Visions of Maine – Part One

A few photographs from a recent trip to one of my favorite states.

Arcadia National Park

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Bar Harbor Reflection

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Bar Harbor

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Bar Harbor Sunset

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Colburn Shoe Store (Oldest Shoe Store in America) – Belfast, Maine 

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Arcadia National Park

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From Real to Reel: Still Photographers at the Movies – Bunny Yeager

Bunny Teager

This is the 6th installment in this series.

Linnea Eleanor Yeager was born  in Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburg. When Linnea was 17, she and her family moved to Miami. That was in 1946. A longtime movie fan, she somewhere during this period adopted the nickname of Bunny which she procured from Lana Turner’s character, Bunny Smith, in MGM’s Weekend at the Waldorf (1945). She developed an early interest in photography and began photographing friends. After graduating from Edison High School in Miami, Yeager registered as a student at the Coronet Modeling School and Agency.  Bunny won a few beauty contests including a ‘Sports Queen’ contest where she was crowned by a pre-Marilyn Monroe Joe DiMaggio. She began to receive modeling jobs and they kept on coming. At five foot ten, with a voluptuous figure, Bunny was perfect for modeling. She also had another not so secret weapon. She made her own bikinis. In those days, bikinis were rare. Models were still wearing one-piece swimsuits. Over the years, Yeager would make bikinis for herself and her models. Though Bunny continued to model, her interest was mainly for working behind the camera. In 1953, she signed up for some photography classes. For one of her class assignments she took a couple of friends to Boca Rotan’s Africa U.S.A. park, the same park one year or so later she would take Bettie Page and shoot some of their best-known photographs. When still an amateur, Yeager sold her first photo, a picture of local model, Maria Stinger, also known as Miami’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, to Eye magazine.

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Maria Stinger at Africa U.S.A in Boca Raton. Bunny Yeager’s first sale.

Bettie Page was already a popular model in New York’s seedy world of ‘camera clubs,’ men’s magazines, and for her work with Irving and Paula Klaw. On vacation in Florida, Bettie contacted a few photographers including Bunny Yeager. By this time, Yeager had some professional work to her credit, both in front and behind the camera, but was still new in the business.  The women worked well together. They did a wide variety of early morning shoots on Florida’s pristine beaches. The sunlight graced and exposed Page and Yeager’s other models for the natural beauties they were. Yeager designed many of the bikinis Bettie Page wore. During this period, Bunny asked if Bettie would mind working with animals. No problem, she responded. Bunny set up a photo session at Africa U.S.A. in Boca Raton. Bettie posed with a wide variety of animals: zebras, monkeys, ostriches, and cheetahs. Those photos became extremely popular, for Yeager her biggest sellers. Bettie’s skimpy outfit in the photos mirrored the wild animals’ fur. Yeager had another idea; a Christmas photo. She photographed Bettie kneeing next to a small Christmas tree wearing nothing but a Santa Claus hat and a smile. Playboy magazine, still in its infancy, and still accepting photographs from unknown photographers published the photo and used it as the centerfold for the January 1955 issue. Bunny received $100. Bunny has claimed to have taken at least 1,000 pictures of Page.

Bettie Page on the  each in Florida and Bettie and Bunny at Africa U.S.A. in Boca Raton 

The 1950’s and 1960’s were Bunny’s best years both as a photographer and as a model. She did a lot of her own modeling in front of the camera by using her camera’s timer. She did five photographic layouts for Playboy and even appeared in the magazine herself. Her photographs appeared in other girlie magazines of the day including Cavalier, Nugget, Escapade, Sunbathing, and the National Police Gazette, in addition to hundreds of pin-up calendars that men had hanging in locker rooms and elsewhere. Her work also appeared in more mainstream magazines like Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Esquire, and Women’s Wear Daily. Other work included working as a still photographer in Jamaica during the filming of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. That famous white bikini shot of Ursula coming out of the water. Yep, that was photographed by Yeager.

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Ursula Andress on the set of Dr. No. Photograph by Bunny Yeager

In the 1970’s, times changed. Magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, and others wanted more graphic pictures, something Yeager was not willing to do. Her girl next door innocent, yet sexy look was out of style for magazines like the hardcore Hustler. It wasn’t until the 2000’s when Yeager’s photography began to regain its due fame. In 2010, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh presented Bunny Yeager: The Legendary Queen of the Pin-up. The show was a collection of twenty-eight self-portraits. They were both artful and sensual and became an influence on modern-day photographers like Cindy Sherman. Other exhibits followed. Over the years there have been a series of books published on her work. One of the last before her death was Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom Pinup Photography’s Golden Era by Petra Mason. Bunny died in 2014 at the age of 85.

Books by Bunny Yeager

 

Bunny Yeager on Film

In the 2005 film, The Notorious Bettie Page, Bunny is portrayed by Sarah Paulson. It’s a small role as brief as her real-life collaboration with the model. The movie itself seems all too innocent; Page’s acting career, modeling, bondage photos and eventually her path back to religion. The film ignores Bettie’s later years of depression, a nervous breakdown, and her lack of compensation for the photos and movies she did. Gretchen Mol does an excellent job as Page; as expected Bunny’s career and accomplishments are ignored.

That said, Bunny had a diverse career in the movies mostly behind the scenes. In 1968, she appeared in a small role as a Swedish masseuse in the Frank Sinatra P.I. film, Lady in Cement. She also appeared in the Paul Newman film, Harry and Son (1984) and in an episode of the TV series B.L. Stryker (1989) in which she once again played a masseuse.

Bunny also appeared in a few low budget exploitation films mostly playing herself in films like Bunny Yeager’s Nude Camera (1963), Bunny Yeager’s  Nude Las Vegas (1964), Nudes of Tiger Beach (1965), all directed by exploitation maven Barry Mahon. Yeager also appeared in a series of documentaries, the most prominent included 100 Girls by Bunny Yeager (1999), Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (2010), and Bettie Page Reveals All (2012).

Bunny was also behind the scenes as a still photographer, most prominently as previously mentioned in Dr. No (1962). Other films were in the pre-porn exploitation film world of works like Nude on the Moon (1961) and Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962) both directed by the prolific Queen of Sexploitation, Doris Wishman.

You can read earlier installments in the From Real to Real: Still Photographers in the Movies by clicking right here.

Margot Kidder – RIP

CR Margot Kidder - Making of Willie and Phil2 -1978Some years ago, the combination of living in New York City and a growing interest in photography provided some unexpected opportunities.  There were times I took a day off from work, picked up my camera, and took to the streets of Manhattan. On one of those occasions, I went Greenwich Village and happened upon a movie location in front of the what was then the Waverly theater.

The movie was Paul Mazursky’s Willie and Phil. The stars were Ray Sharkey, Michael Ontkean, and Margot Kidder. Kidder who passed away on Sunday is today best remembered for her role as Lois Lane in four Superman films. I remember her best for roles in Brian DePalma’s Sisters, The Amityville Horror, Black Christmas, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud and a lot of TV shows including the short-lived James Garner series Nichols.

I recognized Kidder and Paul Mazursky right off. Like some other New Yorker’s, I stood around watching the filmmakers do their thing. Only I had my Pentax camera and a 125mm lens, enough to get some nice shots between the shoulders of the other gawkers.

I thought I would share a few today.

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Margot Kidder and Paul Mazursky # 2 -1980

 

Elvis and The Clash

In 1979, The Clash were still relatively new on the music scene. London Calling was their third studio album. The cover photo was shot by Brit photographer Pennie Smith. She caught Clash guitarist Paul Simonon  bending over smashing his guitar. Smith did not want to use the photo because it was a bit on the blurry side. However, the album’s Graphic Designer Ray Lowery liked the idea and convinced Pennie it caught the mood and fury of the band. It was Lowery’s decision to closely duplicate the style, lettering and colors of Elvis Presley’s debut LP symbolically linking the rock legend to the new guard.

The Elvis cover was photographed by Tampa’s  William V. “Red” Robertson during the second of two shows at Tampa’s Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. The date was July 31, 1955. The show’s headliner was Andy Griffith. Elvis was billed 6th. Below is the original uncropped photo.

Elvis

 

Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival

Just the other day my wife and I went to The Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival at Pier 60. I believe this was the third year we attended this event. Every year there is a different theme. Last year was a Celebration of Musicians which you can see here. This year’s theme is  Celebrating America. The eleven sculptors come from all over the world. The artists do not use molds. It’s all done using brushes, utilities tools and other instruments.

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Mount Rushmore

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Salty Fishermen

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Wall Street

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Edgar Allan Poe

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Abraham Lincoln

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Louis Armstrong and Charley Patton

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Holiday Road

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Lighthouse

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Route 66

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Monroe and Chaplin

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Casey at the Bat

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America’s National Parks

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From Real to Reel: Still Photographers in the Movies – Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred

This is my fourth in a series on real life photographers as portrayed in the movies. Here we take a look at Alfred Stieglitz.

Today, photography is recognized as an art form. Photographs hang in museums and galleries right next to paintings, sculptures and other works of art. It wasn’t always like that. The change in perception was primarily due to one man: Alfred Stieglitz. As a photographer, as a cultivator of taste, an entrepreneur and as a publisher of a magazine (Camera Work) dedicated to photographic art, Alfred Stieglitz changed photography taking it away from the pictorialism style that mimicked painting and dominated photography in the early 20th century. It was a break from the past of photographers like David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron. Stieglitz was inspired by them but did not want to emulate them.

AlfreddAlfred Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1864 to a monetarily well off family. His father, Edward, was in the clothing business and made a financial fortune, enough so that in 1871 he moved his family to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Edward would soon retire and devote himself to overseas travel and the arts. The Stieglitz family was living in Europe with young Alfred studying engineering at Berlin’s Technische Hochschule first became interested in photography. He spent his out of class time at the racetrack, local cafes and the opera. Most of the time there was a woman by his side. Stieglitz soon dropped the engineering education as his interest turned toward photography. In 1884, with his family now back in the States, Alfred remained in Europe to further his much self-taught education in photography. By 1887, Stieglitz was an expert enough photographer to win both first and second prizes in the English journal Amateur Photographer.

In 1890, Alfred returned to America. He discovered that Kodak with the release of their first point and shoot camera along with the slogan “you press the button and let us do the rest” amateur photographers were flooding the market. Stieglitz’s goal was to prove photography, like painting, was a form of artistic expression. As a member of the Camera Club of New York, he became editor of the journal, Camera Notes. As the editor, he promoted his personal beliefs on what were the artistic qualities of photography, publishing photos of other photographers who held similar creative points of view.

As time went by Stieglitz began to come into editorial conflict with the majority of the membership.  He and other like-minded photographers eventually decided to break away from the staid Club members and form their own group known as the Photo-Secessionist. They believed photography was not just a mechanical thing but like painting and sculpture involved craftsmanship. In 1905, with the financial help of Edward Steichen, Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries, commonly known and called 291 (the 5th Avenue street address).  It was at the Little Galleries where Stieglitz exhibited works by photographers and artists, both American and European.

Steerage

The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz

In 1907, Stieglitz made what remains today his most famous work. The Steerage was shot during a family trip to Europe. His wife, Emmy, insisted on first-class accommodations. Their passage was on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, then considered one of the largest passenger ships. Strolling on the deck one day his eye caught the view dividing the upper first class passengers from the lower class, aka steerage. The photographer raced back to his cabin and grabbed his camera, a 4×5 Auto-Graflex. The camera used glass plate negatives. He only had one plate prepared. With that one plate, he made the photograph.

It was another week until the ship landed in Paris that Stieglitz would be able to use an Eastman Kodak darkroom and print the picture. The photographer claimed he knew he had a masterpiece right away, yet he did not publish the photo until four years later in the October 1911 issue of Camera Work.

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Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz

“Finally, a woman on paper!”

Those were the words Alfred Stieglitz uttered after seeing the charcoal drawings twenty-two year Anita Pollitzer, Georgia O’Keeffe’s closest friend, and six years her junior, presented to the photographer at his 291 Gallery late New Year’s Day, January 1916.  Later that year in May, Stieglitz included O’Keeffe’s drawings in a group exhibition. O’Keeffe was unaware of the exhibit and only found out through a fellow student about the work of a “Virginia” O’Keeffe on display at 291. Georgia made her way to the gallery and quickly rebuked Stieglitz for exhibiting her work without permission. Alfred was unapologetic; he was too enthused. He went on to rave about her work; how it moved his soul.

From this point on, their personal and artistic lives were entwined. Georgia took a teaching job in Texas, but they corresponded regularly. In 1918, he convinced her to move to New York, promising her a place to live and studio space where she could work. Soon after, Stieglitz began taking a series of nude photographs. When his wife Emmy found out, she gave him an ultimatum, stop seeing O’Keeffe or get out. The photographer quickly moved out and into the same apartment as O’Keeffe. At this point, they still had not been sexually intimate, but that would soon change.

Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz

Stieglitz was obsessed with O’Keeffe. Over the next five years, he photographed her more than 300 times creating in the process a brilliant catalog of work and portraits of an emerging artist. He was the teacher; she was his muse. Though over the years that would change.

He was a quarter of a century older than her and married to a staid, dull woman. Alfred and Georgia came from different backgrounds. Stieglitz, an old-fashioned, European, steadfast traditionalist while O’Keeffe was a poster child for the modern liberated woman.  Naturally, their relationship was both passionate and unorthodox.

The Terminal and the Flatiron Building by Alfred Stieglitz

They married in 1924. Stieglitz continued to exhibit O’Keeffe and other artists including Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Paul Strand. As O’Keeffe became more confident and independent, they would disagree on many fronts. One major impediment was Dorothy Norman.  Stieglitz met Dorothy Norman in 1927. Like him, she was married. Beautiful, financially well off and a patron of the arts, she began spending a lot of time at Stieglitz’s gallery. The photographer, always a man with a roving eye started an affair with Dorothy Norman which lasted until his death.

In 1929, O’Keeffe, with Rebecca Strand (Paul Strand’s wife), went to Taos, New Mexico and the art colony of heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan. It was the beginning of a love affair with the New Mexico landscape that would influence her life and art for the remainder of her life. To the dislike of Stieglitz, O’Keeffe began spending a portion of her time every year in Southwest. Part of her reason for getting away from New York was Alfred’s continuing affair with Dorothy Norman.

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Dorothy Norman by Alfred Stieglitz

During the final years of his life, Stieglitz had a series of heart attacks. With O’Keeffe spending her time in New Mexico, Dorothy Norman managed the gallery during these times. In 1946, Stieglitz suffered a stroke. O’Keeffe came back to New York. She found Norman in his hospital room. Norman left, and O’Keeffe was at his bedside when he died.

O’Keeffe remained in New York for an extended period arranging Stieglitz affairs. In 1949 she donated over 1,300 of Stieglitz’s prints to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Later, in 1980 she would give another 325 photographs including many nudes. The total collection, aka The Key Set, is the largest collection of Stieglitz work in the world. (1)

 

Alfred Stieglitz on Screen

Alfred Stieglitz has yet to make it to the big screen, but made for television productions have been a bit kinder. In 1991, American Playhouse, a PBS produced series presented A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The production starred Jane Alexander as O’Keeffe and Christopher Plummer as Stieglitz. It was written by Julian Barry (Lenny) and directed by Ed Sherin. There are few, if any, artistic couples who loom as significant in the history of culture and art as Stieglitz and O’Keeffe. Alfred Stieglitz did not consider himself a photographer, but an artist and through his galleries and his highbrow magazine, Camera Work he almost single-handedly made photography a recognized art form. Additionally, he was a pioneer in introducing the Modern Art movement to America.

To date, two films have featured Alfred Stieglitz, and as one would expect, Georgia O’Keeffe. In July 1991 PBS’ American Playhouse premiered a 90-minute film called A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stiglitz with Christopher Plummer as Stiglitz and Jane Alexander as O’Keeffe. The film was the brainchild of Alexander, a passionate admirer of O’Keeffe. She wanted to do a feature film but was unable to raise the financial backing needed. According to a New York Times article[1] Alexander’s husband, Ed Sherin whose credits include Valdez is Coming and TV shows Homicide in the Streets and Law & Order, suggested she try the PBS route. It would be a lower cost production but doable.

Plummer was not the first choice to play the photographer. Initially, the excellent Scandinavian actor Max Von Sydow was set to play Stieglitz, but he dropped out before production began because of a conflict in schedules. Martin Landau was next, but he too dropped out. Finally, Christopher Plummer came on board. He loved the script and quickly agreed. He became Alfred Stieglitz and is as sublime in the role as Jane Alexander is as Georgia O’Keeffe. Written by Julian Barry, the film illuminates the financially strapped art world of that period as well as two of its most gifted artists. It reflects how Stieglitz was not just a superb photographer but a wheeler and dealer in the art world of their time.

Stieglitz was a bigger than life character: mischievous, loyal, and generous, yet he could be domineering, sexist, brooding and demanding. He was a father figure to many upcoming artists of his time. Plummer captures all of this in his portrayal.  Jane Alexander’s take on O’Keeffe is as compelling as Plummer’s. Stieglitz was already married when he left his wife for O’Keeffe, twenty-four years younger. The two were opposites in just about every way except for artistic talent. Their life together was a constant battle of tug and pull. However, this film does not only focus on their personal relationship. Unlike most biopics, much of the time is spent on their respective arts. We see the Stieglitz photographing O’Keeffe, and how the photographer fought for and supported her work.

Creative partnerships are a rocky road; Stieglitz and O’Keeffe were no different. Her allegiance to Stieglitz forced her at times to submit to his demanding nature, including when he demanded she abort his baby she was carrying and wanted to keep. He also was a philanderer, cheating on his first wife with O’Keeffe and then later cheating on O’Keeffe after they married.  Eventually, she would make her way out to Santa Fe, coming back to New York and Stieglitz on occasion.  She was always uncomfortable living in New York, and even more so during their summers spent at the Stieglitz compound in Lake George, upstate New York. Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946. O’Keeffe would spend the rest of her life at her Ghost Ranch just outside of Santa Fe.

In 2009, Georgia O’Keeffe, another made of TV film arrived on Lifetime. Directed by Bob Balaban, the film stars Jeremy Irons as Stieglitz and Joan Allen as O’Keeffe. Like the earlier film, Georgia O’Keeffe had an extended gestation period. It was in development at HBO for four years before they decided to pass on it.[2]  Lifetime decided to pick it up. Unlike the stage-bound A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz it was shot on location in New Mexico including O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch just outside of Abiquiú, New Mexico. It was the first time filmmakers were allowed to film there.

Unlike the 1991 film, Georgia O’Keeffe focuses more on the complicated relationship, between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz and not as much on her art and what made her so unique. People who know little about O’Keeffe’s art will not learn much about what made her so extraordinary. The same can be said about Stieglitz, if you do not know who Stieglitz is and his importance, not just to Georgia, but to the evolution of photography as an art form, well the viewer will still be clueless after watching this film. For me, that the film’s central weakness. That said, it’s entertaining, a primer into the world of these two artists. Hopefully, making you thirst for more. Visually, it is beautiful to look at; the New Mexico locations as photographed by cinematographer Paul Elliot make you want to go there.

 

Footnotes:

[1] New York Times, Drawn From Life, July 23, 1991, Michael Kilian

[2] Reuters, Kimberly Nordyke, Lifetime Paints O’Keeffe Portrait, Nov. 5, 2008

From Real to Reel: Real Life Photographers in the Movies – Linda McCartney

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This is my third in a series on real life photographers as portrayed in the movies. Here we take a look at Linda McCartney.

For a short period after high school, Linda Eastman attended the University of Arizona. However, she spent more time out in the Arizona countryside horseback riding, a passion since her youth, than in school. In 1962, her mother, Louise Eastman died in an airplane crash, and she came back to New York for a short period. The pressures of her mother’s death on her family sent her escaping back to Arizona. Upon her return, she soon became pregnant by her boyfriend, Melville See. They quickly married, and Heather was born. During this time, Eastman’s experience with photography was limited. While married to See, she took classes in photography at the Tucson Arts Center under the guidance of Hazel Archer. Her photographs at this point consisted mostly of her beloved horses as well as the Arizona landscape. The marriage didn’t last long. See, a geologist took a position that would send him to Africa. Linda declined to follow along. The marriage quickly dissolved. Linda and Heather went back east.

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Brian Jones – Photograph by Linda Eastman McCartney

Linda got an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She took a low-level job working as an editorial assistant for Town and Country magazine. She met David Dalton, a photographer, and writer, one day while both were waiting for the elevator in the same building where they both worked, though for different magazines. Dalton had a Pentax camera slung over his shoulder, and she began asking questions. They became friends and even dated. He taught her about lighting and other aspects of photography which she eagerly soaked in.

Among Linda’s functions at Town and Country were bill checking, calendar managing and opening the mail. On one occasion there came a press invitation for a reception aboard a yacht that would be cruising up the Hudson River. The guests of honor were the Rolling Stones. With the invite in one hand and a 35mm camera in the other, Linda, and her co-worker/best friend Christine Berlin were allowed on the yacht. [1]

Aboard the invitation-only yacht, Linda was both nervous and excited.  On deck, she photographed Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richard, et al. She hoped the photos would come out good enough to sell. They did. Eastman’s success was due to a couple of factors. She had a natural eye and sensitivity. Her pictures were different; they were informal portraits, unlike the regular press photographers who wanted more standard shots. For example, a photo of Brian Jones had him sitting there with his legs wide apart; this was never seen before. It helped that she had a talent for being sociable and was a bit of a flirt with the boys managing to get uncooperative rockers to pose and work with her. After the reception, Linda sold some of her photos to both Hullabaloo, where Dalton was now working, and Datebook teen magazines; this was her big break. Her career as a photographer began. Over the next few years, Linda would photograph rock and roll luminaries like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Morrison, the Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who and many others. In May of 1968, Linda became the first female photographer whose work, a photo of Eric Clapton, would grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Ever the black sheep of the Eastman family, her father Lee Eastman, never approved of her rebellious lifestyle or her photography career.

Eric Clapton – Photo by Linda  Eastman McCartney

During these days, Linda gained an unfair reputation for being a groupie. It’s a sexist term. After all, if guys had sex with many women, he’s a stud. And unlike most so-called groupies, Linda wasn’t a hanger-on, she had a job, and as a single working woman, she came into contact with famous and rich men who saw her as attractive and exciting as she found them. Why shouldn’t she spend a night with some of the men she came into contact with?

A photo assignment in 1967 brought her to London. One night while hanging out at The Bag o’ Nails, a well-known and popular club at the time, she met Paul McCartney. There was an immediate chemistry between the two even though Paul was still seeing Jane Asher at the time. Linda was invited to photograph The Beatles launch party of their groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. She photographed the event getting shots of all The Beatles for the first time.

Launch

Linda Eastman’s photo of The Beatles launch party for St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Paul and Linda would meet again in New York in May of 1968. Four months later he asked her to come to London and move in with him; they married on March 12th, 1969. Linda continued to photograph, but her devotion over the years the couple were together was split between family, photography, animal rights and vegetarianism. Family was number one.

From those early rock n’ roll photographs to the last years of The Beatles, Paul’s solo career, the raising of their kids, Linda’s camera was always there to capture the beauty and the spontaneity of their lives. Her work was fresh, self-effacing and warm. When she died at the age of 56, she left behind a visual rock n’ roll history of some of the most significant artists of our time.

One of her proudest moments in her photographic career happened in 1982 after a coffee table size book of her work called Photographs was published followed by an exhibit that traveled across Europe. The high point for Linda though happened when the great French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, then 88 years old, requested a print of Linda’s shot of a young Scottish boy running across a field. At the time, Lartigue did not know who the photographer was.

***

Despite the many films made about The Beatles, Backbeat, The Two of Us, Nowhere Boy, Birth of the Beatles to name a few, Linda McCartney was portrayed only in one film. Two years after her untimely death in 1998 at the age of 56, CBS came out with The Linda McCartney Story. Based on Danny Fields book, Linda McCartney: A Portrait, the film tries to have it all by attempting to appeal to Beatles fans, always hungry for another “inside look,” baby boomers, the tearjerker crowd, and the romantic audiences who love a good love story. The film has it all. But as it flashes back and forth between the early days where we see Linda’s beginnings as a photographer, her success, even before meeting Paul, then jumping ahead to her final years, and her fight against the cancer that took her life. You get the feeling none of the targeted audiences will be completely satisfied.

McCartney

Elizabeth Mitchell and Gary Blakewell as Linda and Paul

Elizabeth Mitchell was a particularly good choice to play Linda. She manages to make Linda come across as frank, aggressive as well as charming and endearing. The script lets her down toward the second half of the film as it focuses more on the breakup of The Beatles and her health issues effects on Paul with Linda fading into the background of her own life.

Paul is decently played by Gary Blakewell who previously portrayed him six years earlier in the 1994 film Backbeat. George Segal plays, Lee Eastman, Linda’s hard-ass father who before her marriage to Paul saw Linda’s photography career as nothing more than shooting a bunch of long-haired freaks. Tim Piper[2] plays John Lennon in one of the creepiest portrayals of the rocker ever who at one point burst into the McCartney home like a madman, screaming and ranting, finally breaking a framed drawing he did that he previously gave to Paul.

The_Linda_McCartney_Story_set_Elizabeth_Mitchell_01

The Linda McCartney Story

In the beginning, Beatles fans hated Linda. She wasn’t pretty enough for the cutest Beatle, she, along with Yoko, was accused of breaking up world’s most famous band. Then she had the nerve to go on stage and perform with Paul in his new band Wings. Hell, she couldn’t sing or play an instrument, yet there she was. She looked uncomfortable on stage, but Paul wanted her in the group, and what Paul wanted, he got.

Except for the week, Paul spent in a Japanese jail for pot possession; the couple never spent a night apart. Their love for each other and their family was real. Real enough for a wild rocker who slept with an infinite number of women to give it all up for a family and a farm in Scotland. McCartney, always the romantic in his work proved it works offstage too.

In the end, The Linda McCartney Story is mostly a tearjerker overshadowing the photography story, The Beatles, and the love story.  For me, it’s best to remember Linda McCartney as a talented photographer, an animal activist, and vegetarian who brought peace and love to her husband and family and not as a victim of a horrible decease.

Footnotes:

[1] Some Beatles and Paul McCartney biographies have stated that Linda was the only photographer on board the yacht. This was not only untrue, but ridiculous if you think about it. The reception was a press junket and to have had no photographers on board would have defeated the purpose.

[2] Tim Piper has made a career out of playing John Lennon. In 2002, a one night only tribute show called ‘Just Imagine’ premiered at the Stella Alder Theater. The critics liked it so much, the William Morris Agency took it on and put the show on tour across the United State and the world. It still tours to this day.

 

 

 

Sources:

Linda McCartney: A Portrait – Danny Fields,  2000, Renaissance Books

Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2010, Howard Sounes