Anna May Wong

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Don’t be photographed too much or you’ll lose your soul

– Anna May Wong

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The “Dress Doctor” Edith Head

Edith Head (1897 – 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, starting with The Heiress (1949) and ending with The Sting (1973).

Born and raised in California, Head managed to get a job as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures, without any relevant training. She first acquired notability for Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong dress, and then became a household name after the Academy Awards created a new category of Costume Designer in 1948. Head was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively, and these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.

After 43 years she left Paramount for Universal, possibly because of her successful partnership with Alfred Hitchcock, and also adapted her skills for television.

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Edith Head 1930s

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Edith Head’s costume for Anna May Wong in Dangerous to Know directed by Robert Florey, 1938.

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Grace Kelly wearing her Oscar dress by Edith Head. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.

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Edith Head’s costume for Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd directed by Billy Wilder 1950.

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Audrey Hepburn (with Edith Head in the background) puts on her tiara and necklace while on the set of Roman Holiday, 1952.

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Hitchcock and Head on the set of Family Plot (1976).

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Amazing Old Hollywood Costumes by Travis Banton

Travis Banton (1894 – 1958) was the chief designer at Paramount Pictures. He is considered one of the most important Hollywood costume designers of the 1930s.

An early apprenticeship with a high-society costume dressmaker earned him fame. When Mary Pickford selected one of his dresses for her wedding to Douglas Fairbanks, his reputation was established.

He opened his own dressmaking salon in New York City, and soon was asked to create costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1924, Travis Banton moved to Hollywood when Paramount contracted with him to create costumes for his first film, The Dressmaker from Paris.

Glamour, understated elegance, and exquisite fabrics endeared Travis Banton to the most celebrated of Hollywood’s beauties and made him one of the most sought-after costume designers of his era.

Because of his alcoholism and reputedly also at the instigation of his subordinate Edith Head, Banton was forced to leave Paramount. He started his own business and also designed for Twentieth Century-Fox from 1939-1941 and Universal from 1945-1948.

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Marlene Dietrich in “The Devil is a Woman,” 1935. Costume by Travis Banton.

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Claudette Colbert in “Tonight is Ours” 1933, costume by Travis Banton

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Anna May Wong in “Limehouse Blues” 1934, costume by Travis Banton.

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Lucille Ball in “Lover Come Back” 1946, costume by Travis Banton

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Carole Lombard in “Rumba”, 1935, costume by Travis Banton

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Female Portrait Photographs by Carl Van Vechten

Carl Van Vechten (1880 – 1964) was an American writer and artistic photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.

In the 1930s, Van Vechten began taking portrait photographs.

Among the many individuals he photographed were Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Theda Bara, Harry Belafonte, Leonard Bernstein,  Karen Blixen, Jane Bowles, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Ella Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Martha Graham, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Horst P. Horst, Mahalia Jackson, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Henri Matisse, W. Somerset Maugham, Elsa Maxwell, Henry Miller, Joan Miró, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Diego Rivera, Gertrude Stein, James Stewart, Alfred Stieglitz, Gloria Vanderbilt, Gore Vidal, Evelyn Waugh, Orson Welles and Anna May Wong.

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Frida wearing a Tchuantepee gourd by Carl Van Vechten (1932)

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Tallulah Bankhead by Carl Van Vechten (1934)

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 Anna May Wong by Carl Van Vechten (1935)

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Josephine Baker by Carl Van Vechten

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Gertrude Stein by Carl Van Vechten (1935)

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Lillian Gish by Carl Van Vechten (1937)

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Theda Bara by Carl Van Vechten (1939)

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Karen Blixen by Carl Van Vechten (1959)

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Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976) – Fashion and Society Portraits

Dorothy Wilding (1893 – 1976) was a noted English society photographer from Gloucester. She wanted to become an actress or artist but this career was disallowed by her uncle, in whose family she lived, so she chose the art of photography which she started to learn from the age of sixteen.

Dorothy Wilding began her photographic career as an apprentice to Bond Street photographer Marian Neilson. Wilding was the first woman to be appointed as the Official Royal Photographer for the 1937 Coronation and opened a second studio in New York in the same year. She is best known for her brightly lit linear compositions photographed in high key lighting against a white background.

Cecil Beaton in 'All the Vogue', by Dorothy Wilding, 1925 - NPG x36720 - © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London

Cecil Beaton in ‘All the Vogue’

by Dorothy Wilding
half-plate glass negative, 1925

Dame Gladys Cooper, by Dorothy Wilding, 1933 - NPG x13698 - © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London

Dame Gladys Cooper

by Dorothy Wilding
bromide print on tissue and card mount, 1933

Anna May Wong, by Dorothy Wilding, 1929 - NPG x26341 - © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London

Anna May Wong

by Dorothy Wilding
chlorobromide print on card mount, 1929

Tallulah Bankhead, by Dorothy Wilding, 1934 - NPG x4363 - © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London

Tallulah Bankhead

by Dorothy Wilding
bromide print, 1934

by Dorothy Wilding, bromide print, 1935

Vivien Leigh.

© William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London

by Dorothy Wilding
bromide print, 1935