Stardom: Industry of Desire

By Christine Gledhill | Go to book overview

4

THE BUILDING OF POPULAR IMAGES

Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe

Thomas Harris

With Americans allocating an increasing share of their leisure time to the mass media of communication it is not surprising that their choice of public heroes and heroines is, to a large degree, determined by perpetual exposure to the media. The shift of interest from heroes of production-the captains of industry, for example-to heroes of consumption has been pointed out by Leo Lowenthal in his study of magazine biographies. Today's heroes and heroines, reaching the attention of the public through motion pictures, radio or television, become more clearly drawn in the mass mind through the reinforcement of other media.

Modern publicity methods decree that the screen star be known to his or her potential audience not only through film roles but also through fan magazines, national magazines, radio, television and the newspapers. The totality of this publicity build-up is calculated to make the personality better known to a public which will respond by attending the screen hero's starring films.

In building a public personality the motion picture industry has perfected the device of stereotyping its stars. The star system is based on the premise that a star is accepted by the public in terms of a certain set of personality traits which permeate all of his or her film roles. The successful stars have been those whose appeal can be catalogued into a series of such traits, associations and mannerisms.

In the stereotyping process Hollywood publicists have worked with the studio policy makers to assure that their efforts will be consistent with the screen image. If an actress has achieved recognition through 'the-girl-next-door' roles it is important that her publicity reinforce this image. (Many people feel that the birth of an illegitimate child to Ingrid Bergman so undermined her saintly 'Joan of Arc' image, built up by the studio, that the public reacted with bewilderment and rejection.) The star becomes a symbol to an unseen mass audience whose only contact with him/her is through the indirect means of the media.

The trifold publicity apparatus of the studios provides the channels for

-40-

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Stardom: Industry of Desire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The System 1
  • 1 - Seeing Stars 3
  • 2 - The Emergence of the Star System in America 17
  • 3 - The Carole Lombard in Macy's Window 30
  • 4 - The Building of Popular Images 40
  • 5 - Fatal Beauties 45
  • Part II - Stars and Society 55
  • 6 - Charisma 57
  • 7 - Shirley Temple and the House of Rockefeller 60
  • 8 - 'Puffed Sleeves Before Tea-Time' 74
  • 9 - The Return of Jimmy Stewart 92
  • 10 - Three Indian Film Stars 107
  • 11 - A Star is Born and the Construction of Authenticity 132
  • 12 - Feminine Fascinations 141
  • Part III - Performers and Signs 165
  • 13 - Articulating Stardom 167
  • 14 - Screen Acting and the Commutation Test 183
  • 15 - Stars and Genre 198
  • 16 - Signs of Melodrama 207
  • Part IV - Desire, Meaning and Politics 231
  • 17 - In Defence of Violence 233
  • 18 - The Politics of 'Jane Fonda' 237
  • 19 - The Glut of the Personality 251
  • 20 - Pleasure, Ambivalence, Identification 259
  • 21 - 'A Queer Feeling When I Look at You' 283
  • 22 - Monster Metaphors 300
  • Select Bibliography 317
  • Index 332
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