English Band leader and entertainer Billy Cotton

Portraits of Celebrity

Exhibition of unseen photographs of Hollywood Stars, including Audrey Hepburn and Peter Sellers.

A unique archive of photographs of Hollywood stars from the 1940s/50s/60s, many of which have never been seen before, will be going on show in Brighton in May as part of the Artists Open Houses festival.

The exhibition will pull images from a wide range of negatives that include images of Gary Cooper, President Harry Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Sir Dirk Bogarde and Peter Sellers. Alongside the celebrity images are many others, which give fascinating social and historical record of the period – including the Queen’s rat-catcher and Britain’s first female chimney sweep.

The archive belonged to Brighton-based photographer George Douglas, who worked for many years at Picture Post and Life magazine amongst other publications. George died in 2010, leaving an enormous and diverse archive to his good friend and fellow Brighton-based photographer Roger Bamber. Bamber discovered thousands of negatives in a dilapidated filing cabinet when he inherited George’s house in Silwood Road. George had bought the house back in 1964 and though he spent much time in California, he still spent his summers in Brighton and retired to live in the house full time in 2007 until his death in 2010. 2014 marks the 50th consecutive year that Silwood Road has been lived in by a photographer.

Now a third Brighton photographer, Nigel Swallow, is setting up studio in the house and will be exploring the archive, reprinting many of its images and exhibiting them to the public for the first time as part of the Brighton Artists Open Houses festival.

About George Douglas
George was born in Rottingdean, East Sussex, but in 1939 moved with his mother to Dallas, Texas. He sold his first photographs to the Los Angeles Times in the 1940s and moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1948, where he was in charge of photography for the Sun Valley News Bureau, taking pictures of famous visitors including Gary Cooper and President Harry Truman. In 1949 he moved back to LA and began his career as a celebrity photographer with a picture of Angela Lansbury for Life magazine.

He fell “more than a little in love” with Audrey Hepburn when he spent a fortnight photographing her in New York as she prepared for the Broadway production of Gigi and became friends with the novelist Paul Gallico and the actor Peter Sellers.

In 1964 the Beatles asked him to become their photographer on the set of A Hard Day’s Night – Paul McCartney had been impressed by George’s portraits of his then girlfriend Jane Asher – but two weeks at the Twickenham Studios besieged by screaming teenagers was enough to persuade George that he was not cut out for pop photography. He was best known for his work on Picture Post.

The Artists Open Houses festival is now the largest event of its kind in the UK. Around 200 houses and studio spaces across the city will be opening their doors to exhibit the work of over 1,000 artists and makers. www.aoh.org.uk

George Douglas Open House, 14 Silwood Road, Brighton, BN1 2LF