In 1952, presented with what he called a "cataclysmic sitting," famed photographer Philippe Halsman had a whimsical idea: He would ask his subjects to jump. To his pleasure, they agreed. "I realized that deep underneath people wanted to jump and considered jumping fun," he wrote in "Philippe Halsman's Jump Book." Halsman may have been inspired by this classic 1948 portrait of Salvador Dali, though he generally didn't put in the same effort -- the Dali work required 28 takes (and 28 throws of the cats).
Between 1952 and 1958, Halsman convinced almost 200 people -- entertainers and heiresses, politicians and businessmen -- to leap for his camera. Performers had a natural facility, of course -- many had jumped, without prompting, as part of an NBC assignment Halsman did in 1950. Marilyn Monroe, seen here, certainly was game.
In the "Jump Book," Halsman talks about "jumpology," an analysis of the jumper based on their leap. In this photo, Audrey Hepburn appears as free and joyous as her character in "Roman Holiday." That film is about a European princess who ditches the shackles of proper society for motorscooting with Gregory Peck. Here, Hepburn has literally kicked off her shoes to let fly.
Richard Nixon was not known for being physically nimble, but the politician -- who was vice president at the time of Halsman's 1959 photo -- gamely takes a bounce at New York's Hotel Pierre.
The effortless Lena Horne looks like she's about to float away in this 1954 Halsman shot. Horne, a legendary singer and actress, is perhaps best known for her recordings of such songs as "Stormy Weather" and "Love Me or Leave Me."
Danny Kaye, best known for the film "The Court Jester," was a triple threat: He could sing, dance and act. His comic timing is evident in Halsman's picture. Kaye appears to be a mid-century stockbroker who has been surprised in mid-rush.
Lucille Ball was at the top of her game when she posed for Halsman. "I Love Lucy" spent much of the 1950s as one of television's top shows, and the comedian became one of America's most beloved performers. She also had a formidable vertical leap.
The mustachioed Thomas E. Dewey was governor of New York and twice the Republican candidate for President, but he was derided as "the little man on the wedding cake" by critics. Though described as "humorless" by observers, his pose for Halsman seems surprisingly lighthearted.
Singer Marian Anderson seems to have struggled to gain velocity in this elaborate dress she wore to Halsman's shoot. Her voice never failed to rise, however: Anderson, one of the most renowned classic singers of the 20th century, was celebrated for her 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert and her performance at John F. Kennedy's inauguration.
Though now best remembered for his chilling portrayal of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," Anthony Perkins was a versatile actor, equally at home in comedy or drama. (He also had a hit single in 1957.) His pose for Halsman seems at once loose and awkward -- perhaps something for "jumpology" experts to interpret.
Of course Gwen Verdon could jump: She was one of the greatest dancers of stage and screen, dazzling in such works as "Damn Yankees" and "Chicago." (She was also once married to famed director and choreographer Bob Fosse.)
Walter Winchell was the most influential gossip columnist of his era and reveled in his power -- obvious from his cocky Halsman jump. At his peak, Winchell was syndicated in 2,000 newspapers, and he hosted a radio program that reached 20 million people.
Meredith Willson appears as jubilant -- and maybe as sly -- as Harold Hill, the fast-talking protagonist in his musical "The Music Man." The composer had a varied career that included "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," the University of Iowa fight song, and the music for Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator."
The Duke of Windsor, who reigned as Edward VIII of England until abdicating 11 months into his reign, watches warily as his wife, Wallis Simpson, takes a small jump in 1958. The duke was forced to abdicate for "the woman I love" in December 1936. The two were married until his death in 1972.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were America's leading comedy act until their split in 1956. The two were known for Lewis' manic slapstick and straight-man Martin's smooth crooning. Halsman captures their energy and their wit in this jumping photo.
The wry, intellectual Peter Ustinov was determined to keep reading even as his jump took him a couple feet in the air. Ustinov won two Oscars, three Grammys and an Emmy in his long career, which included performances in "Spartacus," "Topkapi" and "Death on the Nile."
Halsman was no slouch himself at jumping. "Jump Book" concludes with portraits of him jumping with some of his subjects, and he modestly observes that he'd been engaging in the pastime since early childhood. "I could run, jump and turn over in the air," Halsman wrote. The photographer, a Life magazine regular who was named one of the world's 10 greatest photographers by Popular Photography magazine, died in 1979.