By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin February 14, 2012 at 1:00AM
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.