STARS are, of course, part of all theater. But the star system appears to dominate Hollywood to a greater degree than it does the theater. Nor is its effect restricted to Hollywood, since movie stars are among our most admired folk heroes and heroines. Considerable mythology has accumulated about them, and as in any society, myths, true or false, influence behavior. They leave their impact on stars, would-be stars, those who work with them, and the audience.
While the star system has long been a significant part of movie production, it was not initiated by the studios. In the early days, the names of the leading actors were not even publicized and members of the audience wrote to the studios for information about their favorites. The studios did not at first encourage this spontaneous fan mail because they feared that actors would demand more money if they knew about their popularity. Soon, however, the studios realized that the popularity of a star could be exploited, even if salaries did go up. From this small beginning grew a Gargantuan system which has deep repercussions on the making of movies and leaves its effect on American society.
From a business point of view, there are many advantages in the star system. The star has tangible features which can be advertised and marketed -- a face, a body, a pair of legs, a voice, a certain kind of personality, real or synthetic -- and can be typed as the wicked villain, the honest hero, the fatal siren, the sweet young girl, the neurotic woman. The system provides a formula easy to understand and has made the production of movies seem more like just another business. The use of this formula may serve also to protect the executives from talent and from having to pay