George Hurrell was an artist in 1920s Laguna Beach when he met the legendary Southern California aviatrix Pancho Barnes. She introduced him to silent movie star Ramon Novarro. Hurrell’s photographs of Barnes and Novarro "caught the attention of Hollywood, and he moved there in 1927. By 1930 he was the head of the MGM portrait gallery. He was soon dubbed the 'Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait.' He established his own studio on the Sunset Strip and later worked for Warner Bros."
Hurrell made his studio for a time in suite #9 of the landmark Granada Buildings on south Lafayette Park Place. It's there he shot Novarro and Norma Shearer (below), who asked Hurrell to give her a new, more seductive image. LA photographer Mark A. Vieira, who authored a 2006 book, Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits, is a leading expert on Hurrell and has a studio in the same building.
"George Hurrell was one of the most important American photographers of the 1930s, but you won’t find his work in many history books," Virginia Postrel wrote for The Atlantic in 2007.
George Hurrell: Laguna to Hollywood opens Sunday at the Laguna Art Museum.
Above, Jean Harlow in 1934. Below: Norma Shearer 1929. Photos: George Hurrell.