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Thinking about George Hurrell, part 2: The gentlemen



As promised, here's part two of our tribute to George Hurrell, who redefined Hollywood portrait photography through his work, such as this image of Carole Lombard, taken about 1933. Yesterday, we examined the women who were subjects of his; now, we'll look at how he handled the men he photographed.

Male Hollywood portraits get a fraction of the attention given to those of women, but such images can be crucial in creating, or revamping, an actor's persona. And the first film star to have photographs taken by Hurrell was late 1920s star Ramon Novarro (both were friends with aviatrix Pancho Barnes); Novarro raved about Hurrell's work to Norma Shearer, who was seeking a more sophisticated image for sound pictures, and the rest is history.

We'll start with Hurrell's photographs of Carole's husbands. First, a photo he took of Clark Gable in 1932, when Clark -- who had risen to stardom the year before as a man whom women found irresistible despite his brutish, rough exterior -- was trying to add texture to his persona so as to avoid becoming a one-note character. Images such as this one helped give Gable an image more conducive to long-term success:



Flash forward to 1935, when Lombard's first husband, the now-divorced William Powell, sat down for a Hurrell session. Powell was already renowned for his dapper, urbane style, and Hurrell retained much of that feel but placed the actor in a far more informal setting, enabling viewers to perceive him in a different way:



For many years, Gable's primary rival as a rugged yet sophisticated leading man with sex appeal was Gary Cooper. This is how Hurrell captured him in 1937:



Here's Hurrell photographing the dashing Errol Flynn; I don't have the precise year for this, but it looks to be from the late '30s or early '40s, when Flynn was riding high at Warners:



Another one of the era's great leading men was Robert Montgomery, who was a Hurrell subject in 1932 -- the same year the actor's daughter Elizabeth was born:



From 1929 to 1932, Hurrell worked exclusively for MGM, and thus worked with actors you wouldn't normally associate with him. An example is this elegant 1931 photo of comedic genius Buster Keaton, as this session helped him take refuge from both his stormy tenure at Metro and a deteriorating marriage to Natalie Talmadge:



Here's a Hurrell image taken more than a half-century later of musician David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. You may ask yourself, what was David Byrne doing in a Hurrell portrait? Well, classic photography is "same as it ever was."



All these show that timeless images aren't limited to one gender, and prove the magic that took place at Hurrell's fabled studio on Sunset Boulevard.



Incidentally, I wish to thank everyone who took part in the voting for the silents/1930s division of the "All Good Things" March Madness tournament. Although Carole Lombard was defeated by Irene Dunne in the finals by a tally of 58-43, it was fun while it lasted.

The competition continues, now in the 1940s division. There are eight first-round matches involving many of that decade's top actresses:

#1 Bette Davis vs. #16 Esther Williams
#8 Rita Hayworth vs. #9 Hedy Lamarr
#4 Vivien Leigh vs. #13 Ann Sheridan
#5 Lauren Bacall vs. #12 Jane Wyman
#2 Katharine Hepburn vs. #15 Betty Grable
#7 Gene Tierney vs. #10 Greer Garson
#3 Ingrid Bergman vs. #14 Jeanne Crain
#6 Olivia de Havilland vs. #11 Lana Turner

To vote, go to http://poohtiger-allgoodthings.blogspot.com/ and cast your ballot before 10 p.m. (Eastern).
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