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Photographer Bruno Bernard Dies at 75

June 09, 1987|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Bruno Bernard, the veteran Hollywood portraitist whose photograph of Marilyn Monroe with her windblown dress swirling about her shapely legs made an indelible impression on the world of pinup art, has died, his daughter said last week.

"Bernard of Hollywood," as he was known during three decades of Hollywood's putative Golden Age, had been battling cancer. He lost that four-year struggle Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Despite his illness, he had traveled the world during those four years, compiled the book "Requiem for Marilyn," due out in August, was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and saluted by 300 of his friends and film industry people at a dinner in February marking his 75th birthday.

Bernard had remained out of the public eye during most of the 1960s and '70s.

The pinup publisher and film lore scholar who escaped Hitler's Germany in 1937 had retreated to his Palm Springs home shortly after nude rather than cute photography came into fashion. Bernard dismissed his latter-day counterparts as "gynecological" photographers using "three poses . . . each more vulgar than the last."

But in 1984 he was lured out of retirement by an exhibition of 130 of his portraits and other pictures at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences building in Los Angeles. There were displayed Monroe's flying skirt, seen in the 1955 film "The Seven-Year Itch," an apparently tipsy Bing Crosby at a party and such other movie legends as Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg and Elizabeth Taylor.

The celebration was to mark Bernard's 50th year as a photographer, a journey he started when his parents gave him a camera in his native Germany when he was 11.

Although he held a doctorate in criminal psychology from a German university and studied law and several other fields, he never had any formal training in the taking of pictures.

"I had two good teachers," he told The Times in an interview in connection with the academy exhibit: "Trial and error."

He had managed to get out of Germany by telling authorities that he was going abroad to continue his graduate studies. He had planned to go to Brazil, but after seeing the film "San Francisco" he changed both his geographic and professional intentions.

Attracted by the film's scenery, he set out for the Bay Area of Northern California but landed instead in Hollywood, where he studied directing under an old friend from Berlin, Max Reinhardt. But without experience he was unable to get into the director's guild and, out of money, turned to his old hobby to earn a living. He began by taking pictures of film producers' children and, as pleased wives began showing the results to their husbands, found himself photographing what he called "aspiring thespians."

His first studio, opened in 1938, was in the basement of his apartment on Hillside Avenue but he soon moved to 9055 Sunset Blvd., where "Bernard of Hollywood" was to reign for 25 years.

He was credited with introducing Monroe to the agent who negotiated her first picture contract with 20th Century Fox. Years later she signed one of his 10 books on photography: "Remember, Bernie, you started it all."

He said that much of his success was due to his background in psychology. "I loosened up my sitters by letting them do a reading of a play, putting on their favorite record or we would have a dialogue among friends. . . . I wanted to get their human substance."

In addition to his daughter, Susan, he is survived by a grandson.

A memorial service will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the Academy Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

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