Anna Lee (Анна Щукина) (ana_lee) wrote,
Anna Lee (Анна Щукина)

Cornel Lucas: Shooting Stars

THERE was a time in Hollywood, during the 1940s and 1950s, when the making of a good glamour portrait could do as much for an actor’s reputation as a good movie.

These were the days before heat and other specialist humiliation magazines, before stars suffered the indignities of being snapped unpainted and unprepared. Instead this was the era of Hollywood myth and magic, of radiant hallucinations and film stars who were at once human and superhuman, figures whom the watching millions could both identify with and worship. In Britain it was Cornel Lucas, working with the Rank Organisation and later at his Pinewood Pool Studio, who was making the most persuasively “magical” portraits. His first major star session was with Marlene Dietrich in 1948, and the results, show his considerable poise and character, at the age of 25, in dealing with this most notoriously difficult subject.

Cornel Lucas with his Plate Camera, 1986
Photographed by Fi McGhee

Cornel with Camera
The upside-down image is of Belinda Lee

Marlene Dietrich, 1948

Anouk Aimee

Brigitte Bardot, 1955

Gregory Peck

There was little that Dietrich did not know about photographic printing, let alone lighting and composition, and she wasted no time in small talk with this young photographer.

Lucas lit her from several angles, etching the sharp lines of her cheekbones and illuminating the ice-hard perfection of her face. Her favourite lighting was from above (the “12 o’clock highlight”) and the great skill was to achieve a balance between intense lighting and the meltdown of hair and make-up. Lucas clearly got it right first time.

Cornel with selected magazine covers

Dietrich used to study the rough proofs at length through a four-inch magnifying glass and mark changes in black pencil. The following day she summoned Lucas with the prints and marked them with Xs for removal, and Os for retouching. In a way she used her photographers as plastic surgeons. Of course, she did not really look like this portrait, but it is a persuasive image of the actress, even if rather less than reassuring about the woman.

Lucas went on to become one of her few trusted portraitists. She introduced him to many more of his subjects and in subsequent years he photographed dozens of stars including Dirk Bogarde, Katharine Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot, as well as Diana Dors posing energetically in a mink bikini in a gondola. When he left Pinewood in 1959, the studio system of stars under contract was coming to an end. He set up as an independent and continued making portraits right up to the late 1990s. Steven Spielberg, photographed in 1998, is the most-recent portrait in the show, but it is too contrived for a “natural” shot.

Cornel Behind The Lens
Cornel with Anne Heywood

Cornel with Jean Simmons, 1948
On location in the South Pacific shooting stills for ‘Blue Lagoon’. This photograph was taken shortly before Cornel was stung by a scorpion.

Cornel with Diana Dors

Cornel with Exhibition Poster

Cornel with Jean Carson

Cornel with Jill Ireland

Cornel with Kenneth More

Cornel with Richard Todd

Cornel with Shirley Easton

Cornel with Yvonne De Carlo

Female Stars

Anne Heywood, 1956

“Anne Heywood was sent to me to be photographed just after she had signed a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation. She was a former beauty queen who was later to become a very highly respected actress who never gave anything less than 100 per cent.

Anne had a tendency to choose roles that were slightly controversial and which gave her the opportunity to explore deeper, more troubled parts of the human psyche.

After the death of her first husband, Miss Heywood married a former Assistant Attorney General of New York State, giving up her acting career and moved to Beverly Hills.”

Anna Massey

Anouk Aimee
“My over-riding recollection is of Anouk Aimée's hair blowing in the winds of the Sahara desert while we were filming 'The Golden Salamander' with Trevor Howard.

Anouk Aimee is perhaps best known for her roles in a number of films for Fellini, including La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. She was an especially regal and intelligent woman, and at the same time rather enigmatic too. It's no surprise to me that Anouk went on to marry an actor as intelligent and dominant a personality as Albert Finney.

It's also no surprise that she is still making back-to-back movies today and is soon to celebrate an unbroken career spanning sixty years of starring roles in often highly memorable European films.”


Belinda Lee, 1957

“Belinda Lee, my first wife, had been spotted on stage at the Nottingham Playhouse by the Rank Organisation and was being groomed as a starlet when I met her.

We spent five years together before our respective careers forced distance between us - Belinda’s acting took her to Italy, I was committed to my photography career in the UK and ultimately, we divorced.

Belinda was tragically killed in a car crash whilst on holiday in California in 1961. She was just 24.”

Brigitte Bardot, 1955

“When I first photographed Brigitte Bardot, she was going through a divorce from director Roger Vadim and was rather unhappy.

Everything had been arranged for the shoot when I received a telephone call from Mlle Bardot saying that she didn’t want any photographs taken: she was exhausted and would be returning to France in a few days. I assured her that the pictures would not take long and I would be able to convey her youthful sensuality while she was fully clothed.

The publicity director felt that the best thing to cheer her up would be a bottle of Champagne. After a few glasses, she started giggling and curling
up on the floor, looking rather provocative, and I began to see how she had achieved her reputation. She was rather self-conscious about her slightly buck teeth, and would put her wrist up to her mouth in order to hide them – a little like a cat pawing away some milk. The publicity director chuckled and said, “She is like a sex-kitten” and that is where the term came from.

Unfortunately as the session progressed the effects of the Champagne caused her to keep falling asleep. As the hours wore on she became more and more lethargic but, being a true professional, I continued to photograph her until she was out for the count.”

Claudette Colbert , 1950

“Claudette Colbert made one silent picture with Frank Capra in 1927 before joining Paramount Pictures in 1929. I still remember her playing the part of Poppaea bathing in asses milk in De Mille’s ‘The Sign Of The Cross’.

My own portrait of her was created during an slightly unusual session in that it took place out of doors, and a refreshingly different one for Miss Colbert too, who was keen to be photographed away from the studio. I couldn’t help noticing though, that however I attempted to pose her, as soon as I turned my back she would return to her original position. I soon realised that she a very clear understanding as to what was her ‘best side’.

Miss Colbert had a truly timeless quality and won an Oscar for her
performance in ‘It Happened One Night’, again directed by Capra.”

Claudia Cardinale , 1958

“With over one hundred movies to her name, and more in production, this great Italian beauty became an international star in the 60s. Her finest work was to be found in the films of the great Italian directors, particularly those of Luchino Visconti.

The intensity of her performance, and her famously husky voice, was an essential contribution to the genius of that great film ‘The Leopard’ (directed by Visconti), in which she was paired to startling effect with Burt Lancaster.

For British and American audiences she epitomised the mystery and provocative charm of the continental beauty and is nothing other than unforgettable in Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West - a film in which her abundant screen presence catapulted her into that same space occupied by Sophia Loren, Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch.

In short, she was a goddess!”

Diana Dors, 1952

“Diana Dors was known as the British Marilyn Monroe and was a tremendous self publicist – she certainly didn't need the help of a publicity director.

She wouldn’t tell anyone what she was planning during a trip to the 1955 Venice Film Festival; all she said was that I should get on a motor launch and get myself to the middle of the lido. It was packed with boats. Suddenly Diana appeared coming through the throng of boats in a gondola - she was wearing a long coat (even though it was a hot sunny day). Suddenly she whipped off her coat to reveal a mink bikini!

The next day, the picture was on the front page of newspapers all over the world.”

Dinah Sheridan, star of the Technicolor comedy "Genevieve."

Gene Tierney, 1952

“I had seen Miss Tierney in Preminger’s 'Laura' in 1944. It was a classic romantic tale of passion and obsession and Miss Tierney’s performance in it was electrifying. Her heart-shaped face was a dream factory creation that had astonishing impact in close-up.

However, when I met her, she was most uneasy: her personal life was in turmoil and it was one of those situations where perhaps silence was the most tactful approach.

Yet, the results we achieved were wonderful and I think simply speak for themselves.”

Glynis Johns, 1950

Glynis Johns and Terence Morgan

“Glynis was a favourite subject of mine – always professional and always maintaining a rare sense of humour. I had photographed her many times over the years before a brief interlude while she was to enjoy success in Hollywood.

It was during one of my many sessions with her that she related to me her experiences with the Hollywood system. Setting eyes on her, the Front Office decided that she was the perfect specimen for their ‘glamour treatment’, and after some preliminary photographic sessions, they outlined to her exactly what they required in order for her to make the perfect visual impact.

They thought that her thighs and buttocks needed more shape, and suggested that all her costumes should have this built in to them - including room for a ridiculously large bust. She listened dumb-founded, as they went on to tell her that she should cap all her teeth and reshape both her eyebrows and lip line. It is no surprise that Glynis quickly came to the conclusion that Hollywood was not for her, and soon left for Broadway where she found it was possible to be herself (appearing to great acclaim in the successful show ‘A Little Night Music’).”

Greta Scacchi, 1988

“Greta Scacchi was a top international model before gracing the big screen and her early film career was very promising. She appeared in films such as Merchant Ivory’s ‘Heat And Dust’, ‘White Mischief’ and the Hollywood thriller ‘Presumed Innocent’ (with Harrison Ford). Following a number of successful European films, she is now enjoying a resurgent career on the British stage and also appeared in the highly praised 2004 movie ‘Beyond The Sea’.

Gazing at this image of her again, it occurs to me that she reminds me of the stars of the forties and fifties. Her sensitive features, luminous wide-set eyes, straight nose and generous mouth give her a Garboesque quality.

During the session, I took many pictures of Greta using modern equipment and colour film. We reviewed them all for this book. However, there's something, some quality, within my images shot using the plate cameras that is indefinable. Whatever it is, I can place this portrait next to others shot almost sixty years ago and feel equally satisfied. Some of the early portraits have a surprisingly contemporary feel. Conversely, this image could sit alongside shots of Hepburn, or Dietrich with little sense of the time elapsed between them.”

Jean Kent

“During her time working in the film industry, Jean Kent matured into the archetypal femme fatale and became increasingly known as a screen ‘bad girl’ - and not without reason. Out of the fifteen films she made between 1944 and 1948, she was ‘bad’ in ten of them and a borderline case in four others. However, it was obvious that audiences loved her.

Her fame reached its peak with The Browning Version, which was a huge success and featured a standout performance from Miss Kent. Unfortunately, it is perceived wisdom that her decision to play a woman ten years older than herself meant that movie career faltered soon after.

Nevertheless, she turned to theatre and television and kept busy, memorably playing Queen Elizabeth 1 – a part that perfectly suited her – in the sixties series Sir Francis Drake.”

Jean Simmons, 1951

“I first met Jean in the make-up room at Pinewood when she was a girl of seventeen. I had been asked to photograph her for a feature in a movie magazine. As she regarded herself in the mirror, she said, “Corny, I wonder what this face will look like when I’m fifty?”

“Jeannie,” I replied, “Always remember that a woman is responsible for her face at fifty.” Over the next three years this rising star occupied a great deal of my working life. She left Britain in 1950 to work under Howard Hughes in the USA, gained American citizenship and has remained there ever since.

Jean Simmons is one of those great British actresses who's career continued to 'shoot for the stars' once she arrived in Hollywood. With an early legacy which included films such as 'Black Narcissus', 'Great Expectations' and 'The Blue Lagoon', and then went on to include enduring masterpieces 'Guys And Dolls', 'The Big Country' and of course 'Spartacus', it is surely the case that her place in the pantheon of movie greats is assured.”

Jill Ireland, 1955

“Jill Ireland was one of the many young hopefuls I photographed whilst at the Rank Organisation.

Jill was to effectively enjoy two successful film careers - her early portfolio of work in the UK and then, subsequent to her marriage to Charles Bronson, an equally successful career in Hollywood and on the Continent.

Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland were devoted to each other and starred in many movies together so as to not be apart. Jill was to succumb to cancer and died tragically young.”


Joan Collins, 1953

“I photographed Joan Collins many many times in the early fifties, but Joan was not typical of the many starlets who were sent to my studio. It was clear from my first meeting that this was a girl with a career ahead of her.

By the mid fifties, Joan Collins had starred in a number of films without winning the kind of parts her ability deserved. Then Castalani, the Italian film director, came onto the scene wanting to film Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. It was his great wish to cast an unknown actress for the part of Juliet, Joan felt that given the opportunity she could play it. Castalani thought otherwise, but nevertheless agreed to a screen test for her.

This was not to be the usual sort of screen test as it was to take place in his flat, against a white sheet with a couple of lamps. There was to be no soundtrack, just silent film. I was to photograph Joan in a similar manner after the completion of the test, to show the characterisaation in still form. The main stipulation being that Joan should wear absolutely no makeup, and her hair was to be flattened and tied back from her face. He wanted no form of illusion.

Joan was horrified to be asked to dispense with her two most valuable assets - assets which she’d been led to believe were essential to film actresses at all times. Regardless, she looked stunning – though sadly she didn’t get the part.

However, as we all know, her talents did shine through and her career has continued unbroken up till this day.”

Juliette Greco, 1958

“Her face was often referred to as an unmade bed, but she said it was something she felt quite comfortable in.

I recall once asking her what she thought of Twentieth Century Fox erecting a seven-storey poster of her. “I’d be happier if it was of the mind instead of the body” she mused.

These two snapshots describe Juliette Greco far better than any description of her long and illustrious career in European films.”

Portrait of Actress Jill Adams

Katharine Hepburn, 1950

“My first encounter with Katharine Hepburn was approached with trepidation. My friend Jack Hilyard, the lighting cameraman, was quick to point out that I had cause to be nervous: “She can be unforthcoming, even sharp, and will not be persuaded to do anything she doesn’t want to. Aside from this she doesn’t wear makeup. Best of luck!”

Miss Hepburn didn’t possess the usual figure or facial features common to her contemporaries. Indeed, her only makeup was a splash of crushed ice to her face, which gave her skin a glow. Retouched pictures were out too. But she was happy for me to to capture her in casual situations. The only way I could introduce some light was to get the overhead gantry electricians to quickly shine a beam on her if I gave a signal.

There was another side to her too. I recall Jack Cardiff telling me of his experiences with Kate during the shooting of The African Queen. The food was awful, the entire crew was ill with stomach upsets - except Bogart, who was convinced that regular shots of scotch were all that was needed to keep the bugs at bay - yet filming never stopped. Miss Hepburn was the perfect trouper and managed to fit bouts of vomiting in between takes without interrupting shooting once.

My portrait of her pleased her so much, that she asked if she could present it to her most important admirer – Professor Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin, at St Mary’s Hospital Paddington.”

Kay Kendall, 1952

“You are an ugly duckling, with little talent, who photographs badly.”

This was the typically sensitive advice of a top film executive to Kay Kendall - and the words were to have a had a marked effect on her.

Always conscious of her profile, she went to great lengths to avoid having her portrait taken. A nose operation did little to improve her self-esteem, and this phobia was rather limiting for the photographer with regards to his normal approach, and his mobility.

One of the rare occasions that I persuaded her to sit for me was particularly memorable. Halfway through our allocated time together she had still not appeared, so I made my way to her dressing room. On entering, I was somewhat surprised to find her disappearing out of the window, attempting to escape me.

I was determined to rearrange the session but had to come up with a devious plan to get her into the studio. Knowing that Dirk Bogarde was a close friend of hers, I told him that I had recently purchased a lens attachment that would foreshorten features. Sure enough he told her about it and the ice was broken. From my perspective, I knew I was able to get the results I wanted, and Kay simply relied upon the magical qualities of my fictitious lens.”

Lauren Bacall, 1958

“I was asked to photograph Lauren Bacall in the ‘more relaxed and personal atmosphere’ of her home. I had been warned to expect a person of unpredictable temperament who might need careful handling. This side of her personality was likely to be justifiably exaggerated as her husband, Humphrey Bogart, had recently died of cancer of the oesophagus.

I arrived at Miss Bacall’s with my large camera and strobe lights, and knocked on her door. Her maid showed me in and muttered something about ‘passport photographs’ and that ‘Miss Bacall would be with me in 15 minutes’. Obviously, I was rather confused. However, the mystery was soon solved. I was indeed to create new portraits of Lauren Bacall — and whilst I was there, it was hoped that I could snap the maid too for her visa application.

With my camera and lights ready, Miss Bacall appeared and asked me to photograph her ‘just as I am’.

I did so on my small camera, and then for safety’s sake on the large camera too. The final prints were very different, and when I showed them to her, she asked for just the unretouched photographs to be used, something that no other actress had ever done in my experience. She explained to me that makeup artists had always tried to manipulate her looks, but she only ever wanted to look herself.”

Leslie Caron, 1964

“It was none other than Gene Kelly who discovered Leslie Caron, dancing with Roland Petit’s ballet company in Paris. When he saw her for the first time, he announced that he had found the leading lady for his new film ‘An American In Paris’.

Leslie went on to shine in several musicals during the fifties, but wasted no time in hanging up her ballet shoes when at last she was given the opportunity to really cut her acting teeth.

When she came to me, gone was the short gamine haircut: here she is, a perfect reflection of the sixties.”

Mai Zetterling, 1955

“Mai Zetterling came from Sweden to sign a contract with the Rank Organisation.

As an actress she was successful, but towards the end of her acting career became far more interested in writing and directing. On her return to Sweden she directed a number of considerably successful films, including ‘Night Games’.”

Marlene Dietrich, 1948

“Having fired her established photographer, Marlene Dietrich's Publicity Director was desperate to find a replacement. Someone - someone to whom I shall remain eternally grateful! - recommended that they give me the opportunity.

So, there I was, walking between the sound stages, on my way back to the studio, when I heard my name shouted out. I was approached with the slightly odd question "...are you Cornel Lucas? I understand you get on well with female artists?" I responded that I did - having six sisters certainly gave me that advantage. The next words certainly made me take a deep breath. "Would you like to photograph Marlene Dietrich?".

I was told to watch scenes from the film that they were currently shooting and to choose a selection of props for using in the session the next day. Well aware that a turning point in my career had arrived, I prepared my set in the corner of a large empty sound stage.

During the session she was very disciplined. I was aware of her studying every move I made,. However, she never said a word.

Yet during the session, I learned a lot from her – I became aware that she could feel whether the lamps were too hot or too cold and therefore tell their position. She looked in the direction they were coming from and said, “I'm so glad you've got the 12 o'clock highlight - that's the one I like.” She was so patient: in fact, she always held a cigarette holder and you could tell how long she had been in a position in any picture by the amount of ash that was left undisturbed on the end of her cigarette.”

Marlene Dietrich, 1948

“In the photographs, Marlene is wearing a wonderful mink cape with rose petals attached that she'd had made especially in Paris. I found out later that it had cost $40,000.

At the end of the session she said, “I'll see the rough proofs tomorrow”. The next morning, I took them to her dressing room and she was ready for me, taking an enormous magnifying glass and black eyeliner pencil from her handbag. She went through each of the shots, putting Xs and Os all over them. I had no idea what she was doing until she said, “The Xs mean you take it out, the Os mean retouch.” When I took the prints back to her the following day she shook my hand and said, “Thank you very much Mr. Lucas, join the club.”

...and I did!

Even today, I still muse upon the extent to which that one wonderful unexpected opportunity opened the door to all of the other portraits featured within this book, and all of the wonderful actors, actresses, film-makers and artists that I have had the pleasure to have worked with across the years.”

Mary Ure, 1957

“Mary Ure was a wonderful actress who gave some beautiful performances, culminating in an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Clara in the 1960 adaptation of ‘Sons and Lovers’. A film which also represents the highlight of cinematographer Jack Cardiff's parallel career as a director.

She starred in ‘Where Eagles Dare’ in with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton in 1968, but was then not to appear on-screen again for another five years.

Mary was to marry twice. Firstly to John Osborne and later to the actor Robert Shaw. Her life away from the cameras was turbulent and in the end, full of insurmountable hurdles. Sadly, her life ended as the result of an accidental overdose at the age of just 42.”

Maureen Swanson, 1957

“Maureen Swanson's career commenced with great promise. She had minor roles in 'Moulin Rouge', 'A Town Like Alice' and 'Look Back In Anger' and she actually starred in an impressive 14 movies in the fifties.

However, in 1961, Maureen — like so many young talented starlets of the time — abandoned her acting career upon getting married. Her husband, William Humble David Ward, later became the 4th Earl of Dudley and consequently provided Maureen with the title 'Countess of Dudley'.”

Margaret Rutherford

Nadia Grey, 1950

“In the post war years, on the continent, Nadia Grey was considered a great beauty.

Whilst relatively unknown in the UK, Miss Grey went on to make many films in Europe throughout the fifties, the sixties and the seventies, including a small but memorable performance in Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’.

It was one of the many joys in preparing this book that I was presented with the opportunity to rediscover portraits (and people) that had perhaps even faded from my own memories.”

Penelope Wilton, 1968

“I first met Penelope Wilton when she was only ten years old.

She was certain even then that she wished to become an actress, and asked my advice on her chosen career. “I would forget all about acting if I wer you,” was my emphatic reply.

Luckily, she ignored me, and has worked continually on stage and screen to this day, appearing most recently in the latest film version of Pride and Prejudice, and on stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company in a revival of Thomas Middleton’s 'Women Beware Women'.

Meeting her again recently, I reminded her of the conversation we shared fifty years ago. Remembering it well, she laughed and said: “Corny, I thought you were barmy then and you’re just as barmy now.”

Petula Clark, 1950

“Petula Clark was introduced to me by Jack Warner in 1949. Her father, who was also her manager at the time, had made it clear how determined he was that his daughter should break away from the little girl part she was playing in the popular television series ‘The Huggett’s’.

It was his opinion that it was time she play more mature parts and thought that I could help her by taking some special photographs. Armed with these new portraits, Petula's father successfully fought for her to be allowed the opportunity to shine in adult roles.

Her apprenticeship over, Petula seized the opportunity to prove her talents as a performer and went on to enjoy considerable international acclaim in films, on television and on the stage.”

Pier Angeli, 1950

“To gaze at my pictures of Pier Angeli is to be saddened once more.

I had travelled to Italy to photograph Fellini when I first saw Pier Angeli - her beauty was such, even with but a brief glimpse as she walked towards me, that it quite literally took my breath away.

Miss Angeli came to England after her engagement to James Dean had ended. There was such a deep sense of sadness about her and it was all too obvious that she was clearly suffering from the turmoil of her broken relationship. However, some years later, it was still an awful shock to hear that she had committed suicide.”

Princess Anne, 1986

“On the occasion I was asked to photograph Princess Anne at Gatcombe Park, her home in the Cotswolds, I realised that my approach and style of photography would have to be different. Her secretary had told me that I would have limited time for shooting and that she would only be able to wear one dress due to the other engagements she had that day.

I noticed whilst arranging the lighting that a young girl in jodpurs kept peeping round the door with a quizzical look on her face. When I walked over to ask if I could help her, she ran off. The Royal Secretary who was with me asked if I knew who it was. ‘No’, I said, and to my surprise she told me that it was Princess Anne herself.

When she appeared for the session she looked more in line with my impressions of her; very much the princess. When the photographs were taken I looked at my watch and told her I had been given a set time to finish. She replied, ‘Nonsense, time is not limited’ and so ultimately, I was able to finish my work without any form of pressure.”

Raquel Welch

“Raquel Welch was one of the few great stars to emerge in the sixties. She had a very special beauty that did seem to perfectly encapsulate the mood of the time.

From an unforgettable debut 'One Million Years BC', wearing only a pre-historic fur bikini and speaking a Neanderthal dialect comprised largely of grunts, Miss Welch went on to prove her worth in many memorable roles.

Whilst she was - and remains - one of the film industry's most iconic screen Goddesses, Raquel strived to be taken seriously by both the studios and movie goers. However, her appearances in 'The Three Musketeers', 'The Four Musketeers', 'Bandolero' and '100 Rifles' may yet prove far more enduring than anyone imagined to be the case upon their release.”

Susan and Linden Travers, 1961
Susan Travers
“I have known a number of exceptional and beautiful women in my lifetime, but Susan has more than enough grace and beauty to inspire any artist.

I met my wife when she was 18 years old and was sent to me by the Rank Organisation to be photographed. They were offering her a contract, as were ABC and 20th Century Fox in Hollywood.

How lucky I was that she decided two years later to award the very best contract of all to me. Susan has given me a life-long contract of marriage.

She thought she could have everything: a career, marriage and at least four children, but it was inevitable that we would decide that the last two would have priority. But she has continued to work, appearing on British television and in the theatre.

The portrait of Susan with her mother Linden provides an exemplary illustration of the the power of perfect genes. I reference the grace and beauty that Susan had then, and continues to have today — well, it's actually a family trait. It's clear for all to see that Linden epitomised these particular attributes too”

Susannah York, 1962

“The best thing in films since Audrey Hepburn” said Alec Guinness.

Susannah York was indeed one of the brightest young actresses to ever have come out of RADA. By the early sixties her English beauty had already graced a number of films prior to these studies being taken.”

Suzy Parker

“Suzy Parker was the top model of her day and had signed a three-picture deal with Columbia. It was arranged for her to come to my Chelsea studio on a Saturday morning when she was free from production.

At 9.30am on the appointed day I answered the door to a white-gloved Dorchester waiter carrying a bottle of Champagne on a silver tray. Behind him, the most stunning redhead.

I asked whether she had arranged for a makeup artist and hairdresser to come. “Not necessary, I can do my own,” replied Miss Parker. The Champagne was opened and I was assured that all would be well. And so it was: after two glasses of Champagne, all she had to do was pat and pinch her face every so often and run a brush through her hair, and lo and behold no makeup artist or hairdresser could have done better.

On delivery of the finished photographs, I asked why her mentor and guide Richard Avedon had not taken them. It transpired that Avedon had wanted a fee of $5000 with all expenses paid whilst in London. So they tried Cecil Beaton, who wanted £3000. Had I known better, my terms would have been different — I did it for £1000.”

Virginia McKenna, 1957

“Over the last fifty years this English Rose has had many successes on both stage and screen. Virginnia delivered a memorable juliet fresh out of drama school and few will forget her portrayal of Anna, alongside Yul Brynner, on the British stage. In film, she is perhaps best known for her performances in ‘A Town Like Alice’ and ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’.

Above all, she will always be remembered for ‘Born Free’. This film inspired her to create the Born Free Foundation with her husband, Bill Travers.

Virginia has not only had a truly glittering career, she also enjoyed a long and happy marriage up until Bill's untimely death in 1994. She has been a wonderful mother to her four magnificent children.

Her international status as a great actress and a great beauty, coupled with sensibility and charm, gave a rare distinction to all her films.

When I attempt to describe my affection for Virginnia, it may be the case that words fail me — I look at my portraits of her, and it is obvious that my camera does not!”

Yoko Tani, 1956

“Another one of those discoveries long buried in my bottom drawer. I was still reluctant to use these portraits within this book, but my picture editors insisted that they knew best. On the page, I have to admit, in this case, that they may well have been right.

Yoko was a great Oriental beauty and starred with Dirk Bogarde in 'The Wind Cannot Read' and also with Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave in 'The Quiet American'. However, her career never really got that ‘big break’ that allowed her to become a name we can easily place.”

Yvonne De Carlo , 1954

“After one of our sessions together, I asked Yvonne if she could give me a lift back into London. On the way back into town, I suggested that we should should have dinner together some time. “There’s no time like the present” she replied.

I suddenly realised that I only had two shillings and sixpence in my pocket. Thinking quickly, I said that I wasn’t actually that hungry and maybe we should just grab a bite at the Lyons Corner House which was near to her apartment in Park Lane. After sandwiches and coffee, I walked her home and was pleased indeed when she said that she had just had her most enjoyable meal in London so far.

It hadn’t always been quite this friendly. Events during my first shoot with her almost ruined any faith that Yvonne might have had in me.

I was very excited to be asked to photograph her coming out of the water after filming a swimming sequence. The pictures were intended for global syndication and we had a courier waiting to dash the negatives over to Reuters. The next morning, I was instructed to go and see Miss de Carlo. She informed me that the published pictures showed mascara running down her face and that I should have noticed this when shooting the pictures. There was no excuse and I had little option but to resign the assignment. Later in the day, when she found out what had transpired, she personally asked that I stay on the picture. We became close friends.

Yvonne is often remembered for her role as Lily in ‘The Munsters’. Yet few know that she only took this role to pay her husband’s medical bills. He was a stunt man who had suffered near fatal injuries filming ‘How The West Was Won’.”

Male Stars

Sir Dirk Bogarde, 1952

“When I first photographed Dirk Bogarde, he’d just finished his National Service. He'd worked in the photographic section and was keen to have his photograph taken. I went to his one-bedroom flat and photographed him cleaning the floors and doing the washing-up. So, later, when I began to photograph him for portraits, we already knew each other.

One day, my prop man said to me, ‘Why does Dirk always want to be photographed in riding gear with a riding crop as a country gentleman? Did you know he doesn’t like horses?’ I’d been photographing Dirk for quite a long time so I asked him the same question. He looked at me and lost all colour. Not only didn’t he not reply, he was to never let me photograph him again.

But he was still always very kind to me as a person. When I met him again many years later he threw his arms around me.

I always found him to be a most literate and intelligent man, and this is evident in the many fine books he wrote later in life from his home in the South of France.”

Sir Stanley Baker, 1955

“Stanley was very much a man's man and one of the few British film stars who was perfect for the toughest roughest action roles.

He was raised in a Welsh village and was exposed at a very early age to the blight of unemployment and poverty. Perhaps it was the harsh reality of his childhood, which gave him such an assertive character. His forceful nature was even evident at the age of fourteen, when he appeared in his first dramatic role in ‘The Druids Rest’, a play by Emlyn Williams. He was the understudy to a then unknown seventeen-year-old actor, Richard Jenkins. Jenkins later changed his name to Burton.

This picture, although showing Stanley in a quiet, contemplative pose, still conveys the tone of sinister mystery that this Welshman always exuded.

It was a great honour for his family when he was knighted for his outstanding work and his contribution to the industry as a whole.”

Gregory Peck

“Quite simply, the most handsome of all the film stars I ever photographed! In my opinion, there wasn't an actor who compared to Gregory — in looks, or in charm and personality.

In the few conversations we had together I realised that I was in the company of a true screen legend, one who would listen to the advice of those he admired, especially his friends James Cagney and Spencer Tracy, and would consider carefully the roles he undertook.

Even with his extraordinary good looks he was always rather shy and reticent when it came to having his portrait taken. My one saviour on these occasions would be my prop man, Ernie. Calling Peck “Guv’nor”, he would feed him endless cups of ‘char’ and tell cockney jokes, thereby easing the atmosphere.

Years later, as Ernie lay dying in hospital, I wasn't at all surprised to discover that Gregory Peck visited him every single day for the week that he was in the UK and upon his return to the States, became actively involved in the American Cancer Society.

My photograph of him is amongst my favourites and it is one of the few of my own portraits that I keep on the wall in my home.”


Rank insider
Cornel Lucas's dazzling photographs could do more for a star's image than a movie. Peter Lennon meets Britain's first film studio portraitist

    The Guardian
    Monday April 9 2001

In the early days of film, John Russell Taylor and John Kobal wrote in their book Portraits of the British Cinema, "American stars had faces; British stars had voices." In the 1950s, Cornel Lucas was the first to change that, working with Rank, which at its peak had more than 40 "artistes" under contract. It was Lucas who created the star image of, among others, the young Joan Collins and Diana Dors, and gave manly glamour to Dirk Bogarde, Peter Finch and Trevor Howard.

It was not easy to persuade Rank that Britain should go the American way and employ specialist portraitists, even though Hollywood's photographers had done a better job of immortalising the likes of Greta Garbo, Hedy Lemarr and Marlene Dietrich than their often unreliable films. "The problem for the British," Lucas says, "was that it was too expensive. It required a special studio, assistants and expensive, heavy plate cameras and accessories."

It was Lucas and Dietrich who eventually convinced the studios that an in-house portraitist was worth the investment. Dietrich came to England in 1937 to make Knight Without Armour with Robert Donat. Lucas was told to do a portrait. It did not start off well.

"I was very nervous," he says."While I waited in this big empty studio I put on the radio to keep me company. Suddenly she appeared in the narrow door with a string of assistants - secretary, hair stylist, make-up man, etc - walking in single file behind her. At that moment the radio started playing Colonel Bogey. She marched straight up to the radio and turned it off. 'That won't be necessary, Mr Lucas,' she said frostily. I thought it was a terrible start but she was pleased with the pictures.

"She was adamant that her key light had to be in a certain position. She told me she had discovered the advantages of this '12 o'clock light' one day in Berlin after a show when she slipped out to a photo machine to get a passport photo. She could actually tell from the heat whether the light was right for her. She was a perfect technician."

Lucas started photography at the age of 13. His brother ran a film library and one day he took Lucas with him in the car to pick up prints. "At that moment I saw the director Anthony Asquith and Gloria Swanson walk towards me from a dark alley between two stages. That image of one of the world's greatest actresses and a handsome young director made me decide film portraits was the job for me."

His brother got him a job as a lab technician at Rank. He hated sitting all day in a dark room, supervising the film going into the bins. "One day," he says, "I was taking care of a Jack Buchanan film, Brewster's Millions, and I fell asleep. I was awakened by someone shaking my shoulder and to my terror found myself wrapped in celluloid. A large section of the film was destroyed. I was fired on the spot. But the shop steward said, 'How old are you, son?' 'Sixteen,' I told him. 'You're too young to be on a negative machine,' he said. And I got my job back."

In the war Lucas worked on secret night photography with the RAF experimental photographic group at Farnborough. It was not until the war was over that he got his famous "pool studio" at Pinewood. "They covered over the swimming pool," he recalls. "It was very glamorous, with a fountain and dressing rooms." Settled at Pinewood, he married one of Rank's most glamorous starlets, Belinda Lee. They divorced and she was killed in a car accident aged 26. (He remarried and now has four children.)

When the pool studio was in full swing, every week thousands of prints were sent out around the world. "We had to be very careful with censorship abroad," he said. "In some middle eastern countries, you could not show a belly button and in Italy you could never show the zip at the back of a lady's skirt."

One of the future stars he helped to groom was Joan Collins. He remembers this teenager from the Rank Charm School trying desperately to get the lead in Renato Castellani's Romeo and Juliet (1954). Romeo was the handsome, suave newcomer Laurence Harvey. Juliet eventually went to an unknown "discovery". The film bombed. "Joan was a very sweet girl with a great sense of humour," Lucas says. But she had to wait another 20 years for real stardom in the role of Dynasty's Alexis Carrington.

Did he never think of going to Hollywood? "I did intend emigrating. I got my papers in 1949 and I went to New York, where Paul Hesse, a great glamour photographer of his day, allowed me to sit in on his work. I went to Hollywood too. But I decided not to emigrate." His reason suggests a mentality no longer common in our greedy world. "Everywhere you went you got these bumper steaks. I had just come from a country still on terribly strict rationing. I couldn't face the enormous meals. I found that very offensive."

So in a fit of solidarity he came back to share his country's austerity. It has been good for his figure - as he passes 80, he is as trim and active as the most disciplined of Rank's starlets in training.

Tags: cinema, photographers
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