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This special issue of Camera Obscura, which gathers work from leading feminists in film studies, takes a fresh look at early film and the creative ventures of women performers. While much of the existing scholarship of the silent era focuses on film form and industrial organization, the essays collected here aim to recover women’s roles in the early decades of cinema. They do so in part by considering the ways in which social and ideological economies of the industry contributed to the complex semiotics of film stardom of the period.
Essays focus on figures across the wide international lexicon of stardom, including stunt star Pearl White, iconic French performer Musidora, imported European vamp Pola Negri, pixie heroine Colleen Moore, and Chinese star Xuan Jinglin. Other articles revisit figures, such as Mary Pickford and Greta Garbo, whose stardom appears to be self-evident but proves more complex than previous accounts have suggested. In this collection, early female stars function as a medium through which authors reconceptualize feminist film history and historiography.
Contributors. Jennifer M. Bean, Vicki Callahan, Lucy Fischer, Amelie Hastie, Diane Negra, Gaylyn Studlar, Zhen Zhang