This book is one in a series of titles being brought out by the Hutton Getty Picture Collection. Within the next year or so, every decade of the 20th century should have its own volume. Although widely available as a remaindered title, even full price these books are extraordinary bargains. Each volume contains over 300 photographs that provide a visual record of each decade.
The 1920s is arranged thematically, with brief introductions in English, German, and French to the theme to be covered. For instance, there are sections devoted to "Movers and Shakers," "Work," "Leisure," "Science," and "Sport," to mention only a few. The photographs do a marvelous job of depicting many of the trends and concerns of the time. Most are striking, and some of the photographs are unforgettable.
The first photographs in the book are perhaps the most haunting: Studio shots from 1925 of a wildly gesticulating Adolf Hitler, standing in front of a phonograph, striking one over-the-top pose after another. They are chilling partly because they are the very poses he would strike a decade later in front of the multitudes at Nuremberg and elsewhere. But they are also chilling because one realizes in looking at them that Hitler obviously had practiced these very poses, probably in front of a mirror, and one can easily imagine him alone in his rooms, standing in front of a looking glass, practicing speeches and gestures. I found myself almost of necessity thinking of Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle, standing in front of his own mirror. The photographs bring home Hitler's inherent insanity more powerfully than anything else I have seen.
There are many other striking photos. I was delighted to see a photo of the remarkably handsome Ivor Novello, who is the real life person that Jeremy Northam portrayed in GOSFORD PARK. The section on celebrities showed a number of actors and actresses in pictures I had never seen before (James Cagney, Buster Keaton, a strange photo of Greta Garbo). I especially liked a posed photo of Mary Pickford striking one of her classic poses with Anna Pavlova striking a balletic pose with a clownishly made up face (they atone later with a shot of Pavlova in her normal face). The book manages to summarize all the passions, fads, and trends of the entire decade.
I recommend this to anyone with either a passion for collections of photographs or with an interest in early 20th century history.