Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties

By Steven Cohan | Go to book overview

6
Why Boys Are Not Men

The current movie heroes are boys trying to do a man's work. Most of them are adolescent, and this applies regardless of age. These heroes include boys who'd like to be men. Some play tough guys, like Paul Newman and Marlon Brando. Some are rebels like the late James Dean and the current Sal Mineo and Elvis Presley. Others, like Tony Perkins ... play it shy and boyish. What's wrong with this new look in Hollywood men? Why are the old reliable favorites— Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne and company—still carrying the big box-office burden and running away with the heroine at an age when they might well be settling down to pipe and slippers? Does the fault lie in the way these stars are being handled, or in the stars themselves? To each his own, and every generation has its own heroes. Let's face it: The actor is never isolated from what is happening around him. ( Skolsky, "New" 41)

With these comments, introducing a feature story in the July 1957 issue of Photoplay, columnist Sidney Skolsky compares the old guard of Hollywood male stars to the new generation who emerged during the postwar era. According to Skolsky, the new Hollywood star is young, and his youth summarizes his visible difference from Hollywood's traditional representation of American manliness. "Clad in T-shirt and blue jeans, serious, moody, an individualist to the core, Montgomery Clift was a far cry from any of the previous screen-hero styles," Skolsky observes about the beginning of what he names, with a probable nod to Dior's equally radical "New Look" of 1946, "the new look in Hollywood men" (42). 1 Clift, the columnist recalls, "became a popular idol overnight ... [after] just one appearance in a more-than-good Western called 'Red River,"' because his youthful persona spoke so loudly to postwar audiences, who "had little use, with the war won, for the physical heroes, the Gables and Waynes." As Skolsky follows the trajectory of stardom traced during the decade first by Clift, and then by Brando, Dean, Presley, Newman and others in their mold, he concludes that the new star persona is "a hero with neuroses" (111), a diminished version of the rugged, physical masculinity still

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Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Arts and Politics of the Everyday *
  • Masked Men - Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • 1: The Spy in the Gray Flannel Suit *
  • 2: The "Paradox" of Hegemonic Masculinity *
  • 3: Tough Guys Make the Best Psychopaths *
  • 4: The Body in the Blockbuster *
  • 5: The Age of the Chest *
  • 6: Why Boys Are Not Men *
  • 7: The Bachelor in the Bedroom *
  • Epilogue: Who Was That Masked Man? *
  • Notes *
  • Select Filmography *
  • Works Cited *
  • Index *
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