Thursday, June 1, 2006

The Kings of Hollywood

Slim Aarons (1916-2006) was a chronicler of old school Hollywood, the days of tuxedos and martinis, photographing it all for people who stayed home and watched it from afar through big glossy photos in magazines like Life, Holiday and Town & Country. His most famous single image was called “The Kings of Hollywood”. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but from left to right are Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. It is, as one fanboy writing for Smithsonian breathlessly put it, a Mount Rushmore of stardom. With the possible exception of Van Heflin, they still largely retain their iconic power. I try not to be nostalgic for the mythical good old days, but it invokes an era of bright lights and larger than life people. I know these guys (and by that I mean the people who traveled in these circles, not necessarily the four particular actors in the photo) probably pounded down a half dozen martinis and then pounded on their wives, but if you have to idolize somebody (and it seems a requirement of society that we put someone up on a pedestal), I’d rather have a tux-clad Gary Cooper-type on the cover of People instead of some couch-jumping, placenta-eating, Xenu-worshiping freak.

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