Used as a marketing tool to promote the stars, glamour portrait photography was of vital importance to the studios during Hollywood's Golden Age. One name that will always be associated with the Hollywood glamour portrait is George Hurrell. Hurrell was probably the most famous of the Hollywood portrait photographers of the 1930s and 40s, playing a considerable role in shaping the careers of the stars. He was hired by MGM at the end of the 1920s and changed the way the stars had been photographed up till then. His use of dramatic poses, lighting and shadows gave Hollywood photography a new look. Hurrell photographed every star under contract to MGM including Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. In the early 1940s, he went to Warner Bros. where he photographed, amongst others, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland and Humphrey Bogart. He also worked for Columbia (where he worked with stars like Rita Hayworth) as well as independently.
|Photography by George Hurrell-- top row from left to right: Bette Davis, Norma Shearer and Errol Flynn; bottom row: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper.|
Another star George Hurrell had worked with was MGM diva Joan Crawford. Hurrell shot a total of 33 portrait sessions with her, of which he later said: "Each sitting was a new experience for both of us. She constantly altered her appearance, the color of her hair, eye makeup, eyebrows, mouth". Amongst the thousands of photos Hurrell took of Crawford he naturally had his personal favourites. In the letter for this post --written by George Hurrell to Joan Crawford in April 1976-- he talks about one of these favourites. The photo referenced in the letter is shown below.
|This 1930s portrait of Joan Crawford was one of George Hurrell's personal favourites.|
April 16, 1976
I've always thought the soulful, tender beauty in the attached print was among our best efforts.
The depth of feeling and emotion you expressed in this pose has a dramatic quality that only a great actress could reveal.
I will be honored if you will send two or three lines about my work to go along with it.
The deadline is accute, so your early reply will be greatly appreciated.
Love and kisses.
GEORGE E. HURRELL
Joan Crawford by George Hurrell