Joel W. Finler | Hollywood Movie Stills: Art and Technique in the Golden Age of the Studios (Titan Books)

Given the importance of movie stills during the years when Hollywood was king, it’s surprising they haven’t been studied more thoroughly.

 

224 pages. Titan Books, 2012. $24.95 (hardcover)
 
Back in the day, movie stills were an important aspect of the Hollywood publicity machine, serving multiple purposes. They informed the public about new films and stars, of course, but they also helped create and reinforce the aura of glamour and intrigue that were a large part of the appeal of the movies in Hollywood’s Golden Age. And sometimes movie stills purposely did just the opposite, assuring the public that their favorite stars were pretty much just ordinary folks who liked nothing more than a quiet day at home with their spouses and children. Even Rock Hudson gave it the old college try, fooling much of the American public with his apparently sincere joy at his marriage to Phyllis Gates (while posing with one of the tackier wedding cakes I’ve ever seen in my life).
 
Given the importance of movie stills during the years when Hollywood was king, it’s surprising they haven’t been studied more thoroughly. Joel W. Finler’s Hollywood Movie Stills goes a long way toward making up that deficit, presenting a lavishly illustrated history of the Hollywood movie still, from the 1910s to the 1950s. The material in this volume includes not only the classic glamour portraits and on-the-set shots, but also behind-the scenes shots of rehearsals, goofy posed pictures, and those essential “just like us” shots (Humphrey Bogart without his toupee, Bette Davis without makeup and with her hair up in a scarf). 
 
The first edition of Hollywood Movie Stills was published in 2008. For the second edition, Finler has added about 30 pages of photos and greatly expanded the bibliography, while also making some corrections and additions in the text. This volume also includes an “A to Z” of movie stills and an index by names and movie titles. If you’re a student of Hollywood history or portrait photography, or just a fan of old movies, Hollywood Movie Stills is definitely worth your time. | Sarah Boslaugh

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