NORMA SHEARER YOUTHFUL | STRANGE INTERLUDE (1932) Oversized portrait by George Hurrell


[Los Angeles]: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, [1932]. Vintage original 10 x 13″ (25 x 32 cm.) black-and-white double weight semi-glossy silver gelatin photo. Blind stamp of “Hurrell” at bottom right corner, studio and photographer ink stamps and attached typed information blurb on verso. Handwritten in pencil “X371” on verso. Fine.

Producer Irving Thalberg was inspired by great novels and plays of the time as source material for MGM. His taste elevated the output of the studio. Strange Interlude, a six-hour play often performed over two nights and written by Eugene O’Neil, was a great success on Broadway. Though he initially wanted the play’s star Lynn Fontanne for the film, she had no interest (having failed as a film actor) and so, always looking for the best vehicle for his wife, Norma Shearer was cast.

Though the story was abbreviated into 109 minutes, the pre-Code themes of the frank exploration of such topics as insanity, adultery and abortion were retained as much as possible. An early attempt at depicting Freudian psychology (on stage the character’s thoughts were expressed in asides to the audience; for the film they were rather clumsily addressed with voiceover), O’Neill did not like the film feeling that even with pre-Code freedom the story had been highly censored.

This highly stylized portrait of Norma Shearer displays the work of MGM scenic designer Cedric Gibbons and costume designer Adrian.

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