The models in Bob Mizer’s later photos frolicked, wrestled, and sneered amid backdrops and set designs that were a world away from the scenery that graced his photos in the 1950s.
Models in the last decade of Mizer’s career saw themselves in the foreground of purple mountains, dressed as well-endowed sailors on the deck of a ship, or cowboys in the desert with raised pistol, their gaze fixed on something in the distance.
It wasn’t always so, of course. The Athletic Model Guild’s models who found their way to the pages of Physique Pictorial three decades before that were still objects of fantasy, but in the 1950s they were portrayed more clearly as idols deserving of worship, in settings and among effects that only highlighted their status as deities whose glistening bodies and physical grandeur all readers should aspire to possess.
Besides the Greek- and Roman-inspired costumes, props and columns that Mizer featured so prominently in his earlier photos, readers of Physique Pictorial who lived in California were likely to see a few sprawling mansions in the mix.
“One of the myths surrounding shooting locations for photos in Physique Pictorial is that Mizer used the famous Getty mansion from the film ‘Sunset Boulevard,’” says Keith Foote, chief operations officer and vice president of the Bob Mizer Foundation. “One of the problems with that myth is that the often-believed story goes back to a single mention in Physique Pictorial.”
That single mention came in a 1956 issue of the publication, showing popular AMG model Arnie Payne posing on the grounds of a mansion that many believe to have been used in the 1950 movie “Sunset Boulevard,” starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. While the Getty mansion was a sprawling tiled roof home, Payne is posing in front of a Norman styled stone walled castle. He explained that in the mid and late 1950s, the Wilshire Boulevard mansions of Hollywood’s former elite were falling to the wrecking ball at a rapid pace and it is not unlikely that references were mistaken.
Since one of the primary aims of the organization is to debunk myths or correct misinformation about Mizer, his works and his times, the attempts to identify the structures are ongoing, Foote says.
Growing from the story about the “Sunset Boulevard” location, other pools shoots are subsequently identified as having taken place at that location. In a series of photos featuring Dick DuBois, “Dick was photographed in a very real swimming pool complex, with columns, pergolas and tiled floors” Foote explains. “The pool at the Getty property was, by all accounts, a cold, shallow prop in a side yard practically built overnight for the film.”
The pool Dick Dubois swam in was a grand, white-columned, open balconied, Mediterranean style patio in a home in the Hollywood hills owned by an astrologer/philosopher friend of Mizer. Following Dubois, models like Ed Fury, Keith Stephan, Hank Prater and Mark Nixon played in this same pool with its grand external curving staircase.
Outside the AMG studio walls, Mizer filmed frolicking models in two ranches north of Los Angeles and on an estate in South Pasadena that was the subject of a police raid during one filming shoot. Mizer even photographed the Dyball brothers in their pouches on the wrought iron staircase of the venerable Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.
The mansions and locations to which Mizer had access throughout the 1950s and 60s placed Nixon, Fury, and others in an environment that complemented their classic, timeless good looks.
We hope you enjoy these accompanying images that show the myriad differences in the mansions used in Mizer’s work, and feel free to contact us if you are able to share any information about them.