Art Messick, 1921-2007.
We are sad to hear of the death of Arthur Messick, a well-known Hollywood photographer. He died early Friday morning on July 20, 2007 at the age of 85. He was born on September 9, 1921.
Art photographed in Hollywood from the early 1940’s through 1960 and later in the 1970’s. He was brought from Tuscon to Hollywood in his early 20’s by Kodak. They were eager to learn how he achieved fabulous skin tones with their new film, Kodachrome. Although he already owned two studios of his own, Art sought out and eventually shared a studio with Lazlo Willinger, who he regarded as one of the finest photographers of the time. Art’s subjects included Fred Astair, Rita Hayworth, Bing Crosby, his friend Jane Mansfield, Betty Mars, Ronald Reagan, Boris Karlof, plus hundreds of others. He was a stringer for Life Magazine, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Family Circle. He also photographed for men’s magazines, including Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.
Art produced and directed over 30 films, including “En Hollywood con Art Messick Y Louis Serrano,” that Warner Brothers distributed to 32 countries. A popular 1950’s TV series about a playboyphotographer called “The Bob Cummings Show” was based on Art’s life. He was offered the lead role but turned it down, because it would have put him on the wrong side of the camera. The show ran for 10 years. His best friend was Harold Lloyd, a well-known silent film actor. The two enjoyed photographing together over a 20 year span of time.
Art moved to Paris, France in 1960 and opened a studio there and later for a short time in Copenhagen. By 1966, he was blind. Art had worked with arc lamps during his first photography job after high school. The high UV content of these lamps damaged his retinas. When his money ran out, he returned to Los Angeles in 1970 and was later selected for an experimental operation at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. His sight was amazingly restored!
He opened a studio in Santa Monica in 1972 and photographed there until he retired to Oahu, Hawaii in 1980. Again afflicted by failing sight, he moved back to the U.S. mainland in about 1999 and lived in Aloha, Oregon and for a year in Reno, Nevada.
As a photographer, Art was inventive and stayed on the edge of technology. He teamed with Robert Beck during the mid-1940’s, who held basic patents in early strobe development. Together, they photographed Fred Astaire using Beck’s original prototype strobes as the famous dancer performed jumps on a large MGM studio adapted for the event. Given the slow films available, this was the first time MGM had been able to obtain action photographs
of this nature. Art designed a stereo film camera that was used to photograph operations in a hospital. He designed a high-speed film camera capable of shooting 36 frames/sec at 1/500 sec. He used the camera to photograph Brian Oldfield and other sports world record-holders as they performed. A hand-cranked version of this camera was used by the movie industry to photograph action sequences in films.
While in Hawaii, Art amassed one of the largest known slide collections of exotic Hawiian flowers. In spite of his failing sight, he later used Photoshop to create his large “paintings” of colorful abstracts based on these images.
Art is survived by his friends. Although married five times, Art had no children. As he himself amusingly observed, he’d had “five terrible marriages and five wonderful divorces!” Photography was always number one in his life