In almost every photo I’ve seen of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he has a thich beard and curlyish hair, unlike the chin fuzz and long straight lank hair he has in that famous intense photo of him. To me, that photo doesn’t really represent what he looked like. It’s almost true what a moron girlfriend of mine once said of that photo–“He looks like Johnny Depp.”
I just bought a great DVD of episodes from the early-50s SF program Tales of Tomorrow. Great stuff–one ep, “Ice From Space” is Paul Newman’s filmed debut. Anyway, Veronica Lake is in an episode called “Flight Overdue.” I must admit that Lake is a person I know only from reputation and that famous hair over her eye photo. This was the first performance I have ever seen of hers. And she has a short Tom-boyish bob haircut and looks nothing like the famous photo. Nor does she act like I erroneously thought she would. I always pictured her as oozing sultry charm. She is vivacious and skinny and as noted, Tom-boyish, though the role is an Amelia Earhart-inspired one, so that may account for that.
Actuallly, in her most famous film role, Sullivan’s Travels, Veronica Lake has the hair-over-the-eye-sultry-sex-goddess thing going on most of the film, save the obvious exceptions for those who’ve seen it.
The photo of Veronica Lake is an accurate portrayal of her screen image during the early part of her career; she definitely oozed sex (If you can’t find any of her films, find Steve Martin’s “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” which includes her in a scene with Martin). However, during WWII, she was asked to cut her hair as part of the war effort (supposedly, women imitating her were getting their long hair caught in machinery). Once she cut the hair, people realized she wasn’t all that beautiful and her face didn’t really match her image. By the 50s, her career was on the skids.
Winston Churchill’s iconic photo is the one by Gerald Karsh of him glaring at the photographyer, but it is not accurate since he has no cigar: Karsh took it from him just before shooting. Still, it captures Churchill perfectly.
One could argue that the various representations of Jesus are unlikely to be the actual way he looked, but there’s no one around to confirm or deny.
Many iconic pictures we have of famous people tend to be of them in later life. We don’t think of the youthful, dark-haired Einstein of 1905 but of the white-haired frizzy-haloed Einstein of his dotage. Mark Twain was a person before he became a personage, and the ice-cream-suited old man is the image he cultivated for the lecture circuit rather than the writer. It’s the older Hemingway that’s celebrated, not the young writer who rerouted American fiction. The mostly deaf oldster that is in the famous Thomas Edison photos isn’t the vigorous inventor of the previous century.
The photos that we have of him show him looking very grim and serious. But due to the state of photographic technology at the time, a person being photographed had to hold still for a very long time. So all portrait photographs from the era (and for a long time thereafter) showed their subjects looking stiff and unsmiling. That fact, combined with the naturally long shape of his face and that beard make him look like a real sad sack. Other iconic images that we have of him, such as the sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial and the images on currency show him with a similar demeanor, which I guess is only appropriate.
But Lincoln wasn’t overly serious or grim (well, at least until that whole Civil War thing happened). He was actually highly charismatic and quick with a joke. He was one of those guys who could go into a tavern and everyone would gather around him to hear his stories. He was just the type of guy that people took to, which plays a big part in explaining how he rose from his humble beginnings to become president.
Exapno’s point about most iconic photos being taken later in life is well-taken. Most of our Lincoln photos come from his presidential years, when he was older, possibly ill, and certainly in a more serious state of mind than in previous decades. There is one photo of him as a much younger man, and it is possible to imaginine that guy smiling and telling bawdy stories.