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“As Told By Helen Ferguson”: Hollywood Publicity, Gender, and the Public Sphere

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Abstract

In December 1949, publicist Helen Ferguson sent off a number of angry letters and phone calls to the Hollywood Press Photographers Association, the editor of Modern Screen magazine, and the Publicity Directors Committee of the Association of Motion Picture Producers (AMPP). Ferguson’s complaints concerned photos illustrating a Modern Screen article on a “hobo-themed” party Ferguson had arranged to publicize her young film actor clients Lon McCallister, Robert Stack, Diana Lynn, Donald O’Connor, Nancy Olsen, Ruth Roman, and John Barrymore, Jr. One photo, which Ferguson found was already in the article layout for the February 1950 issue hitting newsstands in a matter of days, depicted McCallister and Olsen pulling the jacket and shirt of Robert Stack in an attempt to make him stay. The caption reads, “Lon [McCallister] doesn’t want his guests to go. ‘I hate to tear myself away,’ says Bob Stack—as Nancy [Olsen] helps him tear.” A livid Ferguson told Arch Reeve, secretary to the AMPP studio Publicity Directors Committee, that she knew at the time the photo was taken that it would give “the whole layout a bad implication” and would necessitate the exercising of her “kill rights,” which she thought had been honored by the magazine before final layout.

Keywords

Public Relation Public Sphere Motion Picture Private Life Civic Virtue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
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  22. 26.
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  28. 31.
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© Kathleen A. Feeley and Jennifer Frost 2014

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