‘Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves’

After watching The Misfits again last week, I learned about a book I hadn’t heard of before. Published in 2010 by the University of Minnesota PressFamous Faces Yet Not Themselves: The Misfits and Icons of Postwar America is an academic study by George Kouvaros, reflecting on Magnum Photos‘ ground-breaking documentation of the making of the film.

Here’s a synopsis:

“Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves offers a multilayered study of the Magnum photographs from the 1961 film The Misfits. By closely scrutinizing the images from one of America’s most haunting and least understood films, George Kouvaros presents a new recognition of the connection between the power of star culture, art photography, and the film industry during a time of rapid social transformation.”

And a quick review from me:

“This book is both a study of the 1961 film, The Misfits, and of postwar American photography. The Misfits came with high expectations, but was considered a disappointment. The off-screen drama of Monroe’s breakdown and Gable’s death seemed to overshadow the story. The producers gave Magnum Photos exclusive rights to cover the shoot, and so it was perhaps the first time a Hollywood film was shown in the more realistic medium of photojournalism. Consequently, the stars also seemed more human and flawed than before. Kouvaros argues that these photos enhance our understanding of The Misfits, and that it represents a transition between classic and modern modes of film-making. On first reading, I found some of the writing too abstract – but when Kouvaros marries his ideas to examples from the photographs and the movie itself, it becomes rather enjoyable.”

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