On the brink of fame: Rare black and white photographs capture fresh-faced starlets before they became Hollywood's leading ladies
Before they became screen sirens and were the objects of men's fantasies the world over, Marilyn Monroe (named Norma Jeane at birth), Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were just the youthful teenagers filled with dreams and hopes of making a name for themselves.
In a collection of black and white photographs from LIFE.com, the young actress are seen between the years of 1939 to 1961 as their careers just started to take off.
The faces of the young actress show the innocence and expectation as they launch their careers in Tinseltown, unaware of where the shimmering but sometimes dangerous road to fame might take them.
Marilyn: Studio portrait of American actress Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson, 1926 - 1962) as she poses in a strapless evening gown, Hollywood, California, November 1948
Stunning: Actress Elizabeth Taylor was a 15-year-old beauty in 1947
Wide-eyed: Tuxedo-clad actor Mickey Rooney kissing actress Judy Garland on the cheek as they arrive at Babes in Arms movie premiere in Mickey's station wagon
Shirley MacLaine (left) sings on the TV show Shower of Stars in 1955. The Virginia native went to Broadway in high school to try her luck. Barbra Streisand (right) sings in the musical that was her Broadway debut, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, in 1962. The Brooklyn-born superstar-to-be began singing in New York nightclubs as a teenager
Beauty: In 1951, actress Audrey Hepburn stands beneath Fulton Theatre marquee, which features her name over currently running Broadway show Gigi, which she starred in
Singer/dancer Ann-Margret Olson, 19, (left) singing during screen test at 20th Century Fox studios for leading role in the movie State Fair. Movie actress Kim Novak, 21, (right) with crystal figurines
Starlet: The Italian actress Sophia Loren poses in 1957, the year she began to make a name for herself in America in such movies as Boy on a Dolphin (her U.S. debut) and Legend of the Lost
Young: The young Debbie Reynolds is at the center of the action, circa 1950. She'd won a film contract just two years earlier, after winning the Miss Burbank pageant at age 16
Dancing shoeless: Wisely abandoning the name Tula Ellice Finklea, Cyd Charisse, seen here in 1945, was best known for her dancing roles opposite Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Here she prances along a beach in Santa Monica
Tutor: Scenes from the play, My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison, and Julie Andrews in 1956. These two characters are Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins who turned up on Broadway in a musical version of the play. Though the stage musical helped launch Andrews' career, she was replaced in the big-screen version by Audrey Hepburn
'You weren't the best mother' As Vivien Leigh's life is celebrated this month, her stepson talks about the troubled star who became a Hollywood icon
Every leading lady in Hollywood fought for the role of Scarlett O’Hara, the wilful Southern belle in Gone With The Wind. But unexpectedly it went to a beautiful, little-known English actress, Vivien Leigh, who justified the casting by giving an Oscar-winning performance.
If ever an actress was born to play a woman who toyed with the affections of men it was the raven-haired, blue-eyed Vivien, who radiated a dark sexuality that was excitingly un-English.
In the 1939 film Scarlett’s husband, Rhett Butler, catches her embracing a married man, Ashley Wilkes, wearing a garnet-red gown that gloriously revealed her screen recklessness.
This infidelity mirrored that of Vivien’s real life – she stole Laurence Olivier from his wife Jill Esmond, leaving her husband Leigh Holman, with whom she had a daughter, Suzanne, to become the actor’s mistress and then second wife.
As Vivien Leigh's life is celebrated this month, her stepson talks about the troubled star who became a Hollywood icon
She and Olivier were the Taylor and Burton of their day, a golden couple whose union seemed to have a cosmic inevitability. And even now Vivien has the power to captivate audiences – which is why the British Film Institute is showing 14 of her 19 films in a special season starting this week to celebrate the centenary of her birth on 5 November, 1913.
The season includes a new ultra high-definition version of Gone With The Wind, which will also be shown nationwide.
Adding to the nostalgia, Vivien’s stepson Tarquin – Olivier’s son by Jill Esmond – is a producer on a new film about the couple, provisionally titled Larry And Viv. Tarquin says, ‘The time is right for a film about them – they’ve come back into fashion after my father featured prominently in the recent film My Week With Marilyn.’
When Vivien and Olivier were each cited in their respective divorces, they lost custody of their children. But Tarquin is still close friends with Suzanne and devoted to his stepmother’s memory. He takes a charitable view of her lack of maternal skills. ‘She treated me like an equal.
She wasn’t intended by her nature to be a mother, any more than my father was to be a father. The purpose of her life was her love of Larry,’ he says.
She and Olivier were the Taylor and Burton of their day, a golden couple whose union seemed to have a cosmic inevitability
Tarquin has previously admitted that when, aged just three, he first met Vivien he fell headlong for her and demanded ‘a kiss on the lips’. ‘I’ve always loved beautiful women, and Vivien helped me to get closer to my father, who, like all actors, wasn’t an easy man to know,’ Tarquin, 77, tells me when we meet at his London flat. ‘I didn’t have a crush on Vivien – a crush is sexy. I simply loved her – she was great fun, very witty and very tender to me as a little boy.’
Suzanne, who was in effect brought up by her grandmother because her father was working full-time as a lawyer, says, ‘My mother had many talents, and motherhood was not necessarily one of them.’
But there was no doubting Vivien’s acting ability – in fact, her Oscar for Scarlett helped to drive a wedge between her and Olivier: he admitted he had felt like braining Vivien with her statuette because he hadn’t won one for playing Heathcliff in the film of Wuthering Heights in the same year.
More seriously, Vivien began to suffer from manic depression – Tarquin believes it ‘started in 1945 when she had a miscarriage’ – and as the illness grew worse, it engulfed both her career and marriage. Vivien began to take Olivier for granted and, according to her biographer Hugo Vickers, ‘abused and mistreated him because she was used to getting her own way’.
Vivien admitted that playing Southern belle Blanche DuBois in 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire – for which she won a second Oscar – finally ‘tipped me over into madness’. ‘It’s a terrible illness that makes you hate the person you love,’ says Tarquin. ‘And I remember the scars on her forehead left by the electric shock treatment the doctors gave her.’
Vivien’s frightening mood changes and depression ended her 20-year marriage in 1960. Olivier remarried – actress Joan Plowright – and Vivien, although devastated at first, found happiness with actor Jack Merivale. But she died aged just 53 from tuberculosis in 1967.
With all the lavish detail of Gone With The Wind now in such high-definition, it's likely that frankly, my dears - to contradict Rhett's famous putdown - you will give a damn about Scarlett
The actress hasn’t faded from the public consciousness, however. In April she appeared on a stamp in the Great Britons series, and this week an exhibition of Vivien Leigh memorabilia, including love letters to Olivier, opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
‘There was always a sense of danger, passion and determination about her as an actress that marks her out,’ says Jo Botting, curator at the BFI’s National Archive.
‘She always immersed herself in her roles, maybe inhabiting them too much at times – that’s why her performances are so electrifying.’
With all the lavish detail of Gone With The Wind now in such high-definition, it’s likely that frankly, my dears – to contradict Rhett’s famous putdown – you will give a damn about Scarlett.
In the Hollywood landscape of new, new, new, what really stands out is that today's starlets still emulate the looks of classic screen beauties, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, who ruled the red carpet in the 1950s.
Funny, you don't hear that much about Cher, Sharon Stone, or even Demi Moore and Julia Roberts, all very popular stars of the awards-show circuit in more recent history. Could you imagine Angelina Jolie all done up as Sally Field?
But Jolie made most of the best-dressed list from the Golden Globe awards earlier this month with her bright red lips and neat hair that complemented her glamorous gown.
Angelina Jolie has been compared to Sophia Loren, whose classic beauty is still admired today
'To reference the bygone era of past screen sirens, there's something about that genre that women gravitate to, men gravitate to and fashion gravitates to,' says Jenn Karsten, director of education and artistry for the cosmetics brand Make Up For Ever.
'I think it's the essence of the real woman,' she says. 'If we referenced the 70s, 80s and the 90s even, the culture was shifting so much. It was a sexual revolution but with a strong androgynous look. It was, "Don't look at me for my beauty, look at me for my brains, my power."
'But if you look at Liz Taylor, Sophia Loren or Marilyn, they're all mega stars that were proven talents and proven beauties.'
Lori Taylor, global pro lead makeup artist for Smashbox, says Hollywood back in the day was more about crafting a lasting image instead of jumping from trend to trend.
'The 1940s and 50s had a ladylike glamour. Everything worked! These women weren't testing anything out. If you look at the women of the '80s, it was more about pushing the edge - and that's not as timeless.'
Scarlett Johansson, right, emulates immaculately groomed look of the 40s and 50s like Rita Hayworth, left - and as a result has a more timeless elegance than some of her contemporaries who push the style boundaries
It was a pretty rare occasion that the Monroes and Hayworths of the world would turn up somewhere without a well-planned outfit and full made-up face, adds Wende Zomnir, founding partner and creative director of Urban Decay.
Their appearances were more staged than the paparazzi snapshots of today's stars, of course, but they also had fairly simple beauty routines, even if they wore a lot of product, she says.
Right, Michelle Williams - who recently played Marilyn Monroe, left in a biopic of the star - knows that red lips like Marylin's are crucial for creating Hollywood star style
Full brows are the key to the Hollywood glamour - but make up artist Wende Zomnir says Pamela Anderson 'ruined the brow' by plucking hers so thin