As fate would have it, I was watching a movie on TV the other day here in my wireless cave in Taiwan — “If All the Women in
the World,” a 1966 James Bond spoof produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Henry Levin. It starred Mike Connors, Dorothy
Provine and Terry-Thomas. I enjoyed every minute of the film, from begining to end, and it was interesting to me that in the movie, the bad
guys were not the Soviets but the Communist Chinese, who wanted to take over America. This was made in 1966 remember!
How things have changed. Not.
Anyways, I noticed that the 1966 movie had great opening credits and opening titles, at the beginning of the film, and just two words at the
very end of the two hour affair: ”The End.” No closing credits at all.
This made me wonder: when did Hollywood start shifting opening credits to ending credits, why and when, and was it a gradual shift,
or did it take place in one banner year? In the old days of cinema, most movies had opening credits and opening title sequences and very little at the end. Now, it’s reversed: movies start off with a few titles or words and then off we go into the story, with long massive ending credits with music that sometimes go on for five minutes.
So how and when did this happen? Wiki tells me that a ”Title Sequence” is the method by which films or TV programs present their title, key production and cast members, or both, utilizing conceptual visuals and sound, and that the title sequence usually follows — ”but should not be confused” — with the opening credits, which are generally nothing more than a series of superimposed text.
There’s more from the collective well-being of Wiki: ”Since the invention of the cinematograph, simple title cards were used to top and tail silent film presentations in order to identify both the film and the production company involved, and to act as a signal that the film had started and then finished. In silent cinema, title cards were used throughout to convey dialogue and plot and it is in some of these early short films that we see the first examples of title sequences themselves, being quite literally a series of title cards shown at the beginning of a film. The arrival of sound did little to alter the convention except that the sequence was usually accompanied by a musical prelude.”
And this: “This remained the convention for many years until the advent of TV forced the major film studios to invest in developing cinema in order to win back a diminishing audience. The “cast of thousands” epics shot on various patent widescreen formats were a direct response to television’s successful invasion of the leisure marketplace. Part of cinema’s new prestigious and expansive quality were orchestral musical preludes before the curtains opened and long title sequences — all designed to convey a sense of gravitas it was hoped television would be unable to compete with. As cinema’s title sequences grew longer we begin to see the involvement of graphic design luminaries such as Saul Bass, which directly influenced the 1960s television predilection for creating strong graphics-led sequences for many shows.”
Okay, I got all that. There is a difference between title sequences at the beginning of a movie and closing credits — cue the music — at the end of a 21st century film. But when did the shift begin, to place more emphasis on credits at the end, after a movie is over, rather than at the beginning,
when movie-goers are sitting in rapt attention as the movie begins to roll?