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'Styling the Stars' Book: Old Hollywood Angela "Penny" Cartwright and New Hollywood Tom "Phil" McLaren Share Best Golden and Silver Age Fox Images

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is a guest emeritus piece by former TV Party/current Unreal TV operator Matt Nelson.]

Insight Editions chose wisely in releasing the soft cover edition of the book Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive on April 4, 2017. This was two days before the start of the Eighth Annual TCM Classic Film Festival, which celebrated both the magic that was the Golden Age of Hollywood and the following period in which "the kids" demonstrated that they paid attention to their elders.

Styling is the true gen in that it is an actual labor of love by co-authors/thespians Angela Cartwright and Tom McLaren. Children of the '50s (and lovers of classic sitcoms) primarily know Cartwright as Linda from the Danny Thomas series "Make Room for Daddy." Fanboys of all ages always will think of her as Penny from the truly timeless scifi show "Lost in Space," and little girls and lovers of classic musicals remember her as Brigitta from "The Sound of Music." (Not bad credits for a period that precedes even being able to get a learner's permit.)

McLaren is a former studio executive who deserves great thanks for deciding that his quirky sense of humor is better suited to a life in front of the camera than a corner office in the administration building. Nothing reflects the New Hollywood style of McLaren more than one of the more high-profile roles among his 49 credits in his five-year career being a huge hit on Netflix. Anyone who is too young to remember the days before the existence of Netflix likely best knows McLaren as Phil the dad in the comedy "Expelled" with teen idol Cameron Dallas.

As the introduction by Cartwright states, Styling begins life as a limited project. This initial terrestrial exploration uncovers evidence that Twentieth Century Fox has a massive collection of continuity shots that Cartwright explains are solely intended for internal use. The purpose of these photos by studio photographers is to document the appearance of the actor to guarantee continuity regarding the "camera-ready" hair, makeup, and wardrobe appearance of the portrayed character. Cartwright offers the example of the manner in which a mask is tied quickly changing from one shot to the next due to footage of that scene being shot on different days.

Cartwright further shares that some actors purposefully sabotage their continuity photos to prevent their distribution to the general public. This mischief often involves making a face or holding an object such as a hairbrush in the shot.

It is even cooler that Cartwright comments that the actors figuratively (but not literally) letting down their hair in these photos reflects the true personality of the stars. A great example is a photo in which "Space" co-star Bill Mumy, who provides a fun essay for Styling, has his trademark bemused smile on his face.

One thing that Cartwright does not mention is that the eyes distinguish her and the other greats in the book from folks who merely are stars, rather than actors. The true members of Hollywood royalty are very expressive.

In apt Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney fashion, discovering that Fox has such a treasure trove of these images prompts Cartwright to approach pal McLaren about creating the book. Not being a fool, McLaren accepts.

Picking favorites from the roughly 250 images in Styling is much harder than asking which sibling is the favorite. (We all know that parents have one.) The best criteria is the portraits that elicit the strongest initial response. The award for this one goes to a photo of a 23 year-old Robert Wagner doing his best James Dean (pre-Dean stardom) in a photo for a 1953 version of "Titanic."

The Wagner photo also is notable for being associated with a particularly good essay on the related film that Cartwright and McLaren include with most of the pictures.

Other notable images include a diminutive wardrobe employee standing on a suitcase to adjust a tie on the much taller Clark Gable, photos of the elaborate "Cleopatra" costumes, and Audrey Hepburn looking very much like Audrey Hepburn in a shot for the 1966 film "How to Steal a Million."

Especially fascinating "insight" relates to the manner in which "Space" producer Irwin Allen films the big-budget disaster film "The Poseidon Adventure." Reading about the wardrobe malfunctions in that one offers a great perspective on the film.

A combined desire to not further ruin the joy of discovering Styling and to not make this article as long as that book requires resorting to the small screen practice of encouraging readers to learn more about this work of art (and love) by purchasing it. Folks who attend the TCM festival every year and/or can recite the year and the studio of most movies made between the '20s and the '60s will find the hardcover version a good investment.

 

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