As the image of an adorable baby floated into theatres all over the United States in 1982, the title design of R/Greenberg Associates took a step in a new direction. The Brothers Greenberg, known at the time for their technological innovations and type-focused design for films like Superman, Alien, and Blow Out, struck a distinctly lighter and more playful note with Garp.
Title Designer RICHARD GREENBERG speaks about his work on The World According to Garp in this excerpt from our feature article R/Greenberg Associates: A Film Title Retrospective.
Let’s talk a little about The World According to Garp. Was that opening scene with the baby already in place, or did you have to conceptualize and experiment?
Richard: That scene was already there. Glenn Close catches a baby. Now, the baby that she catches was not the same one we used, because by the time they decided to do a sequence, that baby would have been a year old. So we had to make it work back to that. The movie is Hollywood-style entertainment but it has a kind of down ending, which they wanted to mitigate somewhat with the idea of rebirth, which informed the opening titles.
We had the idea of a baby floating in space and Warner Bros. had bought that wonderful Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” We hadn’t developed the technology that would allow the audience to believe this baby was actually floating and of course we couldn’t throw the baby up in the air! So we used a luna crane and we laid the baby down.
He was on milk glass – just glass that’s white with a light underneath. Then we created the match – and this was new at the time – from the difference between the color of the baby’s skin and true white. If you look closely at the white of his eye, you can see the clouds moving. It was impossible to get two takes of the baby being happy, so we panned off the baby and let it re-enter the frame. The final takes might have been like the third and the thirty-fifth because in between the baby would cry or fidget, and because we had this real baby boy on his back, that was the first time I realized that when a baby urinates they urinate straight up! [laughs]
So it was a little dangerous. We had a very heavy camera on a boom high above this little child, and I’m not sure they would let you do that anymore. But we managed to create a sequence of a kind of exultant baby. And the way he’s holding his legs is just very cute.