"Bert Stern: Original Mad Man" is the definitive voyage into the life and work of one of America's most influential photographers. Photographing the world's most alluring women in fashion ...
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"Bert Stern: Original Mad Man" is the definitive voyage into the life and work of one of America's most influential photographers. Photographing the world's most alluring women in fashion and Hollywood for the past 50 years -- Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn among them -- minted Stern as a celebrity in his own right.
Bertram Stern (Oct. 3, 1929 June 26, 2013) was a school dropout-turned-soda jerk in Brooklyn who eventually found his way into the mail room of Look magazine when he was just 16 years old. After serving in the Army, where his talents as a photographer landed him the opportunity to shoot pictures of the beautiful ladies of Japan, Stern won an award for an amazing Smirnoff vodka ad; this led to his legendary career as a portrait and fashion photographer, with famous subjects including Liz and Dick, Audrey Hepburn, Sue Lyon, Twiggy and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe (he also co-directed a highly-acclaimed 1959 jazz documentary, "Jazz on a Summer's Day", snippets of which are seen here). Directed by his third and final wife, Shannah Laumeister (who hoped to be Stern's next discovery but settled on being his wife and muse), this documentary is not (surprisingly) filled with colorful anecdotes on the rich and famous. Stern (who resembled a more-handsome version of Hugh Hefner in his youth) tells very few behind-the-lens stories; he comes off as a would-be self-effacing man, modest to the point of being arrogant about his modesty, who doesn't think he himself a very good subject. Not all of his celebrity photographs are worthy of the praise he has received (some of the women, with their faraway eyes and sad mouths, look rather hard), although his advertisement layouts are still striking today. This is not an incisive look at the enigmatic Stern, but that's not due to Laumeister's lack of effort. Everything is here for a great film-record of Stern's life, but he appears to have taken the best chapters to his grave. ** from ****
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