Movie Crazy pp 59-83 | Cite as

The Chance of a Lifetime

  • Samantha Barbas

Abstract

In 1916, WRITER Anna Steese Richardson of McClure’s magazine wrote of a dreaded disease that was rapidly spreading across the nation. It was not a plague or a flu, but something infinitely more dangerous. It was called filmitis, and it attacked the brain; it transformed level-headed young men and women into crazed, star-struck movie maniacs. “The germs of infection lurk in every moving picture theater,” she explained. “The first symptom is a vague sensation in the region of the Ego. The patient murmurs: ‘I could do it just as well.’ The second symptom is pronounced unrest in the lobe of the brain occupied by self-esteem. The patient begins to argue that in suppressing his natural comedy or dramatic talents, he is doing the Great American Public a grave injustice. The third and most dangerous symptom,” Richardson continued, “is a sharp pain generally in the palm of the hand or directly under the pocket in which the patient carries his purse.” Under the spell of the movie bug, the “patient” becomes so delirious that he is willing to spend his last dollar to go to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. “Filmitis counts its victims by the millions,” she concluded. “If you do not believe this, ask any moving picture producer or director.”1

Keywords

Nickel Income Assure Defend Abate 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    “Dress and the Picture,” Moving Picture World, July 9, 1910, 73; Barton Currie, “Nickel Madness,” Harper’s Weekly, August 24, 1907, 1246; “Nickel Theaters Crime Breeders,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1907, 3. In 1920, the New York Times reported that 60 percent of film audiences were women; in 1927, Moving Picture World claimed that 83 percent of viewers were female—see Richard Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 30.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    “What It Means to Be Movie Struck,” Film Fun, February 1919, 26. During the 1920s, a quarter of employed women worked in factories and nearly 40 percent in clerical, managerial, sales, and professional positions. Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 130.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Lux Graphicus, “On the Screen,” Moving Picture World, March 19, 1910, 420; Patrick Donald Anderson, In Its Own Image The Cinematic Vision of Hollywood (New York: Arno, 1978), 79–80.Google Scholar
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    Richard Griffith, ed., The Talkies (New York: Dover, 1971), xvi.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Moving Picture World, October 1913, quoted in Kathryn Fuller, At the Picture Show (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1996), 126.Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Lawrence Quirk, “Quirk of Photoplay,” Films in Review, March 1955, 97–107. From 1890 to 1930, the number of women in the workforce rose from 19 to 25 percent. The greatest rise occurred among married women: the proportion of married women in the workforce doubled between 1900 and 1930, increasing at six times the rate of unmarried women. Lary May, Screening Out the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 201; Cott, Modern Feminism, 129.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Elizabeth Peltret, “Frances Marion, Soldieress of Fortune,” Photoplay, November 1917, 31–3; Cari Beauchamp, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood (New York: Scribner’s, 1997).Google Scholar
  8. 26.
    Irving Shulman, Harlow (New York: Dell, 1964), 72.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Marilyn Conners, What Chance Have I in Hollywood? (Hollywood: Famous Authors, 1924), 11.Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    “Studio Club Founded for Benefit of Girls in Picture Studios,” Hollywood Citizen, December 29, 1916, 1; “$150,000 Studio Club Planned,” December 19, 1922; Elizabeth McGaffey “The Studio Club,” Photoplay, September 1917, 83–8; Laurance L. Hill and Silas E. Snyder, Can Anything Good Come Out of Hollywood? (Hollywood: Snyder Publications, 1923), 2–3.Google Scholar
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    Rudy Behlmer, Hollywood’s Hollywood (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1974), 104; Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to Agnes O’Malley May 28, 1927, Box 71, Folder 1150, Mack Sennett Collection, AMPAS.Google Scholar
  12. 43.
    Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), 31–2; “Brickbats and Bouquets,” Photoplay, October 1931, 6. For a study of the way that female fans in the 1940s and 1950s selectively incorporated stars’ styles into their own identitiesGoogle Scholar
  13. Jackie Stacey Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship (New York: Routledge, 1994).Google Scholar

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© Samantha Barbas 2001

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  • Samantha Barbas

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