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Valentine Pin-Ups

by Leonard Maltin
February 14, 2012 1:00 AM
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Marsha Hunt in a Paramount Publicity Shot

In the old days of the Hollywood studio system, stars and starlets under contract learned that their “free time” between movies would be taken up by interviews, appearances, and posing for publicity photos. These often-silly pictures were gobbled up by newspapers and magazines around the world, adding to the public’s awareness of the players, especially up-and-comers. They’re great fun to see all these years later. Today’s sampling celebrates Valentine’s Day in typical (and sometimes not-so-typical) pin-up fashion. First up: Marsha Hunt, in a demure pose for Paramount in 1936, when she was about to make her second movie, Desert Gold, with Larry “Buster” Crabbe and Robert Cummings. No one could have envisioned that the former Powers model would turn out to be a sensitive, intelligent actress…and to this day one of the most gracious women in Hollywood.

Nancy Carroll Paramount's sweetheart

Nancy Carroll was Paramount’s resident sweetheart during the earliest years of talkies, in films like Follow Thru, Honey andSweetie. Her winning smile and cute figure made her a natural for poses like this, although her relationship with the studio soured as she became difficult and demanding. But movie buffs still adore her.

Jean Parker

The year is 1934. The original photo caption reads, “HAVE A HEART ICE CREAM – This novel heart-shaped ice cream was manufactured especially for use in ‘Have a Heart,’ Jean Parker’s first starring role for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in which her romance is started with James Dunn when he offers her his novel brand of ice cream.”

Paramount Starlet Joyce Matthews

Here’s the original caption for this 1939 still: “FOR SOMEONE LUCKY – Lovely Joyce Mathews, Paramount starlet who is playing her first featured role with co-stars Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland in ‘Boy Trouble,’ directed by George Archainbaud, expresses the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day for a ready camera man.” As I explained when I ran a photo of Ms. Mathews for New Year’s Day, she was more famous for her seven marriages (to the likes of Billy Rose and Milton Berle) than her screen career.

Universal contract Player Anne Gwynne

 In 1941, Universal contract player Anne Gwynne posed for this photo, which bore the heading “MODERN BEAUTY IDEALLY FITTED FOR OLD-FASHIONED VALENTINE.” Gwynne passed away in 2003, but she has attained posthumous fame as the grandmother of actor Chris Pine, who stars with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in This Means War, which opens on Friday. 

Columbia starlet Rita Hayworth

Few stars could match Rita Hayworth for sheer beauty, which was shown off in glorious Technicolor in Columbia Pictures’ 1944 starring vehicle Cover Girl. A number of real-life magazine models were featured in the film but they didn’t have the talent or personality to match their looks and achieve stardom, like Hayworth.

Warner Bros. "it" girl Martha Vickers

 Martha Vickers was briefly an “it” girl at Warner Bros. in the late 1940s, though after her arresting performance as Lauren Bacall’s sexy sister in The Big Sleep she never got another role as good. The publicity department took full advantage of her presence on the lot, however, to pose for enticing pictures such as this.

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  • Jim Reinecke | February 15, 2012 10:40 AMReply

    Always fun to peruse these vintage pinup shots, Leonard. May I submit requests for next year? (Hope I'm not being too demanding!) As a fan of the Warner Brothers films of the'30's and 40's, I'd be thrilled to see the incredibly lovely Ann Sheridan in some cheesecake shots (pardon me for being a sexist swine, but, come on, this is all in fun!). And, as obscure as these ladies may be to today's audiences, if there are any pinup shots that still exist of Noel Francis or (especially) Sheila Terry, they would be a welcome sight for my four sore eyes. Oh, and speaking of vintage Warners product, may I offer some accurate title corrections for your next edition of the Classic Movie Guide? Three James Cagney films need a little tweaking, including his first film. . .look closely at the title card. It isn't SINNER'S HOLIDAY as virtually every source lists it, but SINNERS' HOLIDAY. That apostrophe needs to be moved one space to the right. Jimmy's second film needs the article "the" added to it since it appears onscreen as THE DOORWAY TO HELL. Finally, let's jump ahead four years to a film in which Cagney was the star rather than a member of the supporting cast, as he was in the previous two titles. His 1934 flick (which has my home town in the title) also needs the article "the" appended as it appears onscreen as THE ST. LOUIS KID. More to come. . .

  • John | February 15, 2012 1:10 AMReply

    Hubba Hubba! And if that doesn't date me well nothing will!

  • Norm | February 14, 2012 8:43 PMReply

    It is a Very Special Valentine's does he find all of these items...

  • Hugh Rawson | February 14, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    Nice Valentine's Day feature for us old goats! Thanks. Hugh

  • Kay | February 14, 2012 4:20 PMReply

    Cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing, Leonard!! Kay

  • K | February 14, 2012 1:38 AMReply

    I like the fourth from the top. (She's sitting down). I definitely wouldn't mind if someone were to give that to me. Also, I love the one of Martha Vickers, I really like her.

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