the photographers

Art Kane was not a photographer but an accomplished art director when Esquire magazine hired him to shoot his first professional photograph in 1958. Esquire art director Robert Benton was planning an all-jazz issue, and suggested to his boss that they hire Kane for the shoot. Benton thought Kane showed promise – and he loved jazz. It was Kane’s idea to create an enormous photo spread of as many jazz greats as they could persuade to assemble. It was also Kane’s idea to shoot the photo on the steps of a brownstone in Harlem, an innovative solution to his lack of studio space.

Art Kane was born Arthur Kanofsky in the Bronx in 1925, where his movie-fan mother helped nurture his love of images. After a stint in the Army during World War II, Kane attended Cooper Union in New York City. He got a job designing page layouts at Esquire, but left when he was made art director of Seventeen magazine. Although he won many awards and was considered a major art director, Kane was also interested in photography. He studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch, who had taught famed photographer Richard Avedon, among others. Kane’s first assignment was the photo shoot that became the basis for A Great Day In Harlem. The assignment inspired Kane to begin his long career as an innovative photographer.

In the 1960s and 70s, Kane became known for his compelling photographic portraits of rock musicians, including Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and the Rolling Stones. He also produced many celebrated photos for the best picture magazines of the times, including Life, Look, McCall’s and Vogue. In his thirty-six years as a photographer, Kane earned many awards and honors, including the American Society of Magazine Photographers Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. Art Kane died at age 69 in 1995.

Much more information about Art Kane is available on the Great Day In Harlem Special Edition DVD and from

From the modest way Steve Frankfurt comes across as Art Kane’s “assistant” in A Great Day In Harlem, you might find it hard to believe him to be the miracle man who changed the face of Hollywood promotion during the 1960’s and 70’s.

But it was Steve Frankfurt who plastered those “Pray for Rosemary’s baby” stickers all over town – making Rosemary’s Baby a sell-out the minute it opened for business. The phrase was stenciled on every flat surface, and Johnny Carson mentioned it nightly on his network TV show. As a wildly creative ad man, Steve had been induced by a couple of film producers (who had caught some of his interesting ads) to try his hand at perking up several forthcoming movies. They marveled at his visual ideas, which found their way into provocative movie posters. Further, he composed title sequences – mini-segments behind the opening credits – that gave the viewer a taste of what was to come. The famous rolling marble example that preceded the start of To Kill a Mockingbird was a case in point: a little girl’s dresser drawer containing her “stuff.” To set a mood for the movie Alien, a view of a distant planet was shown. And what was used for the surface of this planet? Crumbled brownies.

Prospective audiences for the movie Network were drawn in by the sentence “TV will never be the same.” When MGM brought out the great singing and dancing feast That’s Entertainment, the Frankfurt spin hailed it with “More than a movie; it’s a celebration.” And running down the list of all-time greats in the cast (Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Liza Minelli, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, and on and on), Steve’s copy gasped, “Boy, do we need it now.”

Box-office receipts continued for such blockbusters as Superman, Kramer vs. Kramer (directed by another Great Day featured player, Robert Benton), Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. And The Front, in which Woody Allen played the hapless schnook who covered for the blacklisted screenwriter – a hot political topic at the time.

Steve’s love present to A Great Day was the opening title, in which the individual letters broke up and triumphantly turned into confetti. Thank you, Steve – that’s just what the title was meant to convey

Robert Benton was the new art director at Esquire in 1958 when he suggested to his boss that they produce an all-jazz issue of the magazine. It was Benton who recommended novice photographer Art Kane to shoot the issue, though Benton became very nervous when Kane explained his idea for an ambitious outdoor shoot. Luckily, Benton did not have cause to regret hiring Kane; the Esquire jazz issue was a great success.

Robert Benton was born in Texas in 1932. He studied at the University of Texas and served in the Army for two years before becoming art director at Esquire in 1958. Benton was still working at Esquire in 1964 when he and a fellow aspiring writer, David Newman, decided to write a screenplay about the notorious American outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They wanted to create a classic American thriller but with the hip tone of some of the contemporary European movies they admired. Benton and Newman struggled to find backing for their project until, finally, Warren Beatty agreed to produce and Arthur Penn, to direct. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) elicited both controversy and praise, and established Benton and Newman as successful new screenwriters.

Benton and Newman co-scripted three more movies, including the box-office hit Superman (1978), before Benton went on to direct films. With his third directorial effort, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Benton became a top Hollywood director. The film won five Oscars – for Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay, Director, and Supporting Actress. He went on to direct such films as Places in the Heart (1984), Billy Bathgate (1991), Nobody’s Fool (1994), and The Human Stain (2003). Benton continues to write screenplays and direct movies. In 2005 he co-wrote the screenplay for The Ice Harvest starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.

When Milt Hinton attended the Esquire photo shoot in 1958, he had his camera with him, as he always did. His wife, Mona, had his 8-mm movie camera, and shot footage that was seen publicly for the first time in A Great Day In Harlem.

Hinton was a gifted bass player who was also a talented and successful photographer of the jazz scene. He was born in Mississippi in 1910, and moved to Chicago as a child. He learned to play a number of instruments including the bass in school, and developed an early love of jazz. Beginning in the late twenties, Hinton worked with many great jazz musicians in Chicago’s lively nightclub scene, including Art Tatum and Zutty Singleton. He joined Cab Calloway’s band in 1936 and stayed for fifteen years until it was disbanded in 1951. Hinton went on to work as a successful television and radio studio musician and to play on countless recordings. He also toured extensively and became a jazz educator, teaching at Hunter College and Baruch College in New York City.
But Hinton had a successful parallel career as a photographer, as well. Beginning in 1935 when he received an inexpensive camera as a gift, Hinton began to photograph his fellow jazz musicians. He eventually took over 60,000 images. His photos captured many important moments in jazz history, including a shot of a teary Billie Holiday taken during her final recording session in 1950, and one taken in 1940 that showed Cab Calloway’s impeccably groomed band beneath a “Colored Entrance” sign down South.

Two collections of Hinton’s photographs were published: Base Line in 1988 and OverTime in 1991. His photos have been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe, and have appeared in many publications and documentary films in addition to A Great Day In Harlem. Hinton died in 2000 at the age of 90.

Mike Lipskin also shot some of the memorable still photographs shown in A Great Day In Harlem. He was there the day of the Esquire photo shoot not as a photographer but as a protégé of Willie “The Lion” Smith. Lipskin went on to become an accomplished jazz pianist in the Harlem Stride style. He remains one of the very few contemporary stride pianists as well as one of the few people writing new stride piano music. Lipskin has performed at Carnegie Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival, among other venues. His music can be heard on recordings for Buskirk Productions and Downtown Records. Lipskin, who previously worked as a record producer at RCA for 13 years, now practices trademark, entertainment, and real estate law in San Francisco.

To learn more about Lipskin and stride piano, see the websites and

You can learn more about Lipskin’s relationship with Willie “The Lion” Smith by viewing Smith’s profile on the Great Day In Harlem Enhanced DVD, Disk 2. (To learn more about Willie “The Lion” Smith himself, see Smith’s profile on the DVD, Disk 2, as well as two sections about Smith on this website: his bio under “The Musicians,” plus “Where’s the Lion.”)