Your chance to live with a Hollywood icon
From Alfred Hitchcock (and Leo the Lion) to Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Audrey Hepburn, a dazzling array of icons from Hollywood’s Golden Age features in our 6-15 December online sale, Photographs: The Classics
When photographer Clarence Sinclair Bull took this photograph in 1956, Grace Kelly’s status as one of Hollywood’s most talented — and glamorous — actresses was firmly secured. In 1954, she had won a Golden Globe for her performance in the 1953 film Mogambo, which also saw her nominated for an Academy Award. Hit films followed, from Dial M for Murder (1954) to High Society (1956) with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
The man behind this striking image, Clarence Sinclair Bull, became renowned as one of the great masters of the Hollywood portrait, transforming the publicity shot into an art form. Bull spent 30 years as head of the stills department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, then Hollywood’s most successful film company. Under the management of Louis B. Mayer, MGM boasted that it had ‘more stars than there are in Heaven’.
Nicknamed ‘The Love Goddess’ by the press, Rita Hayworth was one of the most glamorous screen idols of the 1940s — and reportedly the most popular pin-up of GIs during World War II. She starred in hit films including Blood and Sand (1941), Tales of Manhattan (1942) and You’ll Never Get Rich (1941), appearing opposite stars including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
It was Hayworth’s performance in the 1946 film noir Gilda, however, that became her most famous. Centred on a dramatic love triangle and set in a casino, the film cast Hayworth as a classic femme fatale — perfectly captured in the image above by celebrated Hollywood photographer Robert Coburn. Responsible for some of her most iconic portraits, Coburn became Hayworth’s favourite lensman.
An icon of fashion as much as cinema, Audrey Hepburn first shot to stardom in her role as an absconding princess alongside reporter Gregory Peck in 1953’s Roman Holiday, becoming the first actress to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for a single performance. She went on to star in classics including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady (1964).
The photograph above was taken by Bud Fraker for the 1957 musical Funny Face, which saw Hepburn star as a shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher thrust into the world of high-fashion modelling. The director of still photography at Columbia Studios, Fraker photographed Hepburn on numerous occasions, and was responsible for her most famous portrait — dressed in black and holding a long cigarette holder for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
From 1925 to 1960 Gary Cooper filled the lead role in an astounding 84 feature films, spanning the silent film era to the golden age of Hollywood. Known for his understated demeanour, he began his career as a stunt actor before becoming a Western hero — later featuring in dramas including A Farewell to Arms (1932), released the year before this portrait was taken.
Over the course of his long career Cooper won three Oscars. His charisma was such that he is credited with the rise in popularity of the name Gary, which barely existed as a first name before he assumed it in honour of his manager’s hometown, Gary in Indiana.
Often referred to as ‘The Master of Suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock is revered as one of the 20th century’s pioneering directors, renowned for his plot twists and psychologically complex characters. Considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, he is responsible for classics including The Lady Vanishes (1938), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).
In 1939 Hitchcock left his native Britain and moved to Hollywood, taking up official US citizenship in 1955. When Clarence Sinclair Bull took this photograph, in the late 1950s, Hitchcock was widely considered to be at his peak. Here, he fearlessly directs the MGM mascot Leo the Lion, immortalised in the studio’s production logo.
When she was just 20 Dolores del Rio was ‘discovered’ in Mexico by director Edwin Carewe, who persuaded her to move to Hollywood and begin a film career. She worked from 1925, starring in silent films including Bird of Paradise (1932) and Madame Du Barry (1934). As Mexican cinema entered into its own golden age, she returned home — becoming the first Latin American actress to forge a successful career in both her native country and in the US.
Along with Clarence Sinclair Bull, Ernest Bachrach was one of Hollywood’s most coveted portrait photographers, working with stars including Fred Astaire and Katharine Hepburn. For actress Gloria Swanson, who had been shot by countless others, ‘there was no other photographer in the world’.
Canadian-American actress Norma Shearer became renowned for her performances as rich, worldly and sexually liberated women, roles that were considered groundbreaking when they first aired. In 1932, when this photograph was taken, Shearer was at the height of her career, starring in box-office hits that placed her in direct competition with screen legends such as Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.
This portrait by George Hurrell was taken two years after Shearer won an Academy Award for her role in the 1930 film The Divorcee. Encouraged by photographer Edward Steichen, Hurrell had begun to produce striking black-and-white images in the 1920s, including portraits of every star contracted to MGM.
Gloria Swanson rocketed to fame shortly after making her film debut at the beginning of the 1920s, and went on to become one of the decade’s most sought-after romantic leads. In 1929 she was nominated for Best Actress in the very first Academy Awards — an accolade which she finally received in 1950 for her role in the acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.
At the height of her career Swanson was one of the most photographed women in the world, as renowned for her fantastic wardrobe as for her acting talent. Although she was barely 5ft tall she regularly wore the latest haute couture, accessorising extravagantly with jewels, beads, and ostrich and peacock feathers.
In the 1910s and 1920s Mary Pickford was known as the Queen of Movies, starring under her stage name at a time when most actors appeared without billing. Her output was exceptional: in 1909 she appeared in a total of 51 films at a rate of almost one a week.
Pickford’s influence on film was enormous — and not only as an actress. In 1919, together with Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks, she founded United Artists, and was one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The portrait above was taken by the self-proclaimed ‘Baron’ de Meyer, Vogue’s first staff photographer.