This project was born from a life long fascination with Old Hollywood and the stars that defined it. Through photographing my friends as icons of another era, I am attempting to connect with the screen stars of the past and to explore my nostalgia for a time I was never a part of. Looking to the work of photographers like George Hurrell, Sam Shaw, and Phil Stern, these photographs are my impressions. They are meant to be viewed as publicity images that were never used, outtakes from an iconic photo session, or as a complete manifestation of how I see each star.
The first image in this series and the image that has set the tone for this project is of my friend Patricia Garcia as Ingrid Bergman. I had photographed Patricia multiple times before, but as I shot with her for my OR.I.GIN coffee project, something about her appearance reminded me of Ingrid. I shared my idea with Patricia and one night in Brooklyn, we put on the soundtrack to Casablanca, I did her makeup, we found the clothes- straight from her closet, and we went to Morocco.
From this first shoot and with every shoot since there has been a moment. The moment comes while looking through the view finder of my camera, before I catch my focus. When the image is a bit fuzzy and my subject is settling into their persona, for a brief moment I feel as though I have traveled back in time.
This is the moment I am chasing.
The summer before I made my move to New York permanent, I was wandering around the lower west side near Chambers Street and found myself inside a Barnes & Noble. I'd always been into swingin singers and pop standards, but somehow hadn't left the confines of Michael Buble´. Not that Mr. Buble´ is any slouch, but I hadn't really explored those who came first. I can't remember what made me pick up Frank ,The Voice by James Kaplan, but I did and I didn't put the book down for the rest of the summer. Fascinated, charmed, and inspired by the remarkable story of the boy from Hoboken who would forever be remembered as The Voice- Sinatra became one of my idols.
The image to left was posted as a small tribute to Sinatra for his 100th birthday. The man in the photo is a friend of mine from my gym, Logan Block and like Sinatra, Logan has blue eyes and a questionable relationship with the mafia... well the blue eyes bit at least.
I approached Logan and thankfully, he was into the idea of being photographed for this project and I'm very grateful as Sinatra has proven to be a formative figure in my life and I couldn't imagine the project without him.
“When I lose my temper, honey you can’t find it anyplace.”
- Ava Gardner in her memoir.
I'd seen the billboards for the Ava Gardner Museum a few times growing up in North Carolina (she was born just outside of Smithfield), but my first introduction to her as a moving thing must have been through Kate Beckinsale in Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator in 2004. I’ve since read about her in the biographies of Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra. I've watched her Oscar nominated performance in Mogambo where she competes with Grace Kelly for Clark Gable. Fascinated by her beauty, attitude, and sheer presence- she was a no brainer for this project. Sharing Ava's dark hair and striking features, the woman in the photo is my friend Alysha Caine.
She's beauty and she's Grace.
That she is and so much more. Grace Kelly's unique presence on screen continues to make my heart skip a beat. Whether she is challenging Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, warbling charmingly along with Bing Crosby in High Society, or answering ominous phone calls in Dial M for Murder- her face completely lights up the screen. One of my favorite things about watching Grace is just how damn graceful she is. She is completely smoldering, but I never feel like I am looking at someone who takes too much stock in their physical appearance. This makes her all the more attractive and interesting. Her take it or leave it attitude is intoxicating; her quirks (not limited to that voice), commitment to character, and her devilish humor make for a completely bewitching concoction. She is the definition of charm.
I'm lucky to know a woman who possesses these qualities herself, in addition to looking a whole lot like Grace Kelly, Blake Shutterly.
"She gets too hungry for dinner at eight. She likes the theatre, never comes late. She'd never bother with people she'd hate- that's why the lady's a tramp."
Frank Sinatra singing The Lady is a Tramp to Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey (1957)
Thrilling, bombastic, and bold- Rita Hayworth is a dream. Her energy is infectious, her dancing is mesmerizing. Whether she’s a black and white femme fatale or a technicolor bombshell- she is a scene stealer. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of her- even when she’s sharing the screen with the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Cary Grant. A favorite film of mine, Pal Joey sees Hayworth holding her own against a seasoned Sinatra and an eager Kim Novak. The energy between Sinatra and Hayworth in this film is magic and Hayworth at 39 is a total knockout. Red hot and red headed, I’m bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by Rita Hayworth. I couldn't think of anyone better than my friend Anna Kruyer to step into her shoes.
“In Like Flynn”
A swashbuckling ladies man, man’s man, man about town, Errol Flynn is a legend. He’s as famous for his roles on the big screen as he is for his adventures off it. Being linked to the likes of Marlene Dietrich and noted for his heavy drinking, the native Australian had a penchant for parties. Whatever you think of his notorious lifestyle, his presence in film history is a lasting one. 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood sees Flynn in full technicolor glory as the title character. Even today, it’s hard not to think of Errol when you think of Robin Hood. He's one of Hollywood history's true leading men, an image of strength, moral upstanding, and romance…at least in the movies.
"I don't want to be a silly temptress. I cannot see any sense in getting dressed up and doing nothing but tempting men in pictures."
Greta Garbo immediately conjures up images of stoic beauty, quiet strength, and mystery. Garbo is instantly recognizable, her expression, all her own. She is strikingly modern in her presence and her private life seems truly private. The transition from silent films to talkies does nothing dim Garbo’s appeal, as is obvious by her illustriously successful run at MGM. Looking at the countless portraits of her, there is a sense of true individualism with Garbo. She always seems to be challenging the viewer with her expression, never relying on beauty alone. I’m happy to have had the chance to photograph my friend Jessie Hagen as Garbo as they share a similar sense of individuality and an aversion to the expected.
"Oh, I'm a blonde! Would you rather I be a brunette?"
-Veronica Lake as Jennifer in I Married a Witch, 1942
A notable femme fatale and an undeniable beauty, no one makes waves quite like Veronica Lake. Her signature hair, seductive stare, and alluring smile make for a killer combination. In 1942 she played a witch in a cooky little movie called I Married a Witch, a precursor to the popular T.V. series Bewitched. Her performance is an interesting one- her comedy unique and casual. You get the feeling that she could make anyone do as she pleases, witch or not. My favorite line from the film comes after Jennifer (Lake) finds a suitable body to inhabit and sees herself in the mirror for the first time. Facing away from the camera and in nothing but a fur coat, she says "Oh, I'm a blonde!" A quick cut to a close up and she turns around, asking her new love interest, "Would you rather I be a brunette?" From that moment on you are under Veronica Lake's spell. The bit is totally alluring, yet completely hilarious and you immediately understand that Lake is the best kind of trouble.
"As a matter of fact, I rather feel like expressing myself now and I could certainly use a release!"
Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton in Funny Face, 1957
Her name alone acts almost as an adjective describing the doe-like features and spirited temperament that make Audrey Hepburn irresistable. The bangs, the brows, and the black turtle necks don't represent the entirety of her legendary career- but they certainly describe an aesthetic that continues to inspire. Her classic appearance, along with the roles she made famous, Princess Anne, in Roman Holiday, Jo Stockton in Funny Face (one of my favorites), and perhaps most notably Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's set her apart from many of her contemporaries. Audrey's appeal lies in the fact that she never seems to fully subscribe to the glamour of Hollywood. Instead, she endorses her own brand of sophisticated elegance that illuminates the intelligent, flawed, independent, and ultimately human characters she plays. She is striking in her modernity and compelling in her classicism. Looking at Audrey Hepburn is like looking at a brownie sitting next to a blondie inside of a pastry case. You are at once attracted to the blondie for its flashiness, but you know that the classic brownie is the choice you should make.
"We all go a little mad sometimes."
Norman Bates in Psycho, 1960
Tis the season for a good scream! One of the most famous screams in cinema history belongs to Marion Crane, the ill-fated victim of a motel vacancy. I remember seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the first time in high school and the film had me at “we all go a little mad sometimes.” The more I watch the movie, the scarier it becomes- the whole situation could happen to anybody! What is so striking about Janet Leigh as Marion Crane is how unremarkable she is. Even though she is beautiful and blonde, Marion is a regular person. She makes a questionable decision that leads her to a small motel outside of Pheonix and into a shower that she won’t leave alive. Leigh’s performance is so natural and nuanced, I feel like I know her. I can see myself in her as she struggles to balance her life and make sense of her decisions. Janet Leigh is the ultimate scream queen and I’m thrilled to have been able to photograph my friend Mariah Kassuhn as her for this project!
"You're tearing me apart!"
- James Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause, 1955
A tragically short career with incredible staying power- the story of James Dean is legendary. His personal life is somewhat of a mystery- his rebel attitude on camera reinforced a wild child image off it and his penchant for fast everything caught up to him in September, 1955. In Rebel Without A Cause, Dean gives an incredible performance as Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark. The first time I watched the film- I was drawn in by the literal drama of it all. Dean in particular is exaggerated, theatrical, and over the top- like teenagers are. In a time when teenagers were seriously misunderstood, this must have been especially jarring. It’s a standout performance with dramatic nuance and it remains devastatingly effective. His exclamation “You’re tearing me part!” is crushing. Feeling connected to this rebel without a cause, I decided to do a test shoot with myself. I feel the test worked and I've included myself as James Dean for this project.
"Do as you say? Literally, as if I was something you had conquered?"
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, 1963.
From child star to bonafide Academy Award winning, headline grabbing, and outspoken icon- Elizabeth Taylor is one of the greats. Sheer magnetism, onscreen presence, and a healthy love life make Taylor irresistible. Her dark features, offset by amethyst like eyes are as legendary her affinity for fine jewels. Besides her striking appearance and her numerous marriages, her achievements as a performer should be noted. Being nominated for an Academy Award four times and winning two, Taylor is a an equal force on screen as she is off. From Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) to Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966), she holds the screen and demands your attention. In 1961 with the controversial production of Cleopatra -in which she played the title role, Taylor became the first actress to earn a $1,000,000.00 paycheck for her efforts. Her achievements numerous, her impact everlasting, Elizabeth Taylor is a true Hollywood star. The woman in the photo is my friend Brooke Siem, who is equally beautiful, similarly strong, and currently traveling the world.
“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves.”
One of the most fascinating people to ever grace the silver screen, Marilyn Monroe continues to make platinum blonde waves. So much could be said about Marilyn, but as an actress she is underrated. Besides her physical beauty and undeniable sex appeal- she's hilarious. In 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire- Marilyn plays gold digger Pola Debevoise. For nearly the entire film, she foregoes the glasses she desperately needs because “men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses.” The performance is endearing and nuanced and by the end of the film Pola finds her match in a man who is similarly site challenged. The two meet on a flight that Pola was never meant to be on, after she misreads the flight information do to her near blindness. In the classic film Gentleman Prefer Blondes (also 1953)- Marilyn spends most of the movie pulling from her usual bag of tricks as the dim blonde bombshell with a thirst for diamonds, Lorelei Lee. By the end of the film however and after a series of memorable musical numbers- including the iconic, “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend,” Marilyn gives a fantastic little monologue comparing rich men to pretty women and asks, "you wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness doesn't it help?”
The legend of Marilyn Monroe grows as the mysteries of her life are blurred by the passing of time. Like so many people in this series- Marilyn's personal life was far more dramatic than the roles she played on screen. Alleged affairs and troubled marriages remain the subject of debates among historians and fans alike. Something not up for debate however is the mark Marilyn has made. From her appearance to her dalliances and through her trials and triumphs- Marilyn burns like a fire- mesmerizing, untouchable, and seemingly inextinguishable. The woman in the photo is my friend Blake Shutterly.
“Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy night!”
-Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve, 1950
Bette Davis is simply one of the greatest actresses of all time. Her style, voice, and energy are unmistakeable. In All About Eve, Bette Davis is transcendent. The film itself is incredibly modern and deals with everything from the ruthlessness of the entertainment industry to the complexities of close friendships and romantic relationships. Bette carries the film effortlessly, completely embodying the aging actress Margot Channing. Margot befriends a seemingly harmless fan turned overly eager wannabe actress and the drama there ensues. The film holds up, largely because of Bette’s performance. It’s dramatic, but believable- totally engrossing, and ultimately relatable. You get the sense that Bette herself is somewhere muddled up in Margot and that gives the performance an added layer of excitement. Pulling no doubt from her own experiences with the film industry, her age, the expectations for her as a woman, friend, mother. etc.- Bette is explosive. She is one of the greats- something that never was before and will never be again. The woman in the photo is my friend and big eyed beauty Maddy Grabyel.
“I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.”
A true movie star- Joan Crawford lived a life of drama on and off screen. The strongest of cocktails- she’s sweet and bitter, going down easy, but with a burn. Joan’s on screen presence is startling, her commitment to the drama of being an actress is unrelenting. Her features are large and exaggerated and later in life would become somewhat garish. In 1952’s Sudden Fear, there is a scene in which Joan listens to an incriminating message in silence. Here eyes widen, well up and tears fall. She paces about the room in fear, sadness, and disbelief- it is mesmerizing to watch. You feel that just under the surface there is a true madness in Joan- a raw energy that is threatening to explode. Researching the photographer George Hurrell for this project, I came to find that Joan was something of a muse to him. She and Hurrell had 33 sessions together over 16 years- mostly for specific films, but many of them were for the fun of it. Joan would stroll over to the MGM gallery where Hurrell photographed all the MGM stars and say “don’t you like this dress?” and he would shoot with her because she enjoyed being the production. Joan also had a sense that the images would be beneficial to her career and today, Hurrell’s images of Joan in the 30s are some of the most iconic portraits of the actress. The woman in the photo is Melody Madarasz.
"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."
-Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, 1939
The epitome of the Old Hollywood leading man, Clark Gable has earned the title "the King of Hollywood". Sharing the screen with the likes of Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, and most notably- Vivien Leigh, Gable possesses a uniquely masculine and tender presence onscreen. He walks and talks in a way that demands your attention but that doesn't feel arrogant- you immediately respect the guy. A young Judy Garland sings about her love for the actor in the charming song "Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me Love You." One of my favorite stories surrounding Gable has him waiting for his then wife Carole Lombard to return from a trip selling war bonds. He had decided to meet her at their ranch as he knew she wouldn't want the frenzy of reporters and photographers at the airport. Sadly- he was greeted at his front door not by Lombard- but by two men informing him that Lombard's plane had crashed and that there were no survivors. Gable gathered himself and joined a search party to look for the bodies. It's an epic story preceded by an epic love story that is too epic to get into here- but the story leads me to believe that the real life Gable wasn't far from the one he played onscreen. The man in he photo is my buddy and film guy Adam Gonzalez.
"I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I've spent my entire life trying to get over it."
A child star who became a house hold name after a career defining role as Dorothy in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz - Judy Garland is one of the most recognizable voices in music and film. An impressive career cut too short by the tumultuous life of a woman too talented for her own good- Judy's achievements are equaled only by her personal tragedies. She is a true legend. What strikes me most about Judy Garland is her voice. She is an incredible vocalist- she gives everything she has when she sings and it's impossible not to feel something when you hear her. In 1963 Judy sang with Barbara Streisand on the Judy Garland Show. The two singers briefly joke about hating each other because the other is so good. They take a seat and proceed to sing Happy Days. By the end of the song- they are belting in full voice and while Streisand more than holds her own- it's Judy that stands out. As a woman, a mother, a performer, as a person- Judy Garland had things to sing about. Whether about happy little blue birds flying, seeing Mr. Gable at the picture show, or having a merry little Christmas- her voice is rich with subtly and dense with emotion. You feel so much when you hear her because she is giving you everything she has and you believe every word. The woman in the photo is Sara Turner - performer and fellow Judy Garland enthusiast.
'Why slap them on the wrist with a feather when you can belt them over the head with a sledgehammer?"
- Katharine Hepburn
Whenever I think of Katharine Hepburn I think of a few things. I think of Cate Blanchett's incredible performance in the Aviator and I think about Kristen Wiig's impression of Hepburn on SNL where she plays an over the top Hepburn attending a party at Vincent Price's house. Hepburn's personality is larger than life. She's as strong as an ox, more stubborn than you and me put together, and one hell of an actress! My favorite thing about Hepburn is her unwavering sense of self. She's candid and fervently supports independence. She is an icon of another era, but she represents a contemporary mindset and brings more to the table than her pretty face. So happy to be able to include actress Lindsey Trouht-Hughes in this project as Katharine Hepburn.
"Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t."
- Lauren Bacall
”Birds I am fine with – spiders are an entirely different matter.”
- Tippi Hedren
There is something undeniable about Tippi Hedren. In her performance as Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), she is untouchable, vulnerable, natural, witty, tough, and relatable all at once. Her voice moves from playful to razor sharp and together with her head to toe attitude, she demands your attention. The movie is a classic. Tippi has been open about the struggles she faced working with Hitchcock and the stories make her all the more fascinating. Had Hitchcock not stalled her career- what would she have done? I wonder if she was thinking of Hitchcock when she said, “Birds I am fine with - spiders are an entirely different matter.” Every time I hear seagulls I think of Tippi and of that gnarly scene at the school house. The woman in the photo is my friend Mariah Kasshun (who previously played Janet Leigh in this project).