Playmate Revisited: Shannon Tweed by George Hurrell, with bonus Classic Hollywood photography blatherings


Lovely Ms. Tweed gets the Veronica Lake treatment from a celebrity photographer.

Backstory: In the still-building comments on my sadly meager original Shannon Tweed entry, from the heady days of NSFW November when I was still relatively new to this game, reader Jed Leyland* suggested this morning that I chase down and post up what I could find from a shoot Shannon did with the legendary George Hurrell.

Here it is!


The new actresses don’t have the sense of posing that the old stars did. There’s no one around to train them. That’s why Hollywood seems less glamorous. But Shannon is different. She knows how to pose and what to do with herself. What surprised me more than anything was her nice personality — the kind of personality that has an intellect to go with it. I was quite impressed with that.

(George Hurrell on Shannon Tweed.)

The lovely and talented Ms. Tweed posed for Playboy Italia in February of 1984. Her spread was photographed by George Hurrell, on whom the article mainly focused.



«George Hurrell, famoso fotografo statunitense, non ha perso il pelo (dei suoi cappelli, della sua barba), ma nemmeno il vizio — che nel sui caso e senz’altro una notevole vurti — di roncorrerre con l’obiettivo il fascino femmininile, per catutrarly e renderlo fermo nel tempo, assoluto.»



«Nelle fotographie di questa paging potete vedere , attualissima playmate degli anni ottanta. Hurrell l’ha ritratta, nella sua inquieta e moderna bellezza, come trenta, quarant’anni fa andava a caccia del fascino segreto, quasi raccolto in una cornice antica del sex-appear, appena accennato ma no nper questio meno pruriginoso, di attrici che sarebbero restate nella storia del cinema. Anche per merito sui, occhio discreto e innamorato che chon le sue “ispiratrici del momento” sapeva creare un sodalizio, quasi un legame sentimentale, queste foto riescono a uscire dalle pieghe del tempo per restituirci un fascio che credebvamo di allora e che invece e anchi de adesso, incredibilmente attuale.»

What’s that? Unlucky enough to have grown up without smatterings of Italian and a certain gameness for descrying cognates? No sweat. Let’s hit the babelfish, shall we? I love living in DA‘s future.


«George Hurrell, famous American photographer, has not lost the hair (of its nails head, of its beard), but not even the defect — that in on the case and senz’ other a remarkable one vurti — of roncorrerre with l’ objective the femmininile fascination, for catutrarly and rendering it firm in the time, absolute.»




«In the fotographie of this paging you can see, most current playmate of years eighty. Hurrell it has ritratta, in its restless and modern beauty, like thirty, forty years ago it go huntinged of the secret fascination, nearly collected in an ancient frame of the sex-appear, as soon as pointed out but not nper questio less pruritic, than actresses who would have remained in the history of the cinema. Also for merit on i, discreet and fallen in love eye that chon its ” ispiratrici of the momento” it knew to create a society, nearly a sentimentale tie, these photos succeed to exit from the folds of the time in order to give back a bundle to us that credebamo then and that instead and anchi de now, incredibly they puts into effect.»

Clear as mud now, jes? Honestly, you get the gist, I wager. Thanks, babelfish! I had originally intended to show the above pictures as proof that Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed were still going strong and sometimes folks get it right, isn’t that affirming?, but in the interest of accuracy I gave “gene simmons and shannon tweed” a quick googly-moogly, and apparently they’re having problems. So that sucks. Different direction required.

George Hurrell was one of the premiere Hollywood photographers for the glamour portraits and studio stills of the 1930’s-40’s. He is particularly famous in classic Hollywood portraiture for his “north light,” seen here applied to Anna May Wong.


Anna May Wong, photographed by George Hurrell.

He achieved this dramatic effect chiefly with the use of fresnels (which we’ve defined and discussed before in the 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies post on my fave-ohs, Twelve Monkeys) placed on a boom well above and only slightly in front of the subject.


Joan Crawford photographed by George Hurrell for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1932.

This bright, diffuse key light, along with some artsy post-treatment of his negatives, created the glowing planes with deep contrasting shadows and illuminated, heroic facial lines in his shots that basically define Art Deco photography and made his name. Joan Crawford adored him (above and below) because his luminous portraits revealed — or maybe created — a softness in her that few other still photographers were capable of capturing, which ran as a nice counterpoint to the brassy, hard women she played, to say nothing of her reputation as a handful on set.


Joan by George, 1933. By applying the north light and having Joan cock her forehead with her hand, probably to break up the imposingly symmetrical lines of her face, Hurrell creates a sort of softer, aw-shucks face that catches the light and interests the eye. I think, at least.

Hurrell preferred his subjects wear as light of makeup as possible, to avoid cakey, pale faces from the fresnel key lighting, which tends to magnify pores and unevenness. As his technique progressed, he especially liked the subjects to be rubbed with a thin, consistent layer of baby oil. The baby oil gave a uniform, glossy surface for the fresnel lights to suffuse, creating a burnished glow when combined with the contrasting natural shadows from the planes of the face.

See how shiny Jean is? Otherworldly, thanks to the north light, the oil, and Hurrell’s radical retouching techniques. This became the defining “look” for MGM’s glamour publicity shots of their stars. Hurrell’s contract with MGM didn’t last long despite the support of Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg; a fallout with a publicity department head resulted in Hurrell dramatically leaving the studio after serving there for three years. Though he continued to photograph almost exclusively for MGM throughout the next decade until contracting with Warner Bros in 1938, Hurrell mainly worked as a freelance, independent contractor.

The look wasn’t flattering on everyone — check out Greta Garbo above. While Anna May Wong’s baby oil-rubbed features work beautifully with the north light, Garbo looks harsh and washed-out. Not surprising that she fomented a close working relationship instead with Hurrell’s gentle contemporary, Clarence Sinclair Bull, who was “head” of the publicity still department at MGM for over four decades.

Maybe another day I’ll do a post comparing Bull, Hurrell, and … I don’t know, Leo Fuchs? I just dig this kind of thing. I mean, I did all this shit completely from memory and it seems crazy not to start using this knowledge for, like, a book or something.


Goofy girls — we are a Thing! (outtake from Shannon’s PMOY shoot, 1982).

Anyway, I’m over all this. I want to go eat a sandwich and watch the Giants game. Probably why I will never write that book: too much of a goof who keeps better track of eating sandwiches and watching ball than using her education for her profit. While I was writing this entry, I was drinking Diet 7-up from a licorice straw the entire time, but different straws every 5 minutes or so because when they start to get hard I like to eat them. This is all true. Super-mature and put together. Call me!

*Joe — “Of course we’re speaking, Jedediah. You’re fired.” Kane? Yes? Do I get a gold star?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses to “Playmate Revisited: Shannon Tweed by George Hurrell, with bonus Classic Hollywood photography blatherings”

  1. nicastrese Says:

    sipping Diet 7-Up from a licorice straw the whole time…and It All…the entire stream of idiosyncratic, phantasmagorical minutiae…all the time…you may just be the most charming chick going…but it’s got to be hard…to be AWAKE…all the time…to sleep…Batman!…in the middle of the night…superhero strength…to carry you through…prophecy, poetry, the purity of awakedness in the midst of It All…Holy Cow!…I swear to gar

  2. Frank Says:

    As a photographer myself I have to agree with actress (and models) not knowing how to pose. Models these days look robotic and unnatural. I don’t even bother with trying to use a model.

    Would rather photograph a ghost, history or landscapes.

    Your flashbacks into the past show the true beauty of real photography.
    Thank you for them.

  3. Jed Leyland Says:

    You get the gold star !

    Jed: “But Charlie…people will think…”
    Kane “WHAT I TELL THEM TO THINK !! I’M CHARLES FOSTER KANE !”

    Amazing you pulled this together within such a short time frame. Thanks !

    I’ll hold off on my next request: A series profiling each of the films of Radley Metzger. ;-)

  4. Glynn Says:

    Shannon and Gene are having trouble simply because after all these years, Shannon is ready to officially tie the knot and Gene isn’t. It’s been the theme of theri shows for the last two years, increasingly so. It’s sad, because if I ever saw 2 people who belong together, it is them, although Gene is so self-centered and really needs to let Shannon shine once in awhile. She is lovely. I love Gene, he is just self-absorbed.

    • E. Says:

      Glynn, I agree. I think it’s so admirable that they’ve worked at their relationship for so long. Hopefully they will work it out.

  5. Photographers Says:

    Photographers…

    [...]Playmate Revisited: Shannon Tweed by George Hurrell, with bonus Classic Hollywood photography blatherings « The Thought Experiment[...]…

  6. glamour nudes Says:

    certainly like your website however you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very troublesome to tell the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.

  7. LDnearthesea Says:

    Hurrell did the photos for Tom Waits’ 1977 Foreign Affairs album.
    Very Hollywood, that album. Very Film noir. Rickie Lee Jones was the gal on the cover draped on Waits, who looks to have conked and greased his hair for the photo shoot.

  8. Jed Leyland Says:

    Hurrell did Paul and Linda’s cover for “Press to Play”. If you ever come out of retirement, please post some more ,by George!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: