Photographer Cornel Lucas was a pioneer of film portraiture. He made his name shooting studio portraits of film stars of the 1940s and 1950s and was said to have done more for the images of many of those he photographed than their performances on celluloid.
His big break came in 1948 when he was asked to photograph Marlene Dietrich, who had come to England to make No Highway in the Sky, but had fallen out with the first photographer assigned to her over lighting. The session did not start off well. There was little that the star did not know about photographic printing, lighting and composition, and she wasted no time in small talk with the young photographer. “She came straight over to me and switched my radio off,” Lucas recalled. “ ‘That won’t be necessary, Mr Lucas,’ she said frostily. I thought it was a terrible start.”
Lucas lit her from several angles, picking out the sharp lines of her cheekbones and illuminating the flawless but icy perfection of her face. Her favorite lighting was from above, a difficult technique for photographers. “When I took her the rough proofs of her photographs to her dressing room the following day, she got a magnifying glass out of her handbag and started drawing on the pictures with eyebrow pencil,” Lucas recalled.
But she was pleased with the results, and Lucas went on to become one of the few portraitists she would work with. She introduced him to many more of his subjects and in subsequent years he photographed dozens of stars.
Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich (27 December 1901 – 6 May 1992) was a German-born American actress and singer. Her career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s.
In 1920s Berlin, Dietrich performed on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international acclaim and a contract with Paramount Pictures. Dietrich starred in many Hollywood films including six iconic roles directed by Sternberg —Morocco (1930) (her only Academy Award nomination), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express and Blonde Venus (both 1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935)— plus Desire (1936) and Destry Rides Again (1939). She successfully traded on her glamorous persona and “exotic” looks, and became one of the highest-paid actresses of the era. Throughout World War II she was a high-profile entertainer in the United States. Although she delivered notable performances in several post-war films including Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950), Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958) and Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a marquee live-show performer.
Dietrich was known for her humanitarian efforts during World War II, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their American citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium and Israel. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema. (Wikipedia)