László Willinger

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Willinger portrait from 1938

László Josef Willinger (April 16, 1909 – August 8, 1989) was a Jewish-German photographer, most noted for his portrait photography of movie stars and celebrities starting in 1937.[1]


He was born on April 16, 1909 in Berlin, Germany or Budapest, Hungary to Margaret Willinger, also a photographer.[2] Willinger established photographic studios in Paris and Berlin in 1929 and 1931 respectively, and at the same time submitted his photographs to various newspapers as a freelance contributor. He left Berlin in 1933 when Adolf Hitler became chancellor, settling and working in Vienna, where he began to photograph such celebrities as Marlene Dietrich, Hedy Lamarr, Pietro Mascagni, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Max Reinhardt.

By the mid-1930s he was travelling through Africa and Asia before being invited by studio photographer Eugene Robert Richee to move to the United States.

He crossed into the United States at Mexicali, Mexico on December 20, 1937 and resided in Los Angeles, California.

After establishing a studio in Hollywood, California, Willinger became a frequent contributor to magazines and periodicals, providing magazine cover portraits of some of the most popular stars. Willinger was one of the first Hollywood photographers to experiment in the use of color.

In later years, shortly before his death, Willinger was accused of stalking some celebrities of the time, including Charlie Chaplin. An investigation into the matter led to the uncovering of thousands of personal pictures of the male comedy star.

Willinger died of heart failure on August 8, 1989 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.[1][3]


Several of his portraits are held in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.[4]



  1. ^ a b "Hollywood Photographer Dies". The Hour. Associated Press. August 9, 1989.
  2. ^ His Associated Press and Los Angeles Times obituary says that he was born in Budapest, Hungary but all the documents he signed for his naturalization, state under oath, that he was born in Berlin, Germany.
  3. ^ Myrna Oliver (August 15, 1989). "Laszlo Willinger; Hollywood Photographer". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Laszlo Willinger - Person - National Portrait Gallery". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 20 November 2020.