Notice what’s special about the photo above?
Sure, it’s a still of Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner — all in the cast of MGM’s version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” directed in 1941 by Victor Fleming (the director of credit for “Gone With The Wind.”)
But it’s a posed shot with a twist, and certainly isn’t in the movie.
Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys, Joe Morella and Frank Segers, here again to ponder bits of hype, hoopla and wonderful, old-fashioned studio publicity. Hollywood just doesn’t ballyhoo movies like it used to back when, we maintain.
A bit of backround of how the studios used photographic stills.
Each studio had a publicity department, and their job was to hype, hype and keeping on hyping that important new release. Stills from the picture were, of course, sent to newspapers and magazines.
But the publicity guys had to be creative.
Thus a still with a special visual twist had a greater advantage of being chosen for use. The studios had to come up with inventive shots which might capture the imagination of the editors, get the picture published and hence the film publicized.
In Hollywood’s heyday the studios’ publicity departments often staged their stills by posing stars together in situations that were not necessarily in the movie. Thousands of these orchestrated photos would be blanketed world wide to what was the communications maw of the time – the vast print media.
Print was king in the U.S. in the 1940’s with nearly 2,000 newspapers published every day. Worldwide, that total was geometrically increased. The global reach of print was staggering back then, and the studios took full advantage. Photo stills were second only to theater trailers as promotional tools for movies.
So competition for print space was fierce, and most often photo stills with that special twist won the day, and a place in the next edition. Take the photo above. Many editors chose it because of the unavoidable visual presence of that large, black figure (Mr. Hyde, we presume) looming over an unsuspecting trio — three of the best known Hollywood stars of the day.
A clever bit of publicity. And the movie itself wasn’t bad either.