FILM / Still crazy after all these years: Hoffman on four (plastic) legs, Newman on two wheels, Jane Richards on film stills

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THE photograph of Dustin Hoffman (omitted) riding a white plastic horse was never meant to be seen by the public. This production still, taken as part of a continuity portfolio, is now on show in an exhibition of bizarre and often beautiful film photographs, 'Stills Behind the Movies', at the Special Photographers Company. The fake horse was pressed into service during the filming of Little Big Man to accommodate Hoffman, a poor horseman.

The shot was commissioned by Stanley Bielecki, who has made a career out of behind-the-scenes film photography. Bielecki would arrange pictures like this to meet specific film studio briefs (usually to raise finance prior to filming, attract exhibitors or for use in promotional art-work). 'During the filming of the low-budget horror flick The Omen,' says Bielecki, 'the studio was still touting around for an exhibitor and I was commissioned to come up with particularly scary shots.' One very effective portrait frames three heads - Lee Remick flanked by husband Gregory Peck and 'devil child' Damien. Central to the image are Remick's eyes, wide-open in terror - at once both a threat and a promise of horror to come.

Catherine Turner of the Special Photographers Gallery has concentrated on the most aesthetically pleasing images and well-known subjects 'in an attempt to bring photography to a wider audience'. These include Kim Hunter (above), encased in Oscar-winning make-up enjoying a fag-break with producer Arthur Jacobs on the set of Planet of the Apes; Ava Gardner embracing director George Cukor during the filming of The Bluebird; Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor posing on the set of The Only Girl in Town; four glitzy glamour shots of Liza Minnelli promoting Lucky Lady; Robert Mitchum rehearsing the final footprints-in-the-sand scene for Ryan's Daughter and a series of sepia-toned prints from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Buffs will particularly enjoy the on-set shots taken during or between takes. A pair of photographs show director Stanley Donen, a former dancer, teaching Rex Harrison to dance (right) in Staircase and Rex Harrison then trying out the routine with co-star Richard Burton. In a break from The Reivers, Steve McQueen (above) is snapped perched on a stool drying his feet, his wellington boots drying out on the other side of the river. As Bielecki recalls, 'he absolutely hated both wearing wellington boots and getting his feet wet - a character trait that the picture reflects'. An equally revealing picture, though more immediately familiar, has Paul Newman, during filming, doing his own bicycle stunt for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As Bielecki explains, 'Newman had originally wanted to be a circus performer - and actually was an expert cyclist. This film gave him the opportunity to show off this skill. He loved it and it shows.'

'This is not serious 'art' photography,' says Catherine Turner, 'but we hope that the combination of fine printing with a popular subject will encourage people to invest in photography.' Hand-signed and hand-printed, the prints cost around pounds 150 apiece.

The Special Photographers Company, 21 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (071 221 3489). To 24 April.

(Photographs omitted)