The Hollywood star system developed in the early decades of the twentieth century, and with it came notions of celebrity and tales of how performers rose to fame. In the same period, several American films self-reflexively devised narratives concerning young women venturing to “filmland” to break into the movies—echoing the real-life situation of the epoch's “movie-struck girls.” Taking a gendered approach, this text examines Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913), A Girl's Folly (1917), The Extra Girl (1923), Souls for Sale (1923), Ella Cinders (1926), and Show People (1928), interrogating the films’ portrayal of the female ingenue and focusing on such dichotomies as talent versus luck, career versus marriage, scandal versus propriety, city versus country, beauty versus plainness, and more. It investigates movie magazines and press of the era, highlighting how they presented the actresses in these films—Mabel Normand, Marion Davies, Eleanor Boardman, Colleen Moore, and Doris Kenyon—to the public, making connections to similar issues in the movies.

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