Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photos of the Day

The Rat Pack Gathered at the Sands for Bob Willoughby

Sinatra and Martin at a recording session in 1958, photo b Allan Grant

Sinatra takes a steam and a shave for John Dominis
 You know it was a swingin' shoot when the Rat Pack got in front of the lenses of Life magazine photographers in 1960. It was 50 years ago that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and various other members of the Pack got together to make a movie called Ocean's 11. To promote the opening of the film on August 10, 1960, Life ran a story filled with images made by its own pack of entertainment photographers, including Bob Willoughby, Allan Grant, and John Dominis. Most of the piece was shot at the very the epicenter of ring-a-ding-ding coolness: Las Vegas. put up a number of the images a couple of days ago, on the anniversary of the film's opening, but I didn't see them until today....sorry about that. Better late than never: The pictures, some of which says have never been published before, are examples of a kind of entertainment journalism that simply no longer exists: Candid, behind-the-scenes, full-access photojournalism. They capture and express the late nights, the cigarette smoke, the desperate laughter...the whole booze-and-broads thing. These tight black-and-white images assure us that there was a reality behind the show-biz make-believe of the Rat Pack aura, so everyone came out a winner: The magazine and its readers caught a glimpse of big stars in quiet moments, and the stars themselves became more human and intriguing to their fans. I wish today's celebrities would get that through their heads: Show us more than what dress you're wearing on the red carpet. But it's a different world than it was then: Today celebrities would never let a media entity take control of their public image and profit from it. The stars want a cut of the deal.

Question: Which current celebrity would you like to see photographed the "old-fashioned" way?

By the way, Dominis also shot a big story on Sinatra on the occasion of the star's 50th birthday. He initially shot Sinatra performing in Florida, but ended up spending three months with him...the results were, as it says in The Great Life Photographers (Bulfinch), "unrivaled." Dominis later published a book titled Sinatra: An Intimate Portrait of a Very Good Year.

Bob Willoughby, who died late last year, was one of the finest entertainment photographers of his time. Go here to see more of his work. His favorite subject, it says here, was Audrey Hepburn.

Allan Grant, who died in 2008, was one of those quintessential Life photographers who could do about everything: He got the last studio photo session of Marilyn Monroe before her death in 1962; he photographed A-bomb tests in Nevada; and he was there to record Howard Hughes's memorable but short flight aboard the "Spruce Goose."

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