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Beyond the Looking Glass

Beyond the Looking Glass: Narcissism and Female Stardom in Studio-Era Hollywood

Ana Salzberg
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Looking Glass
    Book Description:

    As living subjects rather than static icons, studio-era Hollywood actresses actively negotiated a balance between their public personas, film roles, and corporeal presence. The contemporary audience's engagement with the experience of these actresses unsettles the traditional model of narcissistic identification, which divides the off-screen spectator from his/her on-screen ideal. Exploring the fan's desire for a material connection to the performer - as well as the star's own dialogue between embodied experience and idealized image -Beyond the Looking Glasstraces on- and off-screen representations of narcissistic femininity in classical Hollywood through studies of stars like Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, and Marilyn Monroe. Merging historical and theoretical concerns, with particular attention to the resonance of golden-age Hollywood in new media, this book explores the movie screen as a medium of shared experience between spectator and star.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-400-7
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION. The Narcissistic Woman: Reflections and Projections
    (pp. 1-15)

    In October 1999, celebrities and fans alike gathered at Christie’s auction house in Manhattan to take part in a sensational cultural event: the auction of Marilyn Monroe’s personal possessions. As viewers watched coverage of the auction broadcast live on American Movie Classics (AMC), bidders around the world spent a total of $5,030,000 on items ranging from the legendary—the dress in which Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy and her wedding ring from Joe DiMaggio—to the quotidian, including her furniture, shoes, and make-up. Curator Nancy Valentino described the offerings as “a capsule of an American life”...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Garbo Talks: Expectation and Realization
    (pp. 16-34)

    In 1933, at the height of her career, Greta Garbo starred in Rouben Mamoulian’sQueen Christina. Near the end of the film, just before the troubled queen abdicates her throne for love, Christina/Garbo declares, “All my life, I have been a symbol. A symbol is eternal, changeless, an abstraction. A human being is mortal and changeable, with desires and impulses, hopes and despairs. I’m tired of being a symbol…. I long to be a human being.” Beyond their diegetic significance, these words capture a conflict between the earthly and ethereal that has shaped the legend of Garbo herself—from the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Katharine Hepburn and a Hollywood Story
    (pp. 35-54)

    In 1932, the same year that Garbo starred inGrand Hotel,RKO Radio Pictures releasedA Bill of Divorcement. Directed by George Cukor, and also featuring Garbo costar John Barrymore, the drama introduced audiences to Katharine Hepburn—a young actress who attracted immediate critical and popular acclaim. In 1933 she would go on to win an Academy Award (the first of a recordsetting four) for her performance inMorning Glory(Lowell Sherman), only her third film. In March of that year,Motion Picturemagazine put Hepburn on its cover to herald “A New Kind of Star!” In a brief summing...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Vanishing Differences in Mildred Pierce (1945) and Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
    (pp. 55-78)

    In his biography of Hepburn, William J. Mann remarks that her independent, spirited persona matched perfectly the patriotic vitality of World War II–era Hollywood. WithWoman of the Yearreleased just after the United States entered the war, Tess/Hepburn stood for what Mann calls the “can-do nature” of the women left behind on the home front. Indeed, as Mann relates, Hepburn even narrated the short 1941 documentaryWomen in Defense,produced by the Office of Emergency Management to encourage women’s participation in the war effort (2006: 304). To take the point further, it could be argued that Tess’s narrative...

  9. CHAPTER 4 One Touch of Venus: Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and the Production Code
    (pp. 79-102)

    For all of the on-screen intrigue ofMildred PierceandLeave Her to Heaven,still another Hollywood drama was taking place behind the scenes, and indeed throughout the 1940s: the conflict between censorship and sensuality. This drama had, of course, been playing out for years. In 1930, in response to public dismay over the lack of morality in films, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America—headed by Will Hays—adopted the official Production Code, a document composed by a Jesuit priest and Catholic publisher (Doherty 1999: 2). Though the Code insisted that the “sympathy of the audience shall...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “Wherever There’s Magic”: Performance Time in Sunset Boulevard (1950) and All About Eve (1950)
    (pp. 103-125)

    In 1951, anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker set forth the unique coordinates of the film colony: “Hollywood itself is not an exact geographical area, although there is such a postal district. It has commonly been described as a state of mind, and it exists wherever people connected with the movies live and work. The studios are scattered over wide distances in Los Angeles…. They combine a bungalow and factory in their appearance, and many give the feeling of being temporary” (1951: 18). The Hollywood of Powdermaker’s description, then, resists conventions of space and time—or, perhaps, establishes its own. Its boundaries are...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Marilyn Monroe: “The Last Glimmering of the Sacred”
    (pp. 126-150)

    For all its luster, the closing image of Phoebe inAll About Eveis not the first in the film to convey such luminosity. Indeed, its antecedent appears not through a particular trick of lighting, but in the figure of then-starlet Marilyn Monroe. Cast as Miss Caswell, a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art, Monroe plays the anti-Eve: a glamour girl of style without substance. Monroe appears in only two scenes, the most notable of which is the party sequence. Drifting through Margo’s soirée in a silver gown (presaging Phoebe’s own borrowed robes), Miss Caswell/Monroe is blonde and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Neo-Screen Tests, Part One: Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor
    (pp. 151-171)

    In an interview taking place during the making ofThe Misfits,Clift commented on the responsibility of the performer to expand the parameters of cinema, moving from the mere reflection of experience to an exploration of its possibilities: “The only line I know of that’s wrong in Shakespeare is ‘Holding a mirror up to nature.’ You hold the magnifying glass up to nature. As an actor you just enlarge it enough so that your audience can identify with the situation. If it were a mirror we would have no art” (in Goode 1986 [1963]: 95). Here, Clift proposes an exchange...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Neo-Screen Tests, Part Two: The Search for Scarlett Continues
    (pp. 172-178)

    Where Lohan’s compulsive pursuit of associations with classical stars speaks to the instability of her own public identity, Kidman’s performance as Kelly may be regarded as part of a broader trajectory toward iconicity—one that has, however, attracted less-than-enthusiastic commentary. In 2004, after costarring with Kidman in the dramaBirth(Jonathan Glazer), Lauren Bacall protested when an interviewer described the former as a legend: “She’s not a legend. She’s a beginner. What is this ‘legend’? She can’t be a legend at whatever age she is.” Kidman hastened to insist that she was “thrilled that [Bacall] dismissed the legend stuff. To...

  14. Filmography
    (pp. 179-182)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-197)