Stephen O. Frankfurt was born in the Bronx, New York in 1931. His mother worked as the secretary to a president of Columbia Pictures, and the highlight of her life was a date with Rudolph Valentino. When Frankfurt was eighteen, he enrolled at Pratt Institute, and was graduated after three years of study in 1952. A year later he went to Hollywood and visited every major studio and ad agency, but not one of them had any interest in either him or his talent. It was James Cantwell at KNX, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, who tried to help the young man’s career. Steve Frankfurt assigned Frankfurt to redesign the KNX logo week after week. Cantwell also put him in touch with the growing UPA studio, which made a tentative job offer. An interesting scholarship offer from Pratt and Cantwell’s astute admonition sent Frankfurt back to New York.
Steve Frankfurt began to work at UPA-New York, where he had to paint backgrounds, which gave him some exposure to animation and camera techniques. But, UPA was New York’s busiest studio and Frankfurt, the youngest employee there, could not keep up with the pace of work, so he lost his job. But his experience with animation and camera together with his considerable artistic talents made him a force to be reckoned with in the advertising world. When he was still working at the UPA, Frankfurt, shuttling film cans between the studio and Young & Rubicam, a prominent ad agency, became acquainted with Y & R executives Jack Anthony and Jack Sidebothom, who offered him the job of assistant art director in their fledgling TV department.
In 1956, he married Suzanne Allen who was working at Y & R. Allen was an interior decorator who popularized 18th- and 19th-century Russian furniture among corporate raiders of the 1970-80’s; she was also an early collaborator of Andy Warhol. In 1957, Frankfurt was promoted to a TV art supervisor and a producer, a position that offered him a considerable freedom to launch his creative talent through the full phases of a project from the start to finish, that is from artistic concepts through to completion. As a producer, his innovative and sophisticated commercials helped to redefine the role of the art director in the industry. Frankfurt divorced Suzanne Allen in 1968, the very same year that that he became the president of Young & Rubicam Advertising. As the youngest man in history, and as an art director, holding the office of the presidency of a major corporation he gained international fame. It was at this time, that Frankfurt learned that his assignments at KNX had been just make-believe jobs created by Cantwell’s charitable character to help him.
In 1962, when Alan J. Pakula, a director of many psychologically penetrating and celebrated films decided to produce To Kill A Mockingbird he thought of Frankfurt’s award-winning commercials, and thus hired him to design the main titles for the film. Frankfurt design ranks amongst the most sophisticated and thought provoking opening title sequence in this history of cinema. Both as an extraordinary creative designer, and a brilliant marketing executive Frankfurt revolutionized the art of publicity, where he saw all the promotional materials including; the titles, posters, trailers and ads as part and parcel of the same package that must convey a common look and theme. In 1968, Frankfurt and Phil Gips, an internationally recognized Yale designer, joined forces to create the industry changing advertisement campaign for Rosemary’s Baby. In !972, Aubrey Balkind, a Colombia MBA with post graduate studies in Architecture, joined them. Frankfurt Balkind’s office was opened in LA in 1987, focusing on entertainment. In 2002, Peter Bemis assumed the leadership of the agency and its name changed to Bamis Balkind. Nevertheless , the penetrating influences of Frankfurt are discernible in many of the movie posters of Bemis Balkand.