May 1986

Life 1986 cover

[Note: this is an excerpt from the complete article by Jim Watters]

On a recent Sunday the place to be was photographer Greg Gorman's house in the Hollywood Hills. This is where the five most powerful women in the movies today, mistresses of their own professional destinies with eight Oscars among them, came together to be photographed by LIFE.

Jane Fonda, who has traveled the furthest — from Barbarella to Klute to Coming Home to exercise queen — checks her watch and wonders where Barbra Streisand is. Goldie Hawn, five months pregnant, lifts her shoulders to her ears and giggles like Private Benjamin as she relates the story of a moonlight seance she'd had with some mountain seer outside Aspen the month before. The omens were great. Sally Field chimes in, and when Sally chimes in she sounds just like the flying nun of yore. Two Oscars haven't deflated her balloon of ingenuousness. "Oh, I believe, I do believe," she says, as a makeup artist "brightens" her apple cheeks. Jessica Lange, the quiet one, has driven in from Santa Fe with Sam Shepard. She is a wee overweight from having their daughter seven weeks earlier.

Greg Gorman photos of female stars

Barbra arrives. No big deal, for she is unassuming, nervous perhaps, among her peers. "I never have been a joiner," she admits. "I never even had fun at recess in grade school."

The ice is broken; the work begins; the session ends in less than two hours. Each knows her best side, just how to smile. They chat about food, babies and skiing. The fabled movie queens of the glory days — say, Joan Crawford, Miriam Hopkins, Norma Shearer — would not have been so carefree under such circumstances...

Sally Field and Streisand


Greg Gorman Outtakes & Interview

Alternate photos taken during the same session appeared in an Italian magazine ...

Gorman outtakes

Gorman spoke to writer Roald Rynning about the Life Magazine photo shoot with the five female stars. “I was approached for the job because I photograph Barbra. If she accepted, Life knew the rest would follow,” Gorman explained. “I had never photographed Jane before, but some of the girls knew each other. They were a little shy to start with, both Barbra and Jessica are very shy. Goldie's a natural mixer and soon they were talking about babies, food and travels. Naturally, I had planned the two hour shoot in great detail. I'd told them what to wear and got hem made up at their houses. Before the day, I had rehearsed their positions with stand-ins, taking in account from what side they looked best and their difference in height. A photographer has to know what he's doing, otherwise the clients get nervous. To get them in the mood, I played 50s and 60s soul music and had arranged a buffet-style feast catered by my favorite gourmet place, Le Petit Four, on Sunset Boulevard. I planned the menu myself. There were jumbo prawns, rack of lamb, cucumber salad, baked Brie and curried chicken with broccoli. Everyone ate when they felt like it. And most of the girls had a glass or two of champagne and orange juice.”

Greg Gorman with the girls

Gorman recalled more of the photo shoot: “First I photographed them in their black outfits. I chose black so the focus for the cover of Life wouldn't be on their clothes, but would go totally to their faces. I know it doesn't look like it, but I had them rolling around the floor. To take the picture from above is a very flattering way to photograph women in their 30s and 40s. Gravity takes its course and tightens up all the faces and illuminates shadows.”

“Then I lined them up in a row in their pastel tops. I wanted the five of them playing and having fun. That way they wouldn't be self-conscious about how they looked in relation to each other, but just let go and have a good time.”

Gorman also explained that after the other actresses left the shoot, Streisand stayed and Gorman “couldn't resist capturing her new look”—Barbra with straight hair. Those solo shots taken by Gorman featured Streisand in a plaid shirt.

Streisand plaid shirt outtakes

More outtakes from a Japanese magazine:

Hawn, Lange, Fonda, Field, and Streisand do high kicks

Sally Field and Streisand pose together

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