Hollywood has been responsible for hosting some of the most fabulous parties and events in modern history. Since the silent movies of the early 20th century, fans of film and television have idolized their favorite actors and actresses, elevating their celebrity statuses and cementing their legacies into the culture of America. Take a look at these rare photos, which provide an amazing glimpse into the evolution of the invite-only movie premiere events, exclusive to celebrities and high society.
1. Clark Gable & Ella Raines
Often referred to as the “King of Hollywood”, Clark Gable starred in over sixty films during his career. He moved from his hometown in Ohio to Hollywood, starring in the silent films of the ’20s. Though he initially hadn’t wanted to play the role, he is best known for starring as romantic lead Rhett Butler in 1939’s Gone With The Wind, alongside Vivien Leigh.
Raines’ film credits include Corvette K-225, Phantom Lady, and Tall In the Saddle, starring John Wayne. She and Gable were photographed together on the red carpet at the premiere of Canyon Voyage, a Technicolor Western film. Though they were never reported as a couple, Gable certainly plays the role of Raines’ date, holding her fur coat like a proper gentleman.
2. Alfred Hitchcock
Caught in the act at the 1960 movie premiere of his classic film Psycho, British director Alfred Hitchcock enjoys a timeless movie treat: a pretzel. One of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, the “Master of Suspense” directed over fifty films in a career spanning seven decades. In total, his work racked up an astonishing forty-six Oscar nominations.
Hitchcock’s most famous films are still revered to this day, such as Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, and Psycho. However, he himself called 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt his own personal favorite. In total, eight of his films have been selected for national preservation by the American Film Institute. He was knighted in 1979 just four months before his death.
3. Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard
In 1930, the same year that Paulette Goddard signed her first movie contract with producer Samuel Goldwyn, she met the famed Charlie Chaplin. The two would eventually begin a romantic relationship whereby Chaplin cast Goddard as the lead in his 1936 hit Modern Times, solidifying her as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
The two were photographed at New York’s Capitol Theater during the premiere of his much anticipated, The Great Dictator, in which Goddard also stars. Released at the onset of World War II, Chaplin plays both a Jewish barber as well as Adenoid Hynkel (a parody of Adolf Hitler). In 1997, the film was selected by the National Film Registry for its cultural significance.
4. John Wayne
Born in Iowa but raised his whole life in sunny Southern California, John Wayne turned to acting after losing his football scholarship to USC due to an injury he got while body surfing. By the 1940s he was a certified star in Hollywood, becoming the face of the Western genre, as well as one of the most recognizable actors of all time.
In this picture captured in 1942, early on in this screen cowboy’s career, Wayne and then wife Josephine Saenz are pictured on their arrival to the movie premiere of the Western adventure Reap the Wild Wind. The film, directed by the nearly mythical Hollywood legend Cecil B. DeMille, stars Wayne as ship captain Jack Stuart, who is famously attacked by a giant squid.
5. Miles Davis & Cicely Tyson
There just weren’t very many figures who were cooler in their heyday than Miles Davis. In this picture, he’s attending the premiere of the film The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in New York City during July 1968. By his side is his one-time girlfriend, the formidable actress Cicely Tyson.
The jazz trumpet superhero Davis, who had been infamous for living a fast life of consumption, was pumping out some amazing material at the time, in large part thanks to Tyson herself, whom he credited for weaning him away from substance abuse. Cicely Tyson is still active on-screen in her nineties, and has won several awards for her achievements in film and television, including an honorary Oscar and Peabody Award.
6. Matt Dillon & Spike Lee
Two New Yorkers, one an actor and one a director, Matt Dillon and Spike Lee were photographed together attending the movie premiere of the David Mamet-written remake of We’re No Angels in 1989. At the time, Dillon was well-known from his earlier roles in The Outsiders, The Flamingo Kid, and Rumble Fish.
Spike Lee made his directorial debut with She’s Gotta Have It in 1986. The same year as this photo, he wrote, produced, and directed the groundbreaking Do the Right Thing. His films, which often deal with themes of race relations and social issues within the black community, have won him several accolades, including an Academy Award for 2019’s BlacKkKlansman. He continues to be a prominent director, as well as a permanent fixture courtside at New York Knicks basketball games.
7. Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Wilding
Sitting together at the 26th Annual Academy Awards at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, iconic leading lady Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Wilding were tasked with presenting the award of Best Documentary Film. The award went to Walt Disney for his 1953 production The Living Desert, a nature documentary shot mainly in Tucson, Arizona.
Elizabeth Taylor, who at the time was married to Wilding, was one of the most popular stars in film history. She won two Best Actress Academy Awards for her performances in BUtterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She also famously starred as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra in 1961 in the feature film of the same name.
8. Fran Lebowitz, Paloma Picasso, & Rafael López-Sánchez
Heralded as “fashion’s night out”, there is perhaps no red carpet experience that can quite compare to the Met Gala. Started in 1948, the annual ball became a way to raise money for the Metropolitan New York Art Museum. Since the 1970s, it has attracted a unique combination of artists, entertainers, politicians, and the social elite.
Pictured above (from left to right), are American author Fran Lebowitz, famous designer and daughter of the famed 20th century painter, Paloma Picasso, and the latter’s then-husband playwright/director Rafael López-Sánchez. The trio are a quintessential example of the diversity and exclusivity of the famous event. In 2019, total contributions made at the gala are expected to top $200 million.
9. Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier
Born on a school campus in British India in 1913, Vivien Leigh was considered by the American Film Institute to be among the greatest female movie stars of all time. She is perhaps best known for playing the protagonist Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Civil War epic Gone With the Wind, for which she won her first of two Academy Awards for Best Actress.
Pictured above is Leigh being escorted by fellow English actor Laurence Olivier to the premiere of Gone With the Wind at Loew’s Theater in Atlanta. The two had met while filming together. Their connection was so strong and undeniable that they would eventually secure divorces from their spouses, and marry the following year in 1940.
10. Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet
With an unprecedented $200 million budget, Titanic was the most expensive film of its time. Titanic was deemed so culturally significant, that in 2017 it was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. Long before their road to becoming Oscar winners, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet stole the hearts of a generation, forever to be remembered for their roles in this epic.
Seen here on the red carpet for the Golden Globes, DiCaprio initially wanted to play the character of Jack very differently from how he was written, wanting him to be neurotic and to walk with a limp. Director James Cameron put his foot down, and eventually Leo relented. Winslet herself was not a shoe-in for Rose, and it took persistent convincing to finally land what would become the role of a lifetime.
11. Brooke Shields, Gregory Peck, & Christopher Atkins
Posing at the Hollywood premiere of 1980’s Blue Lagoon, the film’s young stars, Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, pause for a photo-op with a master of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Gregory Peck. During his long tenure in film, Peck was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar five times, winning for his performance as courageous and ethical lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
The controversial and risqué film Blue Lagoon, although a commercial success — earning $58 million at the box office on a budget of $4.5 million — received mixed reviews. Nonetheless, Christopher Atkins became a household name, while Brooke Shields, acting and modeling since early childhood, would go on to appear in a number of movies and television shows spanning the decades.
12. Jayne Mansfield & Mickey Hargitay
Once a fashion staple on the red carpet, white glove-clad Jayne Mansfield and her husband, Hungarian-born bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, arrive in style to the red carpet premiere of The World of Suzie Wong, in 1960. During their six-year marriage, the couple made four movies together.
Mansfield was an inescapable symbol for the more raucous side of femininity in the 1950s. She acted in film and on television, and was also featured as one of the early Playboy playmates. Mickey Hargitay had fought with the Hungarian Resistance during World War II, moving afterwards to the US in 1947. He would eventually be crowned Mr. Universe, and their daughter Mariska would go on to achieve great acclaim on the television series Law & Order: SVU.
13. Demi Moore & Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis was already a Hollywood star thanks to his lead role in the Die Hard series, which first released in the late ’80s. Just before that, he had met actress Demi Moore at a movie premiere and the two married in November 1987. The two are pictured below at the 1994 premiere of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction at the New York Film Festival.
Winning the top prize during its debut at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival, Pulp Fiction‘s New York release was a hit, garnering rave reviews from movie critics. Upon hitting the box offices in October 1994, Pulp Fiction was number one in the nation. It wound up grossing over $100 million compared to a $10 million production budget. The couple would eventually part ways in 2000.
14. Queen Elizabeth II
It doesn’t get more exclusive than catching real-life royalty on the red carpet! Dressed in an all-white fur coat, Norman Hartnell gown, gloves, and a tiara, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth arrives in style to a film premiere circa 1960. At the time, she was still relatively new to the British throne, having acceded in 1952 after the death of her father King George VI.
No stranger to a good party, Queen Elizabeth is currently the longest serving female head of state in world history, having celebrated three Jubilees marking her reign. She is the only British monarch to have reached the Sapphire Jubilee, marking sixty-five years on the throne. Today, the queen tends to live more privately, and in her spare time enjoys equestrianism and dogs — particularly corgis.
15. Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, & Marilyn Monroe
Oscar-winning gruff leading man Humphrey Bogart is caught in a candid moment with wife Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe, at the premiere of these leading ladies’ 1953 film How To Marry a Millionaire. Bacall and Monroe star in the film, alongside famous wartime pin-up Betty Grable, as three gold diggers looking to cash in.
How To Marry A Millionaire holds historical significance as one of the first films to utilize CinemaScope technology, and proved yet another success for Monroe at the height of her career. One of the big power couples of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Bacall and Bogart would remain married until his passing just four years later.
16. Ronald Reagan & Jane Wyman
The 40th President of the United States had a prolific career in the entertainment industry before entering politics. One of his first jobs was announcing Chicago Cubs games in Des Moines, Iowa. On a trip with the team in California, he stopped by Warner Brothers Studios to screen test, eventually landing multiple parts in ‘B-list’ films, but would eventually work his way up to become a Hollywood star.
Of course, Reagan’s popularity on screen became a catalyst for a political career that would catapult him to the White House. In 1989, when he left office, Reagan’s approval rating of 68% matches the likes of FDR and Bill Clinton for the highest in the modern era. Jane Wyman, then Reagan’s wife, had an incredible career herself, earning the Oscar for Best Actress in 1948’s John Belinda.
17. Al Pacino & Jill Clayburg
Al Pacino and Jill Clayburg met each other in acting class at Charles Street Repertory Theater in Boston. The two would eventually move back to New York City together, where they starred in several theater productions before transitioning to film. The two are shown here attending the premiere of The Godfather in 1972.
Although The Godfather was Pacino’s break, it was his first film playing an addict in The Panic in Needle Park that had first attracted the eye of director Francis Ford Coppola. It was this performance that won him the part of Michael Corleone, over the likes of better known contemporary actors, such as Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, and Robert De Niro.
18. Diahnne Abbott, Robert De Niro & Louise Fletcher
Diahnne Abbott dined with then-husband Robert De Niro and actress Louise Fletcher at the 5th Annual American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 1976, with the award given to classic Hollywood leading lady Bette Davis. Also an actor, Abbott featured in a handful of films during the ’70s including Taxi Driver, New York, New York, and Welcome to LA.
Louise Fletcher is perhaps most recognized from her Oscar-winning role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring opposite Jack Nicholson as Nurse Ratched, the film’s main antagonist. Younger audiences have seen her in Cruel Intentions and on the Showtime TV series Shameless. Robert De Niro remains a Hollywood tour-de-force, having won Best Supporting Actor in 1974 for The Godfather Part II, and going on to snag Best Actor for 1980’s Raging Bull.
19. Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston
Two weeks short of attaining his degree from the University of Missouri, Brad Pitt packed his bags and headed to California to be an actor. He starred mainly in television before getting attention for Thelma & Louise, then having breakout roles in A River Runs Through It and Interview With A Vampire. As a result, Pitt was a permanent fixture on the red carpet of the ’90s. Question was: who would accompany him?
At the time when Pitt attended the movie premiere of 1999’s Fight Club with then-girlfriend Jennifer Aniston, he was a bona fide movie star. Aniston, a Hollywood starlet in her own right for starring on the popular ’90s sitcom Friends was seen as a quintessential match for Pitt. The couple married the following year, but divorced five years later in 2005.
20. Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, one of America’s most talked-about couples in history, arrived at the premiere of her 1955 film The Seven Year Itch hand-in-hand. Born in Northern California to Sicilian immigrants, DiMaggio is widely considered to be the best baseball player of all time, known for his record-setting 56-game hitting streak, which holds to this day.
During the filming of the movie, Joe DiMaggio wasn’t thrilled when Marilyn shot her now-legendary scene where her skirts whirl up as she stands over a subway air vent. Less than a year later, the couple would divorce, though they would enjoy a brief reconciliation before Monroe’s untimely death in 1961. A devastated DiMaggio planned her funeral.
21. Charlie Chaplin & Lupe Vélez
English actor, filmmaker, and composer Charlie Chaplin rose from the depths of poverty in London to become one of the icons of early cinema. In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the production company, United Artists, giving him full control over his movies. He often wrote, directed, starred in, and composed all of his films, an astonishing feat. So naturally, he was a celebrated presence at movie premieres in his heyday.
Pictured above, Chaplin escorts Mexican actress Lupe Vélez to a movie premiere circa 1928. Vélez, a movie star in her own right, was one of the first and most successful Latin American actresses in Hollywood. She transitioned to sound films with ease, and was a rising star before her untimely death in 1944.
22. Gloria Swanson & Henry de La Falaise
Gloria Swanson was perhaps the biggest star of silent movies during the 1920s. A taboo-breaking representation of the new woman called a flapper, she starred in dozens of films, often under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille and was the highest-paid star of her era (earning some $20,000 per week). Her second husband, Henry de La Falaise, was a social elite in his own right.
La Falaise’s father won an Olympic gold medal in fencing, and his mother, Henriette Frédérique Hennessy, was a scion of the French cognac family. In what was then considered a red carpet-worthy event, the two are pictured aboard a train headed from Los Angeles to New York. Media, celebrities, and fans all gathered to send them off.
23. Norma Shearer & Conrad Nagel
A feminist pioneer of the silver screen, Norma Shearer is credited with making it fashionable to be single on-screen, often portrayed powerful female leads with plenty of agency and the choice to decide their own fate. Originally from Montreal, by 1925 Shearer was starring in several films, and had purchased a house located just under the famed “Hollywoodland” sign.
In 1930, she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in The Divorcee, accepting the award from fellow actor Conrad Nagel. Originally from Iowa, Nagel made a name for himself as a wholesome all-American idol. He received three stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for his contributions to television, film, and radio.
24. Charles Ray & Clara Grant
Born and raised in Illinois, Charles Ray moved to California in 1911, soon-thereafter getting his big break by being cast in the historic war drama, The Coward. An icon of the silent film era, Ray often portrayed a young country bumpkin who would foil plans of thieves or villains, thereby winning the heart of the film’s starlet.
By 1920, Ray was one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, earning $11,000 a week (or approximately $140,000 today). Arriving to a movie premiere here with his wife Clara, the pair were notorious spenders. They lived in a luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, toured in a Rolls Royce with an ermine-fur floor, and held lavish parties. After several failed film ventures, Ray went bankrupt in 1925.
25. Lady Diana Duff Cooper & Alfred Duff Cooper
The son of an English doctor and the daughter of a duke, the Coopers belonged to a group of British intellectuals known as the Coterie. They were often the talk of newspapers and magazines of the period. Most of Alfred’s peers did not survive the First World War, and in its aftermath, he entered politics. He remained on the scene until he resigned in protest of the Munich Agreement with Hitler’s Germany.
In the picture above, the Coopers are arriving at Milan’s famed opera house La Scala, to attend the movie premiere of When Knighthood Was In Flower, a 1922 film based on the love affair of the sister of England’s King Henry VIII, Mary Tudor. Lady Cooper featured in three films herself, but is better known for being a social figure and ambassador for Great Britain.
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