As Elmer Bernstein's gentle theme is played note by note on a piano, the camera peers inside an old cigar box to reveal such childhood treasures as a broken watch, a pair of good-luck pennies, some marbles and a whistle. While a small girl hums, we see her hand using a crayon to draw a bird. So begins the film version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), with its evocative and influential title sequence designed by Stephen O. Frankfurt.
Though born and raised in the Bronx, the Hollywood connection somehow always seemed to be in the background of Frankfurt, and in the early 1960's he got a call from producer Alan J. Pakula, who admired his commercials. Pakula asked him to try his hand at the main titles for "To Kill A Mockingbird.” Frankfurt worked closely with sound expert Tony Schwartz, his associate on many commercials. The Show Magazine critic led off his review of the film with the observation that "the titles that adorn ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' are about as striking as anything...yet devised.” Later when Charles Bludhorn of Gulf & Western's Paramount presented him with the "Rosemary's Baby" project, Frankfurt's cinema scope was greatly enlarged as he directed the entire campaign—titles and trailer, posters and all media advertising. ''Hollywood said we were breaking all the rules," Frankfurt points out now, "and I explained that was my aim precisely.” For "Rosemary's Baby,” essentially a horror film, Frankfurt decided that the most startling way to surprise his audience was by not showing the baby but by hearing it and superimposing an empty baby carriage on Mia Farrow's face. The copy says simply: "Pray for Rosemary's Baby.” Since then he has been associated with such eminently successful feature productions as "Network," "Arthur," "Emmanuelle," "Superman," "All That Jazz,” "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Sophie's Choice," "That's Entertainment,” and "Alien," totaling more than 55 in all.