Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
Actors Are People

WHAT are actors really like in their relationships with the other members of the industry? How does Hollywood's own stereotype of actors compare with the glamorous one which the world has?

In Hollywood, actors are not regarded as ordinary people, either. But instead of being admired, they are looked down upon as a kind of subhuman species. No one respects them. The cliché that there are three kinds of people -- men, women, and actors -- is heard over and over again. They are often described as children who do not know what is good for them, immature, irresponsible, completely self-centered, egotistical, exhibitionistic, nitwits, and utterly stupid. Part of this description is reminiscent of white attitudes in the Deep South toward Negroes. Hollywood attitudes towards actors range from pitying condescension to contempt, hostility and hatred. It is difficult to find anyone who has a good word to say for them. Usually one hears, in belligerent tones, "I can't stand actors." The star system has decidedly boomeranged in Hollywood.

The actor is regarded by the studio as a valuable but synthetic product of make-up department, cameraman, publicity agent, director, producer, and front office. Rarely is he given credit for having any ability, and the front-office executive, who thinks of himself as the creative source of everything from stars and scripts to the final movie, sincerely believes that it is he who created the star. Did he not bring him from Broadway, or, according to the legend, snatch her from the soda-fountain stool? Provide the script, the director, the publicity and all the resources of the studio -- not to mention the negotiations with the bank for the necessary capital? An executive often talks as if his was a disinterested act of creation,

-254-

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Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction - Why an Anthropologist Studied Hollywood 3
  • Chapter I - Habitat and People, Mythical and Real 16
  • Chapter II - Mass Production of Dreams 39
  • Chapter III - Taboos 54
  • Chapter IV - Front Office 82
  • Chapter V - Men Who Play God 100
  • Chapter VI - Lesser Gods, but Colossal 111
  • Chapter VII - The Scribes 131
  • Chapter VIII - Assembling the Script 150
  • Chapter IX - The Answers 170
  • Chapter X - Directors 185
  • Chapter XI - Acting, in Hollywood 205
  • Chapter XII - Stars 228
  • Chapter XIII - Actors Are People 254
  • Chapter XIV - Emerging from Magic 281
  • Chapter XV - Hollywood and the U.S.A. 307
  • Index 333
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