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
Star Power“Stars can save studios because stars sell films” (90).entertainment journalismTom Hanks: A Case Study American everyman Emerges as the “moral compass” in modern morality plays
Persona: A Variety of MasksEssentially, stars consist of three personalities—the star, the actor, and the actual person (95). actor Stars consist of three personalities actual star person
Stardom and Mass Culture: From Persona to StarThe 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.”
Mickey Mouse: A Case Studypurely imaginary form of existencecould consider him a star without ever being an actor based on wide circulation of image.
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).
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.
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
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
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).
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).
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).
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).
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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