Thursday, March 26, 2015

Answers, Updates, and Famous Photos...

A bit of this and that today:

First, a big huzzah and best wishes to all our fellow film bloggers enjoying the festivities at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Hollywood, which begins today and runs through Sunday.  I really enjoy reading their posts and updates on the fun, and their coverage only gets better each year.

Now, the answers to last week’s Leggy Ladies on Ladders photos:

A is Cyd Charisse.  Though it’s a candid sort of backstage shot, the film she was doing in this costume is Meet Me in Las Vegas, which we discussed previously here.

B is Paul Newman and…Alexis Smith.  This is from The Young Philadelphians, which we briefly mentioned in this previous post on Alexis.

C is Zachary Scott entering the room to find…Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, which we discussed here. And here.

I have a book signing coming up this Saturday, the 28th of March at the Indian Orchard branch of the Springfield City Library, 44 Oak Street, Indian Orchard (Springfield), Massachusetts, from noon to 2:00 p.m.  I’ll have a variety of my books available for purchase, both non-fiction and novels, and if you have time to stop by, I’d love to chat with you.


And now, a word about my soon-to-be-published book on the career of Ann Blyth.  June 18th is less than three months away, and will be here before we know it.  I’m working like mad on it, and I hope you’ll approve of the final product.

Part of the challenge of finding photographs for the book is investigating the copyright or ownership of the images.  It can be a daunting task, but also a pleasure when one discovers really fine photos by a master photographer.  In this case, I’m speaking of two greats: Florence Vandamm and Eileen Darby.  They were giants in the field of theatre photography, and Ann Blyth was photographed by both when she appeared in Watch on the Rhine as a young girl.

Florence Vandamm was a pioneer in this field, and from 1925 to about 1950, she was the foremost photographer capturing the greats of the Broadway stage.  The Vandamm Studio specialized in very glamorous portraits of the Broadway stars, images not too dissimilar from what the Hollywood studios would adopt for their style of light-sculpted, touched-up and stunning glamour photos in the 1940s.

Eileen Darby came a long a little later, beginning her career as a theatre photographer in 1940, Vandamm’s chief competitor and ultimate heir to this highly specialized field; however, Darby’s work had a different style.  She would most often perch herself in the front row seats and shoot with low light the dramatic action on stage, catching stars in the moment of their greatest work.

Ann Blyth, just by the serendipitous circumstances of being cast in Watch on the Rhine, was photographed by both these greats for that play, and I am so pleased and privileged to be including photos from both these famous photographers in my book.  I admire their work tremendously.

Today, the Vandamm body of work is the property of the Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  Because my budget was limited, I could only purchase the rights for one Vandamm photo.  Though I was tempted to go with the images that grouped Ann with Paul Lukas, who played her father, and other actors in the play, I ultimately chose, instead, a portrait of her.  The group photos were excellent, but I had seen them, or photos like them in other books and magazines.  The reasons I chose the portrait are twofold:

First, it is such a sweet expression that seems to show this young girl on the verge of leaving her “play-acting” years and becoming a serious actress – half school photo and half actor’s professional headshot.

Second, because something in that portrait kept calling to me, and finally I realized what it was.  I think I might have been the first person in seventy years to look upon that sweet face outside of the archives, and if I didn’t publish it, I might be the last.  So, since those other photos were more easily available to the public in other books, I took this rarely (or never) seen photo for mine.

The Eileen Darby photo of Ann in Watch on the Rhine is one of her “action shots” that shows Ann on stage with Lucile Watson, who played the family matriarch; George Coulouris, the villain of the piece; and Peter Fernandez, who played one of Ann’s brothers.  This particular photo had also found its way into the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts collection, but for rights to publish I had to turn to the Eileen Darby Estate, which is currently managed by her grandchildren.  I am very grateful to Mr. Alex Teslik for allowing me to publish that photo.

There will be quite a number of other photos in the book, and other photographers or publishers to whom I needed to apply for permission, but I wanted to tell the story of these two particular photographers because of the important place they have in the history of American theatre.

Last year, a retrospective of Vandamm's work was held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts called: Pioneering Poet of Light: Photographer Florence Vandamm & the Vandamm Studio, which you can read about here and see some of her stunning work.

Eileen Darby's life and work has been presented in the excellent book, Stars on Stage- Eileen Darby & Broadway's Golden Age by Mary C. Henderson.

See you next Thursday for a little Easter noir.  You can probably guess the movie.


John/24Frames said...

As a photographer, I doubly fascinated by this article. I honestly am not familiar with the two photographers but your post here intrigues me to find out more about them, as well as about that area (stage) of photography.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

John, I'm so glad I could point you in the direction of these two great photographers. I suppose because their work was so specialized is why they aren't more well known among the general public, but they are tops among theatre historians. I'm a big fan of fine photography, which explains why I am also a big fan of you. Your work is fabulous.

Caftan Woman said...

I am related to a couple of excellent photographers (I once took a halfway decent picture of a swan, but I lost it). I'm fascinated by the art and learning about the greats in the field. Thanks to today's post I'm more in the know.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

You are, indeed, related to a couple of excellent photographers. Too bad about the lost halfway decent swan picture. I was hoping for a retrospective of your work.

Rick29 said...

Do you feel like a private eye sometimes when you're trying to track down info for your book? Very interesting post.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks, Rick. Yes, I quite often feel like a private eye when doing research, not just for this book, but for a number of other non-fiction historical projects. Not only is it fun, but it's good training in helping one to think analytically. Fiction writing tends to be more emotional, but it also requires, from time to time, an unemotional and analytical step back. The "why" and the "what" and the "how" are the biggest tools of a writer.

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