Sydney Guilaroff (November 2, 1907 – May 28, 1997)[1][2] was a hair stylist during Hollywood's Golden Age, and the first to receive on-screen credit in films.[3] He worked for more than 40 years at Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios, on more than 1,000 films.[1] He was instrumental in creating many of the hairstyles that became signature looks for film stars.[2]

Early life

One of many hair styles designed for Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Guilaroff was born in London, England to Eugene Abraham Guilaroff and Annie Guilaroff née Snitkin, Russian Jewish immigrants who later settled in Canada. They lived in both the cities of Winnipeg and Montreal. His sisters, Olga and Vera,[4] became prominent in the theater. At age 14, Guilaroff left Canada for New York City and found work in the stockroom of Gimbels department store. An on-the-job accident required him to leave, and at times his financial situation forced him to sleep on benches in Central Park.

His fortunes changed when he was hired as a beautician's assistant. His menial responsibilities included sweeping the floor of a hair salon. The owner recognized his energy and enterprise, and mentored him in the hairdressing trade. By age 16, Guilaroff was so proficient a hair stylist that he had established a considerable clientele. However, his blossoming career was interrupted by a diagnosis of tuberculosis, which required his return to Canada. He recovered and returned to New York to continue his profession. During this period, he was reputed to have created silent screen star Louise Brooks' signature bob. He also devised the hair looks for actresses Corinne Griffith and Miriam Hopkins. He subsequently found a position at Antoine de Paris’s, one of the city's most exclusive salons, where he was known as Mr. Sydney.

Louise Brooks, 1930, in her iconic bob hair style conceived for her by Guilaroff

Career with Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Guilaroff's rise to prominence as a hairdresser to the stars was championed by actress Joan Crawford, who brought him to Hollywood and MGM, where he was chief hair stylist from 1934 to the late 1970s.[5]

At a time when a star's appearance was a significant function of the studio's image machine, Guilaroff's skills created distinctive looks that not only raised stars' profiles, but inspired many of their fans to have their hair styled similarly.

“…[Guilaroff] gave Claudette Colbert her bangs, made Lucille Ball a redhead, gave Judy Garland her Wizard of Oz braids, and cut, curled, coiffed and cosseted virtually every other MGM star in his 40-year reign as Hollywood’s most creative and celebrated hairdresser.”[1]

Guilaroff maintained his most formidable undertaking had been his work for the 1938 film Marie Antoinette, for which 2,000 court wigs were required and an additional 3,000 wigs for the extra players.[2] He was uncredited as hair stylist for Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (1939).[6][3]

Grace Kelly chose Guilaroff to style her hair for her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.[2]

Guilaroff tinted Lucille Ball's hair flame red for Du Barry Was a Lady (MGM, 1943). She was so pleased, she kept it that way for the rest of her life.[7]

When Lena Horne filmed her introductions to her scenes in the MGM musical documentary That's Entertainment! III (1994), she requested that Guilaroff come out of retirement to style her hair, some 50 years after he first styled it in Cabin in the Sky (1943).[8]

Notable clients

Over his long and distinguished career, Guilaroff's clients included Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, Lena Horne, Greer Garson, Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret, Barbara Stanwyck, Cyd Charisse, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Hedy Lamarr, Kathryn Grayson, Liza Minnelli, Clare Booth Luce, Ginger Rogers, Geraldine Page, Libby Holman, and Jane Fonda. He was the stylist of choice for such male stars as Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra.[3][1]


Guilaroff won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Special for The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987) starring Ann-Margret and Claudette Colbert.[9]

Personal life

Hair design for Lena Horne as Julie LaVerne in a mini-production of Show Boat in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)

Guilaroff never married.[1] In 1938, he became the first single man in the United States to adopt a son, whom he named Jon in honor of Joan Crawford. The state of California opposed the adoption and tried to prevent it, but Guilaroff prevailed. He subsequently adopted another son, named Eugene, and some years later a third, who had been a former employee.[5]

In his memoir Crowning Glories, Guilaroff claimed he had romantic affairs with Greta Garbo and Ava Gardner.[10] Esther Williams in her autobiography and Scotty Bowers in his memoir[11] asserted that Sydney Guilaroff had romantic affairs with Bowers. Bowers also stated to have set him up with his partner Edwin B. Willis.


Guilaroff died in Beverly Hills, California on May 28, 1997, at age 89.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas Jr., Robert McG., Movies, “Sydney Guilaroff, 89, Stylist to Stars, Is Dead”. June 1, 1997, retrieved November 21, 2012
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sydney Guillaroff biography," retrieved October 5, 2020
  3. ^ a b c Sydney Guilaroff Dies at 89, Washington Post, June 2, 1997; retrieved Oct. 8 2017
  4. ^ "Vera Guilaroff".
  5. ^ a b "Famous GLTB - Sydney Guilaroff," retrieved November 21, 2012
  6. ^ Sydney Guilaroff Credits on IMDb
  7. ^ Du Barry Was a Lady (1943) Trivia at IMDb
  8. ^ IndieWire - On the Set With Lena Horne by Leonard Maltin, May 10, 2010; retrieved Oct. 8, 2017
  9. ^ Sydney Guilaroff - Awards at IMDb, retrieved Oct. 8, 2017
  10. ^ Vallance, Tom (31 May 1997). "Obituary: Sydney Guilaroff". Archived from the original on 2022-05-26. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  11. ^ "Inside Hollywood's Gas Station of Gigolos as Netflix tackles Tinseltown scandal". 21 April 2020.