When I picked up a book on Marilyn Monroe a few years back (I am a great hoarder of books!), the name of Bernard of Hollywood popped up as the man who had been a great influence in the successful launch of her career. I soon became interested in getting to know him a little better…
Bruno Bernard was born Bruno Bernard Sommerfeld 1912 in Berlin, Germany. At age 11, he became interested in photography when his parents gave him his first Rolleiflex camera. As a young man he worked as a photographer and earned a Ph.D. in criminal psychology at the Kiel University in 1934. His participation in a Jewish youth organization landed him on the Gestapo’s blacklist which caused him to emigrate to the United States in 1937.
In 1938 Bruno Bernard settled in and set up his first photo studio in the basement of his apartment in Los Angeles. Agent Paul Kohner, who helped many Jewish Europeans flee after the rise of Adolph Hitler and re-establish themselves in Hollywood, took notice of Bernard’s work when Bruno Bernard opened his first studio in 1940 on Robertson Boulevard and sent him clients, thus bringing him to the attention of the motion picture industry.
In the 1940’s and ’50’s he photographed most of the big stars of Hollywood, such as Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, Anita Ekberg, and of course Marilyn Monroe. It has been said that he introduced Monroe to agent Johnny Hyde, who landed her a contract with 20th Century-Fox. His artistic muse, however, was the legendary striptease artist Lili St. Cyr, a willowy beauty of wit and elegance, and one of Bernard’s more spectacular subjects.
In addition to his photography, he published six books before his death in 1987.
My favourite images: