Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine

Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers

Anthony Slide
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt12f533
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    Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine
    Book Description:

    The fan magazine has often been viewed simply as a publicity tool, a fluffy exercise in self-promotion by the film industry. But as an arbiter of good and bad taste, as a source of knowledge, and as a gateway to the fabled land of Hollywood and its stars, the American fan magazine represents a fascinating and indispensable chapter in journalism and popular culture.Anthony Slide's Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine provides the definitive history of this artifact. It charts the development of the fan magazine from the golden years when Motion Picture Story Magazine and Photoplay first appeared in 1911 to its decline into provocative headlines and titillation in the 1960s and afterward. Slide discusses how the fan magazines dealt with gossip and innuendo, and how they handled nationwide issues such as Hollywood scandals of the 1920s, World War II, the blacklist, and the death of President Kennedy. Fan magazines thrived in the twentieth century, and they presented the history of an industry in a unique, sometimes accurate, and always entertaining style.This major cultural history includes a new interview with 1970s media personality Rona Barrett, as well as original commentary from a dozen editors and writers. Also included is a chapter on contributions to the fan magazines from well-known writers such as Theodore Dreiser and e. e. cummings. The book is enhanced by an appendix documenting some 268 American fan magazines and includes detailed publication histories.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-414-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    The fan magazine is such a seemingly worthless object, and yet it is of interest and value to both the film scholar and the sociologist. On the surface, the fan magazine had its place in the history of popular entertainment simply as a publicity tool, a relatively pointless exercise in self-promotion by the film industry. One week it would eagerly be read by millions of American moviegoers and the next week consigned to the trash. The fan magazine was a transient publication offering dubious information on the equally transient world of the Hollywood movie star. Its rise paralleled that of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 THE BIRTH OF THE FAN MAGAZINE
    (pp. 11-32)

    A fan magazine was fundamentally a film- and entertainment-related periodical aimed at a general fan, an average member of the moviegoing public who more often than not was female. (Throughout I refer to “the fan magazine” in the singular, because it was very much a magazine genre in its own right.) The common object of devotion of both the magazines and their readers was the motion picture. While film buffs might be the primary purchasers of old fan magazines today, they were not originally targeted as the primary audience. Thus, such illustrious film-buff publications asFilms in Review, Film Fan...

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE PIONEERING WRITERS
    (pp. 33-46)

    What is perhaps most remarkable about fan magazine writers is their longevity and their ability to embrace each new breed of movie star, decade after decade. It is almost as if the subjects of the articles changed but the writers and the stories remained pretty much constant. In fact, perhaps there was a standard template used by fan magazine writers. In 1939, Carl F. Cotter wrote of the contemporary fan magazine writer Sonia Lee, who “is probably the most energetic of them all, dictating stories by the hour over an Ediphone. It is reported that she wrote her first fan...

  7. CHAPTER 3 JAMES R. QUIRK AND PHOTOPLAY
    (pp. 47-72)

    Photoplayis the most famous of all fan magazines, a publication that began in the pioneering days of the motion picture and survived through the demise of the star system, the rise of independent filmmaking, and into an era when the public got its entertainment news from the pages ofPeopleand similar magazines. Ultimately, it is the yardstick by which all other fan magazines are judged, thanks in large part to its growth and fame under the editorial guidance of James R. Quirk.

    As Quirk noted in a March 1931 editorial, “Almost every department and new idea introduced by...

  8. CHAPTER 4 THE STUDIO MOUTHPIECE
    (pp. 73-92)

    “I would read things I didn’t remember anything about,” insisted Paramount leading lady of the 1930s Mary Carlisle. “I never remember sitting down and giving an interview to a fan magazine. Stories were made up for publicity purposes.” Carlisle’s response typifies the memory of most players relative to their fan magazine coverage. And yet, it is difficult to believe, for example, that she did not recall posing for a two-page photo spread on “A Day in the Life of an Extra Girl” for the November 1932 issue ofThe New Movie Magazine.

    In reality, by the late 1920s and the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 THE FAN MAGAZINE AS A LITERARY OUTLET
    (pp. 93-102)

    In January 1912,Motion Picture Story Magazinerevealed the results of a letter-writing competition in which readers were asked to provide their opinions on a variety of film-related subjects. One of the winners, taking fifth prize, was an eleven-year-old schoolboy from Chicago named Edward Wagenknecht, “whose long and carefully prepared letter has exceptional merit.” Wagenknecht went on to become emeritus professor of English at Boston University, a noted literary scholar, and the author of one of the most prominent works on silent film,Movies in the Age of Innocence. (He also coauthored two works with this writer.)

    Edward Wagenknecht was...

  10. CHAPTER 6 NEW WRITERS, NEW PUBLISHERS, NEW HORIZONS
    (pp. 103-121)

    In the formative years of the fan magazines, Eugene Brewster and James R. Quirk were the two dominant publishers. In the 1920s and 1930s, several new publishing outlets arrived on the scene, taking over the earlier publications and introducing ones of their own. If there were any singular factor linking one with another, it was that the primary income of those new publishers was often from comic books.

    Ultem Publications was responsible forStar Comics, Modern Movies, andMovie Life, all of which began in 1937. A year later, the company was acquired by Centaur Comics. Hillman Periodicals was founded...

  11. CHAPTER 7 THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE FAN MAGAZINE
    (pp. 122-143)

    The “golden age” of the fan magazine embraced three decades, the 1920s through the 1940s, an era when Americans acknowledged the motion picture as their primary source of entertainment and when interest from the general public in anything movie-related was at its height. In the 1930s, America was suffering through the Great Depression, film companies were faltering, and Paramount was in receivership, but the fan magazines kept on going.

    In May 1933,The Hollywood Reporternoted a slight slump in fan magazine sales the previous year, aligning it with the inability of both the periodicals and the studios to attract...

  12. CHAPTER 8 GOSSIP, SCANDAL, AND INNUENDO
    (pp. 144-169)

    The fan magazines were not without their gossip columnists, the most notable, most respectful, and most reliable of which was the pseudonymous Cal York inPhotoplay. Generally, the columns were free of innuendo and the type of cheap gossip most associated with the better known practitioners of the craft. Contributors to the Cal York column might chastise those in the film industry, but they were seldom if ever revealing “facts” unknown to readers of the daily newspapers. By the 1950s, Cal York was fighting for space in the pages ofPhotoplaywith several other gossip columnists, including Sidney Skolsky (“That’s...

  13. CHAPTER 9 THE 1950S AND THE INFLUENCE OF TELEVISION
    (pp. 170-183)

    Fan magazines devoted to the motion picture had experienced little competition from similarly audience-oriented radio publications, the earliest of which wereRadio Art(founded in 1923) andRadio Broadcast(founded in 1922 and merged withRadio Digestin 1930). Both ceased publication in 1939. Other prominent radio fan magazines includeRadio Stars(first published 1932),Radio Romances(1945),Radio Album(first published in 1948), andRadio Best(first published in 1947 and laterRadio and Television Best). They were never as numerous or as widely circulated as their film counterparts, but radio fan magazines, particularly those carrying program schedules, did...

  14. CHAPTER 10 THE 1960S
    (pp. 184-206)

    In 1937, Clifton Fadiman made an astute observation: “My guess is that the film mags are selling each year to a lower and lower stratum, speaking purely in intellectual terms, of American society. Eventually the bottom will be reached. Then the magazines will have to alter in an upward direction the straight moron approach to which they have unswervingly held for twenty-five years.”¹

    The “slop,” as Fadiman called it, of the fan magazines continued unabated and relatively unchanged into the 1950s. The circulation curve remained constant. If the fan magazines became less literate—as they did—it was because the...

  15. CHAPTER 11 MS. RONA
    (pp. 207-217)

    “They [the Hollywood producers] were in control, and then there came along a very independent person. Her name was Rona Barrett.”¹ That is the lady herself speaking, and with an autonomous approach to her craft, along with intelligence, a sense of honesty and fair play, comparable to that of James R. Quirk some forty years earlier, she revolutionized not only the fan magazines but the entire coverage of entertainment news. Barrett’s style was not that of Quirk, and certainly the periodicals that carry her name lack the intellectual balance that was so much a part ofPhotoplayin the 1920s...

  16. CHAPTER 12 THE PEOPLE GENERATION
    (pp. 218-225)

    By the 1970s, the fan magazines had long since passed their zenith of influence both within the film industry and among their readership. With an overem-phasis on Jacqueline Kennedy, the fan magazines acknowledged that nobody who was part of the entertainment community had the celebrity of the former First Lady. Audiences wanted to read not about specific people, but about all people—as Rona Barrett had recognized when she tried to persuade Chuck Laufer to publish a magazine titledRona Barrett’s People— and what the fan magazines were serving up was much from the same, tired, old menu. In its...

  17. CHAPTER 13 THE END OF THE LINE AND A NEW BEGINNING
    (pp. 226-232)

    The old-style fan magazines did not so much end as change subject matter. The old fan magazine titles were discarded and new ones created, but the reinvention process had little impact on the approach or the content style. Movies might have been steadily losing their audience, along with the need for fan magazine coverage, but in the 1980s the television soap operas were expanding their viewership—a reported fifty million a day—and their audience was intrigued by any coverage available. Again, as in the entire history of fan magazines, it is the female audience for whom these new magazines...

  18. APPENDIX 1 U.S. FAN MAGAZINES
    (pp. 233-246)
  19. APPENDIX 2 SELECTED U.K. FAN MAGAZINES
    (pp. 247-247)
  20. APPENDIX 3 FAN CLUB JOURNALS
    (pp. 248-249)
  21. NOTES
    (pp. 250-259)
  22. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 260-266)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 267-281)