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Behind the Scenes - MGM Chief Stylist - Sydney Guilaroff

You may not know Sydney Guilaroff's name but you know his work.  And so does your mother AND your grandmother.

With Claudette Colbert
Born in 1906 to Jewish Russian immigrants in London, his family moved to Canada and later Sydney ended up doing hair in New York City.  At age 21 he was discovered by Claudette Colbert at Antoine's, a fancy Saks Fifth Avenue salon, whose bangs he cut giving her her trademark look.  Sydney went on to become the head hair stylist for MGM and his fingerprints are on hundreds of films, uncredited mind you.

Sydney with Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe
"Guildaroff was more than a stylist to the stars.  He was the confidant summoned by Grace Kelly to Monaco to style her hair for her wedding to Prince Ranier, the man who sat with bed-ridden Joan Crawford the night she won an Oscar for "Mildred Pierce", the "surrogate father to whom Elizabeth Taylor turned [to] for comfort when her husband Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash, and the friend a distraught Marilyn Monroe called the night she died in August 1962 (he was one of the pallbearers at her subsequent funeral)" (gayinlfluence.blogspot.com).

Here's some of his work - it's kind of amazing! -

Claudette Colbert's famous bangs

Louise Brooks with her often imitated bob (as seen on Katie Holmes, Natalie Portman and Selma Blair showing that the haircut Guilaroff gave in 1930 remains current)

After harsh chemicals caused Jean Harlow's hair to start to fall out in patches Guilaroff built numerous wigs to help her maintain her platinum tresses

Greta Garbo's curls in "Camille" and her pageboy in "Ninotchka" 

Hedy Lamarr's shoulder length coiff was due to Guilaroff

Joan Crawford would have Guilaroff design her hair for every single film (scene from "Mildred Pierce" shown)

Marilyn Monroe came to MGM as a reddish brunette and was transformed into the blond we know and love (shown in the second photo posing with a sculpture belonging to Guilaroff)

One of the many films Guilaroff worked on, "Little Women", where he designed the hair for Margaret O'Brien, Janet Leigh, June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor (launching a lifelong relationship with her)

Grace Kelly at her wedding

Guilaroff employed the use of Vaseline to keep Esther Williams' hair in place for her underwater scenes

Ingrid Bergman's "bubble" haircut in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" launched a worldwide craze for the cut

Jean Hagan and Debbie Reynolds in "Singin' in the Rain"

Vivien Leigh from "Gone With The Wind"

Norma Shearer in one of the 2,000 amazing wigs from film "Marie Antoinette"

Judy Garland's original hair design (blond and long) was deemed "too sexy" for "The Wizard of Oz" and so Guilroff was brought in to create something more age appropriate.

When Lucille Ball moved to Hollywood she went with the flow and dyed her hair platinum blond.  By the time she met Sydney she was back to her natural light brown shade and he took her to red to make it pop.  Can you imagine her any other way?

Ann Margaret had naturally deep brunette, nearly black, hair and was initially horrified by Guilaroff's decision to take her red for "State Fair".  Two days later, after receiving more attention by photographers than she ever had before, she was all in.


  1. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing and often unsung part of Hollywood's history. From his first film in 1934 until his last in 1994, Sydney left an indelible mark that will never be surpassed. I was fortunate to know him from the early 80's until his passing, and he was a true genius in all respects. Thank you for recognizing him. Paul E. Brogan

    1. That's amazing Paul! Thank you so much for writing! I thought his story and his work were amazing and had so much fun putting together all of the pictures. So happy to hear from you :)!