Phil Stern’s Hollywood: Photographs 1940–1979
by Phil Stern, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 116 pages
Anyone who ever pored over movie magazines—especially those of the 1950s—will devour this book in one sitting. The work of a longtime Hollywood photographer, it gives us a backstage look at the same stars Modern Screen and Photoplay presented in cool, groomed perfection. Here is Slim Pickens in mid-yawn on location, and there is Lauren Bacall on the Blood Alley set, her hair in pincurls. These people must have felt easy around Phil Stern, and he makes his studies of them look easy too. But there is plenty of art in his work; close-in angles, moody lighting, and swift, vigorous action create movie gods and goddesses as seductive in private moments as they were in the glossy mold of the fan mags. One criticism: The book is oddly scant on information. Only occasionally is there more than a brief identification, and when Stern does present fuller captions, they have nothing to do with the photo being shown. Moreover, a number of pages in this slim volume were simply left empty. Nevertheless, what is here is weirdly compelling.