Who can forget those movies from the golden age of Hollywood? There is nothing quite like them. Hollywood films have always had a special magic, thanks to their clearly defined narratives, flawless continuity, editing style, and of course all those glamorous stars.
From romances, comedies, thrillers, melodramas, and fantasies, these films today are a treasure trove of entertainment the likes of which we will never see again. This is why any kind of artifact that surfaces from this bygone era holds so much importance and attracts so much attention. Even contact prints or contact sheets can attract the curiosity of a ravenous public that yearns more from those years and their stars.
During the time of traditional photography, lensmen would shoot candid photos of movies while the stars were on-set, and peddle these images to popular showbiz magazines. These photos would offer rare glimpses of Hollywood celebrities while they let their guard down.
As negatives, these were arranged on photo paper in groups, also known as contact sheets, (since the negative would come in contact with the photo paper, as opposed to being projected by an enlarger) and photographers, publicists as well as the actors themselves would examine these sheets prior to enlarged printing.
Karina Longworth’s book Hollywood Frame by Frame offers a first time look at some of these contact sheets or contact prints and allows us to finally see those iconic stars in a way we have come to know as “behind the scenes”.
Longworth said ‘The contact sheets give us a fuller, and more fully narrative, document of a moment than a still photograph that’s been edited, cropped, and airbrushed could do alone’. Any movie aficionado would find these images a total delight.
One will see various acting stalwarts at work on the set, like James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop, the inimitable James Dean on the set of Giant, Brando as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar and the elegant Audrey Hepburn on the set of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. No offense to the stars of today, but one has to admit, the star power in those days was something else!
Longworth is a journalist based in Los Angeles. She is solely responsible for bringing us You Must Remember This, a storytelling podcast devoted to the undisclosed and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.