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Glamour in a Golden Age

Glamour in a Golden Age: Movie Stars of the 1930s

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Glamour in a Golden Age
    Book Description:

    Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, and Gary Cooper-Glamour in a Golden Agepresents original essays from eminent film scholars that analyze movie stars of the 1930s against the background of contemporary American cultural history.Stardom is approached as an effect of, and influence on, the particular historical and industrial contexts that enabled these actors and actresses to be discovered, featured in films, publicized, and to become recognized and admired-sometimes even notorious-parts of the cultural landscape. Using archival and popular material, including fan and mass market magazines, other promotional and publicity material, and of course films themselves, contributors also discuss other artists who were incredibly popular at the time, among them Ann Harding, Ruth Chatterton, Nancy Carroll, Kay Francis, and Constance Bennett.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5233-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Stardom in the 1930s
    (pp. 1-17)

    I am hardly the first to call the 1930s a golden age for Hollywood (see Schatz,Genius of the Systempart 3), nor am I alone in wanting to characterize the decade, despite its glow, as one marked conspicuously by opposition and change. Robert Sklar, for example, divides the era into a “golden Age of Turbulence” (1930–1934) and a “golden age of order” (1935–1941) (Movie-Made America); others name the parts differently, although the dates stay roughly the same: a “grim thirties” and a “New Deal” (Griffith and Mayer), or simply “part one” and “part two” (Bergman). Some acknowledge...

  5. 1 Not of Hollywood: Ruth Chatterton, Ann Harding, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, and Nancy Carroll
    (pp. 18-43)

    The careers of Ruth Chatterton, Ann Harding, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, and Nancy Carroll, all cast and promoted as major stars between 1929 and 1937, have heretofore largely escaped sensationalized mythologizing as well as scholarly scrutiny. They were frequently mentioned in or featured as the subjects of major fan magazine stories, their physical assets and manner—from the chic slimness of the golden-haired, smartly attired Constance Bennett to the womanly curves of the maturely confident Ruth Chatterton and the girlish round face of the red-headed Carroll—assessed in relation to emerging styles in fashion and look. Tall, dark Kay Francis’s...

  6. 2 Shirley Temple: Making Dreams Come True
    (pp. 44-65)

    Just six months after her brief appearance in Fox’sStand Up and Cheer, Varietydeclared Shirley Temple to be the “one box office sensation of 1934, the tot . . . who jumped to stardom and became a potent screen factor over night” (1 January 1935, 1, 36). Six-year-old Shirley (whom Fox claimed was only five), forty-three inches tall and weighing forty-three pounds too, pulled in such huge returns at the Depression stricken box office in 1934 and early 1935—in loan-out appearances in Paramount’sLittle Miss MarkerandNow and Forever,in Fox’sBaby Take a Bow, Bright Eyes,...

  7. 3 Gary Cooper: Rugged Elegance
    (pp. 66-83)

    Gary Cooper—born Frank James Cooper to English parents in 1901 in Helena, Montana—first worked in Hollywood as an extra in 1925, but leapt to the attention of critics and the public through a small but heroic role as a doomed young engineer in director Henry King’sThe Winning of Barbara Worth(1926). Under contract to Paramount in the late 1920s, Cooper was often cast in leading roles as a dashing flyer or romantic cowboy (his first starring role was as “The Cowboy” inArizona Bound[1927]). One of the first major fan magazine articles on Cooper effectively summarized...

  8. 4 Bette Davis: Worker and Queen
    (pp. 84-107)

    In December 1930, Bette Davis and her mother boarded a train in New York for Los Angeles. The trip was undertaken because Davis, who had recently debuted on Broadway, had been offered a contract with Universal Pictures. In fact, Universal was not the first studio to show an interest in her work. Earlier, Samuel Goldwyn had sent someone to New York to conduct a screen test with her, but nothing came of it and she assumed that she had not photographed well. When Davis later appeared in the playSolid South,a talent scout for Universal approached her to do...

  9. 5 Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo: The Sexy Hausfrau versus the Swedish Sphinx
    (pp. 108-128)

    The cover of the 1932 April Fool’s issue of a German magazine,Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung,featured Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo as conjoined twins appearing in a hypothetical film titledThe Tragedy of Love(Weiss,Vampires and Violets41). The practice of twinning these stars continues to the present day, particularly among their queer fans. It is a rare article or book on Dietrich that doesn’t mention Garbo at least once, and for sound historical reasons, as it turns out. Joseph Garncarz’s essay “Playing Garbo: How Marlene Dietrich Conquered Hollywood” contends that Dietrich was not, as legend has it, made...

  10. 6 Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford: Rivals at the Glamour Factory
    (pp. 129-152)

    Two of the signature glamour icons of the Great Depression, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, have much in common. Both endured a period of struggle in their youth, possessed incredible drive and ambition, and reached stardom during the silent 1920s, only to achieve greater fame in the 1930s while many Jazz Age stars faded away. Neither had theatrical training, but both became Oscar-winning actresses. Both were contracted to MGM when they became stars, and each stayed there for about eighteen years, Shearer until her 1942 retirement and Crawford until she left for new opportunities at Warner Bros. in 1943. Both...

  11. 7 Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland: Romancing through History
    (pp. 153-173)

    In 1935, upon learning that rival studio MGM planned to film a version of the maritime dramaMutiny on the Bountystarring Clark Gable, Warner Bros. decided to put one of their own sea-adventure properties, Rafael Sabatini’sCaptain Blood,up on the screen. Negotiations began with British actor Robert Donat, who had starred in the 1934 version of Alexandre Dumas’sThe Count of Monte Cristo.The success of this film, along with that of the same year’sThe Scarlet PimpernelandTreasure Island,had sparked Hollywood’s interest in the genre of the swashbuckling historical adventure, basically dormant since the coming...

  12. 8 Jean Harlow: Tragic Blonde
    (pp. 174-195)

    Jean Harlow’s life commands attention because of its intensity, complexity, and brief duration. Born in 1911, she died at the age of twenty-six of uremic poisoning. Before she was twenty she had already been married and separated from her first husband, with whom she eloped when she was sixteen. She married again at the age of twenty-one, only to be widowed three months later when her husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, committed suicide under circumstances that still inspire speculation. Her third marriage, to cameraman Hal Rosson, lasted less than six months before they separated in 1934. A national sex symbol...

  13. 9 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Modernizing Class
    (pp. 196-219)

    The screen partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was, with one exception, entirely limited to films of the 1930s, after which both actors had prolific and successful individual careers lasting many decades—and yet the star image of each has remained strongly informed by association with the other. This is in some sense understandable, in that it was their initial coupling in 1933 that gave birth to the high visibility and success of their film careers, with the pair,asa pair, being ranked among the top ten moneymaking stars in a wide survey of theater exhibitors (the Quigley...

  14. 10 Myrna Loy and William Powell: The Perfect Screen Couple
    (pp. 220-244)

    During the 1930s, Myrna Loy and William Powell co-starred in eight films, including the first three entries in the Thin Man series (The Thin Man[1934],After the Thin Man[1936], andAnother Thin Man[1939]) as well asManhattan Melodrama(1934),Evelyn Prentice(1934),The Great Ziegfeld(1936),Libeled Lady(1936), andDouble Wedding(1937). From 1940 to 1947, Loy and Powell were paired five more times, three of them in Thin Man films. These thirteen collaborations over as many years make Loy and Powell the most prolific romantic screen couple in Hollywood history.¹ There would have been even...

  15. 11 Clark Gable: The King of Hollywood
    (pp. 245-266)

    Clark Gable, a struggling stage actor just divorced from an acting coach some fifteen years his senior, signed a two-year contract with MGM in December 1930 and, before the ink on his signature was dry, was sent to the studio’s publicity department. There, he related his biographical information—everything from previous jobs in oil fields and selling tires to personal aspirations—and the department went to work on crafting the Gable image. Using selective parts of his actual life history meshed together with fabrications that MGM’s publicity team felt would resonate with 1930s audiences, the publicity department designed a persona...

  16. In the Wings
    (pp. 267-272)

    The final year of the 1930s has acquired a reputation as perhaps classical Hollywood’s greatest, producing a large number of films recognized now as among the best the studio system ever created. Some of these films have been discussed already, but even a partial listing, in no particular order, still astonishes: besidesGone with the WindandThe Wizard of Oz(the two most popular films of the year), there wereWuthering Heights,with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon;Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,with James Stewart and Jean Arthur; Garbo laughing inNinotchka; The Hunchback of Notre Dame,with...

    (pp. 273-280)
    (pp. 281-284)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 285-297)