Norma Shearer, First Day of Photography

As it turned out, Ramon Novarro did quite well in his 1929 contract negotiations and remained at MGM. No opera career (see Blog #6 for further details). Novarro showed the photos that Hurrell took of him to his best friend back at MGM who was having problems of a different sort. Her name was Norma Shearer, who was married to the head of production at MGM – Irving Thalberg. Norma had recently read a script, called the DIVORCEE, that had a part that she very much wanted to play. The role required her to be a sexy vamp – a modern woman. But, up until this time, Norma Shearer was basically best known for her “all-American girl next door” image. So this role would greatly change her image, and also give her the opportunity to show others that she was a skilled actress, capable of playing several kinds of roles. However, when she showed the script to her husband, he replied “Honey, I don’t think this part is for you. You are not sexy in THAT way.” Well, that really got her upset hearing this from her husband.

Shortly after the ‘bad news’ message from her husband, Ramon Novarro visited Norma with the stack of photos that “this new photographer,” George Hurrell, had taken of him. Looking at the NEW ORPHEUS photo Hurrell had taken of him that we can be seen in Blog #6, she said, “Ramon, you are so sexy in this photo.” In continuing to look through the other photos that Hurrell had taken she added, “I have never seen you photographed so beautifully.” Ramon replied, “Yes, Hurrell captured my mood exactly.” Well, she was sold. She decided to have some photos taken by Hurrell so that she could convince her husband that she WAS INDEED sexy in THAT way.

So she showed this photo you are now looking at to her husband. He agreed. She was indeed sexy, in THAT way. Their marriage improved, she got the film role. By the way, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress as a result of her portrayal in that film.