Leo Friedman, a photographer who is best known for his portrayals of Broadway musicals during their golden age – which occurred between the 1940’s and 1960’s – died on December 2, at his home in Las Vegas, from pneumonia. He was 92.
Friedman, a native Brooklynite, was born in 1919 to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. He attended New Utrecht High School.
According to Playbill.com, Friedman photographed over 800 shows, including My Fair Lady, Barefoot in the Park, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Bye Bye Birdie, The Entertainer, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, The Music Man, Purlie Victorious and Coco.
Of all the Friedman images that live in the collective consciousness of the American theatre going public, the most famous is probably his indelible shot of West Side Story stars Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert running exuberantly through the tenement streets of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. Like many of Friedman’s pictures, it was noted for its electric, active aura, with the actors not standing around in stiff poses, but vibrantly in motion. The shot was entirely Mr. Friedman’s invention. “I made a mark on the street,” he told the New York Times, “and I said to Carol: ‘I want Larry chasing you up the street. When you hit that mark, don’t look at me down here, look up, with your head up. And that’s what I took.” The image was repeated in the posters and album cover of the film version of West Side Story.
Friedman’s longtime partnership with photographer Joseph Abeles ended when he decided to move west in the 1970’s. After Friedman decided to donate his archive to the New York Public Library’s performing arts collection at Lincoln Center, their friendship degenerated as the result of an ensuing legal battle over rights to the photos. Abeles passed away in 1991.