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Acting for America

Movie Stars of the 1980s

Edited and with an introduction by Robert Eberwein

Publication Year: 2010

Acting for America focuses on the way film icons have engaged in and defined some major issues of cultural and social concern to America during the 1980s. Scholars employing a variety of useful approaches explore how these movie stars' films speak to an increased audience awareness of advances in feminism, new ideas about masculinity, and the complex political atmosphere in the Age of Reagan. The essays demonstrate the range of these stars' contributions to such conversations in a variety of films, including blockbusters and major genres.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page/Copyright/Dedication

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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix

I want to thank all the contributors for their illuminating essays, rapid responses to questions, and cheerful cooperation. The series editors Adrienne McLean and Murray Pomerance have offered timely and helpful guidance on all matters. It has been a privilege to have another ...

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Introduction: Stardom in the 1980s

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pp. 1-18

Rarely do we perceive the significance of everything that’s happening as we live through a given historical moment. While I was aware of major historical events and trends that are mentioned in these pages, it would be misleading to say that I entirely “got” the decade of the 1980s as ...

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Robert De Niro: Star as Actor Auteur

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pp. 19-35

By the time he received the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Raging Bull (1980), Robert De Niro’s critical reputation was firmly in place. He had already been nominated twice, in 1976 for Taxi Driver and in 1978 for The Deer Hunter, and had won as Best Supporting ...

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Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger: Androgynous Macho Men

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pp. 36-56

The 1980s witnessed a profound shift in the nature of idealized masculinity and stardom, exemplified by the rise of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as superstars. The bodies and films of these actors represent the super-sizing of muscles and publicity, and the two ...

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Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek: Country Girls

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pp. 57-76

Scholarship on 1980s cinema regularly considers Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek in the same breath (Prince, Pot of Gold 177; Palmer 273). Molly Haskell consistently puts the two side by side, characterizing them (with Sally Field) as “country women who wear spunk the way ...

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Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise: Rebellion and Conformity

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pp. 77-98

Top Gun (1986) and the first installment of the popular Lethal Weapon series (1987) successfully secured and sustained the marquee value of Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson, emerging superstars whose celebrity has persisted across several decades to the present. Both films are classic representatives ...

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Michael J. Fox and the Brat Pack: Contrasting Identities

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pp. 99-119

Construction of these actors’ identities occurred in a somewhat different manner than that seen with the others discussed in this volume. Having had varying levels of success earlier in the decade, the actors to be examined here all achieved major stardom in the summer of 1985. ...

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Eddie Murphy: The Rise and Fall of the Golden Child

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pp. 120-138

The first twenty-four minutes of 48 Hrs. are entirely consistent with the other films that Walter Hill had directed. It opens with the villain, Albert Ganz (James Remar), staging a bloody escape from a prison road gang, complete with the over-Foleyed sounds of gunshots. Cut to Jack ...

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Sigourney Weaver: Woman Warrior, Working Girl

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pp. 139-159

For Sigourney Weaver, the 1980s were golden. Heartthrobs like Mel Gibson, William Hurt, Michael Caine, and Harrison Ford partnered her onscreen. She worked with top Hollywood directors, among them Ridley Scott, Mike Nichols, and Ivan Reitman. She earned three Academy ...

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Harrison Ford: A Well-Tempered Machismo

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pp. 160-179

Harrison Ford today remains a top Hollywood star of exceptional longevity, yet the 1980s are arguably the decade with which his star image is most strongly bound up, the era of some of his greatest industry successes. While the actor’s image early in the 1980s was in many ways that ...

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Sally Field and Goldie Hawn: Feminism, Post-feminism, and Cactus Flower Politics

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pp. 180-200

Sally Field made celebrity history during her 1985 speech at the Oscars ceremony. Accepting her second Best Actress Academy Award, for Places in the Heart (1984), she declared, “And I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it. But this time I ...

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Meryl Streep: Feminism and Femininity in the Era of Backlash

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pp. 201-222

In a December 1988 cover story in Ms., film critic Molly Haskell remarked that Meryl Streep “made a fetish out of not giving the public what it wants and expects from a star” (“Meryl Streep: Hiding in the Spotlight,” 68). This assessment suggests the specifically feminist stakes of ...

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Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis: Enforcers Left and Right

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pp. 223-242

By the end of the 1980s, Clint Eastwood’s career as a Hollywood star appeared to be in sharp decline. After Die Hard (1988), Bruce Willis was widely regarded as his most viable replacement, an action-movie star for the new generation. A comparison of the two throws into relief some of the ...

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Steve Martin and John Candy: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

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pp. 243-262

There is a scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) when Neal Page, the snobby, uptight businessman played by Steve Martin, attempts to contribute to a passenger sing-along during a long highway bus ride. Neal begins to sing the opening lines of the 1954 Jule Styne–Sammy ...

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In the Wings

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pp. 263-269

Among the stars whose 1980s films served as a prelude to more significant appearances in subsequent decades, Johnny Depp’s career began inauspiciously, as one of Freddy’s short-lived victims in the first Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and a horny teenager in Private Resort (1985). ...

Works Cited

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pp. 271-277


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pp. 279-280


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pp. 281-295

E-ISBN-13: 9780813551135
E-ISBN-10: 0813551137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547596
Print-ISBN-10: 0813547598

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 59 photographs
Publication Year: 2010