The Golden Age of Hollywood as captured by Frank Worth on show for the first time ever in Spain.
A short bio by Helen Donlon
The Marx Brothers: Groucho, Harpo & Zeppo Marx, ca. 1955
“He had a keen eye for beauty and a remarkable talent for translating that beauty onto film…All of us who were photographed by Frank owe him a huge debt.” Mamie Van Doren.
Born in 1923, Frank Worth began his career as a photographer in New York, capturing images of Hollywood celebrities as they stepped off the California Express at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Although still a teenager, his reputation as a confident and witty individual quickly spread, and by 1940 Randolph Hearst’s International News Service had sent the then 17 year old to Hollywood as a staff reporter. He moved in with his friend, the musician Rudy Vallee, and joined the Hollywood Photographers Guild. Rapidly seen at all the celebrity parties, as well as gaining access to many of the production sets in downtown LA, Worth amazingly kept the majority of his best shots for his own personal collection. He was, therefore, relatively unknown outside of Hollywood circles until he died (practically penniless) in 2000 at the age of 77 at his home in West Hollywood.
Worth’s friends included Elizabeth Taylor (he took photographs at her first wedding) Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and James Dean (with whom he shared a love of fast cars). Marilyn Monroe was his girlfriend for a while. Importantly, Worth was an honorable observer of his friends and acquaintances. More Nan Goldin than paparazzi in posture, he gained a lot of respect and trust from his Hollywood inner circles with his gift of making people feel comfortable around him, camera or no camera. He photographed the stars all over town; from social events (he was at the premieres of both Rear Window and My Fair Lady, for example) to awards ceremonies; at rehearsals and within informal home gatherings. But his love of these images was purely personal, and there was no dollar sign in his eyes. Perhaps it is primarily for this reason that he was so warmly accepted by his famous friends, and his presence was so often requested at both formal and informal get-togethers around Hollywood in the 1950s.
Ursula Andress and James Dean, ca. 1955
Worth often befriended young actors on the make. He helped Jayne Mansfield secure a part in Female Jungle in 1954. Later, he said of this, “She never forgot it and would try and seek me out whenever she attended a premiere or a party in order to give me her best look of the evening.”
He first met James Dean at Schwab’s just before East of Eden opened, and Dean promptly invited him onto the set of Giant where Worth unintrusively photographed Dean, Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson relaxing off-camera.
Dennis Hopper waiting for his pasta at Musso and Frank’s Grill on Hollywood Boulevard, pre-Rebel Without a Cause, ca. 1955
These and many other Frank Worth photographs constitute a treasure trove for Hollywood collectors. The Marx brothers, Natalie Wood, Marilyn, Ursula Andress, Grace Kelly, James Dean, Sophia Loren, Tyrone Power, Dean Martin, Dennis Hopper, Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant feature amongst dozens of fine portraits in his portfolios.
Marlon Brando and Bob Hope struggling over Brando’s statuette for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, at the 1954 Academy Awards, Hope always joked that he was “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”.
After an introduction to the team’s manager by Frank Sinatra, Worth went on to be the official photographer for the Brooklyn Dodgers after their move to Los Angeles in 1958, and he eventually made his reputation as an acknowledged sports photographer.
Monroe & director Billy Wilder, on the set of The Seven Year Itch, ca. 1954
His Hollywood photographs finally went on show (as well as for sale and auction) after his death, when his family decided they deserved to be seen by fans of the Golden Age of cinema. They were amazed to uncover the thousands of wonderful negatives hidden amongst his personal possessions.
Aaccompanied by a projection of Billy Wilder’s classic The Seven Year Itch (1955), an exhibition of Frank Worth’s early photography, entitled Worth Exposing Hollywood will open May 27th at the Palau de Congressos in Santa Eularia.
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