The Great Ones: On & Off the Set Photographs

The celebrated photographers Ruth Harriet Louise and George Hurrell are partly responsible for creating the mystique and allure that surrounded the first major stars of the studio system. Their spellbinding portraits transformed actors like Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford into objects of beauty to be desired and worshipped, a Hollywood version of the greek gods. But the flip side of this were the candid, behind-the-scenes shots and odd publicity stills that showed another side of the stars, one that depicted them at work, relaxing on the set, playing a practical joke on fellow coworkers, or pursuing some favorite ordinary pastime like gardening, barbecuing or spending time with their children or pets.

Enter the behind-the-scenes exhibition.

The photos of Buster Keaton paying homage to Lon Chaney are publicity stills from the 1930 movie FREE AND EASY, Keaton’s first talkie. In that film, Keaton plays the manager of an aspiring actress (Anita Page) who arrives in Hollywood with big plans but his discovery is soon whisked away by a smitten actor (Robert Montgomery). In his efforts to win her back, he sneaks onto a studio lot where he bumps into such real life celebrities and directors as Cecil B. DeMille, Lionel Barrymore, Jackie Coogan, William Haines and Fred Niblo. Lon Chaney does not appear in the film but I love these studio publicity shots of Buston paying tribute to his fellow MGM coworker, including a tribute to Chaney’s clown characters from Laugh, Clown, Laugh and He Who Gets Slapped in the top photograph. Chaney would die only a few months later the same year but I often wonder what a collaboration between the two of them would have looked like.

That’s an upside-down Gary Cooper on the acrobat bar, keeping in shape during some down time off the set of SOULS AT SEA. A rarely seen period adventure set in 1842 that deals with the slave trade, the 1937 film was directed by Henry Hathaway and co-stars George Raft, Frances Dee, Harry Carey, Robert Cummings and Henry Wilcoxon. Rumor has it that the film may receive a DVD release in 2012.

Director Ernst Lubitsch appears to be cracking up at his own joke while Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart remain “in character” as contentious coworkers in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940).

This photo marks the true beginning of one of the most exotic and enduring artistic collaborations in the history of cinema. A glum looking Josef von Sternberg poses with his “discovery” Marlene Dietrich on the set of THE BLUE ANGEL (1930). The actress would soon alter her screen appearance, becoming more sleek and less voluptuous, after signing with Paramount.

Hal Roach poses with two of his favorite stars outside his studio. The featured performers were most likely associated with Roach’s popular Dippy-Doo-Dad series which may have been inspired by William S. Campbell’s monkey comedies of the early twenties like MONKEY SHINES (1922). According to the web site Cruel and Unusual Comedy, “Trainer Tony Campanaro had supplied the animals [for Campbell’s shorts}, and when the series ended Roach took the animal idea and spun it off into its own surreal universe, using Campanaro’s menagerie.”                                                       http://www.cruelandunusualcomedy.com/2009/05/may-29-at-4pm-animals-and-children.html

Groucho Marx and Eve Arden relaxing on the set of AT THE CIRCUS (1939). Wouldn’t you love to eavesdrop on this conversation? By the way, Buster Keaton allegedly worked as a gag man on this film.

Director George Cukor discusses a scene with Joan Crawford on the scene of A WOMAN’S FACE (1941), MGM’s remake of the 1938 Swedish film En kvinnas ansikte, which starred Ingrid Bergman. Crawford’s version was underrated at the time but is now finally being appreciated as one of her finest performances. When it was shown at the TCM Classic Film Festival, it was a surprise sellout and had to be rescheduled for an additional showing.

William Castle was a master at self-promotion and there are probably more publicity stills of him hawking his movies than his featured stars. Holding the axe is former Playboy pinup (circa 1967) Venita Wolf. She didn’t appear in any William Castle films but did find work in television after a bit role in The Oscar (1966).

Here is a rare photo of Charles Laughton joking around with one of the child actors (Mary Ellen Clemons) from his solo directorial effort, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955). Laughton was known for not being fond of working with children so perhaps this photo shoot was conceived as an attempt to alter that perception.

Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake look amused as Preston Sturges gets down on all fours in the hay to make a point during the filming of SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941).

Boris Karloff appears to be smoking an old stogie while director James Whale prepares to do touch up to the monster’s face with a brush. Gag photo or impromptu makeup session? The fact that the monster is smoking indicates this is probably from the set of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

A lighter moment on the troubled set of THE JUGGLER (1953) starring Kirk Douglas and directed by the formerly blacklisted Edward Dmytryk, one of the original “Hollywood Ten” (he’s second from the left); costar Joey Walsh is between Douglas and Dmytryk. You can read differing opinions of the mounting conflict between the director and the star in their autobiographies - It’s a Hell of a Life But Not a Bad Living, by Dmytryk and The Ragman’s Sonby Douglas. The movie was the first Hollywood production to be shot in the new nation of Israel and concerned a Jewish refugee’s fight to overcome the psychological effects of his World War II experiences. In Michael Atkinson’s insightful overview of the film in the TCMdb, he calls it “Another neglected oddity from the postwar Hollywood era” and points out that “Because of all of the historical compromises that surround it, The Juggleris something of a looking glass on its sociopolitical moment, with all of its betrayals and nightmares and unintended echoes, while meaning to be simply a movie about how wonderful Israel is, and how victims of persecution can find refuge there. As Israeli culture has found in the decades since, life and politics are never as easy as that, and the lines between good and evil, if there are lines at all, are never easy to draw straight.” The film was not a boxoffice success.  http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/27793/The-Juggler/articles.html

I love this comical shot of director Sidney Lumet looking frantic over a mess of film footage fragments. It’s not the usual image you think of when you consider the director of 12 Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon or Network.

Photos of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together and smiling are a rarity so this publicity shot of them standing with the young girls (Julie Alfred on left, Gina Gillespie) who play their characters as children in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is something to behold.

George Raft in drag? I have not been able to identify what film he is promoting here or if it is simply a gag photo intended to satirize his own tough guy screen image. If anyone knows, please clue me in.

Before tattoos were cool, Burt Lancaster was a pioneer trendsetter. I assume the design being inked on his chest was the product of the makeup department and not the real thing for this posed photo from the set of THE ROSE TATTOO (1955).

Here is a candid, intimate moment of director Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina during the shooting of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957), probably my favorite Fellini film and the one I always recommend to anyone who thinks foreign language films are inaccessible because of the unfamiliar culture and subtitles.

Humphrey Bogart and co-star Toru Shimada have a good laugh during the rehearsal of their big karate scene in TOKYO JOE (1949).

Alfred Hitchcock is famous for making fun of his screen persona in publicity photos and cameo appearances in his own movies but one seldom thinks of composer Bernard Herrmann in the same lighthearted way. Although close friends of Herrmann (such as Norman Lloyd) profess that he had a good sense of humor, his reputation as a volatile perfectionist and stern taskmaster was more pervasive so this shot of him “sleeping” on the job is fun evidence to the contrary.

Here is a perfect example of the reality of Hollywood moviemaking. A few actors do their scenes in front of a room full of technicians, crew members and costars. Here, Stewart Granger battles Sean McClory in front of George Sanders while director Fritz Lang (seated) watches them with his crew and other actors during the making of MOONFLEET (1955).

Italian director Mario Bava joking around with French actress Jacqueline Pierreux (mother of  Jean-Pierre Leaud) during the filming of BLACK SABBATH (1963).

0 Response The Great Ones: On & Off the Set Photographs
Posted By vp19 : March 18, 2012 10:25 am

Raft’s not in drag, but in a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume…which, given his tough-guy persona, is equally ludicrous.

Noted MGM photographer Clarence Sinclair Bull, Greta Garbo’s favorite, had a sense of humor, and reportedly Garbo was delighted over this creation of his showing her as a sphinx: http://pics.livejournal.com/vp19/pic/002xh5wa.

I don’t know whether Bull had anything to do with the following publicity still, but it’s among the oddest I’ve ever seen — a smiling Marion Davies enlarged into a giant, either hovering over or standing on tiptoes atop a speedboat (if it’s the latter, the mega-Marion’s sheer weight would capsize it): http://pics.livejournal.com/vp19/pic/007e9cdz. Weird.

Posted By vp19 : March 18, 2012 10:25 am

Raft’s not in drag, but in a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume…which, given his tough-guy persona, is equally ludicrous.

Noted MGM photographer Clarence Sinclair Bull, Greta Garbo’s favorite, had a sense of humor, and reportedly Garbo was delighted over this creation of his showing her as a sphinx: http://pics.livejournal.com/vp19/pic/002xh5wa.

I don’t know whether Bull had anything to do with the following publicity still, but it’s among the oddest I’ve ever seen — a smiling Marion Davies enlarged into a giant, either hovering over or standing on tiptoes atop a speedboat (if it’s the latter, the mega-Marion’s sheer weight would capsize it): http://pics.livejournal.com/vp19/pic/007e9cdz. Weird.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 18, 2012 10:54 am

VP19, Thanks for identifying the film connection regarding the George Raft photo. I knew someone had the answer. The links to the Bull photographs are greatly appreciated. He not only had a sense of humor but was a surrealist as well.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 18, 2012 10:54 am

VP19, Thanks for identifying the film connection regarding the George Raft photo. I knew someone had the answer. The links to the Bull photographs are greatly appreciated. He not only had a sense of humor but was a surrealist as well.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 18, 2012 11:44 am

That Raft shot is priceless. And from that picture of Marion Davies I can see why William Randolph Hearst took such an interest in her.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 18, 2012 11:44 am

That Raft shot is priceless. And from that picture of Marion Davies I can see why William Randolph Hearst took such an interest in her.

Posted By Susan Doll : March 18, 2012 3:32 pm

I love behind-the-scenes photos, staged or not, though the Raft shot kind of creeps me out.

Posted By Susan Doll : March 18, 2012 3:32 pm

I love behind-the-scenes photos, staged or not, though the Raft shot kind of creeps me out.

Posted By AL : March 18, 2012 5:09 pm

Your awesome array of rare photos is impressive and greatly appreciated. Are you going to do a Part 2 ? This is one of the best articles ever to appear here. Thank you. AL

Posted By AL : March 18, 2012 5:09 pm

Your awesome array of rare photos is impressive and greatly appreciated. Are you going to do a Part 2 ? This is one of the best articles ever to appear here. Thank you. AL

Posted By morlockjeff : March 18, 2012 5:19 pm

Thanks Al. There were so many more I wanted to post so maybe a second gallery is in order.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 18, 2012 5:19 pm

Thanks Al. There were so many more I wanted to post so maybe a second gallery is in order.

Posted By Shuvcat : March 18, 2012 9:02 pm

Thanks for the Baby Jane pic. That was neat!

Posted By Shuvcat : March 18, 2012 9:02 pm

Thanks for the Baby Jane pic. That was neat!

Posted By Pamela Porter : March 19, 2012 1:56 pm

I bet Gina Gillespie and Julie Allred would have *some* stories to tell, unless they kept them hermetically sealed in shrink-wrap before and after their scenes. ;)

imDB states Allred died in 2011 (WHTBJ was apparently her only film), and Gillespie is the sister of Mousketeer Darlene Gillespie and has more than a few credits to her name.

Posted By Pamela Porter : March 19, 2012 1:56 pm

I bet Gina Gillespie and Julie Allred would have *some* stories to tell, unless they kept them hermetically sealed in shrink-wrap before and after their scenes. ;)

imDB states Allred died in 2011 (WHTBJ was apparently her only film), and Gillespie is the sister of Mousketeer Darlene Gillespie and has more than a few credits to her name.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 19, 2012 2:24 pm

Pamela, I suspect the entire cast and crew could have written their own tell-all books about the making of that film and what they saw and heard. Robert Aldrich deserves a medal for not going bonkers dealing with both on them on that shoot.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 19, 2012 2:24 pm

Pamela, I suspect the entire cast and crew could have written their own tell-all books about the making of that film and what they saw and heard. Robert Aldrich deserves a medal for not going bonkers dealing with both on them on that shoot.

Posted By Kingrat : March 19, 2012 4:10 pm

Love all the photos. The Bette/Joan picture is a hoot (cue up “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” or maybe “Happy Talk”), and the one of Fellini and Masina is really beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing these with us.

Posted By Kingrat : March 19, 2012 4:10 pm

Love all the photos. The Bette/Joan picture is a hoot (cue up “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” or maybe “Happy Talk”), and the one of Fellini and Masina is really beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing these with us.

Posted By muriel : March 19, 2012 10:05 pm

I would love to know the context behind that photo of George Raft in his Little Lord Fauntleroy suit!

Posted By muriel : March 19, 2012 10:05 pm

I would love to know the context behind that photo of George Raft in his Little Lord Fauntleroy suit!

Posted By Jenni : March 20, 2012 11:22 pm

What fun photos! Please, please post a second set! My guess is that George Raft lost a bet to Cagney and had to pose in the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. He really doesn’t look too happy in that pic!

Posted By Jenni : March 20, 2012 11:22 pm

What fun photos! Please, please post a second set! My guess is that George Raft lost a bet to Cagney and had to pose in the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. He really doesn’t look too happy in that pic!

Posted By swac44 : March 21, 2012 8:50 am

Thanks for these, I don’t think I’d seen the Keaton/Chaney photo before. I’d love to see a photo of both of them together, but this is a remarkable document of two of my favourite silent stars.

Love the Roach/monkey shot too, I just got back from Cinefest in Syracuse, and I swear I saw at least three films that had spider monkeys (or capuchin monkeys, I have a hard time telling them apart) in them, mostly comedy shorts. I wonder if they were all from Tony Campanero? In one, a family was having a hard time finding a hotel that would admit kids, so they pretend their two songs are ventriloquist dummies, yet the hotel seems to have no problem admitting their pets, a monkey riding on the back of their dog. Another was a Grady Sutton comedy short featuring a pair of ditsy gal pals a la Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts (forget the name of it though). I’m keeping a mental list of comedies with those monkeys in them, including Keaton’s The Cameraman, Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother and a sound Edgar Kennedy/Max Davidson short whose name escapes me at the moment. But there are plenty more where those came from.

Posted By swac44 : March 21, 2012 8:50 am

Thanks for these, I don’t think I’d seen the Keaton/Chaney photo before. I’d love to see a photo of both of them together, but this is a remarkable document of two of my favourite silent stars.

Love the Roach/monkey shot too, I just got back from Cinefest in Syracuse, and I swear I saw at least three films that had spider monkeys (or capuchin monkeys, I have a hard time telling them apart) in them, mostly comedy shorts. I wonder if they were all from Tony Campanero? In one, a family was having a hard time finding a hotel that would admit kids, so they pretend their two songs are ventriloquist dummies, yet the hotel seems to have no problem admitting their pets, a monkey riding on the back of their dog. Another was a Grady Sutton comedy short featuring a pair of ditsy gal pals a la Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts (forget the name of it though). I’m keeping a mental list of comedies with those monkeys in them, including Keaton’s The Cameraman, Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother and a sound Edgar Kennedy/Max Davidson short whose name escapes me at the moment. But there are plenty more where those came from.

Posted By swac44 : March 21, 2012 8:52 am

And here’s another shot from that Keaton/Chaney set:

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkkcapSWsP1qaju5co1_500.jpg

Posted By swac44 : March 21, 2012 8:52 am

And here’s another shot from that Keaton/Chaney set:

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkkcapSWsP1qaju5co1_500.jpg

Posted By Morlockjeff : March 21, 2012 9:12 am

Swao44, thanks for the link to that additional Keaton/Chaney shot. That one was new to me. I wonder if there is a whole series of these out there. As for monkeys in silent films, I think the one in THE CAMERAMAN – he’s practically the co-star – is my all-time favorite.

Posted By Morlockjeff : March 21, 2012 9:12 am

Swao44, thanks for the link to that additional Keaton/Chaney shot. That one was new to me. I wonder if there is a whole series of these out there. As for monkeys in silent films, I think the one in THE CAMERAMAN – he’s practically the co-star – is my all-time favorite.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 22, 2012 1:31 am

I like the date-eating, heil-giving monkey from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor little guy…

Posted By dukeroberts : March 22, 2012 1:31 am

I like the date-eating, heil-giving monkey from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor little guy…

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 23, 2012 10:05 am

Wonderful post, and behind-the-scenes photos are some of my favorite things. You get a teeny glimpse sometimes into what Hollywood workers are really like, and can see them as people and often more interestingly than in their movies.

I thought I recognized Venita Wolf from a classic “Star Trek” episode; she is the female crewmember who gets magically dressed up in a beautiful gown by the fabulous and petulant alien Trelane (played by the always entertaining William Campbell) in the first season episode ‘The Squire of Gothos’. Gorgeous!

More of these, please! Really neat!!

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 23, 2012 10:05 am

Wonderful post, and behind-the-scenes photos are some of my favorite things. You get a teeny glimpse sometimes into what Hollywood workers are really like, and can see them as people and often more interestingly than in their movies.

I thought I recognized Venita Wolf from a classic “Star Trek” episode; she is the female crewmember who gets magically dressed up in a beautiful gown by the fabulous and petulant alien Trelane (played by the always entertaining William Campbell) in the first season episode ‘The Squire of Gothos’. Gorgeous!

More of these, please! Really neat!!

Posted By morlockjeff : March 23, 2012 10:41 pm

I wish some publisher like Abrams would put together a glorious coffee table-like book of the most obscure and unseen behind the scenes photos of celebrities but the market for that sort of book these days is gone due to the fragmented publishing world and attention span of the public. A lot of people would be fine with having these as screensavers on their iPhones or micro-mini devices and I shouldn’t complain because this would be passing on and preserving something historic and culturally revelant about the human race in the 20th century but I can still see this taking shape….in my mind.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 23, 2012 10:41 pm

I wish some publisher like Abrams would put together a glorious coffee table-like book of the most obscure and unseen behind the scenes photos of celebrities but the market for that sort of book these days is gone due to the fragmented publishing world and attention span of the public. A lot of people would be fine with having these as screensavers on their iPhones or micro-mini devices and I shouldn’t complain because this would be passing on and preserving something historic and culturally revelant about the human race in the 20th century but I can still see this taking shape….in my mind.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 23, 2012 10:44 pm

Jeff- Why don’t you propose such a book? Hmmmmmmmmm?

Posted By dukeroberts : March 23, 2012 10:44 pm

Jeff- Why don’t you propose such a book? Hmmmmmmmmm?

Posted By morlockjeff : March 23, 2012 10:47 pm

Duke, it’s a daunting task due to estate issues and studio ownership and god knows how many other legal obstacles. Somehow it’s easier to get away with this on the web in a blog than to actually publish a collection and sell it.

Posted By morlockjeff : March 23, 2012 10:47 pm

Duke, it’s a daunting task due to estate issues and studio ownership and god knows how many other legal obstacles. Somehow it’s easier to get away with this on the web in a blog than to actually publish a collection and sell it.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 23, 2012 11:21 pm

Booooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted By dukeroberts : March 23, 2012 11:21 pm

Booooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

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