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    The Magic of George Hurrell

    By Jan Wahl–

    George Hurrell’s Hollywood Glamour Portraits 1925–1992 by Mark A. Vieira is one for the ages. It is the most beautiful coffee table book for gift giving or for your own collection. 

    Mark is a longtime friend and colleague. If you don’t know his work, honey, you are reading the wrong books. His latest wildly informative and entertaining read contains lavish photos of a man called a legend. I recently spoke with Mark from his Hollywood studio.

    “Eleven years ago, I did a Hurrell book, but this time I found new images and acquired new skills to reproduce them,” he told me for the San Francisco Bay Times.

    There is a crispness and a vibrance, anew and very honest text. Stars and their remarkable glamour photos are shown: the ones who hated the process (Gable) and those who enjoyed it (Errol Flynn). Mark shared that “Hurrell found Claudette Colbert bitchy and Dietrich too controlling, since she knew lighting almost as well as he did. Harlow and Lombard had fun with it, but Olivia de Havilland did not like Hurrell’s bawdy, sexy humor. He loved working with Shearer, changing her into a sex siren and appreciating her own creativity to always try something new.”

    George Hurrell

    There are amazing photos of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford here. Crawford is the book’s cover girl. Dictating exactly what he wanted in clothes, makeup, and hair, as well as with the backgrounds and poses, Hurrell made his subjects look their best and unforgettable. Davis went from dowdy to sleek luminosity. Crawford was a true muse; in her images both the photographer and star revealed an unanimity of purpose, one mind.  There are period clothes and looks as Hurrell helped to promote films, along with evening clothes by renowned Hollywood costume designers Adrian, Orry-Kelly, and others. Sharon Stone, one of my favorite interviewees, collects Hurrell and writes the forward. This tome is around $35 on Amazon and is so worth it!

    Want to know about my wicked, wicked ways? My Wicked, Wicked Ways is the title of Errol Flynn’s fabulous autobiography with the aid of ghostwriter Earl Conrad. I have a few tales of my own to tell in the new book Gene Nelson: Lights! Camera! Dance! by Scott O’Brien. Gene was a supreme dancer (Oklahoma, Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway) and respected director (Elvis movies Kissin’ Cousins, Harem Scarum, Your Cheatin’ Heart) and helmed hundreds of episodic TV shows.

    In my 20s, Gene and I had a glorious affair, culminating in a date at the Oscars. But it is not our suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel that is interesting in the book (though it was … love those older dancers!) but Gene’s varied career and his sheer talent.

    His screen dancing was on par with that of Gene Kelly, yet he just didn’t catch the breaks. It’s a cruel business, though Gene kept reinventing himself until the end here in the Bay Area and Southern California. It’s a fun read, by BearManor Media and available on Amazon in paperback. Scott does it again with this terrific look at an undervalued talent.

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian and film critic on various broadcast outlets. She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on October 5, 2023