Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hollywood in Kodachrome (David Willis, 2013)

Good afternoon!

Yesterday, I was going through my phone's 1,500 photos trying to find some to delete so that I could download the latest episode of the Rupaul and Michelle Visage podcast (excellent, excellent show), when I realized I've had a TON of vintage Kodachrome photos to share with you. But not just any! These are little spy-camera snaps from the book Hollywood in Kodachrome, by David Willis, and feature some of the best and brightest stars of 1940's and 1950's Hollywood in GLORIOUS COLOR, some of which I've never seen looking so crisp and clear and life-like. The fashions, the stars, the good looks, and above all the bright colors make this a must for classic Hollywood movie lovers as well as film and camera enthusiasts. 

What are we waiting for? Let's take a look!

I'm just going to go ahead and start out with this one, because seriously. Arguable one of the most beautiful Hollywood movie stars of the 1940's, Gene Tierney is breathtakingly pretty to begin with, but in this enormous hat and tropical print dress, she is pretty much like an artist's rendering of what any vintage-loving gal (or indeed, contemporaneous WWII-era lady) would want to look like. See her lady-like stitched gloves? Those mile long fake eyelashes (which, by the by, Michelle and Ru say I should a) attach with weave glue for longer lasting lashes and b) cut into thirds for precision application)? I always have a doozy of a time with forties' hats because, owing to my large hat size, I can never tell if a hat is supposed to sit on the top of my head or tilt to the side or is just too small for my outsized melon. Here, Tierney proves that no sombrero should be left behind...larger than life!

I never knew much about Ann Miller other than her octogenarian interview appearances in her celebrity friends' A&E Biography episodes...that is, until I picked up a copy of her cheekily titled memoir, Miller's High Life sometime in college. What a read! Possessed, in her heyday, of flashing, huge dark eyes and legs for miles, Miller was known as one of the best dancers on the Hollywood screen and dated everyone. EVERYONE. Her book is a little less indiscreet than Esther Williams's memoir, but right in the running for most eligible bachelor girl tells all autobiography....I remember being glued to the page as she described moving from one foreign prince to another in between being squired around to the Cocoanut Grove and Ciro's by some of the handsomest men in town. Here, those slingbacks are inspiring near palapable jealousy in this heart of mine, and the fuchsia print dress and matching head scarf (over those gorgeous victory rolls!) are a perfect 10.

I think the coat here on Carole Lombard is lynx... I KNOW it's giving me vapors. I would look like a wild man of the mountain in such an oversized coat, but with a tiny frame like hers, doesn't she look like $1,000,000 USD?

This is Donna Reed, isn't it? I'm 98% sure. The woman in the photo is superfluous....are you SEEING this house?! The divider wall with the planter in it, the cherry red couch and side chair, that china cabinet in the far background? I can't think of a Hollywood home that I've seen looking so midcentury modern, but there you go! PS Did I tell you the other day I was reading one of my House Beautiful's from the late forties' and saw the term "mid century modern" in a Drexel advertisement? I always thought it was a term we used now to talk about something in the past rather being correct-to-the-time and what people called the style when it was new. You learn something every day!

Ida Lupino MURDERING the competition in a silve lamé evening gown. Those shoulders! She's covered nape to wrist but those legs! That beautiful auburn hair! What a knockout. I can't see her without thinking of that throaty, indelible performance of  "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" in Roadhouse. If you haven't seen that movie, see it; if you don't have time to see the whole movie, see that one scene. You'll fall in love, no joke! People talk about Bacall's baritone-y singing voice, but Lupino is the real winner for me.

Look, it's our Joan!! Notice that this is early in the heavy-eyebrows phase of her career and I still think she looks like the most beautiful wooden mask in the museum. Notice her freckles, that fabulous hair, and how someone has carefully highlighted the ocular bone with white shadow to make her enormous dark blue eyes pop even more than usual. I really like this as an example of how her makeup look (the strong brow, the flat, red mouth) really worked at one point in her career, however cartoonish it might have gotten as time passed.

Katharine Hepburn in about that print! How about those cheekbones!

Though she's not even my favorite from the time, there's a clear winner to this Kodachrome game in the book, and it's hands down Lana Turner. Even though her eyebrows look a little kooky in color, how about that perfectly waved hair? Above, her outfit is something I would wear in a heartbeat-- sequined green hat, black satin gloves, and HUGE, eff-off black fur shrug? UGH, LET ME LIVE MY LIFE IN THE WAY THAT I CHOOSE, WORLD. A more casual look below...look how lovely her skin is:

Veronica Lake looking like an art print. Notice it's her costume dress thrown behind her as a backdrop, and her costume petticoat providing symmetry. I can't get over her curls and I don't want to.

Last but not least, I only know exotic Maria Montez from her marriage to Jean-Pierre Aumont and her camp classic performance in Curse of the Cobra Woman, but go ahead and add "style icon" to that list, as she is killing it with this Betty-Page-bangs-wig and oversized bracelet. Seriously, kids, I have got to learn how to properly apply and wear false eyelashes. Think of all the fun I'm missing out on!

Sorry to dash, but these books aren't going to repair themselves (would that they would)! If you like what you see, there's a TON more in the book itself (which is available here at the Nashville Public Library thanks to my helpful suggestion). If you like old Hollywood and color photography, treat yourself already! :) Which of these starlets is your favorite? Read any good Tinseltown books lately? Tell me all about it!

Have a great Wednesday! I'll see you back here tomorrow. Stay dry in all this yucky weather, and we'll talk then! Ciao for now.


  1. The glamour just drips off of them!

    1. RIGHT? The Lana Turner picture with the sequin hat is still giving me vapors into this next week. MUST. EMULATE.

  2. This reminds me that I bought Hollywood Color Portraits ( at an estate sale when I was in middle school or high school. I wonder what happened to it? Must still be at my parents' house. I think the Maria Montez photo is my favorite (though I do adore Gene Tierney and Ann Miller--Miller's High Life LOL!).

    1. HOW COOL! I had this one and this one , but not the color one. That Kobal guy gets around! I am now going to have to hunt the one you mentioned down. Thanks for the tip!! :D (I could look at publicity photos ALL DAY. EVERY DAY.)

  3. I bought this book from Amazon, I couldn't resist. It came up when I was looking for books with George Hurrell's photos. Really gorgeous book, that is for sure! Gene Tierney has to be my absolute favorite. I know she is beautiful, but it has to be more than that. When she is on the screen, I cannot take my eyes off her.

    I love the picture of Joan with the freckles showing.

    Lauren mentioned John Kobal-I finally finished his book People Will Talk. He is the one who got me looking for books with George Hurrell's pictures. I might have actually read about the book here, but if not-this is one of the greatest books about Hollywood I have ever read. He interviews everyone, and it is so cool the way different people will mention the same incident, but have different takes on it. Wonderful, wonderful book. It is interesting, because he talks to these photographers who worked during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and they were kind of forgotten. I think he was instrumental in bringing at least Hurrell's photos back into the limelight.

    1. You're right about Gene Tierney, she is just MESMERIZING, and it does extend past her prettiness. Magnetic looks!

      You know any photo of Joan is my favorite, but it's always interesting to me her coloring, those freckles, and those EYES in color. What a blue! It's a pity most of her career was in black and white (though she looks gorgeous in that too).

      I have not read "People Will Talk"! It's going on my Interlibrary Loan RIGHT NOW and I'll get back with you when they send it to gossip about it! :)



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