Stardom: Industry of Desire

By Christine Gledhill | Go to book overview

3

THE CAROLE LOMBARD IN MACY'S WINDOW

Charles Eckert

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century American business was preoccupied with production. Most of its energy went into expanding its physical plant, increasing efficiency and grinding the face of labour so that greater profits could be extracted and invested in production. In the last five years of the nineteenth century when, coincidentally, motion pictures were invented, American business discovered that it was up to its neck in manufactured goods for which there were no buyers. So it became sales minded. Through the first two decades of the twentieth century, sales techniques were developed so intensely that they produced gross excesses, alienating the public and giving impetus to antibusiness and antimaterialist attitudes among intellectuals. About 1915, fixation upon sales gave way to an obsession with management, to internal re-structuring and systemisation. Profits were decisively improved, but the contradiction between production and consumption, between the efficient manufacture and marketing of goods and the capacity of wage-poor workers to buy them, was no closer to solution. Therefore, throughout the 1920s business became consumer-minded.

While all of this was going forward, Hollywood had evolved from a nickel and dime business to an entertainment industry funded by the likes of A.T. & T., Hayden Stone, Dillon Reid, RCA, The House of Morgan, A.P. Giannini's Bank of America, The Rockefellers' Chase National Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lohoran Brothers, Halsey Stuart-in short, all the major banks and investment houses and several of the largest corporations in America. With the representatives of those several economic powers sitting on the directorates of the studio, and with the world of business pervaded by the new zeitgeist of consumerism, the conditions were right for Hollywood to assume a role in the phase of capitalism's life history that the emerging philosophy of consumerism was about to give birth to.

All of which brings me to a story, a sort of romance, which I shall begin, as all good storytellers do, in Medias Res.

-30-

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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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