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Shooting Stars

The Golden Age of Hollywood Portraiture, 1925-1950

January 11, 2005 – April 3, 2005

"Shooting Stars: The Golden Age of Hollywood Portraiture, 1925-1950" examines the collaborative nature of the star-making business with popular images of actresses and actors.

In the 1920s, Hollywood studios discovered the importance of amplifying performers' presence, popularity and money-earning potential by making them "stars." The photograph was one of the main elements used in the image-generating process.

Realizing that the still photographic portrait of performers had to be as dramatic, illusory and overwhelming as movies, studios began investing money and time in studio photographers and Hollywood portraitists who could translate actors and actresses into the gods and goddesses of movies.

Such photographers as Clarence Sinclair Bull, George Hurrell, Eugene Robert Richee and Ruth Harriet Louise excelled in this field, rewriting the discipline of portraiture in the process.

The exhibition reveals the complicated and often collaborative work of creating the publicity portrait--photography, lighting, costuming, posing, make-up and promotion.

"From the 1920s through the 1950s, studios dominated the entire process of making movies," says Steve Wilson, the Ransom Center's film curator and curator of the show. "Production and star-making were the foremost products of the studio system, and every creative medium, including photography, was utilized and directed toward these ends."

The exhibition contains about 80 portraits of stars, including performers Carole Lombard, Joan Crawford, Rudolph Valentino, Simone Simone, Greta Garbo and Cary Grant.