Emerson Hall at the age of 93       (2006)








Theda Varie Smith at the age of 20 
(1936)  9 years before her marriage to Emerson Hall.

Theda and Emerson Hall - While not solely glamour photographers, this talented husband and wife team shot quite a lot of nudes and glamour as part of their work in their LA studio during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. In the 1950s and early 60s, they photographed such well-known glamour models as Marguerite Empey (Diane Webber) and Jeanmarie Lussier and a few of their images were published in men's magazines like Modern Man and Rogue.

Note: The personal information included in this profile will be somewhat limited, unless I can find relatives of Theda and Emerson to fill in the blanks. However, the couple had no children and some of their close relatives have now passed, so I will do the best with what I have.

William Emerson Hall was born on May 6, 1913 in Portland Oregon and sometime between 1920 and 1929, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. Around 1940 (or shortly before) he opened his photography business at 532 1/2 N. La Brea Ave. in LA.
Theda Varie Smith was born on Jan. 8, 1916 in Fort Worth, Texas. While she was growing up, her family moved a few times - first to Greeley, Oklahoma, then to Shoal Creek, Missouri and finally to Joplin, Missouri. In the late 30s, or possibly 1940, Theda moved to Los Angeles in order to study dress designing. It was there (presumably) that she met Emerson Hall, but unfortunately I do not have any knowledge of their first meeting or when it took place. What I do know is that they were married on May 18, 1945 in New York City.  Why in New York City instead of Los Angeles, I do not know.

Back in LA, the couple began working together as a team in their photography business. Most of their work was done in color and appeared on numerous comic book covers, album covers, postcards and calendars. Some of their books of artistic nudes, which were shot in b&w, were published in France in the 1950s.

A few of the album covers that Theda and Emerson shot in the 50s can be seen below:

Music From Hollywood - Percy Faith 1954
Les Brown and his Band of Renown
1955


Day by Day - Doris Day 1956
Day Dreams - Doris Day 1956


Two of the couple's color postcards which featured glamour images include:




In 1957, the following information was written about Theda and Emerson Hall: "The Halls always work together on every assignment they undertake. Their air-conditioned studio and adjoining home feature the most modern equipment and furnishings. Shooting only color, using electronic flash for all pictures, Theda and Emerson process all photographs in their own studio."

In the mid-50s, while photographing many of their calendar nudes, Theda and Emerson Hall hired the well-known figure and glamour model, Marguerite Empey (Diane Webber). Two of the resulting photos can be seen on this page.

Another popular glamour model who was photographed by the Halls was Jeanmarie Lussier and the couple's cute pin-up of her appeared in the March 1960 issue of Rogue magazine. Also, an unidentified model shot by Theda and Emerson Hall was published in the December 1958 issue of Modern Man magazine (in the Modern Art for Men section). Both images can be seen here.

Sometime in the 1960s, Theda and Emerson undertook a very unusual project - a book of photos with chimps dressed in human attire accompanied by humorous captions. One can only imagine how laborious it was producing such a book and getting the poses you want from the chimps. The book was called Chimp Chat and was published in Japan by the Mitsumura Printing Company.

 

Emerson Hall was an avid fisherman and hunter and for about three months a year the couple travelled extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe  searching for good fishing and hunting spots - they even went on an African safari a few times. Of course, they also captured these locations on film to add to their library of color photographs.

On one of their fishing trips to Montana in 1978, the couple visited the Madison Valley and fell in love with the place. They subsequently bought a small house in the rural community of Ennis, Montana and moved everything from California. In Los Angeles, they had kept working longer than they had to because they loved the photography profession, but now was the time for them to slow down a bit. They still kept active, though, and ran a small business in Ennis. 

Theda just adored the place, according to Emerson Hall in a 2006 interview: “Every morning she’d get up and open the drapes and look out at the Madison River and the Madison Range. She just soaked it in.” After 26 years of living in Ennis, Theda Hall passed away on August 7, 2004 at the age of 88. “Our married life was so unbelievable, it will never be matched by anybody ever again,” Emerson said. “I’ll never be happy again as long as I’m alive, but I’m content."

After Theda died, Emerson sold all his guns and fishing gear. He wanted to devote the final years of his life to helping friends and helping Ennis. 
To that end, he bought two Steinway pianos for the local school and helped to pay for a project to build a performing arts auditorium, all of which were in Theda’s name. Emerson also donated a larger-than-life sized bronze statue of five wild mustangs to the Ennis schools. The statues — two stallions, two mares and a colt — were especially appropriate for the school, which had mustangs as its mascot. “This is for my wife,” a teary Hall told the crowd as the statue was formally unveiled in a 2006 ceremony.

The next year, on August 13, 2007, William Emerson Hall passed away in Ennis, Montana. He was 94 years old.









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