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Bob Willoughby: James Dean on the Warner Brothers set of Rebel Without a Cause, 1955 © Bob Willoughby

Work / Exhibition

New Bob Willoughby show celebrates his celebrity-rich movie-set masterpieces

We are now so used to stars being photographed on film sets – indeed it’s become the stock-in-trade for a certain kind of magazine – that’s it’s hard to grasp the fact that at one time it was a real novelty. But photographer Bob Willoughby is credited as the first “outsider” invited into the mysterious behind-the-scenes world of movie-making and his extraordinary images documented the biggest celebrities in their downtime across three decades. Think James Dean learning his lines on the set of Rebel without A Cause, Sophia Loren cuddling Elvis and Gene Kelly placing dancers on the set of Brigadoon.

Brought together for a new show in London, they’re not only beautifully shot but all the more enjoyable because of the naivety of these very personal, often unposed moments viewed from an age when we’re all very savvy about the fame creation process.

Bob Willoughby: The Silver Age of Hollywood is on show at Proud Chelsea from Thursday until January 13.

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Bob Willoughby: Audrey Hepburn and George Cukor, chatting after filming has finished for the day on the Covent Garden set for My Fair Lady, Warner Brothers Studios,1963 © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Jane Fonda rehearses to herself on the unlit set of ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’, Warner Brothers, 1969 © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Frank Sinatra on set of The Man with The Golden Arm, 1955 © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Natalie Wood in rehearsal on The Great Race Warner Brothers Studios, 1964, © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Vincent Minelle and Gene Kelly discuss the placement of the dancers on the set of Brigadoon, 1954 © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Sophia Loren holds on tight to Elvis Presley in The Paramount Studios Restaurant, 1958 © Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby: Marilyn Munroe © Bob Willoughby