Orval Hixon: The Premier photographer of Hollywood’s Golden Age

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The building that houses the Kansas City Public library was once The First National bank. When the building was converted, the library chose to keep the old bank vault in the basement and turn it into a movie theater. It is here that you’ll find a permanent exhibit honoring Orval Hixon, who was Hollywood’s leading portrait photographer of the stars. At the inception of Film during the first part of the twentieth century, movie actors were autonomous day players. 

As the medium progressed, studios began using the actors to promote the films. Patrons started attending movies just to watch a particular actor or actress. The studios wanted to carefully craft an image for their performer, and the right photograph was a significant part of it. 

Orval Hixon had developed a reputation for quality work photographing vaudeville performers.  Since Hixon preferred to stay in Kansas City, the studios would send their stars to him. 

The exhibit features some of Hixon’s most famous subjects. Many are still known today.




Al Jolson star of “The Jazz Singer” the first talkie
Eddie Cantor  A very successful singing star of the 20’s and 30’s



Hixon never moved to Hollywood, after this generation of film actors began to fade in popularity, the demand for his photographs began to decline. He would remain popular locally though through the 1970’s. Seems everyone wanted a portrait from the “Photographer to the stars”. His work can be seen daily at the movie vault of the Kansas City Public Library.

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