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Guide to the Katja B. Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt Collection of Photographs
1900-2002
 PR 305

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Brynn White, June, 2014. Revised by Marybeth Kavanagh, 2019.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 11, 2019 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Series II: Hollywood Film, 1928-1944

Scope and Contents

The Hollywood Film series represents the American film industry's publicity output from the late silent period into what is generally regarded as the "Golden Era" (between 1920 and 1960). In this period, the studios meticulously and rigorously controlled the image of their contracted stars, generating and distributing photographs to fans and publications.

Special photography units were established at each studio to create publicity images of performers away from production sets and costumes. A majority of materials in this series represent this output; many are studio portraits but also present are candid and staged shots depicting subjects at home, with their families and friends, engaging in physical and outdoor activities, and performing beauty regimens. Photographs are variously labelled or stamped with sitter, production, original collection, date, studio, credit lines, and photographer; in some cases, original annotations and publicity captions are present.

The work of the pioneer film portraitists depicted in the collection helped define careers and created a resonating iconography of Hollywood. Legendary and established stars appear in the collection alongside character actors, ingenues, and animal performers.

Output from Clarence S. Bull and other in-house photographers of preeminent studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer comprises the first subseries. Recurring performers depicted in this subseries (1929-1943) are Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Walter Huston, Adolpe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mickey Rooney, Walter Pigeon, Rosalind Russell, Jimmy Stewart, and Robert Young. Select writers, directors (Rouben Mamoulian), and other crew are also present, as are the homes of Huston and Myrna Loy.

The second subseries features work outside of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and therefore comprises a wider range of image subjects, sitters, photographers, dates, and sources. All the major studios -- Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, RKO, Fox Corporation, and Columbia Pictures -- as well as independents Republic Pictures and Selznick International are represented. Earlier subjects include silent stars Betty Compson, Hoot Gibson, Lew Cody, Wallace Reid, and Florence Vidor. Later iconic stars of the talkies Henry Fonda and Ginger Rogers appear recurrently in the collection, as do Jean Hersholt, Henry Hull, and the producer Joan Harrison. The work of Polish photographer Roman Freulich (1898-1974), of Universal and later Republic, is well represented. Other photographers featured include John Miehle (RKO, Selznick International), George Hurrell, George Hommel, and Gene Robert Richee.

Arrangement

The Hollywood photographs are arranged by studio into two subseries. Each subseries is further arranged into: A) Individual Portraits (alphabetical by sitter) and B) Group Portraits and Production Stills (alphabetical by production). Group portraits in which a main star is emphasized are filed under Individual Portraits. Select subjects appear in both series.

Within each subseries, images have been housed according to size (small format or large format); a few of the images have been laminated and separately housed. Accordingly, researchers looking for a particular performer or production may need to consult multiple folders within each subseries.

Materials are often stamped with photographer's credit and variously include subject name, date, and other information. Some photographs also feature publicity captions on the verso.

Additional Hollywood portraits are in Series IV and V.

Subseries II.1: MGM & Clarence S. Bull, 1929-1943

Biographical / Historical

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), advertised as the stable of "more stars than there are in Heaven," dominated the American movie industry in the 1930s. Its profits equalled three-quarters the total of the remaining Big Eight studios combined. Under the leadership of Louis B. Meyer and head of production Irving Thalberg, MGM enraptured Depression-era audiences with its dependable product of escapist glamour and sophistication.

A central figure in the development of the MGM brand was Clarence Sinclair Bull (1886-1979), head of the stills department for over three decades, whose work comprises the majority of this subseries. As described by Hedda Hopper, actress and later gossip columnist who appears in the collection, Bull was "as much of a Metro institution as Leo the Lion."

The son of a Montana cattle rancher, Bull initially sold his images as postcards out of the film printing and development studio he operated from his family's general store. Impressed customer Mrs. Frank Lloyd, wife of the famous film director, arranged for Bull's hiring as an assistant cameraman in Hollywood in 1917.

Following work for several studios and a shift in concentration to still photography, Bull settled at Goldwyn Studios, which was amalgamated into MGM in 1924. Bull estimated that he photographed over 10,000 separate subjects in his career, and over 4,000 individual studies of Greta Garbo, in the collaboration for which he is most well-regarded. Garbo, notoriously shy and publicity-adverse, elected Bull as her sole personal photographer from 1929 onwards. Bull was also responsible for enhancing the image of all of MGM's stars, including favorite subjects Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Gloria Swanson, Lon Chaney, the Barrymores, and later Katharine Hepburn, Robert Mitchum, and Elizabeth Taylor.

In the mid-1950s, Bull was sent by the studio on his own publicity campaign, making television and radio appearances and speaking before camera clubs. Before his death in 1979, Bull was able to see his work commemorated and exhibited, and was bestowed the degree of Honorary Master by the Professional Photographers of America. "In portraits, " he said, "I have tried to capture a moment or mood unattainable with the motion picture camera."

Subseries II.1 A: Individual Portraits and Publicity

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 11 Folder : 1 "B" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 11 Folder : 2 "C-G" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 11 Folder : 3 "H-M" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 11 Folder : 4 "N-P" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 11 Folder : 5 "R-S" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 11 Folder : 6 "T-Y" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 12 Folder : 1 "A-F" - Miscellaneous - Large Format
1929-1943
Box: 12 Folder : 2 "G-W" - Miscellaneous - Large Format
1929-1943
Box: 13 "A-H" - Miscellaneous - Small Format - Laminated
1929-1943
Box: 14 "I-Z" - Miscellaneous - Small Format - Laminated
1929-1943
Box: 12 Folder : 6 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Large Format - Laminated
1929-1943

Subseries II.1 B: Group Portraits and Publicity

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 15 Folder : 1 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1929-1943
Box: 15 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Small Format - Laminated
1929-1943
Box: 12 Folder : 3 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Large Format
1929-1943

Subseries II.2: Other Studios, 1928-1944; Undated

Subseries II.2 A: Individual Portraits and Publicity, 1928-1944

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 16 Folder : 1 "A-F" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1928-1944
Box: 16 Folder : 2 "G-P" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1928-1944
Box: 16 Folder : 3 "R-Y" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1928-1944
Box: 12 Folder : 4 "G-M" - Miscellaneous - Large Format
1928-1944
Box: 17 "A-L" - Miscellaneous - Laminated
1928-1944
Box: 18 "M-Z" - Miscellaneous - Laminated
1928-1944

Subseries II.2 B: Group Portraits and Publicity, 1928-1944

Box: 16 Folder : 4 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Small Format
1928-1944
Box: 12 Folder : 5 "A-Z" - Miscellaenous - Large Format
1928-1944
Box: 18 "A-Z" - Miscellaneous - Laminated
1928-1944
Box: 16 Folder : 5 Unidentified - Small Format
1928-1944; Undated

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