Classic Hollywood:  Actors ready for close-ups in ‘Styling the Stars’

Share via

A dashing and debonair Cary Grant posing in his swim trunks for a photographer on the set of his 1957 tear-jerking romantic drama “An Affair to Remember.”

Doris Day, dressed in pajamas and fuzzy bedroom slippers, mugging for the camera on the soundstage of her 1967 spy comedy “Caprice.”

And Marilyn Monroe modeling the back of her original — and suggestive — costume for her “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” which was considered too risqué and replaced with the pink gown.


The three screen legends are among the more than 150 stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood represented in the lavish new book “Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures From the Twentieth Century Fox Archive.” The book was written by artist-author Angela Cartwright, the former child star of “Lost in Space” and “The Sound of Music,” and actor Tom McLaren, with a foreword by celebrated actress Maureen O’Hara, who was one of the studio’s top stars in the 1940s.

These eye-catching images from the 1930s through the early ‘70s were known as the studio’s “continuity” photographs. They were taken once the actors were camera-ready to make sure their costumes, hair and makeup looked the same throughout the production.

Actors were often placed next to a placard that had pertinent information such as the character and scene. Sometimes, they were photographed holding a comb or a brush if the picture was headed to the hairstyling department or a powder puff if the image had been shot for makeup continuity.

Cartwright came up with the idea for “Styling the Stars” when she was in the Fox archives in Century City, looking for pictures for the 2011 book “The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook.”

“I came across continuity pictures from the movie and was really taken by the level of the photography and by the actual photographs themselves,” she said. “They were crystal clear and shot with a large camera. I can actually remember shooting them. While I was in the archive, I said, ‘Wait a minute, every picture had continuity shots.’’’

She called McLaren, whom she had known for several years, and invited him to work on the book. “I knew what a huge undertaking it was, and I knew that I would not to be able to do it alone,” said Cartwright.


The two gave the archivist a list of favorite movies and stars they wanted in the book and soon began to pore through old, dusty boxes to find the photographs.

Though posing for continuity photographs was part of an actor’s job, that didn’t mean they were happy having to do it. Frank Sinatra looks like the Chairman of the Bored in two pictures from his 1968 film “Lady in Cement.” And Bette Davis seems to be taking her role a bit too seriously as Queen Elizabeth in a series of photographs from 1955’s “The Virgin Queen.”

But there are other actors like Paul Newman who were playful. “There was really no straight shot of Paul Newman,” said Cartwright. “He was pulling a face in every single picture.”

Dean Martin photo-bombs Cyd Charisse in a still from the uncompleted 1962 Monroe comedy “Something’s Got to Give,” and even Marlon Brando can’t keep a straight face in his photographs for 1958’s “The Young Lions.”

“The men are often more relaxed and casual,” said McLaren. “What I found was the women tended to take it a bit more seriously. They would like to strike a pose of a graceful, elegant woman.”

Because a lot of these images were taken on the fly, the backdrops were often anything but glamorous. There’s a photo of Ann-Margret vamping it up in a sultry gown in front of a hodgepodge of studio equipment on the set of 1964’s “The Pleasure Seekers.”


Some photographs were taken on the set, but others were done in an old portrait studio before filming began for the day. Included in that group are pictures of Cartwright and some of her costars in 1965’s “The Sound of Music,” including Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and the six young actors who played her Von Trapp “siblings.”

Cartwright and McLaren end the book with images from the mid-1970s. After that, studios switched to Polaroid pictures. Digital cameras are now used to shoot continuity photographs.

Even though these photographs were taken only for use within the studio, the stars managed to look perfect.

“None of these pictures are photoshopped,” said Cartwright. “To see these people shot on the fly and still look so good, you realize that the actors had a magic about them.”

Twitter: @mymackie