Cover image for Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood glamour photography
Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood glamour photography
Dance, Robert, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
285 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Reading Level:
1320 Lexile.
Added Corporate Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR678 .D36 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When Ruth Harriet Louise joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio with "more stars than there are in heaven," she was twenty-two years old and the only woman working as a portrait photographer for the Hollywood studios. In a career that lasted from 1925 until 1930, Louise (born Ruth Goldstein) photographed all the stars, contract players, and many of the hopefuls who passed through the studio's front gates, including Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, and Norma Shearer. This book, which coincides with a major traveling retrospective of Louise's work organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, is the first collection of her exquisite photographs. Containing over one hundred breathtaking images--reproduced from the original negatives--it attests to the talent and vision of a surprisingly unknown photographer who formed the images and helped create the popularity of some of our most enduring stars.

Louise shot about one hundred thousand negatives that distilled the glamour, drama, and excitement of MGM's feature productions. Louise's original photographs were circulated to millions of moviegoers, magazine and newspaper readers, and fans. The movies and publicity machine that these photographs supported shaped the basic notions of stardom, glamour, and fashion in the 1920s and still affect our ideas today.

Robert Dance and Bruce Robertson re-create the entire process--from the moment a performer sat in front of Louise's camera to the point at which a fan pasted a star's picture into a scrapbook. They provide insight into Louise's work habits in the studio and describe the personal dynamics between Louise and the actors she photographed. They include a condensed account of the methods of other photographers, a sharp analysis of fan culture in the period, and superb readings of Louise's photographs. With its combination of well-known and rare images, all magnificently reproduced, this book is a fitting tribute to one of the most gifted and underappreciated glamour photographers of Hollywood's golden period.

Note: The hardcover edition of this book does have a dust jacket. (Some hardcovers of University of California Press books available in paperback do not.)

Author Notes

Robert Dance is a private art dealer in New York, specializing in Old Master paintings and drawings.
Bruce Robertson is Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This comprehensive study of the photographs of Ruth Harriet Louise was published in conjunction with the first major retrospective of her work. Louise, whose career at MGM began in 1925 and ended in 1930, was the only woman portrait photographer working for a major Hollywood studio at the time. Art dealer Dance and Robertson (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) examine how still photography was crucial in determining the fate of aspiring film stars, who carried these photographs from studio to studio in search of work. Some stars sent out as many as 12,000 photographs a month to their fans. Joan Crawford, born Lucille LeSeur, studied every still photograph ever made of her. As she said, "She [Louise] wanted these stills to teach me what not to do on the screen." Louise worked with all of the emerging stars. The photographs in the book are outstanding; of particular interest are her photographs of Greta Garbo, because it was impossible to confine Garbo to predetermined roles. Louise captured Garbo's essence. The book is rich in detail and anecdote; the authors have a deep understanding of photographic techniques. There is nothing to criticize and much to admire about this book. All levels. T. Sexton emeritus, University of Alaska, Anchorage

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
A Portfolio of Original Photographs by Ruth Harriet Louisep. 7
Ruth Goldstein Becomes Ruth Harriet Louisep. 61
Louise's Studio Practicep. 75
The Portrait Photographp. 87
The Publicity Department and the Fanp. 97
Selling Fashion and Glamourp. 107
What Is a Star?p. 121
Queens of the Lot: Norma Shearer, Marion Davies, Joan Crawfordp. 137
Photographing Garbop. 157
Looking at Men: Ramon Novarro, John Gilbert, William Haines, Johnny Mack Brownp. 185
Telling Stories: Lillian Gish, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, Marie Dresslerp. 205
Leaving MGMp. 217
Appendix A. Garbo and Her Photographers, 1925-1929p. 225
Appendix B. MGM Photography Codes, 1924-1940p. 233
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Notesp. 247
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 277