MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org

The Sultry Showgirl

When Stanley Kubrick was a young man, he had the good luck to be assigned a job for LOOK Magazine that allowed him to create an intimate  photographic portrait of Rosemary Williams.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.62B

This story, shot in the spring of 1949, captures the young Rosemary as she transforms herself from an everyday gal into a showgirl.

Although a majority of the negatives and prints from this story show the budding Rosemary in her home, preparing coffee, lounging on a chair with a book, or praying at church, they caught my eye because of the continuous thread of theatricality.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.42

Kubrick was able to capture the careful construction of a personal image. Within all of these photographs, Rosemary is never out of character.  The combination of the general staged aspect of LOOK and the calculated influence from entertainment studios has created a story that is campy in nature but also emphasizes how celebrities (major and minor) painstakingly construct their own image.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.104D

However, what becomes apparent through the constructed moments and interactions within the photos is Kubrick’s cinematic eye. Although many of the photos contain that trace, I was knocked over by the photo above, which reminds me of a still from a film.  The posed figures, purposeful illumination of the interaction between the two characters, and stark background allude to actions happening outside of the frame.

One can imagine that Rosemary was perhaps a commuting showgirl, driving back and forth every night from the depths of New Jersey.  Thank goodness Kubrick happened to be present the night her car got a flat!

Follow this link to get a dose of a fast talkin’ 50s news story about Rosemary Williams and the dastardly Sidney M. Levy.

Although the Museum has documentation that Rosemary appeared on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1953 musical comedy, Me and Juliet, as a chorus girl alongside Shirley MacLaine, Rosemary seems to have disappeared into the fog of time. We’d love to find her or discover something about her post-showgirl life. Email us at collections@mcny.org if you have any information. You could win a free reproduction print from our collection as a thank-you!

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.99F

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.121F

About Allyson Ross

Digital Imaging Specialist

4 comments on “The Sultry Showgirl

  1. wesleyterpstra
    August 3, 2011

    That was a good read. I’m iterated in learning more about Kubrick’s photography now.

  2. johnleemedia
    August 9, 2011

    gorgeous look back into a vanished NYC–by Stanley Kubrick no less!

  3. Subscribed to Time just to read that article. And, thank you for writing this beautiful piece.

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This entry was posted on August 3, 2011 by in Digital Project and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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