There wasn’t a holiday that Hollywood publicists didn’t know how to use to their advantage, especially in the heyday of the studios when starlets under contract were obliged to pose for the staff photographers. None of this effort was in vain: newspapers and magazines around the world gladly published these silly shots, and as you may have discerned by now, I have a particular weakness for them. Here, then, is an array of Thanksgiving publicity pictures from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s for your enjoyment.
Ingenue Barbara Kent seems especially eager to start carving in this Universal studios photo from the late 1920s. Kent was Harold Lloyd’s leading lady in two of his starring features, Welcome Danger and Feet First, but is most celebrated today as the wistful costar of Paul Fejos’ wonderful 1929 movie Lonesome, which has recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.
Jean Arthur was not yet a major star when she posed—under duress, no doubt—with musical-comedy performer Lillian Roth in a blanket of fake snow for this Paramount still. Roth was an ebullient screen presence in the early-talkie era who later wrote a confessional autobiography, I’ll Cry Tomorrow. (Susan Hayward played her in the movie adaptation.) Arthur became one of the screen’s most engaging actresses with a particular gift for comedy. I wonder if she saw the humor in this photo session.
Who better to instruct readers on how to carve a turkey than Ma Hardy of MGM’s popular Andy Hardy series? I have no idea if Fay Holden had any homemaking skills in real life, but she makes a good show of unjointing the drumstick in this photo, which was followed by other timely tips.
Here’s the original caption for this 1940 photo from RKO Radio Pictures, sent out to promote the Kay Kyser feature You’ll Find Out: “Now which one? outside the pen the turkeys all look alike. Ginny Simms casts an appraising eye over the birds to make sure she pursues the choicest. The turkeys attempt an appearance of complete nonchalance.”
I wish I had the caption for this one. I imagine it was meant to make people who were battening down the hatches for winter weather jealous of Southern Californians who could (theoretically) cook turkey on an outdoor barbecue and (even more theoretically) have it served to them by a chef as lovely as June Haver, in a two-piece bathing suit!