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The Man Who Shot Hollywood

12:40 | Feb. 9, 2018 Jack Pashkovsky lived quietly in a town lit up by a thousand stars. He practiced his art anonymously. By the time he was finished, he had compiled what must be the greatest collection of celebrity photographs never seen. Yasha (Jack) Pashkovsky was born in 1911 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Sometime after the October Revolution of 1917, Yasha and his family joined the mass emigration of Jews escaping religious persecution in Russia. They somehow made their way to Cherbourg, France, Pashkovsky recalled, to catch a White Star Line ship to America and a new life. In New York City, Pashkovsky fell under the spell of movie house marquees that promised adventure and escape. He liked to slip into a Times Square movie palace to watch Mary Pickford in Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall or to admire Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s derring-do in The Black Pirate, The Thief of Bagdad and The Mark of Zorro.At the age of 22, Pashkovsky went to Los Angeles, hoping to apprentice himself to a cinematographer. Instead, he got a job sweeping studios at Twentieth Century Fox. Director Ernst Lubitsch hired Pashkovsky as a personal assistant on That Lady in Ermine, starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Betty Grable. He also loved photographing screen stars. He walked studio lots or visited Hollywood haunts such as the Brown Derby, Romanoff’s or Ciro’s restaurants in search of celebrities. He didn’t miss many. Through the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the likes of Errol Flynn, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson and Jimmy Stewart all posed for Pashkovsky. Some of the stars knew him from his studio days; others just trusted his diffident manner. His style was totally unpretentious, whether it was capturing Clark Gable at the Hollywood Tennis Club around 1940 or Marlene Dietrich at the Brown Derby.His photographs appeared fresher, more relaxed when they were away from the set, the portrait studio, the Hollywood première. The beautiful people looked like real people, and that’s what makes his portraits illuminating. They have a startling immediacy. This is his story.