FEATURE image: Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).
PHOTO credit: Fair use.*
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for the glamour portrait (above) in 1940. The legendary Austrian beauty in Hollywood was 27 years old. Since her first American film in 1938, Algiers from United Artists, Lamarr was believed to be the most beautiful women in the movies, if not the world. Her beauty was so great that when she entered a room all activity in it stopped so to admire her.
The publicity photograph of Lamaar was for the 1940 American adventure film Boom Town from Metro-Godwyn-Mayer. It co-stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. Boom Town was the highest grossing film of 1940.
PHOTO credit: Fair use.*
The beautiful color portrait of its co-star was taken by László Willinger (1909-1989). Willinger was a German-born emigré who made many glamour photographs of celebrities starting in the later 1930’s.
In Boom Town, Austrian-born Lamarr plays Karen VanMeer, a sophisticated and elegant corporate spy. She is recruited by Clark Gable who plays “Big John” McMasters, an oil speculator.
M-G-M splurged on its star power to turn a routine oil-well story into a four-time Academy Award-nominated money gusher called Boom Town. The field was crowded with new films in 1940 just from M-G-M studio, including 18 pictures in Technicolor. Escapism was still the most rewarding M-G-M product.
Producer Sam Zimbalist brought big names to the screen in Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr backed up by an “A” list screenplay and Jack Conway’s forceful direction. The movie was the first Gable made under a new seven-year contract with MGM.
*The photograph copyright may be believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. The copy is of sufficient resolution for commentary and identification but lower resolution than the original photograph. Copies made from it will be of inferior quality, unsuitable as counterfeit artwork, pirate versions or for uses that would compete with the commercial purpose of the original artwork. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work, product or service for which it serves as poster art. It makes a significant contribution to the user’s understanding of the article, which could not practically be conveyed by words alone. As this is a publicity photo (star headshot) taken to promote an actress, these have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary. (See- Eve Light Honthaner, film production expert, in The Complete Film Production Handbook, Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.) Gerald Mast, further, film industry author, in Film Study and the Copyright Law (1989) p. 87, writes: “According to the old copyright act, such production stills were not automatically copyrighted as part of the film and required separate copyrights as photographic stills. The new copyright act similarly excludes the production still from automatic copyright but gives the film’s copyright owner a five-year period in which to copyright the stills. Most studios have never bothered to copyright these stills because they were happy to see them pass into the public domain, to be used by as many people in as many publications as possible.” Kristin Thompson, committee chairperson of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies writes in the conclusion of a 1993 conference with cinema scholars and editors, that they “expressed the opinion that it is not necessary for authors to request permission to reproduce frame enlargements … [and] some trade presses that publish educational and scholarly film books also take the position that permission is not necessary for reproducing frame enlargements and publicity photographs.”(“Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills,” Kristin Thompson, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.)
**This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice. Note that it may still be copyrighted in other countries.