old hollywood

Camp Hollywood: Vintage Studio Stills of Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, and Jimmy Stewart

Like the stories of so many Hollywood hopefuls, John Kobal’s began in obscurity: Born in 1940 in Austria, he fell in love with the movies after sneaking into a hall where a Rita Hayworth film was being shown to occupation forces. Though he briefly harbored dreams of the stage, years of collecting film memorabilia took Kobal in a different direction, and he eventually assembled a sprawling archive of film-industry photography. (He would also become a Hayworth biographer.) A new book called Hollywood Unseen, out next month, showcases a peculiar subset of his archive: the stills, portraits, and “candid” photos that studios used for promotion. Charmingly odd (and often hilariously homoerotic) reminders of a bygone era — when studio loyalty inspired stars to gamely pose in highly artificial scenarios — they seem perfectly aligned with Kobal’s own winking take on cinema: “Film is the only thing of any creative worth that this century has produced,” he once said. “If not, it is still providing the most fun.”

Slideshow: Vintage Hollywood Studio Stills