Although it began as a local slapdash effort to advertise the independent exchanges in Chicago in 1911, Photoplay became the nation's leading movie fan magazine. At first it copied Motion Picture Story, founded earlier to publicize the films of the monopolistic Motion Picture Patents Company, in publishing literary storyized versions of film releases. Adapting the middlebrow conventions of its rival to overcome disrepute and near bankruptcy, Photoplay had already spotlighted the players in its early issues. Indeed, it established the format for publicity stories about iconic female personalities, especially those in exciting cliff-hanging serials who were idolized by lower-class female fans. It also published serialized romance fiction that featured daring, unconventional modern heroines. A magazine that stimulated readers without economic and cultural capital to daydream about glamour and buy fetishized goods, Photoplay constructed stardom as a basis of consumer capitalism.
Adapting Middlebrow Taste to Sell Stars, Romance, and Consumption: Early Photoplay
Sumiko Higashi is professor emerita in the Department of History at the College at Brockport, State University of New York, and an independent scholar. She is the author of Stars, Fans, and Consumption in the 1950s: Reading Photoplay (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era (University of California Press, 1994), as well as numerous essays on film history as cultural history, women in film and television, and film as historical representation. She has served on the editorial boards of Cinema Journal, Film History, and Film Criticism.
Sumiko Higashi; Adapting Middlebrow Taste to Sell Stars, Romance, and Consumption: Early Photoplay. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2017; 3 (4): 126–161. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2017.3.4.126
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