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GEORGE HURRELL THE PHOTOGRAPHER TO THE STARS DURING THE CLASSIC ERA!


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Many people assume that many of classic Hollywood photos are cheesecake.  This is profoundly untrue. Mostly, they were created by George Hurrell, who was originally a fine artist.  He stepped into photography due to his film contacts while living in Laguna Beach, which was a Hollywood artist colony south. His history is profound. Without his  artistic gifts, Hollywood star photography would be pedestrian.  I posted some of his Ann Sheridan photos in the Sheridan section. By the way, Cheesecake refers to bathing suit photos.

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We went to the National Portrait Gallery in London a few years ago for a Hollywood photographers exhibit.  It was smashing. Hurrell and Bull were amongst the many featured.  Most impressive, to me at least, was the display of the originals vs. the retouched versions.  As great as the lighting, makeup and wardrobe was, the retouching really sealed the deal for many of the stars and belied their years (and miles!). 

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I have two books of movie-star photos:    Hollywood Glamor Portraits and Movie-Star Portraits of the Forties.  Both are edited by John Kobal.    Hurrell is featured as well as Bacharach,  Bull,  Carpenter,  Richee,  Schafer,  Welbourne and Willinger (as well as others of course).

Must have books for anyone interested in this side of Hollywood.

 

  

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Haha funny Hirshfeld!

I have been a commercial/fashion photography assistant in my earlier life with a lifelong interest in movie star portraiture. Among my favorite "movie star photography" books are the general John Kobal books-especially when he groups similar "types" like Vivian Leigh/Elizabeth Taylor/Jean Simmons. Among the best are:

  • Hollywood Glamor Portraits
  • Hollywood Color Portraits
  • Film Star Portraits of the 40's
  • Film Star Portraits of the 50's
  • The Art Of The Great Hollywood Photographers

The last title having text and behind-the-camera session photos included.

Other favorites:

  • The Image Makers by Paul Trent
  • Masters of Starlight, Photographers in Hollywood by James Fahey
  • Jean Howard's Hollywood, A Photo Memoir by James Watters
  • Any book of Karsh portraiture

Jean Howard's book is particularly interesting, as it contains mostly candid shots of stars at leisure or on set, with a few studio portraits. The big Hirschfeld book by Scribner's is a must for any collection.

The only negative aspect of art/photography books is they MUST be printed well enough for the pictures to translate. Most of Kobal's books are better in hardcover, using better paper & printing. Yes, it DOES make a huge difference.

While the photo subjects in Jean Howard's book are fantastic, the printing loses some vitality. I've seen real silver gelatin prints of Karsh's work in person and they are technically so perfect, the subject looks as if they are really in front of you.

 

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I encountered a slew of fun books like this too, sometime way back and I agree they're useful to keep us in mind of the reality of these stars as extraordinary human beings with texture and tactility. While I don't recall many of the photographers' names now (at one time I did, especially if the name was unusual like 'Helmut Newton') the one book which impressed me the longest was the Blackglama series by Richard ...Avedon? That was really something else; the way all those big names stepped up for that; even after they had retired or aged. And they got a free mink with the shoot, am I right?

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3 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

one book which impressed me the longest was the Blackglama series by Richard ...Avedon? That was really something else; the way all those big names stepped up for that; even after they had retired or aged. And they got a free mink with the shoot, am I right?

Indeed on every point. It was an extraordinary series of ads. I had Shirley MacLaine's framed in my fashion office:

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6 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

The only negative aspect of art/photography books is they MUST be printed well enough for the pictures to translate. Most of Kobal's books are better in hardcover, using better paper & printing. Yes, it DOES make a huge difference.

The two Kobal books I have are softcover but they are well made with good paper (e.g. not too thin).     I got them over 25 years ago at the cost of $7 each.     

For the Portraits of the 40s,  I purchased two of these.   I did this so I could frame some of my favorite photos.

The books have been useful as it relates to getting people interested in 'classic Hollywood';   E.g. photographer or fashion designers that only had surface knowledge of these areas related to classic Hollywood.   After seeing these photos many became more interested and went to the source.   

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You just can't beat quality paper, printing, and binding. The bookmaker's craft. Anything presented via pixels looks like excrement. I'd rather have my hand pounded by a ball-peen hammer than watch a movie over a computer monitor.

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15 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I'd rather have my hand pounded by a ball-peen hammer

While my expectations may be higher than average, that seems a rather extreme reaction.

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On 4/1/2019 at 11:39 AM, arpirose said:

Many people assume that many of classic Hollywood photos are cheesecake.  This is profoundly untrue. Mostly, they were created by George Hurrell, who was originally a fine artist.  He stepped into photography due to his film contacts while living in Laguna Beach, which was a Hollywood artist colony south. His history is profound. Without his  artistic gifts, Hollywood star photography would be pedestrian.  I posted some of his Ann Sheridan photos in the Sheridan section. By the way, Cheesecake refers to bathing suit photos.

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Well, you've said it all, Arpirose! 

Hurrell's works are pure masterpieces. I started buying books with his portrait photos as far back as when I was in high school. The chiaroscuro, the mellow shading effects and even the enchanting poses, make him a star, above others. 

Thanks for this nod to a true master of art and photography!

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On 4/2/2019 at 8:01 AM, Sgt_Markoff said:

and Al Hirschfield was ...cartoonist of the stars!

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My other favorite!

Most artists know that the truly difficult thing to do, is make a line drawing or pen in ink portrait with less lines, not more. To synthesize something down to its essentials, get a true likeness and have the finished product have sophisticated aplomb, is incredibly hard to achieve unless you are someone like Hirschfield.

Let's see how good you are, Sarge. Where's the tribute to his daughter, NINA in this portrait?

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On 4/1/2019 at 11:39 AM, arpirose said:

Mostly, they were created by George Hurrell, who was originally a fine artist.  He stepped into photography due to his film contacts while living in Laguna Beach, which was a Hollywood artist colony south.

My friend lives two houses down from Bette Davis' Laguna Beach home (which is 3 miles from me).    There is a small plaque that list the home as a city landmark.     I'll have to check if Hurrell's home has something similar.

 

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I know about Al and his wife and how they doted on their daughter Nina, 'the wonder baby'. I cant always spot the tribute though. In this one, is it in Cary's necktie?

What you say about 'economy of line' in graphic art is spot-on. Zen calligraphy masters from the Far East certainly know this truth.

And I can cite you another one. Kathe Kollwitz.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Käthe_Kollwitz

She may be my very favorite charcoal sketch artist of all time. Right up there with Goya, or Dore'. The kind of self-taught artist who only needed one stroke or gesture of her wrist to capture the line she wanted.

Also, a woman with an extraordinary  life story as well. She was one of the few citizens in Hitler' Third Reich who dared to openly speak out against abuses of justice. Here are a couple samples; I encourage you to search out more on the net.

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