Talking Pictures

By Ellen Graham

October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9823585-8-0
182 Pages / Over 200 Illustrations

$65 USD

My mother, above right, and with me, opposite, was a German beauty who met my American father, above left, at a tea dance in Marienbad, Germany. They fell in love and my father brought her to America. Because he was known as Al, my German grandmother thought my mother was marrying Al Capone.

I photographed Gloria Swanson, and her shoes, for People Magazine in her New York apartment. She had even more shoes in her closets.

Even though he seemed stoned when I photographed him in 1984 for my book, Beautiful Men, the Austrian-born movie actor Helmut Berger was one of my best subjects. He knew exactly what to do, he had imagination, and he directed me – brilliantly. We both had a marvelous time and became good friends.

When I arrived at Burt Reynolds’ house in Beverly Hills in 1973, he was wearing a jumpsuit. Cosmopolitan had just come out with its famous naked portraits of him and he would have looked better without the jumpsuit.

The 1972 photograph of actress Olivia de Havilland with Joan Fontaine is historic because the two sisters haven’t spoken for many years. Three years ago, Olivia visited me in my apartment in New York and saw the framed portrait on my wall of herself and Joan embracing. “Ellen, darling,“ she said with a smile, “that is a lovely photo of me, but WHO is that other woman?”

In 1975 in Beverly Hills, when I photographed Janet Leigh and her dog-named George Brandt for The Growling Gourmet, she said, “George loves to sit on my lap and watch TV. His favorite show is Kojak. When my husband leaves in the morning, George gets on our bed. He usually comes between me and anyone I’m paying too much attention to. He’s very regal about it.”

On assignment to shoot movie stars Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood – I had photographed them before in the early 1970s – I organized a session at their home in Palm Springs, California, in 1974. They were both so beautiful, so relaxed, and so madly in love with each other that it was an easy shoot.

What is there to say about Candice Bergen? She is beautiful, charming, classy, natural, smart, and hilarious. Although she had modeled, she did not like posing so I worked fast. I photographed her with her younger brother, Kris. They adored each other. The name of the horse was Hershel.

The most silent subject I ever photographed was the artist Andy Warhol, except for the stuffed Great Dane that was also in the picture. Andy never spoke, just chewed gum. I had gone to The Factory, his studio in New York in 1974, to photograph him with his dachshund, Archie. Then I saw this stuffed Harlequin Great Dane. According to Second Hand Rose, the shop where Andy first bought the dog, it had originally belonged to Cecil B. DeMille. The picture ran in People, and afterwards de Mille’s granddaughter wrote in to say, “My grandfather would never have stuffed his dog.”

I was attending Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday party at Chasen’s restaurant in 1974 in Beverly Hills, California, where I was living at the time. I had met Grant
before at movie star Reginald Gardiner’s house, where he told me, “The most important thing you can do is have a child.” I told him I wasn’t married. “That doesn’t matter,” he replied.

I photographed Bernadette Peters rehearsing a dance number for People Magazine in 1976. This was before she became a major star on Broadway and in Hollywood. She was absolutely delightful. She loved my pictures and ordered a lot of them. She’s a huge talent-singing, dancing, acting – everything.

I posed Diana Vreeland and Marisa Berenson in 1974 with the mannequins at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to create a totally surreal photograph. Mrs. Vreeland had discovered Marisa and used her in Vogue. After Mrs. Vreeland left Vogue, she brilliantly directed the Costume Institute.

In 1974, on assignment for Time Magazine in Los Angeles, California, I shot Carrie Fisher at her mother’s – Debbie Reynolds – house in Beverly Hills. Reynolds told me, “Be kind to her, because she doesn’t have much experience.” She was 17 years old and making her film debut in Star Wars. Carrie was hilarious, just like her mother.


Talking Pictures brings together over 200 black and white images culled from Ellen Graham’s work for such magazines as People and Time, her personal archives, and her collection of family photographs. Each photograph is accompanied by a personal narrative that takes you behind the scenes of these celebrated images and breathes life into the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age. Each portrait captures a rare and unguarded moment in the lives of these highly-photographed stars, giving a truly intimate and fresh look at such legendary figures as Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, and Prince Albert of Monaco. Whether shooting actors, performers, or European royalty, Graham redefines the resonating myths that have come to surround these iconic characters.

About the Author

A celebrated photographer for 40 years, Ellen Graham has worked with magazines across America, such as W, Time, People, and Newsweek, photographing some of the world’s most talked-about people: actors, artists, performers, socialites, and the glitterati that we are all obsessed with.


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