Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for this glamour portrait in 1940 when the legendary beauty was 27 years old. Since her first American film, Algiers, in 1938, Lamarr was considered one of the most beautiful women in the movies, if not the world.
This publicity photograph of Lamaar is for the 1940 American adventure film Boom Town. It co-stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. The beautiful color portrait was taken by László Willinger (1909-1989), 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.
Hedy Lamarr, 1939, László Willinger.
Hedy Lamarr, 1938. Photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896-1979).
Michèle Mercier (born New Year’s Day 1939) is a French actress perhaps best known for playing the lead role of Angélique in the mid1960s film series of the same name based on the 1956 sensational novel Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by husband and wife writing team of Anne and Serge Golon. Their mid-17th century character was based on a real life Suzanne du Plessis-Bellière who was one of France’s most famous women from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The historical Suzanne first appeared in a French novel in the mid-nineteenth century, one by Alexandre Dumas, père, called Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard. Similar to these 5 films inspired by the Golons’ novel of (by 1961) six books — Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels which is the first book published in 1957 (the novel expanded to 13 books after the 1964 film’s release) — Dumas’s novel, the third of his d’Artagnan trilogy, was also serialized in popular media from 1847 to 1850.
While this post is simply about Michèle Mercier as Angélique, she is a French Italian beauty who has entered the pantheon of screen goddesses based largely on this legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.
For the part of Angélique, many other beautiful and more famous actresses were approached before Michèle Mercier who was little known in the French cinema at the time. Seasoned French film producer Francis Cosne (1916-1984) wanted sex symbol Brigitte Bardot to play the part, but she rejected the offer. Young Catherine Deneuve was considered perhaps too naive for the lusty role. American Jane Fonda spoke French but could an American play fully a quintessentially French role? Italian beauty Virna Lisi was too busy doing Hollywood films. Not being already famous eliminated statuesque Danish actress Annette Stroyberg from the running until ultimately Michèle Mercier was decided upon after almost losing the part to French actress Marina Vlady who at the last minute didn’t sign the contract.
Michèle Mercier as Angélique.
When the opportunity of Angélique presented itself to Michèle Mercier, she was a relative newcomer to the French cinema – but this was not the case for her either in French theatre arts or Italian films where before 1964 she had acted in over 20 of them. With a father who was French and mother who was Italian, Michèle Mercier from her early teens growing up in Nice, France, was determined to be a professional ballet dancer. In 1957, at 17 years old, she moved to Paris which was a decision that changed her life. By 1960, when she was just 20 years old, she was acting in French New Wave film director François Truffaut’s second film, Shoot The Piano Player.
After Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels was released — an unlikely heroine’s role where Angélique’s singular flaming red-haired beauty is acknowledged throughout — the role became a blessing and a curse for the budding actress Michèle Mercier. It catapulted her to instant stardom so that her fame rivaled sex symbol Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the role in 5 popular films typecast her and effectively ended her film career almost as soon as it started. Following the first Angélique film in 1964 Michèle Mercier starred in four sequels that includes Merveilleuse Angélique in 1965, Angélique et le Roy in 1966, IndomptableAngélique in 1967 and Angélique et le Sultan in 1968. All these films in the series were directed by French film director Bernard Borderie (1924-1978) and starred Michèle Mercier which bestowed upon the stories a consistent filmic world but also encased the beautiful star in a popular role that was virtually impossible to escape from.
Following the fifth and final film of the Angélique series in 1968 the French Italian beauty went on to make six more films before her career ended in 1972. Although Michèle Mercier had always appeared in a variety of film genres – the actress played dozens of other women besides Angélique – it was for this 17th century fictional character in five memorable films in 1960’s France that has affixed her into the pantheon of screen goddesses for which she receives enduring adoration today.
Michèle Mercier in 1965.
Michèle Mercier on the cover of the April 20-26, 1968 French weekly magazine, Télé 7 Jours with Jacques Chazot. In these months, Michèle Mercier was riding high in the Angélique film series. Indomptable Angélique had been released in October 1967 and was a world-wide smash hit. In the film, Angélique discovers that her first husband is alive and she Angélique travels to the South of France not realizing he is now an infamous pirate. Angélique is captured by slave traders and taken far away to Crete where they intend to sell her. In March 1968, Angélique et le Sultan had just been released. It became the fifth and unintended final entry in the Angélique series based on the novels of Anne and Serge Golon. A planned sixth film called Angelique the Rebel was announced but never made.
Carolina Crescentini is an Italian film and television actress who has appeared in more than 20 films since 2006. Born in Rome in 1980 (April 18) Carolina grew up in the elegant Monteverde Vecchio district. Not unlike Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Carolina wanted to become an actress from an early age and studied and worked diligently in the craft.
Carolina attended Italian acting schools including the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – or, The Center for Experimental Cinematography. This Italian institution hosts a national film archives (Cineteca Nazionale) as well as one of Italy’s most prestigious film acting schools (Scuola Nazionale di Cinema).
Soon after, Carolina began her acting career in television commercials, short films and music videos. The blonde beauty whose stage presence is similar to Kate Hudson and whose fashion savvy is like Chloë Sevigny got her first big break in films from another Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alumni – Fausto Brizzi.
It was in the sequel to Brizzi’s 2006 film Notte prima degli esami (The Night Before The Exams). The original film was a phenomenon in Italy. It earned around 15 million euros and won the David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several more awards.
In Brizzi’s 2007 hit Italian teen comedy Notte prima degli esami – Oggi (The Night Before The Exams – Today), Carolina Cresentini plays Azzurra, the love interest of the main character. Where Brizzi’s 2006 teen comedy is set in Rome in 1989, the 2007 sequel which featured many of the same actors in the same roles—with the addition, of course, of Carolina Crescentini— it is set in the summer 2006. This is the same summer Italy played for the World Cup which they won that year.
Brizzi’s sequel and Carolina’s first major film was an even bigger hit than the original. Even the French film industry made a version of Notte prima degli esami calling it Nos 18 ans and featuring French teenagers set in 1989.
Carolina Crescentini in a still photo from the pillow fight scene in Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film gave the the Italian actress her breakout role.
Italian actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Carolina Crescentini during filming of Notte Prima Degli Esami – Oggi. About six months later they starred again together in the film thriller Cemento armato.
The pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi. It is where Luca (Nicolas Vaporidis) and Azzura (Carolina Cresecentini) first meet. A box office smash in Italy, it was Carolina Crescentini’s first major film and started her on the road to stardom. In Italian. (3.22 minutes).
Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis in Cemento armato (Concrete Romance). It is a 2007 Italian neo-noir thriller directed by Marco Martani. Crescentini’s dramatic performance as Asia, a rape victim, earned her a Best Actress nomination at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) Awards.
The next year, in 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Benedetta, a fragile and spoiled rich beauty pursued by Silvio Muccino in Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love). The film became another smash hit in Italy that year.
The trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches the film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).
Carolina Crescentini’s performance in the Italian thriller Cemento armato (Concrete Romance) earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2008.
Before becoming an actor, Carolina Crescentini thought she would be an art or film critic. Reading about tennis star Andre Agassi.
Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features, her beauty captivates yet does not immediately overwhelm. Her attraction is fed by details: blue eyes surrounded by sensual dark circles that give an uneasy and lived-in air.
Carolina Cresentini at the 66th annual Venice International Film festival, held in Venice, Italy, in September 2009. Maria Grazia Cucinotta served as the festival’s hostess.
A scene from Carolina Crescentini’s third film Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love) in a role which led to her being nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her co-star is Silvio Muccino. (2:34 minutes).
Carolina at the premiere of Tell me About Love (Parlami d’Amore).
Carolina made films where her roles were smaller but memorable. She played Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg). It is a bio-pic about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. With a soundtrack by prolific Ennio Morricone, Carolina said her experience for this 2008 film on location in Russia was very beautiful.
The trailer from The Demons of St. Petersburg which was one of Carolina Crescentini’s favorite films to work on. It is a biopic of Fyodor Dostoyevsky shot on location in Russia featuring an all-star international cast. (1:41 minutes).
Playing Anna in The Demons of Saint Petersburg (2008) which Carolina described as a beautiful film work experience.
In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was again recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer as well as the Giffoni Award at that venerable international children’s film festival.
In 2011 Carolina won the People’s Choice Ciak D’Oro award for Best Supporting Actress playing Corinna in the 2011 Italian comedy film Boris-Il Film which was based on a popular Italian TV series of the same name.
From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):
Carolina Crescentini as Corinna in Boris-Il Film.
Carolina Crescentini dressed in Ferragamo for a press conference in Rome for Boris-Il Film. Part of the SS2011 collection it is elegantly detailed within a warm and refined tone. Carolina chose to combine a double-breasted jacket with brown high heel boots for a delightfully easy look.
Carolina Crescentini at the D&G SS10 Fashion Show.
In 2010 Carolina Crescentini appeared in the film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story told straight-forwardly, and with sensitivity and respect for the feelings of the fallen family.
Carolina Crescentini plays Angelica in the 2009 Italian comedy film “Generazione 1000 euro” written and directed by Massimo Venier. The film received two Nastro d’Argento nominations for best comedy film and for best supporting actress.
Excerpt from a trailer for the 2009 Italian comedy film Oggi sposi (Just Married) directed by Luca Lucini where Carolina plays Glada. The movie is about a reformed ladies’ man who has his heart set on marrying the daughter of the Indian ambassador. (56 seconds)
In the 2011 award-winning drama film The Entreprenuer (L’Industriale), Carolina worked again with director Giuliano Montaldo. It follows the story of a businessman facing extreme challenges to make his enterprises successful. A press event above with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip below featuring Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film.
Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.
In addition to regular work in Italian TV series and movies including the series I bastardi di Pizzofalcone (2017) and movie Donne:Pucci (2016), Carolina Crescentini is a fashion icon in Italy wearing designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international.
Carolina has appeared on magazine covers including her shoot for Playboy in May 2010. Carolina said that in shots must have been “photoshopped” becausee in them she can’t recognize herself.
Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)
Carolina’s recent film work includes Tempo instabile con probabili schiarite (Partly Cloudy with Sunny spells), a 2015 Italian comedy about business partners who find oil on their land at the same time their furniture factory is going out of business. Carolina plays Elena, the wife of the lead.
She also appeared in the discomfiting satiric film called Pecore in erba (The Sheep in the Meadow, a.k.a. Burning Love) written and directed by Alberto Caviglia which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.
In 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio). The film is based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence, albeit six centuries apart.
Trailer for the wry and witty 2015 film Maraviglioso Boccaccio directed by veteran Italian film directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1:34 minutes):
Marvelous Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini in a scene where she plays a wayward nun.
A scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s superior. (3.02 minutes)
Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.
This Hollywood glamour portrait of forty-six-year-old Marlene Dietrich (1901, Berlin – 1992, Paris) wearing a green turtleneck sweater was taken when the movie actress was starring in Golden Earrings, a romantic spy film made by Paramount Pictures. It was her comeback film following World War II.
It was also in 1947—the same year that this photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer was made— that Dietrich received what she called her life’s proudest achievement: the Medal of Freedom.
While Golden Earrings was a decent film, its main purpose was to provide the actress with a job. Further, it would lead into her next project—the 1948 American romantic comedy A Foreign Affair directed by Billy Wilder—which made Dietrich once again a top star.
Following Dietrich’s meteoric rise at Paramount Pictures starting in 1930 her acting parts later stagnated as film directors —including Josef von Sternberg and others—seemed to use her more as a piece of expensive cinematic scenery than as a serious dramatic actress.
The Shanghai Express is preparing to cross China, despite the raging civil war. On board, an adventurer, Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich), and Hui Fei (Anna May Wong), an enigmatic young woman, capture the attention of the other occupants of their compartment. Among them is a British military doctor (Clive Brook) who was once the lover of the beautiful adventurer and has not forgotten her.
Shanghai Express, 1932, Paramount Pictures. Directed by Josef von Sternberg.
Like other leading ladies of the time, the Hollywood glamour machine in the 1940’s transformed Dietrich into a golden-haloed blond which accentuated her magnificent cheekbones and sultry eyes under penciled-arc eyebrows and painted nails that this color portrait makes evident.
Photographer A. L. “Whitey” Schafer (1902-1951) was a still photographer who started shooting stills in 1923 and continued in that line of work at Columbia Pictures when he moved there in 1932. Personally outgoing, Schafer was appointed head of the stills photography department at Columbia three years later. In the 1940’s Shafer wrote copiously on his craft and advocated for techniques in glamour photography that are seen in this Dietrich color portrait.
SEMINAL BOOK ON GLAMOUR PHOTOGRAPHY.
In 1941 Schafer published Portraiture Simplified, a book in which he argues that “portraiture’s purpose is the realization of character realistically.” Among his technical observations Schafer wrote elsewhere that “composing a portrait is comparable to writing a symphony. There must be a center of interest, and in all portraits this naturally must be the head, or your purpose is defeated. Therefore, the highest light should be on the head.”
It was in 1941 that Schafer replaced Eugene Richee (1896-1972) as department head of still photography at Paramount Studios. Schafer remained in that position where he photographed the stars until he died at 49 years old in an accident in 1951.
Elizabeth Taylor. M-G-M, 1949. Photograph by Hymie Fink.
Though still a teenager, Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) in 1949 when this photograph was made, was celebrated as the new generation’s great beauty. In 1942, at 10 years old, Elizabeth had her film debut and her life and beauty blossomed over the decade in front of the cameras. This photograph captures her near the beginning of her cinematic career as an M-G-M star.
Who is Hymie Fink?
Who exactly was her photographer, Hymie Fink? His identity remains a mystery. Was Hymie Fink a studio photographer? Freelancer? Pseudonym for an unknown talent or combination of unknown talents? His name appears among the stars starting in the late 1930’s until his death was announced in the mid-1950’s by Hedda Hopper. The gossip columnist ended her newspaper column for September 28, 1956 with the epitaph: “Hymie Fink, one of the sweetest men in Hollywood, died of a heart attack on Jane Wyman’s TV set. Hymie photographed every star and every major event in (Hollywood) for twenty-five years.”
Lana Turner. 1939, photograph by László Willinger.
Before she became in the 1940’s the well-known Hollywood platinum sensuous blond of movie legend and fame, Lana Turner (1921-1995) was just a pretty redhead from Idaho named Julia Jean Turner.
By the time this unretouched color portrait was made, 18-year-old Lana Turner had been discovered three years earlier in a manner that has made it into the annals of show-biz mythology. The immediate result of her discovery in an iconic malt shop near Hollywood High School where she was a student, was a movie contract with producer-director Mervyn LeRoy (1900-1987).
The title of Lana Turner’s first film in 1937 for Warner Brothers was They Won’t Forget. The title proved prophetic for Lana Turner’s Hollywood career. By 1938 Lana Turner was a sex symbol who went on to make over 50 glamorous films, most of them at M-G-M. Lana Turner was only 16 years old when she played her debut five-minute part that at one point sees her strut across the screen in a tight-fitting sweater and cocked beret for about 20 seconds. Her image created such a stir among movie-going audiences that gossip columnist Walter Winchell coined the term “America’s Sweater Sweetheart” for Lana Turner because of her now-classic film appearance. Over the next 20 years, a bevy of Hollywood actresses would wear tight sweaters over specialty bras that emphasized their bust line in the hope of possibly sparking for themselves another Lana Turner movie career success story.
Lana Turner became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
The New Harlow?
Originally groomed to be a new Harlow, Lana followed this sex-bomb course in full force when in 1941 the studio dyed her hair white blonde for Ziegfeld Girl, where she co-starred with Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr and stole the show.
Hungarian-born photographer László Willinger (1909 – 1989) started his professional career in Vienna, Austria. He left Europe for America in 1937 where he joined M-G-M that same year. Soon after, he made this lush shot of 18-year-old Lana Turner in a silky green dress seated on a red divan (or chair) with her head turned and looking to one side with slightly bloodshot eyes.
Willinger’s color portrait of red-headed Lana Turner emphasizes the sensuality of her personality manifested in her full red sensuous lips and painted nails. In 1944, László Willinger left MGM and established his own photography studio in Hollywood. For the next 40 years he successfully practiced his craft.
About her own reputedly rowdy personal life in those M-G-M years, Lana Turner later remarked: “My plan was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way…”
Lana Turner passed away on June 29, 1995. She was 74 years old.