Leo Fuchs is a Hollywood veteran who spent 20 years (1944 -1965) shooting some of the most moving and memorable images of ‘50s and ‘60s film icons. He had a major retrospective at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar academy) in Los Angeles in 2001. "Shooting Stars: Photographs by Leo Fuchs," included photographs taken on and off the sets of such legendary films as “Exodus," "To Kill a Mockingbird," “The Nun's Story,” “Cape Fear,” and “Lover Come Back.”
Although Fuchs spent over twenty years as a motion picture producer, beginning with “Gambit’ in 1966, his introduction to movie making came during the previous decades as one of the world's leading "special photographers" on movie sets in Europe and North America. As a magazine photographer, he was one of the rare “outsiders” invited onto movie sets and left to his own devises to befriend movie stars and get candid shots both during shooting, and after hours while socializing with the stars. The resulting photographs, both intimate and immediate in their appeal, were then syndicated to magazines the world over. His sensitive and dramatic photographic essays of filmmaking appeared in such venerable publications as Life, Look, Paris Match, Bunte.
Film icons Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant, as well as such legendary directors as Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Fred Zinnemann were all captured by Fuchs’ camera.
Rock Hudson was actually responsible for Fuchs’ coming to Hollywood to work directly for the studios. While working in Rome with Hudson on “Come September,” Fuchs received a telegram from the head of publicity at Universal inviting him to California to work on 'Lover Come Back,” Hudson and Doris Day’s sequel to “Pillow Talk.”
Fuchs moved to Hollywood in 1961, where he photographed most Universal films made between 1961 and 1965, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Cape Fear,” “40 Pounds of Trouble,” “Strange Bedfellows” and “Bedtime Story.” He also covered all of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day films for Universal, and directed and shot special advertising art as well.
As matter of courtesy, Fuchs would always show the actors his photographs before he sent them to his agent, resulting in an enormous amount of respect being built up between the photographer and his star subjects. Quite simply, the actors trusted him. The excellent working relationship Fuchs created can be seen clearly in the intimacy of his photographs.
In l964, Universal Studios president Edward Muhl persuaded the affable and cultured Fuchs to become a film producer. His first venture in his new role was producing “Gambit” starring Shirley MacLaine and hot British import Michael Caine. He went on to produce a total of 14 films in Hollywood and Europe, including “The Secret War of Harry Frigg” starring Paul Newman, “Le Mouton Enrage” (“Love at the Top”) featuring Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin, and “A Fine Pair” with Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale.
Born in Vienna to a family of pastry chefs in 1929, Fuchs emigrated to New York with his family in 1939. He sold his first picture (of Eleanor Roosevelt) for $5 when he was barely a teenager, then quit school at 14 to apprentice at Globe Photos in New York. He struck out on his own two years later, working in Broadway nightclubs and as a glamour photographer for newspapers and magazines. After serving as a Signal Corps cameraman in Germany in the early '50s, Fuchs stayed in Europe and was hired as a still photographer on his first film, “Magic Fire,” directed by William Dieterle.
As every picture tells a story, a book of the master photographer’s work is due out in 2004. And as Fuchs has a story for every one of his pictures, it promises to be a very close look indeed at an exceptional time in Hollywood history.
His son, Alexandre Fuchs, is also a photographer and lives in New York.
"Special Photographer"; 80 Images from the 1950s and 1960s