May 11, 2024

talking pictures, richard c. miller, james dean, elizabeth taylor, gisele schimdt, gary oldman

Photograph by RICHARD C. MILLER
Courtesy of GETTY IMAGES

When asked how we got together, we always answer: ‘Liz Taylor and James Dean.’ But we really owe it all to Richard Miller, the freelance entertainment and stills photographer, who captured the image of them relaxing on a sofa in Houston, Texas in 1955.

In truth, saying ‘Richard C. Miller’ doesn’t carry the weight and humour of saying ‘Taylor and Dean’, but it should. We have all heard the adage, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, and we don’t disagree – but what of the person who took it, or the people in it, what we take from it, or what happens because of it? We feel that those stories are equally as captivating, should be shared, and well… at times, they may take a thousand words to tell. 

So, we thank Hollywood Authentic and our dear friend, Greg Williams, for indulging us with this opportunity in the forthcoming issues to share the stories of how some of the most iconic images were taken, pay homage to the extraordinary photographers behind them, and take you on the journey of how the love of photography changed our lives forever.

Over the course of his career, Miller took photographs of celebrities and stills on more than 70 movie sets, with his work appearing in The Saturday Evening Post, American Weekly, Colliers, Time and LIFE. He was one of the first photographers who took pictures of Norma Jean for the Blue Book Modeling Agency long before her transformation into Marilyn Monroe, and he covered the set photographs of what would be Dean’s third and final film, Giant. Which brings us to this photograph.  

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Miller studied to be a cinematographer and was an actor prior to establishing himself as a photographer. Dean aspired to be a film director and shared a passion for photography – among his closest friends were notable photographers Phil Stern, Dennis Stock and Roy Schatt (the latter being Dean’s photography instructor who had also given Dean his Rolleiflex). Hence why when Miller met Dean, they became fast friends who bonded over their love of Porsches, cameras and the filmmaking process, and Miller told his wife, ‘This is a guy who will be a best friend for life.’

A great image is typically generated by knowing when to click the shutter, but it also needs the right elements of composition. Between the photographer and the subject, cooperation and collaboration, magic can happen. Miller recounted that when Dean saw him about to take the photograph, he would do something to make it better; a look, a stance, a gesture, and in this case, simply grabbing the LOOK magazine featuring Taylor on the cover as Mother of the Year, while she napped beside him.    

This very photograph is what brought Gary into the gallery where I worked and now hangs proudly in our home. It’s the image that we bonded over, and began our conversations on cameras, film and photography; it is what started us on the path to becoming best friends and partners for life. And come to think of it, Gary did drive over in his Porsche.

Photograph by RICHARD C. MILLER
Courtesy of GETTY IMAGES

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