Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Dietrich, and Dimaggio,
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean, on the cover of a magazine...
(from Vogue, lyrics by Madonna)
However, if the public did indeed create the movie star, the major studios in their heyday perpetuated the system by selecting unknowns from the ranks of the ordinary and carefully grooming them into stars in an assembly-line fashion.
The fields of modern public relations and the cinema industry are both relatively young. Modern public relations first began in the mid-1800s while cinema was invented and developed in the late 1800s. The historic early years of both industries were times of tremendous expansion and growth.
Modern public relations, as discussed in Fraser Seitel's, The Practice Of Public Relations, began with press agentry and was first practiced by the infamous P.T. Barnum. Barnum staged publicity merely for the sake of publicity for his traveling circus. Likewise, one of the first methods that the film and entertainment industry utilized to publicize its cinematic products (and its stars ), was this press agentry technique borrowed from public relations.
The Historical Background of Motion Pictures
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the motion picture, later affectionately referred to as a "movie," became a primary source of entertainment. As highlighted in the book, American Cinema/American Culture, during the era of 1929 through 1949, an unbelievable 83 million Americans per week went to the movies. A broad array of fascinated fans brought forth the construction of immaculate movie palaces during the 1910s through 1920s. These palaces, according to John Belton, author of American Cinema/American Culture, were widely advertised as "an acre of seats in a garden of dreams", ranged from a modest 500 seats to the extravagant 6,200 seat Roxy Theatre.
By the mid 1920s, four major movie studios had emerged: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Brothers. In 1934, MGM was, by far, the most sophisticated with its 117 acres consisting of some twenty-three sound stages, large exterior sets, a lake, a park, a mini jungle, and, of course, as the studio boasted, "more stars than there are in heaven", as noted by Ronald L. Davis, in his book, The Glamour Factory.
While hard to imagine now in the voyeuristic world of celebutantes we now live in, stars were not identified by name in the first movies. As people began to write fan mail to principal actors, however, studios were forced to reveal the star's identity to satisfy the public. It was only with this demand that someone known to audiences solely as the girl with the golden curls suddenly became widely identified as Mary Pickford [circa 1910] With this change, the movie star was born.
#earlyhollywood #hollywoodpress #hollywoodhistory
Copyright © 2014 by Kendra Liedle from Evolution of the Movie Star: Promotion And Publicity in Hollywood's Golden Era