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LIFE Legends: The Century's Most…
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LIFE Legends: The Century's Most Unforgettable Faces (Life Magazine) (1997)

by Killian Jordan

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Life Legends is a large- format collection of photographs of iconic celebrities of the 20th century, with a particular focus on the US and England. The photographs are professional quality and high resolution and presumably were harvested from Life Magazine’s archives. Most are gray scale, although a few are in color, and they are reproduced at large size in one- and two- page spreads. The photographed celebrities not only include film stars and musicians, but also famous political leaders, sports figures, artists, and other manifestations of popular culture.

Each of the photographs is accompanied by a quotation about the celebrity from another famous individual. For example, a photograph of author Truman Capote is coupled with an observation by Humphrey Bogart: “At first you can’t believe him, he’s so odd, and then you want to carry him around with you always.” Accompanying a photograph of escape artist Harry Houdini is a description by magician David Copperfield: “His message was that every obstacle could be overcome. The escapes were a metaphor that gave people hope at a time when it was most needed.” A photograph of the gorgeous actress Katherine Hepburn is accompanied by her own quote: “I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I‘ve just done what I damn well wanted to and I’ve made enough money to support myself and I ain’t afraid of being alone”

The photographs are grouped in categories, such as: “Originals” (Houdini, Capote, Jack Kerouac, Amelia Earhart, the Marx Brothers, Lenny Bruce, Joseph McCarthy, Jackie Kennedy, Clarence Darrow); “Visionaries” (Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi); and “Generations” (which pairs Bob Dylan with Woodie Guthrie, Madonna with Mae West, John Glenn with Charles Lindbergh, and Bill Gates with Henry Ford).

Likewise, there’s “Leaders” (Churchill, FDR, Mao, Hitler, Stalin); Players (Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich); “High Notes” (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and Billy Holiday [of whom commentary says “She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.“]); “Creators” (Isadora Duncan, Albert Einstein, Tennessee Williams, Picasso, Hemingway); “Sporting Life” (Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Jordan, and Billie Jean King); and “Great Beauties” (John Barrymore, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and the TV star Lassie [of whom Cloris Leachman says “They had to find reasons for us to be morons, so the dog could outsmart us”]). Then there are the “Eccentrics” (Michael Jackson, Glenn Gould, Howard Hughes, Timothy O’Leary, Greta Garbo); “Couples”(Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; De Beauvoir and Sartre; Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; children’s dolls Barbie and Ken [of whom Barbie is quoted as saying“My greatest concern regarding Ken can be summed up in a single word: commitment.… we’ve been dating for thirty-five years now and nothing ever seems to change.”]) And finally, there’s the category “Forever Young” (with Marilyn Monroe, JF Kennedy, James Dean, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Patsy Cline).

These photographs are a “who’s-who” of iconic American and British figures of the 20th century. They are enjoyable to casual peruse or for more careful study. The offer a fine overview of the public personalities who helped shape our century. ( )
1 vote danielx | Nov 22, 2018 |
A wonderful collection of portraits of the famous. Good quality reproduction. ( )
  Borg-mx5 | Mar 9, 2010 |
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When asked to account for Greta Garbo's spellbinding magnetism, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Sherwood burbled like a high school fan club president. She is one of the most amazing, puzzling, most provocative characters of this extraordinary age, he said. She definitely doesn't belong in the 20th century. She doesn't even belong in this world.
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There are some people whose 15 minutes will never be up. They are beyond well-known, more than famous. They are legends. This book collects memorable, and in many cases seldom-seen photos of faces that need no introduction: Garbo, Garland, Nureyev, Nijinsky, Spielberg, de Mille, Presley, Cobain. To provide insight into these remarkable people, the photos are accompanied by observations from others who are legends or near-legends. Divided into groups such as Originals, Visionaries, Leaders, Players, Eccentrics, Couples and Forever Young the volume explores the lives of those we idolize and vilify.… (more)

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