he was currently working on the titles for “Tom Sawyer”, ”Play It Again Sam” and “Prime Cut.” Soon after he adapted his “Johnny Got His Gun” poster for the paperback cover of the book, originally published by Bantam Books and later Citadel Press and still in use today.

He collaborated with director/producer Michael Ritchie on several films, including “Smile”, “The Candidate” and “Downhill Racer.” Other films he worked on included “Patton” and “The Return of the Lone Ranger.” In addition to film sequences, such as the montage in “The Parrallax View“, Record also directed television commercials. On a personal note Record loved nature, was an admirer of Native American culture and wore the same outfit to work almost daily: black shirts, leather pants and black hat with a Native American beaded band.

Enter Lollie Ortiz:

“I had recently arrived in Los Angeles in mid seventies to attend the Art School of Design. I then got a job working on ad designs for Rexall Drug Company. Then one day I met a young designer who in turned introduced me to his boss, Don Record. When Don realized I was a emerging artist, he said if I ever wanted to drop by his studio for a portfolio review, I would be welcomed to do so. It was not too long after that invitation I did drop by and showed my portfolio. Don was impressed, but wanted some of his team members to see my work as well. The result was I was later offered (the opportunity) to create some designs for a potential new client. The studio won the account and I was also offered a job at the studio. Don and I soon became a strong team and made several client presentations which ended up creating a lot of studio activity. As time went on we also realized we were in love, and eventually developed a relationship. We all got along well, and even more so after my son Roland Record was born in 1975.

Type design by Don Record

In the beginning I was given small assignments that consisted of graphic designs and layouts. As time went on, I started handling administration duties as well as working with Don on film title concepts, presentations and client meetings. As the studio grew, my work increased to include working with models, production schedules, contracts as well as production needs and crews. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my art today is a result of Don’s attention to bold designs and strong iconic imagery. He loved to draw and being a feature film director was his passion and dream to accomplish, which he did not due to his unexpected illness and passing in 1980 (at age 44, of cirrhosis of the liver).”

Today Lollie continues to work in the film industry, as well as music videos, print, television and acting.

Record in his studio

Studio logo

Storyboard by Don Record

Record’s sketches for Mahogany, starring Diana Ross, 1975

Man of La Mancha artwork by Don Record, 1972

Album cover design by Don Record, 1971

Sketches for MacAthur, 1977, starring Gregory Peck

Record’s sketch for Such Good Friends, a 1971 film by Otto Preminger. Saul Bass designed the released poster and titles.

Logo sketch for Goodbye Mr. Chips, starring Peter O’Toole, 1969

Original artwork by Don Record, 1974

Don with son Eric

Lollie and Don in front of their movie ad campaigns

Special thanks to Lollie Ortiz, Tracy Record  and Ellen Daniels

In Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design, author Jan-Christopher Horak examines the life, work, and creative process of this prominent designer. Discover the humble beginnings of Bass’s life, his collaborations with prominent directors like Robert Aldrich, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese, and learn more about his personal style, like his appreciation of modern art and subsequent incorporation of it into his body of work.

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