The Hollywood Photography of George Hurrell
J. Grier Clarke Production
Sharon Stone is one of many stars appearing in Legends in Light, the award-winning and worldwide televised documentary film of Hurrell’s life and work.
Turner Network Television Salutes the
King of Hollywood Photography, George Hurrell
with World Premiere of LEGENDS IN LIGHT
December 22, 1994
Turner Network Television (TNT) re-captures the magic of an era of almost unimaginable glamour, elegance, and mystery with the world premiere of LEGENDS IN LIGHT, a new one-hour special showcasing the life and work of the king of glamour photographers, George Hurrell. This exclusive special premieres on TNT Monday, January 16, at 8 p.m. (ET). Hurrell’s photography defined the Golden Age of Hollywood and the special brings hundreds of his most famous photographs alive. Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Betty Grable, James Cagney, Tyrone Power, Dorothy Lamour, the Barrymores, and Marlene Dietrich are among the stars Hurrell photographed in Hollywood’s Golden era. In later years his glamorous portrait subjects include Robert Redford, Raquel Welch, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, and John Travolta. Legends in Light captures the mystique of classic Hollywood through the work of the man who helped create some of the screen’s greatest stars.
Katherine Hepburn, Sharon Stone, Natalie Cole, Loretta Young, Raquel Welch, Sherilyn Fenn, Brooke Shields and others are just a few of the stars of both the past and present who reminisce and pay tribute to Hurrell. Legends in Light also includes historical perspective on Hollywood, which the producers searched through Hollywood archives for rare newsreel footage of life in the film capital during Hurrell’s heyday.
For 64 years, George Hurrell created images that made millions of Americans flock to movie theaters. As head of still photography for such studios as MGM, Warner Brothers, and Columbia, he created immortal images of almost all the screen’s great stars, and played a major role in shaping the careers of Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Norma Shearer, and Ann Sheridan. His use of dramatic poses, sharp focus, high-contrast lighting and masterful printing techniques created a new look for Hollywood portraiture, inspiring the label “glamour photography.” In later years, Hurrell created memorable portraits of Newman and Redford for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Warren Beatty and Annette Benning to publicize the film Bugsy, and Natalie Cole for the cover of the album “Unforgettable.”
NEW YORK NEWSDAY
George Hurrell’s Camera Didn’t Lie, It Just Embellished Somewhat
January 15, 1995
TNT’s Legends in Light: The Photography of George Hurrellpremiering tomorrow night at 8 pm, is a loving tribute to the Hollywood portrait specialist who “worked with people who were absolutely beautiful [and] made them gods and goddesses — perfectly unattainable.” If you’re looking for an hour-long getaway from unsightly blemishes, this is the special for you.
But Hurrell did more than retouch the stars during his 60-year career in the movie capital. Through his uncanny use of light and shadows, he imbued their publicity photos with mystery, romance, intimacy. Look at his pictures of Myrna Loy, for example, and you’re dying to discover her secrets.
How did Hurrell do it? Darned if he knew, or cared to say. The photographer, who died in 1992, obviously gave producer-director Carl Colby complete cooperation in the making of Legends in Light, but he offered no dazzling insights into his artistic vision or technique.
“The whole thing is so simple,” Hurrell says while setting up a shot of Sherliynn Fenn. “You just have to be able to see what you do in front of the camera with the light with the subject, and know what’s going to happen on film.” If that’s not crystal clear, the unpretentious “king of glamour photography” is unable to enlighten you further. “I have no way of explaining,” he says. “When you’re born with it, you’re born with it. That’s all.”
Oh, well. Each Hurrell picture is worth at least a few hundred words. Get a load of the famous “oomph” in Ann Sheridan’s hooded eyes, or the Tinsel Town joie de vivre of Robert Montgomery blowing out a jet of cigar smoke. Time and again, Colby selects the ideal photo to illustrate the quality under discussion — the “seductive” lighting of Jean Harlow’s cheekbones, the precisely placed shadows on the leathery visage of Wallace Beery.
This is not a shoot-and-tell show, Hurrell doesn’t gossip much, except to suggest that, in the moment recorded by his camera, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck were every bit as comfortable with each other as they appeared. But this is the photographer who had the inspiration to capture Jane Russell in the hay. He knew full well how sex (understated by today’s standards) helped sell his stills.
“Of course, she had to have a pistol in her hand,” Hurrell says, describing his celebrated publicity photo of Russell for The Outlaw.“Maybe you’re going to get away, and she’s not going to let you.” Then he laughs the laugh of a man who thoroughly enjoyed his work.