Before beginning my analysis based on the work of Decordova, I would like to discuss the cover of the May of 1919 “Photoplay” magazine. In the image below, we can see an oil portrait of the film actress Billie Burke (AKA Glinda the Good Witch of the North). In the cover portrait, Billie Burke is painted in a style reminiscent of the French girl queen, Marie Antoinette. I think the cover is interesting to note because it presents a star both as art, through the use of the painting medium, and royalty through the use of portraiture imagery. In the Dyer reading for class, Dyer discusses how often stars are presented as better or more talented than normal people and this cover offers an interesting example of how the film industry and magazines on film tried to portray their stars to increase viewership and purchase.
I also found the cover interesting because it seems to be in conversation with Decordova’s creation of a “star”. In his opening statement Decordova writes; “The star emerged out of a marked expansion of the type of knowledge that could be produced about the player” (Decordova 98). The star was a creation of production that relied on consumption. The cover art of a magazine would produce the star in the way the studios hoped they would be consumed or considered by the public thus, every cover image was carefully created to represent the star based on the identity created for them. For instance, the below cover showing Majorie Rambeau led the viewer to see a sincere, happy, and beautiful actress. This was utilized to build her image as a nice young woman of Broadway. As Marjorie aged she began playing harder roles such as the alcoholic mother in Min and Bill. Decordova also discussed the importance of separating film and theathre actors so Majorie, having started as a Broadway performer, needed a reputation of a nice girl to fit into Hollywood.
The covers of magazines are the essential discourse of the celebrity image. Today, the type of magazine a celebrity is on the cover of represents the way the celebrity is perceived. Cover’s become the first mode of intertextuality by a) being the draw to purchase said magazine and b) using only a image to represent a celebrity in their entirety. An example being the below T-Swift “Cosmopolitan” cover.
Aside from the importance of the cover in development of a Hollywood “Star,” “Photoplay” put much emphasis on the telling the masses about the so-called ‘private’ life of the star. In the say May of 1919 magazine, pages 36 and on are full-page photos displaying stars enjoying their favorite “daily activities.”
“The actor’s “real” identity was no longer merely a shadowy extension of his or her work in film; it was much more-something that could emerge out of a richly drawn and relatively autonomous narrative.” In the above photo the captions and photos work intertextually to provide a narrative of the star. Captions read about Ora Carew cantering down the beach of her loyal stead (who is black and apparently named “Nigger,” but the 1910’s where a different time…) Or Kathleen O’Connor spending her days fishing (without line on her fishing pole…). These images promote the stars leading lives outside of the movies, thus increasing their authenticity. Now a fan of Phyliss Haver can hope to run into her sunbathing on the beach. By giving the stars personable personalities, moviegoers can feel a greater connection with the person on screen, acting to increase their fan base.
As Dyer states in his article the phenomenon of Stardom relies on certain preconditions (ie; production of surplus, development of mass media to share stars with the world, a perceived distinction or separation between the star and the average man, ect) and is continued through a society whose ideology allows for stars to arise. The images seen in the May 1919 issue of “Photoplay” use the manipulation of an image (the star) to perpetuate stardom. By using a text other than film that delves more into the private life of a star, stars are placed on a pedestal and made more prominent too the mass public.