Those wonderful old Hollywood portraits were always done with "hot lights" not strobes. They give off intense heat and are difficult to use. However they are very hard edged lights and the only way to get that with strobes to is to use the stobes with the fresnel lens. I believe Norman makes one.

You will notice that in all the Hollywood portraits the falloff from highlight to shadow was almost instantanious.( a very hard edge). That is what creates their intense contrast. As has been mentioned these were done primarily by the studio, promotion department, which had huge budgets and put everyone to work to create it. Sets, wardrobe, hair and makeup people and the magic of the worlds best retouchers, as well as some not bad looking subjects. They all used at least an 8x10 camera.

A recent book called "About Glamour" by Len Prince is his attempt at this art form and is pretty good.

Have fun trying to duplicate the look and there are always subject that would love to do it.

Michael McBlane