A shot of James Dean on the set of Rebel Without A Cause joins Vintage Hollywood.
BOB WILLOUGHBY at Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen West), to September 20. 416-504-0575. Rating: NNNN
In the 50s and 60s, Hollywood began testing the boundaries of American cinema with gritty social themes and an unprecedented level of confrontational honesty. Auteur directors such as Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack and Sidney Lumet produced some of the greatest films of all time.
During this seminal period, photographer Bob Willoughby was granted unprecedented access to the on-set workings of directors and stars. Using and developing new, non-invasive camera technology (including the first radio-controlled camera) to shoot them as they worked, Willoughby recorded first-hand their intensive collaborative work.
What emerges in Vintage Hollywood is a fascinating account of cinema as it's being shot. Willoughby's work is less a glamorization of Tinseltown than a study of the masterful level of technique and concentration demanded of film actors, crews and directors.
One photograph, for example, catches a blond women in an unguarded moment of introspection. It takes a few seconds to realize that this shrewd-looking female is Marilyn Monroe on the set of Let's Make Love, taking a break from her onscreen persona.
Did we know that Mia Farrow acted out her harrowing delirium in Rosemary's Baby with a cloud of cameramen, sound men and technicians hovering a foot above her face? Could we tell that Burton and Taylor, frenzied and at each other's throats in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, were closely choreographed?
Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate gets special attention. He's seen brooding on a sofa, standing awkwardly at attention next to Anne Bancroft and fleeing hand in hand with Katharine Ross from her wedding, the church door barricaded with a crucifix.
Willoughby's unobtrusive, psychologically acute power of observation has shaped a priceless archive of images.