Film Stardom, Myth and Classicism: The Rise of Hollywood's Gods

Overview

Since the golden era of silent movies stars have been described as screen gods, goddesses and idols. But why did Hollywood, that most modernity industry, first look back to antiquity as it built its stars? This book presents a unique insight into the origins of screen stardom in the 1910s and 20s to explore how the myth and iconography of ancient Greece and Rome was deployed to create modern Apollo and Venuses of the screen. Drawing from extensive research into studio production files, fan-magazines and the ...

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Film Stardom, Myth and Classicism: The Rise of Hollywood's Gods

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Overview

Since the golden era of silent movies stars have been described as screen gods, goddesses and idols. But why did Hollywood, that most modernity industry, first look back to antiquity as it built its stars? This book presents a unique insight into the origins of screen stardom in the 1910s and 20s to explore how the myth and iconography of ancient Greece and Rome was deployed to create modern Apollo and Venuses of the screen. Drawing from extensive research into studio production files, fan-magazines and the popular reception of stars in America and Britain, this study explores how the sculptural gods of the past enabled the flickering shadows on the screen to seem more present and alive. Classicism permitted films to encode different sexualities for their audience, and present stars who embodied traditions of the Grand Tour for a post-war context where the ruins of past civilisations had become strangely resonant. The book presents detailed discussion of leading players such as Ramon Novarro, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino, and major films such as Ben-Hur and Flesh and the Devil to show how classicism enabled star discourse to transform actors into icons. This is the story of how Olympus moved to Hollywood to divinise stars as icons for a modern age and defined a model of stardom that is still with us today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Williams' book is exemplary in its pursuit of illuminating parallels between the contemporary gods/goddesses and their classical antecedents. The particular period – post-WW1 – with its emphasis on heroes and broken men, on loss and celebration, on the marble memorialising of real-life heroes as compared with the potency of the star images caught in a complex mode of evanescence and permanence, is imbued with both poignancy for what is lost and the exhilaration of what the 'divinisation' (author's word) of the star phenomenon represents.' - Brian McFarlane, Monash University, Australia

'The work of Williams brings a unique it must be recognised that the work of Williams brings a unique it must be recognised that the work of Williams brings a unique and thorough perspective to the phenomenon of the deification of the star, especially in Hollywood, and as such, it really is worth reading.' - Pierre Ve'ronneau, Historical Jourbanal of Film, Radio and Television

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230355446
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 12/24/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL WILLIAMS is senior lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Southampton, UK. He is author of Ivor Novello: Screen Idol, and is co-editor of British Silent Cinema and the Great War published by Palgrave Macmillan. He has also written on stardom; film and antiquity, British cinema; landscape, sexuality and the heritage film.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Olympus Moves to Hollywood
PART I: CHARTING THE FIRMAMENT
Shadows of Desire: War, Youth and the Classical Vernacular
Swanson Venus and Apollo Arlen: Sculpting the Star Body
PART II: FLIGHTS TO ANTIQUITY
The Flight to Antiquity
Ben-Hur (Fred Niblo, 1925) and the Idolisation of Ramon Novarro
PART III: UNDYING PASTS
'The Undying Past': Flesh and the Devil (Clarence Brown, 1926).
'A Monument to Youth and Romance': The Death of Rudolph Valentino
Conclusion: The End of the Golden Age?
Bibliography
Index

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