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George Hurrell

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George Hurrell
American 20th century Photographer
American, (6/1/1904–5/17/92)
Dubbed the "Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait," Hurrell was born on June 1, 1904 in Covington, KY. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Hurrell was commissioned to photograph paintings and painters in Laguna Beach, CA, art colony in 1925. One of Hurrell's first subjects was the famed aviatrix Poncho Barnes. Through her, he met silent-screen star Ramon Novarro, who commissioned a series of portraits from Hurrell. Novarro showed off his new stills to co-workers at MGM, where they caught the eye of leading lady Norma Shearer. Shearer was attempting to change her wholesome image into something more glamorous, so she asked Hurrell to photograph her in more provocative poses. The sizzling photos landed her the lead role in The Divorcée. They also impressed her husband chief Irving G. Thalberg, MGM production chief, enough to hire Hurrell as head of the MGM portrait gallery in 1930. For the next two years, Hurrell photographed every star at MGM, from Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Greta Garbo to Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler. His work set a new standard for Hollywood portraits and inspired a new name for the genre - glamour photography. Hurrell later left to set up his own studio on Sunset Boulevard, and the stars flocked to Hurrell for portraits. In the early 1940’s. he moved to Warner Bros., helping build the careers of such stars as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and James Cagney. Later in the decade, Hurrell moved to Columbia Pictures, where he shaped Rita Hayworth's image. He left Hollywood briefly to serve with the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army Air Force, where he shot training films and photographed generals at the Pentagon. Hurrell returned to Hollywood in the mid 1950’s, but soon found that the old style of glamour photography had fallen out of fashion. He moved to New York, where he worked for fashion magazines and photographed for advertisement. In 1952, Hurrell returned to Hollywood and started a television production company with his wife, Phyllis, located on the Disney lot. After two years, he returned to New York. He settled in Southern California permanently in 1956, eventually moving back into the film industry as a unit still man. An exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965 caused a revival of interest, and he continued to work sporadically. He published The Hurrell Style, with text by Whitney Stine, in 1976, followed by other commemorative books and special-edition prints of his work. It was during these years that he shot stars like Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Even after his retirement in 1976, he continued to shoot portraits, adding to his portfolio such representatives of the new Hollywood as Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields and John Travolta. Among his last assignments were photographing Warren Beatty and Annette Benning for Bugsy, Natalie Cole for the best-selling "Unforgettable" album and a fashion layout with Jennifer Flavin, his last photographic subject. During the last years of his life, Hurrell worked with producer J. Grier Clarke and producer-director Carl Colby on Legends in Light, the first major retrospective of his work. George Hurrell died of cancer on May 17, 1992.

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