Orlando Suero, Famed Hollywood Photographer, Dies at 94

Courtesy of Family
Orlando Suero

He worked on the sets of 'Torn Curtain' and 'Chinatown' and took intimate shots of Brigitte Bardot, Dennis Hopper and Shirley MacLaine.

Orlando Suero, who photographed Brigitte Bardot in bed on a beach, Dennis Hopper in a bathtub and Shirley MacLaine dancing the Frug with Rudolf Nureyev during his long career in Hollywood, has died. He was 94.

Suero died Monday night of natural causes in a nursing home in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, his son Jim Suero told The Hollywood Reporter.

Suero also served as a still photographer on the sets of such movies as Torn Curtain (1966), Hell in the Pacific (1968), Play It Again, Sam (1972), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Save the Tiger (1973), Chinatown (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), Rocky II (1979) and Young Doctors in Love (1982).

Along the way, he shot Natalie Wood, Sharon Tate, Faye Dunaway, Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Eartha Kitt, Michael Caine, Julie Andrews, Tony Curtis, Diana Ross, Tony Randall, Bob Hope and Russ Meyer.

Suero thought he had lined up an exclusive shoot in Mexico with Bardot, but when he got to the set of the 1965 film Viva Maria!, "all sorts of photographers were there," his son explained in an interview to promote the release last year of the long overdue coffee-table book Orlando Photography.

"He was short, so he was standing in front of all of them, not taking any pictures. Bardot noticed that and inquired, 'Who is that man who is not taking pictures of me?' So that started their repartee, and that later comes through in the photos they did."

Suero photographed Bardot in bed in a white negligee with the waves behind her and also when she dressed as Charlie Chaplin. 

He also shot Hopper and then-wife Michelle Phillips sharing a joint in a bathtub in Taos, New Mexico, and MacLaine and Nureyev dancing at a party in Malibu.

Born in New York and raised in Washington Heights, Suero took up photography when he was 14 when his father gave him a used Kodak Jiffy camera. He attended the New York Institute of Photography and during World War II served with the U.S. Marines.

Returning to photography after he was discharged afforded him relief from PTSD, he said in his book: "For me, my work was an escape from the war. It allowed me to detach from it because when you come back, the war doesn't end for you. It stays with you for life for the most part. Photography was my solace."

While working as a printer in 1954 on Edward Steichen's Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Family of Man, Suero was hired by the Three Lions photo agency. That led to an assignment for McCall's magazine in which he spent five days with up-and-coming Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy and his new wife, Jackie, in their Georgetown duplex. (His photos can be seen in the 2001 book Camelot at Dawn.)

"If I'd realized what a wonderful photographer you were, and how nice McCall's was about doing a story, I never would have been the jittery subject I was," Jackie wrote in a letter to Suero.

He worked with Globe Photo from the late 1950s through the '60s, covering many of the era's events and celebrities, before going off on his own.

Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Peggy; his children, Wendy, Chris and Jim; and his four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.