National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin's Place
WC2H 0HE London
artists & participants
Glamour of the Gods is a celebration of Hollywood portraiture from the industry's 'Golden Age', the period 1920 to 1960. From Greta Garbo and Clark Gable to Audrey Hepburn, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, it is these portraits that transformed actors and actresses into international style icons. In many cases these are the career-defining images of Hollywood's greatest names and help to illustrate their enduring appeal.
Featuring over 70 photographs, most of which are exquisite vintage prints displayed for the first time, the exhibition is drawn from the extraordinary archive of the John Kobal Foundation and demonstrate photography's decisive role in creating and marketing the stars central to the Hollywood mystique.
1920s The film industry's studio system was well established by the 1920s, but it was with the release of The Jazz Singer by Warner Bros. in 1927, the first full-length film with synchronised dialogue, that the 'talkies' heralded in what became known as the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood.
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert for Flesh and The Devil by Bert Longworth, 1926
'If only those who dream about Hollywood knew how difficult it all is' Swedish-born Greta Garbo arrived in Culver City in the summer of 1925 and by November was working on her first film, The Torrent (1926), followed by The Temptress (1926) and Flesh and The Devil (1927) in which she was paired with Gilbert, Hollywood's great lover at that time. Directed by Clarence Brown, Flesh and The Devil was the first of four films Garbo and Gilbert made together and their off-screen romance added to the passion of the film's love scenes.
Bert Longworth (1893-1964) was stills photographer for Garbo's first three pictures. This portrait of the actors embracing became a highly publicised shot to promote the film. In 1937 Longworth published a limited edition book Hold still… Hollywood!
1930s It was during the 1930s that the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood really began, and when the studio system created and controlled the stars now associated with the period. The introduction of sound-mixing resulted in advanced scripts in a wide range of genres, such as screwball comedies and gangster films, and by the end of the decade the first films were released in Technicolor, most notably Gone with the Wind (1939).
Clark Gable and Joan Crawford for Dancing Lady by George Hurrell, 1933 'I'm just a lucky slob from Ohio who happened to be in the right place at the right time'
This MGM romantic musical teamed up two of the most celebrated stars of their day, Gable and Crawford. Following the success of Possessed (1931) they were joined again in Robert Z. Leonard's hit Dancing Lady, the fourth collaboration between the actors, making a total of eight films together. Also starring was Crawford's future husband Franchot Tone, dancer Fred Astaire in his film debut and the singer Nelson Eddy. This previously unseen photograph by George Hurrell (1904-1992) is part of a series of portraits he took for the film.
1940s The early 1940s were defined by World War II to which the studios responded with a realistic rather than escapist tone, of which Casablanca (1942) remains a classic. The decade is now closely associated with the 'film-noir' genre which began with The Maltese Falcon (1941).
The Hollywood studio system reached its profitable peak during the mid-1940s but the decade ended with many of their practices declared illegal, and key figures were blacklisted during the witch-hunt investigations conducted by the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee.
Rita Hayworth for Gilda by Robert Coburn, 1946 'Every man I've known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me' Charles Vidor’s Gilda starred Rita Hayworth in the title role and Glenn Ford as her estranged lover Johnny Farrell. Hayworth is seen here as the ultimate femme fatale, wearing a dress by the renowned Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis. The film’s most famous scene shows Hayworth performing in a black satin dress while peeling off her elbow-length gloves. She went on to appear in the The Lady from Shanghai (1948) directed by Orson Welles, whom she married in 1943 but was divorcing when they were making the film.
Robert Coburn (1900-90) was chief portrait photographer at Columbia Pictures when he took this photograph, which was used in reverse on one of original film posters.
1950s The 1950s saw the decline of the Hollywood studio system and the decade was remarkable for cynical retrospection in films such as All About Eve (1950) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), and for remakes of 'Golden Age' films including the popular An Affair to Remember (1957). Technical advances, and the threat from television, led to the production of spectacular historical epics such as Ben Hur (1959) as well as colourful, escapist musicals including Singin' in the Rain (1952). Conversely, the decade also saw the rise of anti-heroes and heroines and a shift towards naturalistic 'method' acting on screen.
Marlon Brando for A Streetcar Named Desire by John Engstead, 1950 'It's the hardest thing in the world to accept a little success and leave it that way'
Brando is seen here reprising his acclaimed Broadway role of Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan's adaptation of Tennessee Williams's play. He trained at the Actor's Studio in New York and with the renowned acting teacher Stella Adler before he made his Broadway debut in I Remember Mama (1944). Following A Streetcar Named Desire he went on to establish himself in Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar and The Wild One, both in 1953. He won his first Oscar for On the Waterfront in 1954. Other outstanding performances include Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather(1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979).
Los Angeles based John Engstead (1909-83) photographed Brando for Warner Bros. in one of his most celebrated roles.
The Hollywood Portrait From the earliest days of cinema the Hollywood studios created, controlled and promoted their stars - the chosen few whose features and personalities registered well on the screen and who developed followings that verged on the fanatical by the 1930s.
The portrait became the studio's chief tool to keep the faces of favorites in the minds of audiences. Through the skill and invention of the still camera artists, such as George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull, the faces of the Hollywood greats were memorialised. Dramatic lighting, unique camera angles and deft retouching created icons of glamour – Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly – and male stars – Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando and Rock Hudson.
These stars would sit for portraits for each film, sometimes in costume and sometimes wearing stylish contemporary fashions. These portraits would be used to advertise the upcoming film in newspapers and magazines. Many of the portraits in this exhibition appeared in one of the dozens of fan magazines that were widely circulated from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Glamour of the Gods
Künstler: Nickolas Muray, Henry Waxman, Kenneth Alexander, Russell Ball, Bert Longworth, James Abbe, Lansing Brown, Ruth Harriet Louise, Harry Lachman, Adolf de Meyer, Karl Struss, Edward Sheriff Curtis, E.R. Richee, Elmer Fryer, Harvey White, Gene Kornman, William Walling Jr, William Thomas, Fred A. Parrish, John Miehle, George Hurrell, Ted Allan, Scotty Welbourne, Laszlo Willinger, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Coburn, Laszlo Willinger, Tom Kelley, Ernest A. Bachrach, Mickey Marigold, A.L. ‘Whitey’ Schafer, John Engstead, Cornel Lucas, Laszlo Willinger, Floyd McCarthy, Davis Boulton, Bud Fraker, Leo Fuchs, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Ken Danvers