Belton Chapter 5: The Star System


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Belton Chapter 5: The Star System

  1. 1. Belton, Chapter 5, pp. 87-121
  2. 2. Making Stars Exposed Artifice: Singin’ in the Rain  Early film viewer idolized actors and actresses of the silent film industry  Advent of sound exposed imperfections of talkies, artifice that had once been easily concealed Stars, Fans, and Profits  “The industry that makes motion pictures also manufactures movie stars, with the aid of the press and other media—movie stars who have played and continue to play a crucial economic role…” (89).  provide studios with a tangible attraction, a marketable image
  3. 3. Star Power“Stars can save studios because stars sell films” (90).entertainment journalismTom Hanks: A Case Study American everyman Emerges as the “moral compass” in modern morality plays
  4. 4. Persona: A Variety of MasksEssentially, stars consist of three personalities—the star, the actor, and the actual person (95). actor Stars consist of three personalities actual star person
  5. 5. Stardom and Mass Culture: From Persona to StarThe Role of the Media Actors ✮construct personas, few become stars ✮persona masks the real person Stars ✮secondary mask reproduces and transforms original persona ✮uncontrolled persona recirculates through media, acquires new meanings “A star is an actor whose persona transcends the sum total of his performances.”
  6. 6. Mickey Mouse: A Case Studypurely imaginary form of existencecould consider him a star without ever being an actor based on wide circulation of image.
  7. 7. Stars, the System, and the Public Marilyn Monroe: A Case Study  “Only the public can make a star…It’s the studios who try to make a system out of it.”  Marilyn Monroe’s account of stardom, challenged studio attempts to manufacture a replacement (she was known to push the limits, defiance, resisted strict demands imposed by studios- arrived late, walked off set in mid-production) Stardom and Public Acceptance  Stars function as “sociocultural barometers, giving expression to and providing symbolic solutions for specific fears, desires, anxieties, and/or dreams that haunt popular consciousness”  Fans as intelligent agents! Fans are aware of the fantasy involved in stardom; public has the power to “break stars” when they violate social norms (100).
  8. 8. The Early Years The First Stars United Artists was founded by, from left, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith.  Prior to motion pictures, star system thrived in theater, vaudeville and the music hall, and the opera throughout the 19th century. Late Victorianism  Stars were transitional figures for audiences in the 1910s and helped bridge social transformation, namely rural/agricultural  urban/industrial  women gained new freedoms as they entered the workforce. Pickford, Fairbanks, and Chaplin  Pickford: Victorian ideal of woman amid profound social changes ✮ Onscreen: “America’s Sweetheart” ✮ Offscreen: modern working/businesswoman.  Fairbanks ✮ Onscreen: double image of hardworking male in an emerging corporate America and frustrated individual coping with Protestant work ethic ideologies. ✮ Offscreen: pleasure, relaxation, leisurely pursuit of athletics  Chaplin: The Tramp persona = old-world aristocratic values of Victorian society + the new-world egalitarianism of the impoverished immigrant and defiant opponent of all arbitrary authority-especially policemen.
  9. 9. Exoticism, Eroticism, and Modern Morality: Stars of the 1920s The Jazz Age  Atmosphere of Sexual Liberation: SEX sells; sex plays a major role in the construction of stardom  New World innocence of Valentino and Garbo  Women’s movements: suffrage/voting rights in 1920, temperance impact on institution of Prohibition in 1919 ✮ Roaring Twenties: “flappers” and “jazz babies” expressed sexual liberation and defended their actions in terms of a modern morality (104). ✮ Victorian Puritanism replaced by explicitly confronting female desire and behavior; however, endings often returned to traditional virtues, sexual fidelity, marriage, and family. Having “It”: Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino  “It” = having beauty, being desirable: pretty/handsome, sexy, fun- loving, impudent, worldly-wise.  Valentino: “foreign-born screen idol” appealed to American women, cast in roles ranging from misogynist, brutal romantic, passionate bullfighter, Latino lover Greta Garbo: From Divinity to Humanity
  10. 10. Depression/Repression: The 1930s New Realities, New Images  The transition to sound ushered in a new breed of movie star made up of actors and actresses from the theater, vaudeville, the recording studio, and radio.  Working class stars of the 1930s All-American Kids: Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland  Hollywood’s response to audience demands/interest in less fantasy, more realistic stars; more human/accessible stars Clark Gable: Populist Hero  The most representative star of the 1930s  the all-American guy, projected a no-nonsense honesty
  11. 11. Sex, Censorship, and Star Images “Sex continued to play a major role in the construction of stardom in the 1930s” (110). The Production Code of 1934  resulted from protest by civic organizations (mostly religious  prohibited depictions of crime, violence, and sexual themes such as adultery; scenes of passion, seduction, or rape; sexual perversion, and miscegenation  sex films  screwball comedy Sexual self-censorship made actors more desirable, drove sex underground-repression during war years led to explosive resexualization of Hollywood in postwar years (e.g. sexually explicit themes, film noir).
  12. 12. World War II and Its Aftermath A New Generation  Postwar transformation of stardom  performers pushed the limits of classical social, sexual and psychological behavior. Transformations  stardom changed during and after the war; performers pushed the limits of “classical social, sexual, and psychological behavior”  Rebellious/revolutionary nature of American female sexuality revealed briefly empowering women who embraced it (111). The Darker Side: Psychology and “the Method”  Postwar realism—emphasis on imperfections, focus on flaws; training method based on personal experiences/emotional histories (e.g. Marilyn Monroe).
  13. 13. Stars and Anti-Stars Resisting Tradition: Nicholas, Eastwood, and Their Peers  by-product of 1960s counterculture  Resistance, reluctance, refusal to cooperate with the press, publicity avoidance Anti-stars: Television as Training Ground  Since the breakup of the studio system, contemporary stars have entered Hollywood from a variety of other media, developing star status outside of motion pictures that they translate into stardom in Hollywood. Stars’ Children: Déjà Vu  Emergence of 2nd generation stardom  “contemporary stars enable us to see the ghost of Hollywood past in the faces of Hollywood present” (116).
  14. 14. Different Faces: The Rise of Black Stars From Sidney Poitier to Blaxploitation Sidney Poitier: first black star to achieve success at the box office, attracted white spectators 1970s Blaxploitation movement aimed to attract growing population of black moviegoers, films dramatized crime, addressed lower-class concerns Fame in Other Fields: “black actors from noncinematic backgrounds because Hollywood had never invested in the development of black stars” (117). 60s and 70s: Hollywood capitalized on the celebrity of African Americans, cast former fashion models, football stars and other athletes. The Eddie Murphy Generation: 1980s increase in minority acting careers; black actors cast regularly (e.g., Denzel Washington in The Siege, 1998 among others) by liberal white executives who grew up during the 1960s, a decade marked by the emergence of “racial sensitivity” (119).
  15. 15. Economics and Contemporary Stardom Essential artifice emerges in the economic context of film industry where images are worth money: “Stars are and always have been commodities…not born, but made with a purpose— to sell films” (119). Phenomenon of stardom is essential to the reproduction of Hollywood motion picture production; presence of stars equates profit; stars play a role in stabilizing an otherwise unstable industry Stars provide unique pleasure to audiences who appreciate stars as performers; we derive appreciation from the interplay between star and character. Ever been disappointed or shocked by a particular star’s behavior or appearance in public? What might your response to negative publicity suggest about prevailing ideologies?
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