Home / Margaret Herrick Library / Photograph Archive
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. was founded in 1928 and operated out of the former Robertson-Cole studios in Hollywood (now part of the Paramount lot). The company was born out of mergers among the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville circuit in the 1920s. The result was Radio-Keith-Orpheum, better known as RKO. The studio built its prestige upon a generally high production standard and the participation of major stars, such as Fred Astaire, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Its individual hit films included "King Kong" (1933), "Top Hat" (1935), "Stage Door" (1937), "Gunga Din" (1939) and "Suspicion" (1941). Aside from its own productions, RKO also released Goldwyn, Disney and Selznick films. The company continued as a major motion picture studio for more than 27 years. In 1948 Howard Hughes acquired a large share of RKO stock and gained control of the company. After a period of financial difficulties, the company ceased production in 1958, and the studio lot was sold to Desilu.
The RKO Radio Pictures photographs span the years 1929-1958 and encompass approximately 140 linear feet. The collection consists entirely of motion picture production photographs for 833 feature films distributed by RKO. The material is arranged alphabetically by film title. The collection consists primarily of scenes, portraits of the players in character, and general publicity shots. Many titles include off-camera photographs taken on sets and on location, showing various aspects of the productions in progress. There is an average of 200 to 300 photographs for each production. Nearly all of the films distributed by the company are represented, including "Becky Sharp" (1935), "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), "Citizen Kane" (1941), "The Little Foxes" (1941), "Little Women" (1933), and "Notorious" (1946). All of the RKO features of Katharine Hepburn and the musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are included. Two notable absences are "King Kong" (1933) and "The Informer" (1935).
Gift of RKO Radio Pictures, 1959.
Cary Grant during filming of "Gunga Din" (1939)