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.
Screen Test: Celebrity, the Starlet, and the Movie World in Silent American Cinema
Lucy Fischer is a distinguished professor of English and film studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of Jacques Tati (G. K. Hall, 1983), Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women's Cinema (Princeton University Press, 1989), Imitation of Life (Rutgers University Press, 1991), Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre (Princeton University Press, 1996), Sunrise (BFI, 1998), Designing Women: Art Deco, Cinema and the Female Form (Columbia University Press, 2003), Stars: The Film Reader (Routledge, 2004), American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations (Rutgers University Press, 2009), Teaching Film (with Patrice Petro, MLA, 2012), Body Double: The Author Incarnate in the Cinema (Rutgers University Press, 2013), Art Direction and Production Design (Rutgers University Press, 2015), and Cinema by Design: Art Nouveau, Modernism, and Film History (Columbia University Press, 2017). She has held curatorial positions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is a former president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and has received its Distinguished Service Award. In 2016 she received the Chancellor's Research Award for Senior Scholars at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Lucy Fischer; Screen Test: Celebrity, the Starlet, and the Movie World in Silent American Cinema. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2016; 2 (4): 15–63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.4.15
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