In the early 20th Century, the epicenters of film and stage stardom were New York and Los Angeles. Luckily for us, stars in transit often changed trains in Chicago.
Hepburn, Pickford, Rogers, West, Hughes, Capra and Brice. All names and iconic faces from the heyday of Hollywood. And all of them found among the thousands of boxes of glass negatives in the depths of the Tribune Tower.
The glass plate negatives, and a few 4x5 acetate negatives, all are part of the Tribune's extensive archives in the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub basement of Tribune Tower. Photo editor Erin Mystkowski and I cleaned and scanned around 140 negatives of the stars of yesteryear.
The process from uncovering to online is often a long and tedious one. The glass negatives have to be handled with care, carefully cleaned, and scanned in one by one. Once scanned, I began researching our celebrity finds. Why were they in Chicago? What currently stands in place of the hotel or theater where they appeared? What are their career highlights? It involves piecing together information from a multitude of sources. It's always an adventure to find these photos and the stories behind them.
We never know quite what we'll uncover, either. For instance, we found separate photos from 1937 of Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn, dating at the time, leaving the same hotel. Hmm.
We were mesmerized by the beauty and grace of these stars. You can travel back in time and see them in the 'Starstruck' photogallery online at chicagotribune.com/news/photo. In a few weeks, a more extensive collection of photos will be available in our “Starstruck in Chicago” issue on the Chicago Tribune Photography iPad app.
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