Menace Shots

It was in 1943 that the New York Alliance, publisher of the phtographer's magazine The Complete Photographer, printed a definitive article by Ned Scott called Still Photography in the Motion Picture Industry.  It was at the time, and still remains, the only authoritative article on the subject written by a practitioner of the art form while he was working full time in the industry.

Key for this discussion is Ned Scott's assertion that three types of still photographs were the most popular for moviegoers: the menace shot, the glamour shot, and the leg art and gag shot.  All the other types of still phtographs were very important for the promotion and production of motion pictures, but these three types were the most widely distributed, especially in newspapers.  In their own special ways, these kinds of stills allowed the moviegoing public a personal connection with their favorite celebrities. 

Menace photography was effective because it conveyed threat.   With threat on the one hand and hope on the other, the dramatic essence of any story will engage the viewer.  Good menace photographs underpinned the movement of drama by making the threat real.  Ned Scott's effectiveness with this kind of image helped to sell films and increase box office receipts.    

Brian Donlevy

Nazis search the town for assassin Karel Vanek, played by Brian Donlevy, who has just successfully killed Reich-Protector Reinhard Heidrich, alias The Hangman

Nazis search the town for assassin Karel Vanek, played by Brian Donlevy, who has just successfully killed Reich-Protector Reinhard Heidrich, alias The Hangman.  The threat inherent in this image is visceral.  It was understood that if the desperate Nazis were to be successful in apprehending Vanek, the likely outcome would be his torture and execution. Hangmen Also Die, 1943.

Brain Donlevy portrays accused assassin Karel Vanek, alias Dr. Svodoba, as he eludes the clutches of the Nazi horde trying to capture him in Hangmen Also Die, 1943

Brain Donlevy portrays accused assassin Karel Vanek, alias Dr. Svodoba, as he eludes the clutches of the Nazi horde trying to capture him in Hangmen Also Die, 1943

Charlie Arnt

Character actor Charlie Arnt portrays a heartless crime boss in this portrait from 1936.  The newspapers from the era were loaded with highly politicized accounts of crime figures whose exploits were rendered in graffic detail.   The public at large, including those who went to the movies, were ripe to believe the worst of such men whose appearance conveyed menace. From a promotional portfolio of 8 x 10 negatives, 1936. 

Charlie Arnt portrays a Nazi death camp officer in this pictorial layout from 1936. Despite the fact that no death camps existed in 1936, Ned Scott and Charlie created this metaphorical image of the ultimate political, cultural and racial domination of the Nazi regime which followed years later.

Ian Hunter

Set against the background of the emerging conflict of WWII, the voyage of the SS Glencairn, a vessel which carries sensitive and dangerous cargo, inevitably encounters brushes with aggressive forces along the way.  The crew, with new members just recruited in port, begins to suspect that they have a spy onboard.  Ian Hunter, man of mystery signed on as able seaman, is the object of their suspicion.

Set against the background of the emerging conflict of WWII, the voyage of the SS Glencairn, a vessel which carries sensitive and dangerous cargo, inevitably encounters brushes with aggressive forces along the way. The crew, with new members just recruited in port, begins to suspect that they have a spy onboard. Ian Hunter, man of mystery signed on as able seaman, is the object of their suspicion. The Long Voyage Home, 1940

Maylia

Maylia plays Chinese bad girl Shu Pan Wu, a devious murderer and drug smuggler, in To The Ends of the Earth, 1948

Maylia plays Chinese bad girl Shu Pan Wu, a devious murderer and drug smuggler, in To The Ends of the Earth, 1948

Hatfield

After coming upon the burned out remnants of one of the way stations along the stagecoach route,  Hatfield, the Southern gentleman, checks on one the the station employees who has fallen victim to Apache attack.  He finds that she has been brutally slaughtered, and his facial expression mirrors pity along with the worst fears of the coach passengers:  that further attacks are imminent along their journey's path.

After coming upon the burned out remnants of one of the way stations along the stagecoach route, Hatfield, the Southern gentleman, checks on one of the station employees who has fallen victim to Apache attack. He finds that she has been brutally slaughtered, and his facial expression mirrors pity along with the worst fears of the coach passengers: that further attacks are imminent along their journey's path. Stagecoach, 1939.

J.J. Twardowski

J.J. Twardowski portrays Reinhold Heidrich, the vicious anti-semite and brutal murderer of several million Jews during the course of WWII in Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die, 1943. He appears in the beginning of the film, dominating the scene with his arrogant, glowering presence and setting the tone for the struggles to come as the plot unfolds.