Wartime, Hollywood photographer Phil Stern dies

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 1:28 PM
Wartime, Hollywood photographer Phil Stern dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Phil Stern, an award-winning photographer who lugged his camera into combat during World War II and later became known for candid shots of Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando, has died. He was 95.

Stern died Saturday in Los Angeles after being hospitalized, said David Fahey, co-owner of the Fahey/Klein Gallery that displayed the photographer's work for decades. Stern, a longtime smoker, had emphysema, according to the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/16orff9 ).

Stern, who shot for Life, Look and other magazines, honed his skills as a war photographer during the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily.

"His pictures of the invasion and its aftermath remain among the most outstanding documents in the annals of combat photography in any war, before or since," author and journalist Herbert Mitgang wrote in "Phil Stern: A Life's Work," a 2003 collection of Stern photos.

After the war, Stern gained fame for photos of icons like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra in unguarded moments. Unlike the movie-studio portrait photographers whose images were idealized and airbrushed, Stern typically photographed stars candidly on the set, at home and at private gatherings.

"He made them seem real," Robert Cushman, photography curator for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences told the Times in 2003.

One of his most memorable images is of Brando, in jeans and black leather jacket, walking the set of "The Wild One."

Another captures John Wayne chatting with a cigar-chomping John Ford while shooting "The Alamo."

Stern, who began working for Life in 1941, told the magazine in a 1993 interview that he rarely became friendly with the stars he photographed.

"I was like the plumber who comes to fix your toilet, then you don't see him again," he said. Besides, he said, "I didn't care to know them, usually — so many of them were frankly a pain."

For several decades, Stern also shot album covers and was a familiar presence at recording sessions with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats. He was also the official photographer of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural gala.

In 1945, Stern married Rose Mae Lindou, a model with the John Robert Powers agency. She preceded him in death, as did his daughter, Lata, and son, Philip. His survivors include sons Peter Stern and Tom Stern, and eight grandchildren, the Times said.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com