golden age of hollywood glamour

hollywood studio portrait Photography Collection

Great Faces

Maureen O'HaraVisit the Hollywood Collection at Flickr for gorgeous American portraiture.

There was a time when the movie studios hired the best photographers to do portraits of their actors: The Golden Age of Hollywood Glamour, 1925-1940. These cool, sculptural, sexy portraits contributed to Hollywood romanticism. Forget realism.

Interesting that these romantic, larger-than-life portraits should emerge during the Great Depression. You can make a strong argument that movies are the true religion in United States, Hollywood our Mecca, the stars our saints, who we look to for guidance in our pallid lives. During the Depression, the movie moguls knew they'd lose their audiences if they portrayed the gritty and despairing realities.

American movies had always manufactured entertainment... but not since their beginnings, and never again, had they achieved so meaningful a purpose: to provide hope through identification. The product had not become more socially significant, but the man in the street took his lead from the hero on the screen. For years the audience had mindlessly followed the adventures and copied the look; now they copied the attitude... The stars were not the fantasies they were subsequently made out to be, but their great faces, casting their glamour from gigantic billboards across the nation, burned as beacons, capable of guiding people to the spirit within themselves. [John Kobal, The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers]

 

The Collection

Louise BrooksThe photos in this collection were purchased from the personal archives of James Card, during the last years of his life. From his obituary (AP 1.18.00):

James Card, a leader in film preservation who built the George Eastman House museum into a major movie archive and was co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival, has died at age 84.

...A movie buff since his youth, Card was the first film curator of Eastman House, the 50-year-old photography museum established in the mansion of Eastman Kodak Co. founder George Eastman. During a nearly 30-year career there, he oversaw the growth of the museum's film collection.

He was also credited with helping revive interest in the career of silent film star Louise Brooks, a famous beauty of the '20s who made films in both Hollywood and Germany. Card persuaded her to move to Rochester in the 1950s, when she was all but forgotten, and encouraged her to write. By the time she died in 1985, she was a widely published writer and a cult figure for many movie fans.

Card wrote about his life in his 1994 book ``Seductive Cinema: The Art of Silent Film.'' Card co-founded the Telluride Film Festival in 1974 and served on the board of directors of the Montreal World Film Festival, Eastman House said. He also taught film studies at Syracuse University and the University of Rochester. Card bought his first movie while studying at the University of Heilderberg in Germany -- a print of ``The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.'' By the late 1940s, he had amassed 800 films. He worked at Kodak, then switched to curator of Eastman House's film department in 1948, the year before the museum opened to the public. He remained in that post until his retirement in 1977.

The 113 photos are largely portraits. The large-format prints are "working" photos from studio files. The reverse sides are often full of studio stamps, magazine instructions, publicity blurbs. Many of the portraits show crop lines and white paint outlines as they were prepared to go to press. They are true relics of Hollywood history, much touched by human hands.

The photographers include Russell Ball, Max Mun Autry, Ernest Bachrach, Frank Polowny, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Irving Chidnoff, George P Hommel, George Hurrell, Clarence Hewitt, Elmer Fryer, Ruth Harriet Louise, ER Richee, William Walling, Lazlo Willinger and others.

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3.19.2009

Passion And Peril

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