Christmas comes with the promise of presents and joy, but as a classic film fan I’m always excited to see the various holiday promotional photos celebrities used to do honoring the holidays. Whether it’s Ann Miller wearing a bonnet with a live rabbit in it in honor of Easter or the countless photos of Shirley Temple during Christmas, the various holiday-based cheesecake shots are the purest distillation of a bygone era. Authors Karie Bible and Mary Mallory obviously appreciate these photos as they’ve gathered together in a beautiful collection entitled Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays. Showcasing photos from 1920-1970, this book is the perfect gift for the classic film fan in your life that works for any holiday where gifts are required.
No surprise, but the photos are what sells Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays. Nearly every inch of the page is taken up by either full size or half size photos in both exquisite color or black and white. It’s surprising to see legendary stills photographers like Clarence Sinclair Bull and George Hurrell took photos of stars dressed in their holiday finest when they weren’t making the stars look glamorous.
Each photo is perfectly poised and constructed, emphasizing the seriousness with which these photos were taken. Not only were they a means of showcasing the stars’ latest work, but also promoted them as good Americans who treated each holiday, no matter how minor, with respect.
Broken up into various categories – both specific holidays and a subsection for television stars and miscellaneous – each picture is accompanied with a brief summary of the star, their work, and, in certain instances, what the card itself has written on it. It’s fun reading the various ways the studios would try to hide the fact that this was a marketing ploy; “Happy Fourth of July! Oh, by the way here’s this star with a movie currently playing in a theater near you!”
Bible and Mallory focus on every star, no matter how big and there’s plenty of photos of regulars like Ann Miller (she’s in nearly every holiday) and Olga San Juan as well as bigger stars like Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, and Maureen O’Hara (you can guess where Maureen shows up the most!). Some of the compositions are hilarious in their execution – I wasn’t joking about Miller wearing an Easter bonnet with a live rabbit. Some of the photos come off as downright creepy with anthropomorphic animals and the like.
Hollywood Celebrates the Holiday is a great coffee table book for the discerning classic film fan. The photos are gorgeous and could only have been taken in the studio era!
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.