Life Magazine Photos Online!

Walt Disney photographed for Life in 1938 by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Life magazine’s photo archives are in the process of being posted online, thanks to Google.  The magazine was the picture journal of its day and was published weekly from 1936-1972, and continued to be issued in various stand alone forms until 2000. And its roster of photographers reads like a Who’s Who of Photo Journalism during the middle part of the 20th century.

Needless to say, Life‘s coverage of the arts, especially film and television, was extensive. The images being posted include photos never published before, along with production stills and posters not easily found elsewhere online. The high resolution (300 dpi) images are apparently free for nonprofit use.

My first instinct was to search for animation-related material and, naturally, Disney-related material, such as the 1938 photo of Disney by Alfred Eisenstaedt above , were most easily found. Much of the material I initially looked at lacked full identification; e.g., a picture of Gore Vidal and Melvyn Douglas only named Vidal, and some photos of live TV shows from the 1950s I looked at were not identified in any way, other than that they were TV shows. Anyway, here are some images of interest I came across, starting with  several by Hart Preston of Disney’s 1941 South American tour, which he embarked upon after the Bank of America told him to settle the strike by the Screen Cartoonists Guild:

Mary Blair in Brazil on 1941 Disney trip.
This is identified as “Disney artist Mary Blair (R) working in Brazil w. company founder Walt Disney (L),” with Sugarloaf in the background; however, that’s doesn’t look like Disney to me.+
Frank Thomas and Walt Disney on Brazilian Beach
“Artist Franklin Thomas (L) standing with Walt Disney (C) on Brazilian beach.”
Fantasia's Brazilian Premiere
“Audiences gathered outside theater for the Brazilian premiere of Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’.” Brazil’s President Vargas was in attendance.
sid caesar by gordon parks
“NBC TV actor Sid Caesar (2nd R) rehearsing the Saturday night show with actress Janet Blair (2nd L), Carl Reiner (C) and others.” The Saturday night show was, of course, Caesar’s Hour, which along with Your Show of Shows, was an incubator for a whole generation of comedy writers and comedians, including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, and Larry Gelbart. I’m not sure who the woman on the left is, but the man in the center is Carl Reiner and Howie Morris is on the right. Photo: Gordon Parks.
No Time for Sergeants on Broadway
“Scene from the play ‘No Time For Sergeants’.” The 1955 Broadway play was inspired by the popular live TV adaptation of the Mac Hyman novel, and also starred Andy Griffith, who later went on to also star in the movie version. On the right is Don Knotts, who had been a mainstay on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, made his Broadway debut in the show. Photo: Yale Joel.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

2 thoughts on “Life Magazine Photos Online!”

  1. I felt bad there were no comments so I’m leaving one!! hahaha. However, this website helped me a lot b/c i have a biography due soon about Walt Disney so…thanks!

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