I love everything about Classic Hollywood, but one of the things I enjoy most is the portrait photography. From the dramatic lighting, to the exaggerated posing, to the perfectly designed faces... it is hard to pin point what makes these photos so fun to look at. Whenever I look at these type of photos, it makes me feel like I am in another time. Of all these photos, the photography of George Hurrell is some of my favorite. The way he used lighting to compose these gorgeous shots impresses me everytime I look at them.
HURRELL WITH DOROTHY JORDAN, CIRCA 1932
It is hard to believe the man known as "Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait" actually started out with very little interest in photography. Growing up in Covington, Kentucky, Hurrell's main interest was in painting. He used photography to document the subjects of his paintings. It wasn't until he was commissioned to photograph paintings and painters in Laguna Beach, Ca in 1925, that he realized he would make a better living doing photography.
ONE OF THE INFAMOUS SHOTS OF NORMA SHEARER
Hurrell didn't start shooting for Hollywood's biggest names until the late 20's. George's first job was photographing actor Ramon Navarro. Navarro was so impressed with the photos George did for him, he showed them to actress Norma Shearer. Shearer, also impressed with the images, asked George to do a series of photographs for her that would help change her husband's (MGM production chief, Irving Thalberg) mind about giving her the lead role in the film The Divorcee. This series of photos made quite the stir in that time because they were the most provocative photos Sherear had ever done. Her plan worked, and lead to Thalberg signing Hurrell to a contract to photograph the stars of MGM.
George left the studio after having issues with the MGM publicity head. He opened his own studio on Sunset Boulevard. He did continue to photograph the stars of MGM such as Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Norma Sherear (who refused to be photographed by anyone else). He even did a session with the great Greta Garbo, but after difficulties during the shoot, he never photographed her again.
In the 1940's Hurrell left MGM to shoot the stars at the Warner Brothers Studios and Columbia Pictures. Among the stars he photographed during that decade were Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth.
Hurrell left Hollywood during the war to make training films for the United States Army. When he returned in the 1950's he found that the style of shooting that made him famous was no longer considered in fashion. Finding he wasn't favored as the photographer of the stars, George moved to New York to shoot for fashion magazines and advertisements.
Though he never worked full time after the 1960's he did continue to photograph some of the worlds biggest stars, such as Farrah Fawcett, John Travolta, Sharon Stone, and Raquel Welsh. After suffering from bladder cancer for many years, Geroge was laid to rest on May 17th, 1992.
His photographs will live on forever and continue to inspire generations to come.
Images used on this page were found using a web search. If any of these photos are owned by you, please let me know. Information used in this article were gatherd from Wiki and Hurrell Photography.