Phil Stern, Photographer Who Shot Top Stars, Dies at 95

Phil Stern Credit Dan Doperalski
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Photographer Phil Stern, who was responsible for some of the most intimate portraits of Hollywood stars, including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, died Saturday, his rep confirmed. He was 95.

Director and longtime friend Brett Ratner posted about the news on Instagram early Sunday.

Stern worked as a special still cameraman on films ranging from “Guys and Dolls” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and his work appeared in the magazines Life, Look and Vanity Fair, among others. He also contributed photography for albums by Liza Minnelli, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.

His images of Dean and Monroe have become iconic. Among the other celebrities he photographed were Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., Orson Welles and Joan Crawford.

Stern also photographed President Kennedy’s inauguration.

He fell in love with the art of photography long before he captured the famous faces on film.

As a teen, Stern worked as an apprentice in a New York photo studio and as a local police photographer before he became a combat photographer at the age of 21. He convinced Col. William O. Darby to let him join his elite unit, where he captured images of World War II and was decorated with a Purple Heart for his services.

In his later years, Stern resided at the Veterans Home of California, where he continued to wear a camera around his neck and capture life around him.

Stern’s autobiography, “Phil Stern: A Life’s Work,” was published in 2003.

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  1. Rene Rokk says:

    gifted, extraordinary man. So lucky to have his legacy of images.

  2. Roy Perazzo says:

    An iconic photographer ,would love to see a Book of his work Published ! Was he in the Yountville veterans home in the Napa valley California ?

  3. Clay Marston says:

    A premier photographer who many were unaware of by name …
    However one small correction is in order …
    The Purple Heart is not awarded or issued for ” services ” but for being either wounded / injured / killed in combat action.

  4. Carol Sayles says:

    Thank you for all the most famous photos of our time…what an accomplished life..

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