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Stardom in Postwar France

Stardom in Postwar France

John Gaffney
Diana Holmes
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Stardom in Postwar France
    Book Description:

    The 1950s and 1960s were a key moment in the development of postwar France. The period was one of rapid change, derived from post-World War II economic and social modernization; yet many traditional characteristics were retained. By analyzing the eruption of the new postwar world in the context of a France that was both modern and traditional, we can see how these worlds met and interacted, and how they set the scene for the turbulent 1960s and 70s. The examination of the development of mass culture in post-war France, undertaken in this volume, offers a valuable insight into the shifts that took place. By exploring stardom from the domain of cinema and other fields, represented here by famous figures such as Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Hallyday or Jean-Luc Godard, and less conventionally treated areas of enquiry (politics [de Gaulle], literary [Francoise Sagan], and intellectual culture [Levi-Strauss]) the reader is provided with a broad understanding of the mechanisms of popularity and success, and their cultural, social, and political roles. The picture that emerges shows that many cultural articulations remained or became identifiably "French," in spite of the American mass-culture origins of these social, economic, and cultural transformations.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-009-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    John Gaffney and Diana Holmes

    The aim of this book is to examine the concept and the practice of stardom in the France of the 1950s and 1960s,¹ a period of French history that saw dramatic economic, social and cultural change. Our premise is that the ‘stars’ of a given historical period or moment capture their era for us in a range of ways: that the preoccupations, values, conflicts and contradictions of a particular culture, its ‘climate of feeling’, are vividly expressed through its celebrities. Stardom may be read as a symbolic portal into the nature of a culture, stars as that culture’s ultimate expression....

  4. Chapter 1 Stardom in Theory and Context
    (pp. 7-25)
    John Gaffney and Diana Holmes

    A star is a performer on a public stage whose image, produced through the available media, appeals to and fascinates a mass audience. To qualify as a star, the scale of celebrity must be such that the performer’s name and image are familiar not just to those within their specialised field (for example, film enthusiasts, sports fans, intellectuals), but to the general public. For a society to produce stars, and for stars to play an important role in the definition of values and identities, certain conditions are required. Not all human cultures have privileged individualised personality over social function in...

  5. Chapter 2 1950s Popular Culture: Star-Gazing and Myth-Making with Roland Barthes and Edgar Morin
    (pp. 26-39)
    Susan Weiner

    ‘Barthes is back’, announced the 4 December 2002 cover story of LesInrockuptibles,a weekly dedicated to international high and popular culture trends for the would-be plugged-in reader. The occasion was multiple: an exhibition dedicated to this major intellectual at Beaubourg, the revised edition of the complete works, as well as the first-time publication of his Collège de France seminars, also available on CD-ROM (fourteen and twenty-one hours of listening time).¹ Barthes may have been back in France, but for Anglo-Americans, he had never gone away. In academe, Barthes was among the first emissaries of ‘Theory,’ via the English translations...

  6. Chapter 3 ‘A Girl of Today’: Brigitte Bardot
    (pp. 40-66)
    Diana Holmes

    Brigitte Bardot – whose career as a film star ended in 1973 – has never completely ceased to command media attention. In the late 1990s, she was in a Parisian court facing a charge of ‘provoking racial discrimination and hatred’ for articles published in the French right-wing dailyLe Figaro.Writing as an animal rights campaigner, she had objected to Muslim slaughter practices, but in a style that reproduced the nationalist, exclusionary rhetoric of the far-rightFront Nationalwho supported her (Duval Smith 1996). In June 2004, she was back in court to be fined for inciting racial hatred in her best-selling...

  7. Chapter 4 Rock ‘n’ Roll Stardom: Johnny Hallyday
    (pp. 67-93)
    Chris Tinker

    For more than forty years, Johnny Hallyday has remained one of the most prolific, enduring and visible features of popular music and the mass media in France. The sheer volume of his output, record sales and concert attendance is often cited as evidence of his popularity and commercial success: ‘A thousand songs, more than a hundred hits, one hundred million records sold, concert audiences of fifteen million’.¹ What is interesting about his appeal is that it appears to cut across generational and socio-economic divisions, and several of his songs, such as ‘Le Pénitencier’ (The Prison, 1964) and ‘Que je t’aime’...

  8. Chapter 5 Stardom on Wheels: Raymond Poulidor
    (pp. 94-125)
    Philip Dine

    The cycle road-racer Raymond Poulidor was France’s preeminent sports star of the 1960s and early 1970s. Not widely known outside his homeland, either at the height of his career or subsequently, Poulidor was, on the face of it, an unlikely figure for elevation to sporting stardom. At a time when France was beginning to make a significant impact in international sport, many other champions were perceived as distinctly more glamorous than him: from Olympic athletes like Guy Drut and Colette Besson, to dashing skiers and sailors such as Jean-Claude Killy and Eric Tabarly, and even a swimmer turned cover-girl, in...

  9. Chapter 6 The Auteur as Star: Jean-Luc Godard
    (pp. 126-151)
    Alison Smith

    To talk about a film director in the context of stardom clearly has different connotations to discussion of performer-stars such as Hallyday or Bardot. The audience involved is undoubtedly smaller, and its interests undoubtedly different: the ways in which the star image is conveyed may also be expected to be different. The preliminary question of whether it is appropriate to talk about stardom at all in this context therefore needs to be posed, and so the chapter will start by considering the justification for including Jean-Luc Godard in a discussion of stardom through an assessment of the status of the...

  10. Chapter 7 The Intellectual as Celebrity: Claude Lévi-Strauss
    (pp. 152-174)
    Christopher Johnson

    If there is an intellectual in France who has achieved an iconic status at least comparable to that formerly enjoyed by Jean-Paul Sartre, it is Claude Lévi-Strauss. An anthropologist by training, author of works whose technical complexity exclude all but a small group of specialists, everything would seem to confine this figure to the rarefied sphere of academic exchange. And yet Lévi-Strauss’s reputation extends far beyond his own area of specialisation. In France, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, he has assumed the status of the elder of the tribe, a respected sage, a ‘living national treasure’ (Clément 1993:...

  11. Chapter 8 ‘Starlette de la Littérature’: Françoise Sagan
    (pp. 175-198)
    Heather Lloyd

    Françoise Sagan became a major celebrity in 1954 at the age of eighteen, when she won a literary prize, thePrix des Critiques,with her best-selling first novelBonjour tristesse.No discussion of celebrity in postwar France would be complete without reference to her, for a number of reasons. Firstly, coming to fame when she did, Sagan was a very early arrival in the postwar firmament of stars, predating Bardot and Hallyday, for example. Secondly, she was truly an icon, in that she was extensively photographed and her image was widely diffused in what, practically speaking, was a pretelevisual age.¹...

  12. Chapter 9 The only Act in Town: Charles de Gaulle
    (pp. 199-218)
    John Gaffney

    It may seem odd to compare the cultural phenomenon of stardom with politics, and probe the extent to which stardom and a star system might exist here too. In approaching French politics in this way, however, we can shed light on its very singular nature, its preoccupation with the personalisation of leadership, and on how de Gaulle – the biggest star since Napoleon – influenced French politics. In one sense, as regards our study of the 1950s and 1960s, de Gaulle was the biggest star of them all: in 1958, he returned to public life after twelve years in obscurity; was hailed...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-222)
    John Gaffney and Diana Holmes

    For France, the quarter-century between the end of World War II and the early 1970s was a period of extremely rapid social change – economic, political and demographic – which informed the lived experience of millions of individuals. These years were characterised particularly by the strong pull of a new modernity, in difficult and often acute tension with the past. The new emerged, but strongly informed by the old, as well as by the progressive and oppressive possibilities of a new, fast-moving, consumerised culture that expanded in the context of a remarkable and sustained economic boom. In this fertile period of French...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-233)
  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 234-235)
  16. Index
    (pp. 236-240)