Friday, July 17, 2009

Glamour Photography: Hedy Lamarr

In the old days Hollywood photographed actors and actresses in ways that made them look stunningly beautiful. The stylish clothes, the hats, the lighting, whatever techniques they used, the result was a Romantic style of photography, showing people as they could be and ought to be, at their best. It was most effective in black and white photographs. Modern color photography just doesn't have the same glamourous look as black and white.

This photograph of Hedy Lamarr (downloaded from the website Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans) is a perfect example of the old glamour photography. Thin, arched eyebrows and long, curved eyelashes draw attention to and enhance the beauty of her eyes. The round, very wide brimmed, black hat acts as a virtual picture frame for her face. The hat is rakishly slanted to one side to throw a dramatic shadow across her face, one eye in shadow, the other in light. Her shining black hair has enough light focused on it to make it stand out, even against a black background. She wears a strapless dress that exposes her soft, fragile shoulders, and a black velvet choker that circles her slender white neck. A pair of black lace evening gloves extend above her elbows, for added feminine delicacy and allure. There are three pieces of jewelry: two large, pendant pearl earrings contrast with her black hair; a thick bracelet (I can't tell if it is silver or gold, in this black and white photograph), adorns her left wrist; and what appears to be a diamond encrusted ring sparkles on one of her fingers. Her hands are clasped gracefully together in front of her right shoulder, putting her slender lace-gloved arms and the bracelet prominently on display.

The overall impression is of a woman of great beauty, with an elegant and alluring sense of style, a bit of mystery, and the confidence to display herself to the world. And that is the way glamour photographers tried, generally speaking, to make all of their subjects appear. Which is why I like old Hollywood glamour photography so much.


Bill Brown said...

Did you know that she invented the technique that is the basis for WiFi and cellular telephony?

Chuck said...

Yes, and since the idea was ahead of its time, she never made a dime off of it. By the time it was used, the patent had expired. That is a real shame.

Elizabeth said...

This is a beautifully romantic photograph and a lovely description. It's amazing how much the portrayal of Hollywood actors and actresses has changed over the years.


Chuck said...

The website I downloaded the Hedy Lamarr photo from has hundreds more, actors and actresses, all huge scans. Garbo, Gable, Cooper, Hayworth and Hepburn (both of them), Astaire & Rogers, etc. An amazing collection of high quality scans.

There was a quote in a book of glamour photos I have that said:

"Now they photograph a girl out in the hayfields where we used to bring the hay to the girl." (George Hurrel)

That sounds exactly like Ayn Rand's description of Romantic filmmaking: done in the studio, where every detail is in the director's control, nothing left to chance out in nature.

And this:

"The casual photo reportage of the everyday lives of stars was a vogue that arose in the more democratic 50's and 60's. Earlier fans did not wish to see the stars in the kitchen---nor would the luminaries have consented, except, perhaps, to look over the shoulder of the French chef. The public had no desire to see the stars 'as they really were.' They preferred the glamor and the luxury and the stories of how they dined at the Ritz and marriedc royalty and employed butlers and maids."
(John Kobel)

In other words, they wanted Romanticism, not Naturalism. Those were different days.

Mike Mooney said...

Chuck (Hey, I wish I knew your last name, as well) --

Did you know Heddy Lamarr, besides being a knockout svelte glamorpuss and sexy babe, was also a brainiac.

Her husband was an engineer who liked to discuss his work at home. She became really interested in engineering problems and she invented a torpedo and held patents on it.

She was a heady girl, and a cerebral one.

Michael Dennis Mooney
Albany, NY