Referring to a grade school photo of herself, Anne Frank wrote in her diary October 10, 1942:
“This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But now I am afraid I usually look quite different.”
“Hollywood” –the idea of it, more than the place, was the phenomenon of the twentieth century that crossed all boundaries of society—class, age, gender, nationality. A 13-year-old girl in hiding from the Nazis in Holland collected Hollywood movie star photos, and compared her own childish image to the touched up masterpieces of the Hollywood studio photographers.
At that same time, in October 1942, 14-year-old Ann Blyth was touring in the anti-Nazi play Watch on the Rhine and had just been discovered by representatives of Universal Studios when the play came to Los Angeles. Her stardom was in the near future, and it would be supported by luminous portrait photos that the studio distributed to fans.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about two photographers of the Broadway stage whose work I’m including in my upcoming book on Ann Blyth. Today, another photographer who would figure prominently in her career, and the careers of many Hollywood stars, particularly those at Universal, was Ray Jones.
Mr. Jones was a master of the then prevalent technique of using light to “sculpt” the image of the star. The photos, which make these familiar stars look something like gods and goddesses, were, of course, touched up in the production process, but even before the film was shot the stars were dramatically posed, glamorized within a universe of lights, while Jones chatted to them to calm them while he made them immortal on huge 8 x 10 negatives. The process by which he worked is described in my book, and you can learn more about his art in the interesting book: Light and Illusion – The Hollywood Portraits of Ray Jones by Tom Zimmerman.
It was most gratifying for author Zimmerman, and the editor of the book, John Jones, son of the photographer, to learn that among the Hollywood star photos Anne Frank collected and pasted on the wall of her hiding place was a photo of a trio of Universal stars together: Robert Stack, Deanna Durbin and Franchot Tone. The photo was taken by Ray Jones. It’s still there. You can see it if you visit the Anne Frank House & Museum.
Come back next Thursday when we join in The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by those evil villains at Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin, and Silver Screenings blogs. My contribution will be a look at George Coulouris in Watch on the Rhine (1943).