Exhibition

Lights! Camera! Glamour! The Photography of George Hurrell

  • Date

    Feb 11, 2015 – Jun 29, 2015
  • Location

    Theater Gallery

Step behind the lens and take a peek into the lights, camera, and glamour of the golden age of Hollywood with the newest exhibition from The Walt Disney Family Museum. Lights! Camera! Glamour! The Photography of George Hurrell brings together a selection of rare, vintage prints from George Edward Hurrell (1904–1992)—one of America’s finest photographers whose professional career had a worldwide impact that continues to this day.

Hurrell is credited with creating the standard for the idealized Hollywood glamour portrait. Always an innovator, he invented the boom light and developed several—now standard—lighting techniques. Hurrell’s signature use of precision lighting, spotlights, shadows, and hand-retouching on the negatives produced romantic portraits that became his trademark style and the definition of glamour for the movie industry. This influential look became known as “Hurrell style.”

Classically trained as a painter, Hurrell employed fine art techniques in his compositions. Beginning in 1930, Hurrell worked as a portrait photographer for most of the major Hollywood motion picture studios, first with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While most of the country suffered during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the movie industry thrived. During this time especially, Hurrell’s photographs did more than just promote a film or a celebrity; for many, the glamour, romance, and drama of these photos provided a momentary mental escape from difficult times.

In the 1940s, Hurrell married Walt Disney’s niece, Phyllis Bounds, and they had three children. The Hurrell's founded a television production studio—Hurrell Productions—in the 1950s, which was housed on The Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank. Though this company was independent from the Studios, its location on the lot made it possible for employees to work for both Hurrell Productions and The Walt Disney Studios. Disney animators and staff were employed to create animated television commercials, featuring some of the most iconic and memorable mascots of the 1950s, including Bucky Beaver for Ipana Toothpaste and the original Cheerios Kid. Notably, Walt’s younger daughter, Sharon, was employed as the assistant to her cousin, Phyllis Hurrell, and was personally delivered each morning to the door of the Hurrell Productions offices by her father.

Guest curated by Dr. Louis F. D’Elia, Lights! Camera! Glamour! The Photography of George Hurrell is comprised of prints that have been selected from the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive: a collection of Hurrell photography that is arguably the best in the world in both breadth and quality. Pancho Barnes (1901–1975) was an adventuress, pioneering female aviatrix, and a close friend and early patron of Hurrell. She encouraged and helped start his successful Hollywood career.

This exhibition features more than 50 prints and objects—some of which have never been published and several of which have not been seen in more than 80 years. Lights! Camera! Glamour! highlights Hurrell’s impact as a photographer and the achievements of his unique and extraordinary eight-decade career. 

Lights! Camera! Glamour! The Photography of George Hurrell is produced by The Walt Disney Family Museum.

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Dr. Louis F. D’Elia is a neuropsychologist and former co-director of the Neuropsychology Assessment Laboratory, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. D’Elia also is an avid collector of the photography of George Hurrell. He is the custodian of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive and also serves on the board of directors of the Flight Test Historical Foundation, Edwards Air Force Base. Edwards Air Force Base.