Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
D'Elia (Lou) collection on George Hurrell
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical note
  • HIstorical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Separated Materials
  • Processing Information

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Title: Lou D'Elia collection on George Hurrell
    creator: Hurrell, George, 1904-1992
    creator: D'Elia, Lou
    creator: Newton, Helmut, 1920-2004
    Identifier/Call Number: 6151
    Physical Description: 57.65 Linear Feet 42 boxes, 2 map case drawers
    Date (inclusive): 1922-2015
    Abstract: George Hurrell began his career as a photographer working for MGM during the Golden Age of Hollywood, during which time he photographed some of the most famous movie stars of the period, and as a result became one of the most famous studio photographers in Hollywood. He became known for his use of light that included spotlights and shadows, and hand-retouching, which produced romantic portraits that became his signature style. He continued to use this style throughout his long career, defining the idea of glamour in photography. The Lou D'Elia collection on George Hurrell includes many of the photographs that made Hurrell famous, as well as examples of his later work photographing musicians and fashion. The collection also includes documentation of Hurrell's business in the form of correspondence and business records, personal and family materials, and information on exhibits of Hurrell's work.

    Biographical note

    George Hurrell was born in 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Determined to become a painter, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and moved to Laguna Beach, California, to join the thriving art scene there. His first paid work in photography was making record shots of paintings for other Laguna Beach artists. A chance meeting with socialite Pancho Barnes opened the door for Hurrell to meet and photograph Hollywood stars such as Ramon Navarro and Norma Shearer. Hurrell's early Hollywood portraits were so well received that soon after, in 1929, he was offered a job as the head portrait photographer at MGM, the leading Hollywood film studio.
    Hurrell left his position at MGM in 1932 after a disagreement with his boss, yet continued to photograph Hollywood portraits on a freelance basis for all the major studios, including MGM. He also opened a temporary studio in NYC to shoot there, and began a long and ongoing relationship shooting for Esquire Magazine in his signature, glamour style.
    In the 1940s he again returned to his Hollywood roots, this time to Warner Brothers, and opened a private photo studio on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He later moved to Columbia Pictures. During the early years of the war, he was assigned to the US Air Force and made training films at Hal Roach Studios and became a staff photographer at the Pentagon.
    Following the war he continued his photographic work in the advertising industry in NY while raising his three children with wife Phyllis Bounds. Following a divorce in 1954 he returned to Beverly Hills and, in partnership with Walt Disney, created Hurrell Productions to shoot television commercials and educational films. He married again in 1955 to third wife Betty Willis and had three children. Throughout the following decades he became a stills photographer for various TV shows and movies, and continued to accept occasional portrait assignments.
    From 1969 to Hurrell's death in 1992 he never ceased in his passion for glamour photography, continuing to shoot and showing his work in books, galleries and museums nationwide.
    [From report on the Hurrell Archive prepared by Francis Terpak, Curator of Photographs, Getty Research Institute and supplied to the USC Libraries by Lou D'Elia]

    HIstorical note

    In 1967 while still a high school student, Louis F. D'Elia began purchasing Hurrell photographs from used book stores and movie memorabilia stores on Hollywood Boulevard and in Pasadena, and at local weekend movie memorabilia paper shows held in the Los Angeles area. Over the following decades, D'Elia expanded his acquisitions to publications (e.g., Vanity Fair, Vogue, Photoplay, Playboy) in order to include examples of the photographer's published works along with vintage examples of Hurrell's fine art photography in museum exhibitions that D'Elia was co-curating or guest curating. Since 1978 when D'Elia met Hurrell, he maintained a close relation both with the photographer and his extended family. In the mid-2000's, Hurrell's children gifted a substantial number of work prints, newspaper clippings, magazines and records concerning the photographer's career to D'Elia. Subsequent purchases from the family of Hurrell's paintings, photography and camera equipment were made, and the collection contains copies of documents recording these transactions and individual purchases that he made from the family.
    In addition, D'Elia has purchased hundreds of Hurrell photographs and related ephemera on eBay. D'Elia created the domain www.georgehurrell.com as a tribute site to the artist and as a way for the family to keep track of licensing inquiries. Sometimes D'Elia gets contacted via the site by people wanting to sell Hurrell photographs and ephemera, some of which he has purchased. As such, all of the photographs, publications and ephemera that comprise the Hurrell Archive resulted from D'Elia's purchases from used book stores, movie memorabilia stores and movie memorabilia papers shows starting in 1967 through the late 1980s, and from the artist/photographer, and/or the estate of the artist, or via eBay auctions up through March 2016.
    [From report on the Hurrell Archive prepared by Francis Terpak, Curator of Photographs, Getty Research Institute and supplied to the USC Libraries by Lou D'Elia]

    Scope and Contents

    The Lou D'Elia collection on George Hurrell consists of vintage and modern photographs by the artist, work prints, business contracts and correspondence, letters, magazines, books, personal and family materials, and ephemera created and collected by George Hurrell and Lou D'Elia, 1922-2015. The majority of the collection consists of photographs, the bulk of which date from the 1960s-1980s and document Hurrell's work with fashion photography and the music industry. Also of note are some photographs from Hurrell's early career of Hollywood movie stars, photographs documenting Hurrell Studios on the Walt Disney lot in Burbank, photographs of Hurrell himself (with a series of portraits of Hurrell by Helmut Newton), an extensive set of magazines and periodicals in which Hurrell's photographs appeared (gathered by his daughter and by Lou D'Elia), copies of Hurrell's business correspondence, publicity materials about Hurrell and his career, information on exhibits on Hurrell's work (many curated by Lou D'Elia), and personal materials of Hurrell and his immediate family. The collection also includes materials created and collected by Lou D'Elia during the course of his collecting and research activities on the work of George Hurrell.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder no. or item name], Lou D'Elia collection on George Hurrell, Collection no. 6151, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Donated by Lou D'Elia, December 2017.

    Separated Materials

    4 books have been removed from the collection and cataloged separately. These are:
    Hurrell, George, "The Book Of Stars: Photographs 1928-1999", Schirmer Art Books, Munich, 1991
    Hurrell, George and Whitney Stine, "The Hurrell Style: 50 Years of Photographing Hollywood", The John Day Company, New York, 1976
    Vieira, Mark, "Hurrell's Hollywwod Portraits: The Chapman Collection", Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, NY, 1997
    Vieira, Mark A., "George Hurrell's Hollywood: Glamour Portraits 1925- 1992", Running Press, Philadelphia, 2013

    Processing Information

    The Lou D'Elia collection on George Hurrell arrived at USC with an item level inventory compiled by Dr. D'Elia. This inventory, while useful for its item level description, was not in any order. Sue Luftschein encoded this inventory into EAD, imported it into ArchivesSpace, and used it as the basis for the current finding aid. Luftschein grouped like materials together, in some cases physically, in others intellectually, in order to provide ease of access and discovery for researchers. Luftschein kept almost all of Dr. D'Elia's item level description when applicable and edited it where necessary. Examples of editing include combining item level descriptions of photographs depicting the same subject, and editing descriptions down for easier reading.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Actors -- Photographs
    Actresses -- Photographs
    Advertising photography -- Archival resources
    Fashion photography -- Archival resources
    Portrait photography -- Archival resources
    Musicians -- Photographs
    Photographers -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
    Magazines (periodicals)
    Slides (photographs)
    Hurrell, George, 1904-1992 -- Archives
    D'Elia, Lou -- Archives
    Disney, Walt, 1901-1966 -- Archives
    Newton, Helmut, 1920-2004 -- Archives