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Portraits: The silver screen’s golden age

As we head into film season and increasing buzz around awards favourites, Debonair looks back at some of our memorable icons and pictures from cinema’s greatest era

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Humphrey Bogart

At some point in time, we all have had at least one person that we have admired or praised. Being a movie star has some huge perks, like starring in big motion pictures, or getting to kiss the most beautiful woman on the planet and (not to mention) ending up with a hefty pay packet after all of that! But with all of this comes some considerable responsibility and being famous also means that you get to be people’s role model.

Here’s our guide to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, from enigmatic Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Frank Sinatra for his iconic tap dance moves and sweet melodic tunes in many of his films. 

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Humphrey Bogart

[Sidney Poitier]

The actor and director as Homer Smith on the set of Lilies of the Field, for which he won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Actor, the first time a black man won a competitive Oscar. Poitier went on to break down more boundaries, and is named by the American Film Institute among the Greatest Male Stars of classic Hollywood cinema.

[Clark Gable]

The leading man in one of his costumes from the Victor Fleming-directed Gone With the Wind. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, it’s regarded as one of the greatest films ever, and Gables’ “Frankly, my dear...” line as Rhett Butler to Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most iconic and oft-quoted. Although it’s been criticised as a revisionist glorification of slavery, the film rewrote history books with Hattie McDaniel becoming the first African-American to win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress). It set records for the total number of wins and nominations at the time, and is still the most successful film in box-office history. 

[Errol Flynn]

The Australia-born actor cuts a dapper figure in this studio portrait from around 1945. He was one of Hollywood’s all-time great ladies’ men — on and off screen. Predating the current milieu of tarnished stars, Flynn was acquitted of sexually assaulting two underaged girls, although the allegations permanently damaged his carefully cultivated screen image.

[Gregory Peck]

The actor behind Atticus Finch (who’s been called the greatest movie hero of the 20th century) and Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who created that character, on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee writes in the in liner notes for the DVD re-release: “When he played Atticus Finch, he had played himself, and ... when he played himself, he touched the world.”

[Humphrey Bogart]

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a promotional portrait for Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz. Despite the A-list talent involved, nobody expected the production to have the impact it has had. Yes, it did well at the box office and Oscars, but its reputation has just grown over the years, making it a cult favourite.

[Paul Newman ]

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1958 MGM version of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Directed by Richard Brooks, the toned-down adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play irked the writer, but even then proved to be too controversial for the Academy voters; nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Actor, Actress and Director, the film eventually didn’t win any.

[Frank Sinatra]

A candid moment between Sinatra and his son, Frank Jr, on the set of director Richard Whorf’s It Happened in Brooklyn in 1947. A seminal member of the Rat Pack, Ol’ Blue Eyes was one of the most popular musicians of the 20th century. He was also a celebrated actor, and although he was often typecast and relegated to musicals, he won an Oscar for From Here to Eternity, and was lauded for other performances, including 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. Sinatra cultivated disparate friendships — he was close to various figures with Mob ties, and a number of US presidents, including JFK. 

[Marlon Brando]

Brando’s persona as the tough guy Johnny Strabler in The Wild One inspired a legion of followers, including James Dean and Elvis Presley. Widely considered to be the original outlaw biker film, it put Triumph Motorcycles on the map. One of the first to bring a natural approach to acting, Brando’s legacy includes A Streetcar Named Desire, Julius Caesar, On the Waterfront, The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris. 

[Fred Astaire]

The dancer, choreographer, actor and singer with Cyd Charisse in the film That’s Entertainment!. Known for his rhythm and perfectionism, Astaire influenced everyone from Rudolf Nureyev and Sammy Davis Jr to Michael Jackson and Madhuri Dixit in a stage, film and TV career spanning more than 75 years. Cinematic highlights include The Band Wagon, The Gay Divorcee, Easter Parade, Royal Wedding, Top Hat and Funny Face

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