Four Kings of Hollywood by Slim Aarons

In the above picture (left to right) Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and James Stewart enjoy a joke at 1957 New Year’s party held at the Crown Room in Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills. The conspiratorial laugher invited many into the rarified lives of Hollywood’s elite, in the picture Smithsonian magazine termed “a Mount Rushmore of stardom” and the novelist Louis Auchincloss “the very image of American he-men.”

And they were at the dizzying heights of their careers too; Cooper and Heflin had achieved huge successes with Vera Cruz (1954) and Shane (1953). Jimmy Stewart was right in the middle of his stellar corroboration with Alfred Hitchcock and would soon star in Vertigo (1958). As for Gable, although his heydays were over, he had proved himself to be a bankable star throughout the decade.

Why are the men in the picture all laughing?  The photographer Slim Aarons sometimes said he did not know why.  Sometimes he admitted  that they were really laughing at him after Clark Gable teasingly described Mr. Aarons’s deficient acting skills in a small movie part.

Mr. Aarons, the premier chronicler of Hollywood’s glitterati then, enjoyed strong rapport with stars. When Jimmy Stewart was approached by strangers, he would joke, “No, I am Slim Aarons.” While Stewart’s part in 1954’s Rear Window was modeled after Robert Capa, Hitchcock based the apartment on Aarons’s dwelling.

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