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Go West, Young Women!

Go West, Young Women!: The Rise of Early Hollywood

Hilary A. Hallett
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Go West, Young Women!
    Book Description:

    In the early part of the twentieth century, migrants made their way from rural homes to cities in record numbers and many traveled west. Los Angeles became a destination. Women flocked to the growing town to join the film industry as workers and spectators, creating a "New Woman." Their efforts transformed filmmaking from a marginal business to a cosmopolitan, glamorous, and bohemian one. By 1920, Los Angeles had become the only western city where women outnumbered men. InGo West, Young Women, Hilary A. Hallett explores these relatively unknown new western women and their role in the development of Los Angeles and the nascent film industry. From Mary Pickford's rise to become perhaps the most powerful woman of her age, to the racist moral panics of the post-World War I years that culminated in Hollywood's first sex scandal, Hallett describes how the path through early Hollywood presaged the struggles over modern gender roles that animated the century to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95368-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)

    • PROLOGUE I. Landscapes
      (pp. 3-25)

      By 1920, city and country were all mixed up. Between the “War to Liberate Cuba” and the “War to Make the World Safe for Democracy,” migrants made their way from rural homes in record numbers. The process was a familiar one, dating back to before the Civil War. What was different about these migrations was the velocity of the movement, the volume of those on the move, and the destinations to which their ambitions drove them. Generally westward migrants continued as before, but few now went in search of a homestead on some sketchily mapped piece of the country. Hopes...

    • CHAPTER 1 “Oh for a girl who could ride a horse like Pearl White”: The Actress Democratizes Fame
      (pp. 26-68)

      Mary Pickford, the silent film era’s single greatest star, published her autobiography,Sunshine and Shadow(1954), decades after the motion picture industry made her face “better known than the President of the United States.”¹ Black-and-white images layer the book, and, with the skillful shorthand so necessary to celebrity, Pickford used the first photo-essay to sketch how her childhood foretold future renown. After opening with a full-page portrait of her pretty, resolute-looking mother, Charlotte Hennessy, the next photographs suggest what tested that resolve. A small cameo of her faraway-eyed, dandified father, John Smith, floats above a snapshot of the simple brick...

    • CHAPTER 2 Women-Made Women: Writing the “Movies” before Hollywood
      (pp. 69-100)

      Prominent stories about Mary Pickford and Pearl White in magazines like theLadies’ Home JournalandPhotoplayaugured the rise of the type of journalism that the star system shaped and spread: celebrity reporting as mainstream news. Advertising “movie” personalities—the nickname that stuck despite many insiders’ preference for the higher-toned “photoplay” and “motion picture”—quickly became essential to the industry’s profits. Carl Laemmle and Adolph Zukor won the gamble that audiences would pay more to get closer to favorites, teaching a lesson that became an early axiom of movie production: stars best forecast box office success. Thus, women’s preeminence...


    • PROLOGUE II. The Postwar Revolution in Morals and Manners, Redux
      (pp. 103-109)

      The first part ofGo West, Young Women!maps the currents that converged in Hollywood, California during the First World War. There, the industry’s women-made women helped to power the film industry’s explosive growth by attracting the multi-ethnic, cross-class audience of women fans who so buoyed the industry’s expectations by the war’s end in 1918. The book’s second part, “Melodramas of Hollywood’s Birth,” plunges readers into the tumultuous postwar scene that shaped Hollywood’s crystallization as symbol in the City of Angels. To capture what this development meant to different audiences at the time, the next three chapters re-create distinct, if...

    • CHAPTER 3 Hollywood Bohemia
      (pp. 110-153)

      One of the first films imported from Germany following the Treaty of Versailles displayed how the “Orientalized” glamour of European artists licensed the startling shift in gender roles that many of early Hollywood’s biggest stars and films flaunted after the war.¹ Packing movie houses and drawing critical hosannas throughout the year,Passion(1921) starred Pola Negri, a raven-haired Polish actress who rose to fame working with the film’s Jewish director, Ernst Lubitsch, in his native Berlin.² The fanfare surrounding the film’s release in the United States centered on Negri’s role as the sexually sophisticated heroine Madame Jeanne du Barry, the...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Movie Menace
      (pp. 154-179)

      In February of 1921, independent film producer Benjamin Hampton wrote an article purporting to explain the movie industry’s descent into sexual immorality after the war. Hampton’s “Too Much Sex-Stuff in the Movies? Whose Fault Is It?” appeared inPictorial Review,a fiction, news, and fashion magazine with a progressive slant aimed at middle-class women. According to theLos Angeles Times,the article sparked “a hot war” in the “SEX WAR ON IN FILMS.”¹ The man who later voiced concern over the “ ‘Bohemian’ bacillus” infecting female migrants in Los Angeles argued that American women were responsible for the industry’s postwar...

    • CHAPTER 5 A Star Is Born: Rereading the “Fatty” Arbuckle Scandal
      (pp. 180-212)

      Years before the press used bohemian extra-girls and perverse movie producers to capture the appealing threat the industry posed, theChicago Americanseized on another unconventional working girl to advertise the windy city’s charms. “CHICAGO BEST CITY FOR GIRLS,” announced a headline in 1913, the same year Louella Parsons moved to the city on her own. A piece of shameless civic boosterism, the article interviewed a young model named Virginia Rappe to celebrate the unparalleled opportunities Chicago offered women. A large picture of “The Lonely Girl” sat beside the article. Its caption read “Be Original, Girls, and Grow Rich.” “They...

    • CONCLUSION: The Girl from Hollywood
      (pp. 213-220)

      Just days before Rappe’s death, an interview with Roscoe Arbuckle appeared inPhotoplaythat suggested the mounting ambivalence confronting Hollywood’s girls. Adela Rodgers St. Johns, writing in her best “mother confessor” style, solicited Arbuckle’s opinion about modern women. “Are you afraid of women?” St. Johns inquired. “You bet I am,” he replied. “You just bet I am. So is everybody else that wears pants on the outside in this land of the free and home of the brave. Women are the free and we are the brave. The 19th Amendment is only the hors d’oeuvre to the amendments they will...

  6. Filmography
    (pp. 221-224)
  7. Notes
    (pp. 225-300)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 301-302)
  9. Index
    (pp. 303-314)