Just because Photoshop as we know it hadn't been invented yet, that doesn't mean that Old Hollywood starlets didn't get some work done on their images after the fact. Photo "retouching," as it was called, was used early on in the film promotion industry to amend pictures of some of the most glamorous stars of the era. Fine lines and wrinkles? Not for these Old Hollywood glamazons.
However, retouching meant just that – manually adjusting images using techniques with names like "dodging" and "burning" and using tools like grease pencils. In the darkroom, "dodging" involved casting a shadow on a negative as it developed, so that less light could get projected on it. This would lighten the end-result photograph. "Burning," on the other hand, meant blocking light from all but a very small portion of the photograph during its devlepmont, thus creating a dark spot in the otherwise lightened photograph.
Audrey Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis – some of the most respected beauty icons of an era underwent photo retouching in their promotional images. For someone like Bette Davis, a woman who gained a reputation as a "smart" – and therefore "snobby" – actress, image retouching helped soften her "sneer," making her more approachable and likeable. For Joan Crawford, a "retoucher machine" enabled a man name James Sharp to vibrate the image while he removed any skin inconsistencies with a pencil. And Audrey Hepburn? For some of her Breakfast at Tiffany's promotional materials, a retoucher used a grease pencil to remove fine lines and wrinkles from the beauty's face.
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