Movie Crazy / Edition 1

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Cecil B. DeMille, David Selznick, Louella Parsons, Joan Crawford--these legendary men and women built an empire called Hollywood. In Movie Crazy, meet another group of powerful players who shaped the film industry--the fans. MGM, for example, struggled to find a screen name for an actress named Lucille LeSeur. A fan--one of thousands who responded to a contest sponsored by the studio--called her Joan Crawford. Using fan club journals, fan letters, and studio production records, Samantha Barbas reveals how the passion, enthusiasm, and sometimes possessive advocacy of fans transformed early cinema, the modern mass media, and American popular culture. Barbas sheds new light on the development of the cult of celebrity in America, and demonstrates that while fans were avid consumers of the film industry, they did not mindlessly accept the images presented to them by the studios. Fans reacted to movies and stars with excitement, anger, confusion, joy, or boredom. Far from a united force, fans were often complex, and never predictable.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Barbas skillfully traces the development of both celebrity and fan in this thoroughly researched and well-written volume...a unique film history with astute commentary.”—Library Journal

“Barbas skillfully paints a detailed portrait of desires that drive popular art in the United States: the world of the fans, their choices, and motivations. With this book in hand, we can begin to understand what is popular in American popular art.”—Lary May, University of Minnesota

Lary May
Barbas skillfully uses new sources to paint a detailed portrait of desires that drives popular art in the United States.
Publishers Weekly
This neatly presented (though not very thorough) work explores how movie fans sought to understand, control and participate in U.S. films from 1900 to 1950. Barbas, a teacher at Arizona State's interdisciplinary studies program, uses distinctive examples and film fan archives to prove that "[t]he story of film fandom, in large part, is the story of the way that fans refused to accept mass culture passively and, instead, became actively involved in their entertainment." She cites some well-known themes, among them the lure of going to Hollywood to be an actress and the desire to know the person presented on-screen an emotion that evolved into star adulation. More interesting are the often unexamined intricacies of the movie fan world, such as the variations among budding movie fan magazines and movie fan club activities like boosting (doing everything one could to publicize a star). Also captivating are the familiar ideas rendered originally, such as the rise of film-related consumerism, which was the film industry's attempt to get "movie-struck girls" to transform their cinematic ambitions into vicarious participation in the Hollywood dream. Throughout, Barbas offers specific examples (on Gable, Crawford and others) and tidy presentations of facts and figures (on fan letters and movie attendance, particularly) in a modest prose style. Esspecially, for those unfamiliar with early film history, this is a useful survey of fandom. (Nov. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Barbas (interdisciplinary studies, Arizona State Univ.) skillfully traces the development of both celebrity and fan in this thoroughly researched and well-written volume, which covers the years from 1900 to 1950. Fans first wrote letters, then formed structured fan clubs; they read a growing selection of movie periodicals and, ultimately, expressed their strong collective views. As movies became more integral to American life and Hollywood thrived, studios and stars became more conscious of the opinions of fans as active movie consumers. Just how this screen/audience relationship grew, with its complex mutual influence, is at the heart of this book. Stories about the individual fan followings of such stars as Florence Lawrence, Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, and Frank Sinatra with details about specific films, studio associations, and social trends constitute a unique film history with astute commentary and make for fascinating reading. Anyone who has ever admired a movie star, been enthralled by a particular film, or wanted to know more about the Hollywood phenomenon will find this book of interest, while film scholars and students of popular culture should consider it a necessity. Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403960450
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Samantha Barbas is Assistant Professor of History at Chapman University.

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Table of Contents

From Reel to Real
The Cult of Personality
The Chance of a Lifetime
The Inside Scoop
The Movie Star Fan Club
The View from Hollywood
The Fandom Menace

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