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Flickers of Desire

Movie Stars of the 1910s

Edited and with an introduction by Jennifer M. Bean

Publication Year: 2011

Today, we are so accustomed to consuming the amplified lives of film stars that the origins of the phenomenon may seem inevitable in retrospect. But the conjunction of the terms "movie" and "star" was inconceivable prior to the 1910s. Flickers of Desire explores the emergence of this mass cultural phenomenon, asking how and why a cinema that did not even run screen credits developed so quickly into a venue in which performers became the American film industry's most lucrative mode of product individuation. Contributors chart the rise of American cinema's first galaxy of stars through a variety of archival sources--newspaper columns, popular journals, fan magazines, cartoons, dolls, postcards, scrapbooks, personal letters, limericks, and dances. The iconic status of Charlie Chaplin's little tramp, Mary Pickford's golden curls, Pearl White's daring stunts, or Sessue Hayakawa's expressionless mask reflect the wild diversity of a public's desired ideals, while Theda Bara's seductive turn as the embodiment of feminine evil, George Beban's performance as a sympathetic Italian immigrant, or G. M. Anderson's creation of the heroic cowboy/outlaw character transformed the fantasies that shaped American filmmaking and its vital role in society.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Star Decades: American Culture/American

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pp. ix-x

No book is written on a tabula rasa, and no author is alone with her obsessions. This feeling of community is particularly acute when one shares the company of contributors such as these, each of whom I thank . . .

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Introduction: Stardom in the 1910s

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pp. 1-21

There are a number of ways one might go about discussing the origins of American film stardom and the inestimable impact of stars on the growth of a domestic industry through the . . .

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Chapter 1 G. M. Anderson: “Broncho Billy” among the Early “Picture Personalities”

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pp. 22-42

Among the “picture personalities” who increasingly assumed a crucial role in promoting motion pictures between 1910 and 1912, G. M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson certainly was one of the . . .

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Chapter 2 Mary Pickford: Icon of Stardom

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pp. 43-68

“Dawn, over a daisy-filled meadow: the spirit of spring imprisoned in woman’s body: the first child in the world” (Photoplay, July 1918, 111). Thus, with Mary Pickford emerged the . . .

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Chapter 3 Lillian Gish: Clean, and White, and Pure as the Lily

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pp. 69-90

n the summer of 1912, eighteen-year-old Lillian Gish wrote to her friend, Nell Becker: “We are going . . . to New York in a few weeks as mother has rooms engaged. I don’t know what we are going . . .

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Chapter 4 Sessue Hayakawa: The Mirror, the Racialized Body, and Photogénie

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pp. 91-112

Many popular audiences of cinema remember Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa (1886–1973) for his Oscar-nominated role as a frowning Japanese military officer in . . .

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Chapter 5 Theda Bara: Orientalism, Sexual Anarchy, and the Jewish Star

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pp. 113-136

In referring to unmarried females in the period of transition to twentieth-century modernity, Elaine Showalter says: “Sexual anarchy began with the odd woman” . . .

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Chapter 6 Geraldine Farrar: A Star from Another Medium

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pp. 137-154

Despite the brevity of her screen career, the experiences of soprano Geraldine Farrar (1882–1967) in Hollywood and Fort Lee, New Jersey, define many of the most significant trends in stardom of . . .

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Chapter 7 George Beban: Character of the Picturesque

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pp. 155-173

George Beban was arguably the only Anglo American film star of his time never to have played the role of an Anglo American character. Beginning in 1915, his feature-length cinematic . . .

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Chapter 8 Pearl White and Grace Cunard: The Serial Queen’s Volatile Present

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pp. 174-195

After her 1914 appearance in The Perils of Pauline, Pearl White’s tremendous celebrity established her as the definitive serial queen. There were numerous other examples of the type, but none so widely . . .

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Chapter 9 Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle: Comedy’s Starring Scapegoat

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pp. 196-217

During the period of his greatest popularity in the mid- to late 1910s, few stardoms could have seemed more obvious, less in need of interpretation, than that of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, whose . . .

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Chapter 10 Douglas Fairbanks: Icon of Americanism

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pp. 218-241

The rise of Douglas Fairbanks (1883–1939) in the late 1910s was nothing short of spectacular. In a variety of films for Triangle, Artcraft, and United Artists, Fairbanks played cheery, athletic young men . . .

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Chapter 11 Charles Chaplin: The Object Life of Mass Culture

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pp. 242-263

If the state of being “known” determines the scale of stardom, then Charles Chaplin’s superlative status emerged early. In 1916, a mere two years after his first appearance before the Keystone camera, . . .

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In the Wings

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pp. 264-268

Even a cursory glance at the shifting constellation of stars in the decade to come means grappling with the historical formation of a place we now call “Hollywood.” It bears mention that the initial glimmers . . .

Works Cited

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pp. 269-278


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pp. 279-281


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pp. 283-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550725
E-ISBN-10: 0813550726
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813550145

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 48
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Star Decades: American Culture/American