March 31, 2003 12:00 PM

This week, when a group of Frank Worth photographs are auctioned at Sotheby’s Beverly Hills to benefit the AIDS charity amfAR, it will be a bittersweet moment. One of Hollywood’s men-about-town in the 1940s and ’50s (Mamie Van Doren called him “catnip to the ladies”), Worth raced cars with James Dean and romanced the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Dandridge. He also captured some of the most glorious candid images from the era with his camera but never realized his real dream of becoming a film director. Long forgotten by the time of his death in 2000 at age 77, he left behind thousands of photos, which were archived by Howard and Austin Mutti-Mewse, twin brothers who cowrote the book Worth Exposing Hollywood. The pictures reveal both his keen eye and unique insider perspective. “Everyone felt so relaxed about him,” says Austin. “If you were at a party and Frank Worth was there, you could let your hair down a bit,”

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