It’s been a while since I pinned some pin-ups on this page. Valentine’s Day seems as good a time as any to revisit these appealing, sometimes cheesy cheesecake photos. If you’re new to my website you may not have seen my holiday pictures before, so here’s a bit of backstory: from the silent days right through the 1960s, movie studio publicity departments kept their contract players busy posing for holiday-themed photos, because local newspapers and national magazines loved to publish them—not only promoting the starlets but their upcoming films as well. Here are some poses I haven’t run before, along with a few old favorites. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Nancy Carroll

Nancy Carroll was Paramount’s resident sweetheart during the early talkie era in films like Follow Thru, Honey, and Sweetie. Her winning smile and cute figure made her a natural for poses like this, although her relationship with the studio soured as she became difficult and demanding…but movie buffs still adore her.

Ann Sheridan 1937

Ann Sheridan was not yet a star when she donned a swimsuit for this heart-shaped photo in 1937. She had won a beauty contest at the age of 18 and made her way to Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, but it took Warner Bros. to see her potential—and promote her as The Oomph Girl. By all accounts she was one of the best-liked leading ladies in the movie business.

Anne Gwynne

Patriotism gave publicists an extra excuse to have starlets send morale-building messages to our boys fighting overseas during World War II. Here’s a Universal still from the 1940s featuring contract actress Anne Gwynne, whose grandson has become a contemporary movie star: Chris Pine.

Gloria DeHaven

Here’s the late Gloria DeHaven in an MGM still that went out to editors with the following caption: “SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS – A giant Valentine from Hollywood’s top stars to be sent to a company of fighting men overseas is signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s shapely actress Gloria DeHaven. Even more attractive than the Valentine itself is sunny-tressed Gloria, who will be seen to further advantage in the forthcoming ‘Red Adams.’ ”

Janis Carter

There are many ways to form a heart, and Hollywood photographers were never at a loss. Decorating this arrangement is the beautiful Janis Carter, who was featured in a number of Columbia Pictures during the 1940s, and almost as many promotional photos.

Thelma Todd

I have no idea if this counts as a Valentine’s pose or not but frankly I don’t care, because it spotlights my favorite heartthrob of the 1930s, Thelma Todd. She had a thousand-watt smile that lit up every picture she took while she was under contract to Hal Roach studios, working with Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, and Harry Langdon. She died young but she lives on in my heart.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024