I was on the bus sometime last week heading home after a long days work and I began to think about all the free time I have coming up. I thought about the last 6 months working with children all around Tower Hamlets and what a humbling experience it has been meeting so many families and their children. Not to mention all the other fashion and lifestyle related work I have been doing for the blog. So I picked up my phone and clicked onto "New Memo" and began to type all the different projects I will be working on this summer.. Children's book, that other book, blog features and just then I got to thinking about a film I saw recently with a very good friend of mine on a night out called Brief Encounter a 1945 British film which was directed by David Lean staring Celia Johnson who is a suburban housewife that seems to be a little bit bored with her life and her daily routine. So having the ever so handsome Trevor Howard appear in her life and shake it to the core seemed like exactly what she needed. We were quite mesmerised not only by the plot which was incredible and pretty much shot in two locations, the train station and the cafe, but by the elegance and fashion sense that made me wonder if that classic beauty, grace and fashion would ever return? Gloves, hats, bags, perfectly fitted dresses, shoes, add to that charming boys with perfect hair do's and a great sense of fashion style seemed like heaven! I began to think about classic Hollywood glamour and how umm AHHHH-MAZING It would be to do a feature on classic Hollywood! Two minutes later I receive an email from the National Portrait Gallery inviting me to their new exhibition called GLAMOUR OF THE GODS: HOLLYWOOD PORTRAITS... All I can say is Genius!
Clark Gable and Joan Crawford for Dancing Lady, 1933 by George Hurrell © John Kobal Foundation, 2011
You can view nearly 70 vintage photographs spanning 40 years of Hollywood history including portraits of Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young and Joan Collins previously unexhibited in the UK is pretty much a big dream come true.
This new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery examines the importance of photography in creating the stars of Hollywood from 1920 to 1960. Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits, Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation includes portraits of Marlene Dietrich, James Dean, Joan Collins, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe by nearly 40 photographers including George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Laszlo Willinger, Bob Coburn and Ruth Harriet Louise.
Nearly all of the photographs in the exhibition are vintage prints drawn from the archive of the John Kobal Foundation. This is a rare opportunity to view these important artifacts of a now extinct Hollywood studio system. The exhibition shows both iconic and previously unseen studio portraits of Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young, and Carole Lombard among others. These portraits are shown alongside film scene stills including Lillian Gish for The Wind, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for Swing Time and James Dean for Rebel without a Cause. Stills photographs which were used for lobby cards and posters and had to encapsulate the film plot, or be powerful and dramatic enough to attract film-goers in just one image.
Marlene Dietrich on the set of Manpower, 1941 by Laszlo Willinger © John Kobal Foundation, 2011
I dragged myself after work to Hackney Library to find books about classic Hollywood and immerse myself in classic beauty and grace. I did 'sigh' a few times and kinda wished I lived somewhere between the 40's and 60's where buying silk stockings was a wonderful powerful experience.
The film studios in Hollywood between 1920 and 1960 exercised an extraordinary level of control over the image of the stars they represented. The portraits they released to the public and press depicted the actors as glamorous and inaccessible, imbuing them with mystique. The photographers in this exhibition were the leading photographers employed by the studios to shoot and oversee the star portraits. The exhibition includes portraits by Davis Boulton, one of the few British photographers working for the Hollywood studios, and Ruth Harriet Louise, the only woman to run a studio photo gallery. Often stars would build up a relationship with a photographer as was the case with Greta Garbo and Clarence Sinclair Bull, and Joan Crawford and George Hurrell. This was a time before paparazzi, and these photographs distributed by the studios were the only vehicle of connection between stars and fans. Thousands of photographs would be sent out worldwide by the studios both to fans and to publications. To enable the photographs to be reproduced as widely as possible for publicity they were stamped ‘copyright free’, which resulted in the names of many pivotal studio photographers remaining uncredited for creating timeless and career-defining portraits.
Marlon Brando for Streetcar Named Desire, 1950 by John Engstead © John Kobal Foundation, 2011
John Kobal (1940-1991) was a collector and author who methodically sought to understand the role of photography in the Hollywood legend. He began collecting film photographs in the 1950s, visiting Los Angeles frequently when many of the major studios were being bought by corporations who cared little for the history of the film industry. At first his interest was solely in the stars and their films but his interest began to shift to the photographers behind the portraits, many of whom were still alive and accessible at this time. Kobal tracked down the surviving members of the circle of great Hollywood photographers and through a series of major exhibitions and books sought to gain them the recognition they deserved. As a result, the significance of the Hollywood photographers is now widely acknowledged for their contribution to both the film industry and twentieth century photographic portraiture. http://www.johnkobal.org/