I am grateful for many things, large and small—including the fact that Hollywood studio publicists in the olden days knew how to exploit every single holiday, including Thanksgiving, with cheesecake photos and other such nonsense. I’ve found a few new poses to add to last year’s repertoire, and I hope you enjoy them. As always, I should point out that none of this effort was in vain: newspapers and magazines around the world gladly published these silly shots, and I have a particular weakness for them. Here, then, is an array of Thanksgiving publicity pictures from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s for your enjoyment.
Esther Williams was always a good sport, though she may not have had any say in whether or not she cared to pose with a turkey. When she was a young contract player at MGM in the 1940s it was just part of the job.
Barbara Bates is probably best remembered for her small but significant role as the young fan who sneaks into Eve Harrington’s apartment at the very end of All About Eve, and poses before a mirror with her award. She made quite a few movies, but today we celebrate her work alongside a scene-stealing costar in this holiday shot.
Long before she gained cinematic immortality as Sweet Sue (with her Society Syncopators) in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, Joan Shawlee was a photogenic starlet at Universal Pictures using the name Joan Fulton. That’s where she first worked with Abbott and Costello, in Buck Privates Come Home; she later turned up on a number of their television shows. Here she’s on display as part of a cornucopia.
Nobody played saucy dames better than former beauty-contest winner, pin-up girl and burlesque dancer Barbara Nichols. She’s at her best in such films as Sweet Smell of Success (arguably her finest), Pal Joey, and The Pajama Game. But I don’t know who thought of “casting” her as a Pilgrim in this cheesecake photo.
Ingenue Barbara Kent seems especially eager to start carving in this Universal studios photo from the late 1920s. Kent was Harold Lloyd’s leading lady in two of his starring features, Welcome Danger and Feet First, but is most celebrated today as the wistful costar of Paul Fejos’ wonderful 1929 movie Lonesome, which has recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.