The 1961 film The Misfits saw the collaboration of director John Huston with playwright Arthur Miller and brought together on screen Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in what would be their final roles. Adding to the production’s luster, the elite photo agency Magnum was hired to do the on-set photography. The photographs of this landmark film represent the end of an era of Hollywood stardom and the emergence of a new vision of the actor’s craft.
In Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves, George Kouvaros offers a multilayered study of the Magnum photographs that illuminates larger changes in Hollywood acting during the postwar period. Just as the industrial context of film production evolved dramatically in the decades after the war, Kouvaros asserts, so too did the iconography associated with the figure of the actor. Photographs of Hollywood stars such as Monroe, Gable, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and Humphrey Bogart form the basis of an evocative analysis of the way photography gave shape to fundamental shifts in the nature of screen acting, perceptions of celebrity, and the relationship between actor and audience.
By closely scrutinizing the images produced on the set of one of America’s most haunting and least understood films, Kouvaros presents a new recognition of the connection between the power of star culture, art photography, and the film industry during a time of rapid social transformation.