Ted Allan, the popular Hollywood photographer known as “Rembrandt” at MGM and dubbed “Farley Focus” by Frank Sinatra, has died at the age of 83.
Allan, who lived in the Hollywood Hills home he built in 1929, died Monday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank after a long illness.
The veteran photographer was under personal contract to Sinatra for nine years in the 1960s and 1970s, taking pictures of the singer at recording sessions, during film productions and on world tours.
Born Theos Alwyn Dunagan in Clifton, Ariz., Allan changed his name during a brief fling at acting. As a teen-ager, he enhanced stars’ photographs with oil paint for display in theater lobbies. The experience stuck with him, and years later stars praised his ability to retouch their images.
Allan quickly moved behind the still camera when he established his own portrait studio in Hollywood in 1933. He later worked for MGM studios, CBS Radio (taking publicity photos for Cecil B. DeMille’s “Lux Radio Theatre”), ABC television and several film productions, including “The Sand Pebbles” and “Von Ryan’s Express.”
Over the years he photographed such stars as Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple, Helen Hayes, and John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore.
Allan, according to a catalogue entry during a 1987 show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “adhered to the portrait photographer’s mandate, to make mere men and women into objects of fantasy . . . with poses and dramatic lighting . . . and retouching.”
His work has also been exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and in London and Venice, Italy.
“Carole Lombard was a favorite of mine,” Allan told The Times in 1987. “She was real down to earth. She was the first movie star I ever heard use a four-letter word.”
Another favorite was Eleanor Powell.
“She liked my pictures so much that she proposed marriage,” he told The Times. “I said, ‘That’s all well and good, but I don’t think my wife would understand.’ ”
Allan is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jeanne, a daughter, Holly Allan-Young, a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.