Movie Crazy pp 35-57 | Cite as

The Cult of Personality

  • Samantha Barbas

Abstract

By the end of the decade following 1910, the prestige, visibility, and influence of movie stars had significantly expanded in American society. No longer confined to the movie theater, stars were everywhere. Their faces adorned advertisements for cosmetics and clothing; their exploits filled newspapers and magazines; their names appeared regularly in everyday conversation. It was almost as if someone had forgotten to stop the film at the end of the show, as if actors had spilled off the movie screen into the realm of everyday life.

Keywords

Depression Transportation Income Assure Smoke 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Motion Picture Story Magazine, January 1912, 117; Richard Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 25–6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Barbara Stones, America Goes to the Movies (North Hollywood: National Association of Theater Owners, 1993), 28.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America (New York: Vintage, 1994), 44–6.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Ad for Pompeian skin cream, Motion Picture, November 1916; Kathryn Fuller, At The Picture Show (Washington: Smithsonian, 1996), 157–8Google Scholar
  5. Eileen Whitfield, Pickford The Woman Who Made Hollywood (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997), 132.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Lary May, Screening Out the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 164.Google Scholar
  7. Roberta Pearson, Eloquent Gestures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 22.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Orison Swett Marden, Pushing to the Front (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1894), 76Google Scholar
  9. Warren Susman, “Personality and the Making of Twentieth Century Culture,” in Culture as History (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 271–85.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    “The Secret of Making People Like You,” Film Fun, December 1919. For other perspectives on the modern self-as-performance (in particular, a performance aimed at pleasing others) see Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Anchor, 1959).Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Imogene Wolcott, Personality as a Business Asset (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1925), 243.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    “What Makes Them Stars?,” Photoplay, November 1923, 48; Joan Cross, “Name Her and Win $1,000,” Movie Weekly May 28, 1925,5. The marriage of personality and acting was not only limited to motion pictures. In the first quarter of the century, the stage was also swept by a craze for personality. Traditionally told to disguise their own qualities by immersing themselves in their roles, actors were now urged to infuse their personal charisma into each of the characters they played. By 1910, the trend had become so widespread that one critic lamented, “It is the personalities we go to see, not the actors and sometimes not the play.” Actress Ethel Barrymore, in particular, deplored the direction the theater had taken. Personality was useful, she explained in 1911, but could never substitute for experience and ability. “Many people on the stage have a great deal of personality but little talent, and they do not go far,” she claimed. Barrymore worked tirelessly to restore talent and training to the art of acting. But even she had to admit that audiences preferred personality to ability. In 1917, Film Fun wrote a scathing review of Barrymore’s first appearance in motion pictures. Why was her performance so dull and unimpressive? “Ethel Barrymore completely lacks screen personality,” the magazine explained. See Ethel Barrymore, “How Can I Be A Great Actress,” Ladies’ Home Journal, March 15, 1911, 6; Benjamin McArthur, Actors and American Culture, 1880–1920 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), ch. 7; Film Fun, April 1917, 32.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    Betty Rosser, “To Mary Pickford, the Recollections of her Number One Fan,” Mary Pickford Collection, AMPAS; Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), 40; “Brickbats and Bouquets,” Photoplay, May 1928, 10; Charles Dolista, “Terrible Consequences,” Movie Weekly, December 10, 1921,27.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Motion Picture, January 1923, 56; Cari Beauchamp, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood (New York: Scribner’s, 1997), 53.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    Richard Schickel, His Picture in the Papers (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), ch. 1–4.Google Scholar
  16. 37.
    “What the Fans Think,” Picture Play, January 1924, 88; Douglas Fairbanks, Youth Points the Way (New York: D. Appleton, 1924), introduction.Google Scholar
  17. 41.
    May, Screening Out, 201–2; Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 6–7.Google Scholar
  18. 44.
    Mark Larkin, “What Is ‘It’?,” Photoplay, June 1929; Alice M. Williamson, Alice in Movieland (New York: D. Appleton, 1928), ch. 4.Google Scholar
  19. 45.
    On changing sexual ethics in the 1920s see Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), ch. 5Google Scholar
  20. Paula S. Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful (New York: Oxford, 1977), ch. 6.Google Scholar
  21. 48.
    Gene Brown, Movie Time (New York: Macmillan, 1995), 99.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Samantha Barbas 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha Barbas

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations