Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A. L. Whitey Schafer

At Columbia Schaefer photographed Rita Hayworth for more than five years.  When he photographed her, she was still known as 'the girl down the street' in several movies.  The studio realized that Hayworth had the potential to become something dynamic, but they weren't sure if she would be their Ann Sheridan or their Hedy Lamarr.  Hayworth had the physical presence of Sheridan--her body's energy and thrust were American--but the facial expression--withdrawn, languid, enigmatic--was European.  Both strains are apparent but not yet connected.  But Hayworth emerged.  She is American vitality combined with European allure.  With Hayworth the studio broke through and created for the first time an American exotic--Wedekind's 'Lulu' without the final sting.

A. L. Whitey Schafer, who had been in the top position at Columbia, went on to replace Eugene Robert Richee at Paramount.  During Schafer's first years at Paramount he took most of Veronica Lake's portraits, and at the beginning of the next decade worked with many new stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift when they made 'A Place in the Sun', before his death in 1951.

(Excellent article:  Popular Science Feb. 1943 Vol. 142 No. 2--get it on ebay or amazon if you can. It's an article on photography by him).

Here is a excellent link to the man and shows his 'most' famous photo:

http://ladailymirror.com/2013/11/04/mary-mallory-hollywood-heights-mdash-a-l-whitey-schafer-simplifies-portraits/

Here are a sample of his great works of art:

Hedy Lamarr

Veronica Lake

Elizabeth Taylor

Rita Hayworth

Loretta Young

Marlene Dietrich

Joan Crawford

Dietrich again

Constance Bennett

Lucille Ball

Fay Wray: top and bottom


Maureen O'Sullivan

Shirley Temple

Back of Temple photo showing his famous stamp.

A different stamp

Whitey smiling at work with some sexy legs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Update on Elmer Fryer

One of Fryer's family members recently got in touch with me and said they are thinking of doing a book on Elmer.  They apparently have a huge collection of stills, letters and memorabilia.

I hope they get the book deal!

Anyway, they sent me this link that is about Fryer:

http://reedernichols.com/elmer-fryer-iconic-hollywood-photographer/

Hope you enjoy that. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gordon Parks in Hollywood: An African-American Photographer

This is our first entry on a black photographer.   We hold no prejudices are to be found here on this blog.  And Parks also became a writer and director later in life.


Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on November 30, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas. He was the last child of Sarah (nee Ross) and Jackson Parks. His father was a hard-working farmer.  He attended a segregated elementary school. At the time, blacks were not encouraged to further their education.  Parks related in a documentary on his life that his teacher told him that his desire to go to college would be a waste of money.  He had a rough childhood and when he was fourteen, his mother died.  He was then sent to live with relatives.  That, however, did not work out and he found himself out on the streets soon after.


In 1929, he briefly worked in a gentlemen's club, the Minnesota Club.  And he later went to Chicago and worked at a flophouse.   These two jobs allowed him to see many different kinds of people who would later influence his work.  At the age of twenty-five, Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and bought his first camera, a Voigtländer Brillant, for $12.50 at a Seattle, Washington, pawnshop. The photography clerks who developed Parks' first roll of film, applauded his work and prompted him to seek a fashion assignment at a women's clothing store in St. Paul, Minnesota, that was owned by Frank Murphy. Those photographs caught the eye of Marva Louis, the elegant wife of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. She encouraged Parks to move to Chicago more permanently in 1940, where he began a portrait business and specialized in photographs of society women.


Over the next few years, he would find himself working freelance.  Then he got his first big break with chronicling the black ghetto and exhibiting his photographs in 1941.  For this, he received fellowship with the Farm Security Administration. 


Working as a trainee under Roy Stryker, Parks created one of his best-known photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C., named after the iconic Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. The photograph shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew of the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag hanging on the wall, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the image after encountering racism repeatedly in restaurants and shops in the segregated capital city.


After the FSA disbanded, Parks remained in Washington, D.C. as a correspondent with the Office of War Information.  Finally, disgusted with the prejudice he encountered, however, he resigned in 1944.  Moving to Harlem, Parks became a freelance fashion photographer for Vogue. He later followed Stryker to the  Standard Oil Photography Project in New Jersey, which assigned photographers to take pictures of small towns and industrial centers. He did photographic essays of these towns and people. 


Parks renewed his search for photography jobs in the fashion world. Despite racist attitudes of the day, the Vogue editor, Alexander Liberman, hired him to shoot a collection of evening gowns. Parks photographed fashion for Vogue for the next few years and he developed the distinctive style of photographing his models in motion rather than poised. During this time, he published his first two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948).


A 1948 photographic essay on a young Harlem gang leader won Parks a staff job as a photographer and writer with Life Magazine.  He was the first African American to do so for the magazine. For twenty years, Parks produced photographs on subjects including fashion, sports, Broadway, poverty, and racial segregation, as well as portraits of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Barbara Streisand. He became "one of the most provocative and celebrated photojournalists in the United States."


His upbringing is superbly brought to paper with his autobiographical best-seller, The Learning Tree.  (It was also made into a film later).  It was Life photographer Carl Mydans who suggested he write about his rugged childhood years in Kansas.


Parks should not be forgotten though as one of the great photographers in Hollywood.  In addition to the other people aforementioned, he photographed Ingrid Bergman and Marilyn Monroe among others.  Those are the ones, of course, we will focus on here.


He says: "I accepted my success with Vogue and Life with peace," at the time he worked behind a photographer's camera.  "Assignments to Hollywood during the years to follow proved to be the bulwark of my existence.  While watching films unfold, I found myself directing without actually directing.  Within bright and soft lights, I was subconsciously placing actors where I alone wanted to see them.  'Two lovers waltzed without moving.  An elm tree took wings and flew away through a cyclone.'  Each assignment  provided new challenges." 


Eventually, Parks would direct, write screenplays and even do the musical scores to films like his own, "The Learning Tree," "Shaft" and his son would also prove to be a director of films like "Superfly." 


Parks was married and divorced three times. Parks married Sally Alvis in Minneapolis during 1933 and they divorced in 1961. He married Elizabeth Campbell in 1962 and they divorced in 1973. Parks first met Genevieve Young in 1962 when he began writing The Learning Tree. At that time, his publisher assigned her to be his editor. They became romantically involved at a time when they both were divorcing previous spouses, and married in 1973. They divorced in 1979. For many years, Parks was romantically involved with Gloria Vanderbilt, the railroad heiress and designer. Their relationship evolved into a deep friendship that endured throughout his lifetime.


Parks fathered four children: Gordon, Jr., David, Leslie, and Toni (Parks-Parsons). His oldest son Gordon Parks, Jr., whose talents resembled his father's, was killed in a plane crash in 1979 in Kenya, where he had gone to direct a film. Parks has five grandchildren: Alain, Gordon III, Sarah, Campbell, and Satchel. Malcolm X honored Parks when he asked him to be the godfather of his daughter, Qubilah Shabazz.


Gordon Parks received more than twenty honorary doctorates in his lifetime.  He died of cancer at the age of 93 while living in Manhattan and is buried in his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas on March 7, 2006.

Eartha Kitt:

 
 
 
Marilyn Monroe:
 
 
 

 
 
Dorothy Dandridge:
 
 
Andy Warhol:
 
 
Ingrid Bergman:
 
 
Hugh Grant:
 
 
The man himself:
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

John Engstead: A Total Professional with Celebrities and More

John Engstead was born on September 22, 1909 (some say 1912) in Los Angeles, California.  Engstead began his career in 1926, when he was hired as an office boy by Paramount Pictures' head of studio publicity, Harold Harley.

In 1927, Engstead pleased his boss by arranging a photo session for actress Clara Bow with photographer Otto Dyer using an outdoor garden setting which was unusual at that time. The resulting photographs hailed Harley as "Clara Bow's best sitting."

In 1928, in response to fan magazine requests, Engstead appointed Paramount magazine contact that he wear a suit and tie every day.

Engstead's creative direction of photographs of actress Louise Brooks led to a promotion to art supervisor, where he oversaw the production of Paramount's publicity stills.

In 1932, due to a strike by photographers, Engstead assumed the position of studio portrait photographer, despite having never previously photographed anyone. Actor Cary Grant posed for his practice shots. He returned to his job as art supervisor after the strike was resolved.

In 1941, Paramount Pictures fired Engstead, and Harper's Bazaar hired him for freelance advertising and portrait photography assignments. From 1941 to 1949, he took fashion photography assignments from numerous other magazines, including Collier's, Esquire, House Beautiful, Ladies Home Journal, Life, Look, Mademoiselle, McCall's, Vogue, and Women's Home Companion.

In the 1940s, Engstead photographed many celebrities, including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Maureen O'Hara and Shirley Temple. Unlike other photographers, he often shot his subjects at home or outdoors, and his portraits of a young Judy Garland in Carmel, California were particularly successful. During this decade, he built a studio in Los Angeles that became a gathering place for celebrities.

He remembered the stars well.  Marlene Dietrich, to whom he later became her official photographer for her celebrated one-woman show, recalled that for her last film with von Sternberg, Paramount's "The Devil is a Woman" (1935), the designer Travis Baton and Dietrich produced an enormous Spanish comb which supported a large mantilla.  The comb was anchored to Dietrich's head with wire cutters, and "Marlen fell forward, arms and head resting on her dressing table, exhausted from pain.  When she came up, tears were running down her face."

Another was Gary Cooper.  Engstead supervised Cooper's sessions when they were both at Paramount and he photographed him a great deal in later years, he had this revealing insight on Cooper:  "Cooper knew more about how to be photographed than any other man I know.  The way he handled his face and his six-toot-three-inch frame led me to surmise that he must have done considerable homework.... He moved with the grace of a panther.  I don't think he either liked or disliked photographic sessions, but he endured them because he realized that they were part of his business... One thing that made it easy for Cooper to make stills was his appreciation that cameras photograph the mind.... Cooper carried this professionalism to the care of his body, which he kept in top physical condition until his last illness."

Carole Lombard, who bought most of her clothes with the still camera in mind, was a photographer's delight.  She approached each sitting with almost as much care as a screen role. She would meet with the photographer perhaps a week before each session to discuss the type of photographs that would be taken, te backgrounds, the wardrobe she should get for it.  In her eight years at Paramount the studio released more than seventeen hundred portraits of her--and this does not include all the other types of stills and portraits taken when she was on loan-out to other studios.   Engstead, who adored Lombard and loved working with her, praised her contribution to the success of her portraits:  "Carole always gave her complete cooperation.  she loved good photographs--knew about lighting and how to pose--and had no inhibitions about being photographed, so it was possible to shoot her any way you wanted and she gave all the time it needed."

He also photographed an up and coming star named Sharon Tate.  His photographs of her are timeless and he says: "She was a sweet girl.  I hated how she died."

From 1942 to 1954, he photographed celebrity clients outdoors and at home, an innovation in fashion photography.  Then he  photographed the annual spring and fall collections for Adrian.

From 1959 to 1970, he continued commercial work and society portraiture. 

Engstead continued to photograph movie stars and other celebrities through the 1950s (Marilyn Monroe) and 1960s. He produced promotional material for many television personalities, including Pat Boone, Carmel Quinn, Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, Eve Arden, and Lucille Ball. He also shot cover photos for albums recorded by singers such as Peggy Lee and Connie Francis.. His work extended into governmental figures in the 1950s, including then-Second Lady Pat Nixon. Engstead closed his studio in 1970 but continued to accept special portrait and television assignments until his death on April 15, 1984 at age 72 in West Hollywood, California.

Engstead's images are represented by the Motion Picture and Television Photo Archive and can be viewed by the public at MPTV.net.  Also, he is listed in books such as Star Shots, Masters of Starlight and The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photograghers by Kobal.

Ingrid Bergman

Natalie Wood

Marilyn Monroe

Carole Lombard

Audrey Hepburn

Cary Grant

Hedy Lamarr

 Gary Cooper
 
 
Marlene Dietrich

Sharon Tate

Elizabeth Taylor

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Veronica "Rocky" Cooper: The Best Photographer of Husband Gary Cooper!

Veronica Balfe was born May 23, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. 

In 1933, Cooper met twenty year old Veronica Balfe, known as Rocky to her friends.  A New York debutant socialite (with Park Avenue and Southampton addresses), her father, Harry Balfe, Jr., was the son of a wealthy industrialist and financier and she was the neice of Cedric Gibbons, the well known Hollywood art director at MGM (as well as the designer of the Oscar, the Academy Awards Statue), whose wife was the actress Dolores Del Rio.  In 1930 Rocky moved to Los Angles (with a chaperone, since she was only seventeen and had just abandoned her finishing school) to flirt with a movie career under the name Sandra Shaw.  By her own admission she wasn't the world's greatest actor, but she had a beaufiul face and gorgeous figure--not particularly unusual in Hollywood.  What was disarmingly unusual was her poise and intelligence, well-bred, elegant style, and being ironically, something of a tomboy.  She was a national skeet-shooting champion and loved swimming, skiing, and riding.  Cooper was immediately smitten and soon he and Rocky became something of an item in Beverly Hills society.  The year she met Cooper she'd been in Hollywood three years and had made three films.

Just six months after they met, Cooper asked her to marry him, and the wedding took place in New York on December 15, 1933.  Rocky maintained her own identity even though her husband was a celebrated movie star, and Cooper surprised the gossip columnists by leaving behind his party-going bachelor days quite happily.  Their only daughter, Maria, was born four years later.  Marriage and fatherhood did nothing to damage his image as the most elegant man in the movies, driving around Hollywood in his chartreuse Duesenberg convertible, aptly named "The Yellow Peril" because of his fast driving habit.

His daughter, Maria Cooper Janis says:

With her camera, my mother, Veronica Cooper documented the life of our family in the group of personal photograghs I've selected for this book (Cary Cooper: Enduring Style).  "Rocky" was a great shot and she kept many meticulous red-leather bound albums.  The pages were filled with festive events, and intimate and private moments with my father.  But she also set about preserving more adventursome memories of their skiing forays in Sun Valley and Aspen, shooting, riding, and their many trips around the world.  There are pictures of poeple well known to the public as well as family friends, interspersed with shots of my father taken by some of the  premier photographers of the day, along with a few pictures he took himself.

She passed away in February 16, 2000 in New York, New York of natural causes.

Here are some examples of her work:



 
With Grace Kelly

Elizabeth Taylor and Tony Curtis
 

Below are a few of Cooper with "Rocky":

 


 
With his family including Maria:
 
 
And the other part of his 'family', love of animals:
 
 
Here is Maria's celebratory book of her father:
 
I highly recommend it!  Thanks for shaing the memories, Maria!