Click image to enlarge | Download archival scan
A sultry 20-year-old Winifred Westover peers out from an iconic Hoover Art Co. photograph, circa 1918-1919 — shortly before she played opposite her future husband, William S. Hart, in 1919's "John Petticoats."
Silver albumen print, 7½x9¼ inches.
The photograph is undated, but there are clues. Her hand-written name appears on the back under the stamp of Willis & Inglis, one of Hollywood's first talent agencies (see below). So, she was marketing herself for film roles.
It would be no later than 1919 (or early 1920 at the very latest). She spent much of 1920 and 1921 appearing in movies in her mother's native Sweden prior to marrying Hart in early December 1921; following their formal separation five months later, she spent the next several years trying to get out of her prenuptial agreement which barred her from acting in motion pictures. To our knowledge, she did not solicit movie roles during that period.
Westover (born November 9, 1898, in Oakland, as Winifred Helena von Heide) actually had a part-time job with Willis & Inglis in 1918-1919 — perhaps in payment for the portraits? — "reviewing books and stories for the firm." (Syndicated column as published in the Detroit Free Press, January 2, 1919.) The firm, founded in 1913 by Richard Willis and W.A. "Gus" Inglis, was located in the Wright & Callender Building at Fourth and Hill streets in Los Angeles and represented the likes of Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Norma Talmadge. In June 1921 the firm announced it was getting out of the talent representation business (save for a few select clients) to focus on film production financing (Los Angeles Evening Express, June 25, 1921). It's doubtful Westover would have been one of those high-end clients even if she'd been in town at that time, which she was not.
We're sticking with 1918-1919 — in which case it's likely the photograph was made by fellow Scandinavian Hendrick C. Sartov. Read on.
About Hoover Art Co., Los Angeles.
Frank Sheridan Hoover founded one of L.A.'s earliest portrait studios, which was known for its soft-focus lenses and dramatic lighting effects. He is also credited with luring the first film studio to Hollywood, and he later developed the posh Sunset Palms apartments.
Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1875, Hoover studied painting at Philadelphia's Spring Garden Art School and relocated to Hollywood in July 1900 to join his father, George W. Hoover, who founded the First National Bank of Hollywood in 1899 and built the Hollywood Hotel in 1901. Frank Hoover went into business with another Hollywood photographer (E.R. Walker) and developed a process to make photographs look like oil paintings. Hoover bought out his partner in 1905 and built a new, 2-room brick building at 6321 Hollywood Boulevard (between Vine and Ivar) in 1911 for his Hoover Art Co. In that same year, he persuaded film producer David Horsely to move his Nestor Film Co. from New York to Hollywood, where Horsely opened Hollywood's first film studio at Sunset at Gower on October 27, 1911. (It wasn't L.A.'s first, but it was the first in Hollywood.)
Hoover enlisted for World War I in 1917 and sold his business for $16,000 to the company treasurer, Frank Harmon, and a staff photographer, the Danish-born Hendrick C. Sartov. The new owners retained the valuable business name. Historian David S. Shields writes:
Sartov knew more about the new imagery of glamour than any photographer in Los Angeles. His lighting went well beyond the usual studio effects. Instead of backlighting his subjects rimming their silhouettes with a halo of light, he used multiple lamps, and lit faces from the side and from just beneath the chin. ... Wrinkles vanished. Years evaporated. Sartov trained a special lens that he guarded jealously from prying eyes upon his sitters, not the usual Dallmeyer Patent Portrait soft-focus lens. Sartov's lens gave a distinctive softness and roundness to a sitter's face and body. His more artful portraits radiated luminousness a glow that won notice in exhibitions.
In 1918, film producer D.W. Griffith wanted Sartov to join him at Artcraft, and Lillian Gish insisted he hire him. "The director wanted Sartov to supply visual finesse to his features, a poetic delicacy that Griffith's longtime cameraman, Billy Bitzer, could not manage." Sartov worked the two jobs until 1919 when he left Hoover Art in the hands of treasurer Harmon and ran off to New York with Griffith to become "one of the premier cinematographers of the silent cinema." Jacques D'Auray took over at Hoover Art until the Russian-born portraitist Sergis Alberts was hired in 1923.
Frank Hoover returned from the war and worked as a Hollywood photographer until 1930. In the mid-1930s, Frank and wife Lillian hired the African-American architect Paul R. Williams to design a luxury apartment complex for the glamour set at 1220 Sunset Plaza Drive. Opening in 1937, each of the 40 apartments in the four-story Georgian-style building came furnished by Bullock's department store. Among the more famous tenants through the years were Tommy Dorsey, Katharine Hepburn, James Dean and Bernadette Peters. Preservationists' efforts to save the building failed once and for all in 1986.
1. York (Penn.) Dispatch, July 3, 1900; 2. Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1946; 3. Shields 2013:53-54; 4. Shields 2013:54; 5. Shields 2013:58; also: "Frank S. Hoover, Portrait Photographer and Apartment Developer" by Larry Harnisch, The Daily Mirror (ladailymirror.com), December 17, 2012; Los Angeles Times: July 21, 1907, September 30, 1936, April 25, 1937; York (Penn.) Semi-Weekly Gazette, May 26, 1897; Capital Journal (Salem, Ore.), December 12, 1946; Valley Times (North Hollywood), December 12, 1946; York (Penn.) Daily Record, December 13, 1946; Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Penn.), December 13, 1946.
LW3720: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2020 by Leon Worden.