Stardom: Industry of Desire

By Christine Gledhill | Go to book overview

9

THE RETURN OF JIMMY STEWART

The publicity photograph as text

Charles Wolfe

Around the production, distribution and exhibition of films a host of photographic images proliferate: production stills, celebrity photos, photographic poster art, illustrations for pressbooks, programmes, interviews and reviews. They whet our appetite for moving images yet unseen and prolong our pleasure after the act of seeing. They can be held, examined at leisure, collected and catalogued. With time they serve as an archive of images to be drawn from for coffee-table anthologies, journals of history and criticism and monographs of various kinds. They are an important part of the institution of cinema even if we do not at first think of them as related to the film-as-text in a meaningful way. 1 Reproduced and recycled, captured and captioned by authors and editors, these images bear an historical trace, a trace worth pursuing.

The function of these photographs in the first instance is usually publicity; they publicise films, and the stars who help sell films. Within the Hollywood studio system, still photography departments were an important component of the public relations machinery buttressing the star system and the marketing campaigns for individual films. Stills heralded new productions, not only through the direct channel of paid advertising, but also indirectly through the broad coverage given to Hollywood by the expanding national magazine industry from the twenties through the mid-fifties. 2 This publicity function was most naked of course in fan magazines, which sustained a sensational celebrity drama about the lives of the stars. But celebrity photographs were also a staple item of chic, New York based monthlies such as Vanity Fair and Stage, and middle-class 'women's magazines' such as Ladies Home Journal and McCalls. From the time of its debut in the fall of 1936, Life magazine treated Hollywood movies as privileged cultural territory in its weekly survey of the visible. By 1936, moreover, photographs from Hollywood were a regular item in the two major national news magazines, Time and News-week, where photojournalism was becoming broader and more colourful. A Time cover story on Shirley Temple, child star in Hollywood, followed

-92-

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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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