The Bewitched Leila Hyams, 1928

Leila Hyams (1905–77) is best known today for her role as the kind-hearted circus performer in Freaks (1932), the wronged woman in Red-Headed Woman (1932) and the heroine in Island of Lost Souls (1933).

In her early career she “was cast in a string of supporting roles, where she was required to do very little but smile and look pretty” (as Wikipedia puts it), but by 1928 she was playing starring roles. Hyams worked for MGM from their first talkie release, Alias Jimmy Valentine (15 November 1928) and The Thirteenth Chair (19 October 1929) to Red-Headed Woman (25 June 1932). This photo was probably from early in that period (for The Thirteenth Chair perhaps).

The press snipe on the verso of this press photo reads

What A Predicament On Halloween!!

Leila Hyams, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer featured player, finds herself bewitched on the eve of spooks and boglins, unable to move from the stocks a mean old witch has placed her in.

Whoever wrote this snipe was an imbecile. Hyams, wearing a sort-of witch outfit, a very close-fitting and revealing black witch outfit, is in the stocks. So far, so good. As a witch, we might imagine her being put into the stocks by a mob waving flaming-torches and pitch forks. Or a mean old preacher-man perhaps. But why would an old witch put her in the stocks. And if the said “mean old witch” was worth her cauldron and could bewitch Hyams, WTF would she need to use stocks to keep her in place!

Moving right along, you can see below the very-polite Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896–1979) has requested due credit for this photo. I am happy to oblige.

Bull was one of the great portrait photographers who worked for the movie studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was head of the MGM stills department for nearly forty years and is credited with “virtually invent[ing] celebrity portraiture as we know it today” (brief bio here, cited by Wikipedia). This is not one of his best efforts, and seems particularly weak when compared to last-week’s photo of June Collyer by Eugene Richee, which was from the same period, but I am still quite happy to have it!

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