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Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine

A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers

Anthony Slide

Publication Year: 2010

The fan magazine has often been viewed simply as a publicity tool, a fluffy exercise in self-promotion by the film industry. But as an arbiter of good and bad taste, as a source of knowledge, and as a gateway to the fabled land of Hollywood and its stars, the American fan magazine represents a fascinating and indispensable chapter in journalism and popular culture. Anthony Slide's Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine provides the definitive history of this artifact. It charts the development of the fan magazine from the golden years when Motion Picture Story Magazine and Photoplay first appeared in 1911 to its decline into provocative headlines and titillation in the 1960s and afterward. Slide discusses how the fan magazines dealt with gossip and innuendo, and how they handled nationwide issues such as Hollywood scandals of the 1920s, World War II, the blacklist, and the death of President Kennedy. Fan magazines thrived in the twentieth century, and they presented the history of an industry in a unique, sometimes accurate, and always entertaining style. This major cultural history includes a new interview with 1970s media personality Rona Barrett, as well as original commentary from a dozen editors and writers. Also included is a chapter on contributions to the fan magazines from well-known writers such as Theodore Dreiser and e. e. cummings. The book is enhanced by an appendix documenting some 268 American fan magazines and includes detailed publication histories.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I had the good fortune many years ago to interview two major fan magazine writers, Adele Whiteley Fletcher and Ruth Waterbury, and the latter became a good friend. After routinely telephoning her from a gas station at Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Canyon, Ruth would drive down from the top of the canyon—I had no car—and pick me up. I recall how flattered I was when she...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-10

The fan magazine is such a seemingly worthless object, and yet it is of interest and value to both the film scholar and the sociologist. On the surface, the fan magazine had its place in the history of popular entertainment simply as a publicity tool, a relatively pointless exercise in self-promotion by the film industry. One week it would eagerly be read by millions of American moviegoers...

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CHAPTER 1. The Birth of the Fan Magazine

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pp. 11-32

A fan magazine was fundamentally a film- and entertainment-related periodical aimed at a general fan, an average member of the moviegoing public who more often than not was female. (Throughout I refer to “the fan magazine” in the singular, because it was very much a magazine genre in its own right.) The common object of devotion of both the magazines and their readers was...

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CHAPTER 2. The Pioneering Writers

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pp. 33-46

What is perhaps most remarkable about fan magazine writers is their longevity and their ability to embrace each new breed of movie star, decade after decade. It is almost as if the subjects of the articles changed but the writers and the stories remained pretty much constant. In fact, perhaps there was a standard template used by fan magazine writers. In 1939, Carl F. Cotter wrote of the...

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CHAPTER 3. James R. Quirk and Photoplay

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pp. 47-72

Photoplay is the most famous of all fan magazines, a publication that began in the pioneering days of the motion picture and survived through the demise of the star system, the rise of independent filmmaking, and into an era when the public got its entertainment news from the pages of People and similar magazines. Ultimately, it is the yardstick by which all other fan magazines are...

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CHAPTER 4. The Studio Mouthpiece

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pp. 73-92

“I would read things I didn’t remember anything about,” insisted Paramount leading lady of the 1930s Mary Carlisle. “I never remember sitting down and giving an interview to a fan magazine. Stories were made up for publicity purposes.” Carlisle’s response typifies the memory of most players relative to their fan magazine coverage. And yet, it is difficult to believe, for example, that she did not recall posing for a two-page photo spread on “A Day in the Life of an...

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CHAPTER 5. The Fan Magazine as a Literary Outlet

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pp. 93-102

In January 1912, Motion Picture Story Magazine revealed the results of a let-ter-writing competition in which readers were asked to provide their opinions on a variety of film-related subjects. One of the winners, taking fifth prize, was an eleven-year-old schoolboy from Chicago named Edward Wagenknecht, “whose long and carefully prepared letter has exceptional merit.” Wagenknecht ...

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CHAPTER 6. New Writers, New Publishers, New Horizons

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pp. 103-121

In the formative years of the fan magazines, Eugene Brewster and James R.Quirk were the two dominant publishers. In the 1920s and 1930s, several new publishing outlets arrived on the scene, taking over the earlier publications and introducing ones of their own. If there were any singular factor linking one with another, it was that the primary income of those new publishers was often...

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CHAPTER 7. The Golden Age of the Fan Magazine

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pp. 122-143

The “golden age” of the fan magazine embraced three decades, the 1920s through the 1940s, an era when Americans acknowledged the motion picture as their primary source of entertainment and when interest from the general public in anything movie-related was at its height. In the 1930s, America was suffering through the Great Depression, film companies were faltering...

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CHAPTER 8. Gossip, Scandal, and Innuendo

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pp. 144-169

The fan magazines were not without their gossip columnists, the most notable, most respectful, and most reliable of which was the pseudonymous Cal York in Photoplay. Generally, the columns were free of innuendo and the type of cheap gossip most associated with the better known practitioners of the craft. Contributors to the Cal York column might chastise those...

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CHAPTER 9. The 1950s and the Influence of Television

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pp. 170-183

Fan magazines devoted to the motion picture had experienced little competi-tion from similarly audience-oriented radio publications, the earliest of which were Radio Art (founded in 1923) and Radio Broadcast (founded in 1922 and merged with Radio Digest in 1930). Both ceased publication in 1939. Other prominent radio fan magazines...

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CHAPTER 10. The 1960s

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pp. 184-206

In 1937, Clifton Fadiman made an astute observation: “My guess is that the film mags are selling each year to a lower and lower stratum, speaking purely in intellectual terms, of American society. Eventually the bottom will be reached. Then the magazines will have to alter in an upward direction the straight moron approach to which they have unswervingly held...

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CHAPTER 11. Ms. Rona

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pp. 207-217

“They [the Hollywood producers] were in control, and then there came along a very independent person. Her name was Rona Barrett.” That is the lady her-self speaking, and with an autonomous approach to her craft, along with intelligence, a sense of honesty and fair play, comparable to that of James R. Quirk some forty years earlier, she revolutionized not only the fan magazines but the...

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CHAPTER 12. The People Generation

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pp. 218-225

By the 1970s, the fan magazines had long since passed their zenith of influence both within the film industry and among their readership. With an overemphasis on Jacqueline Kennedy, the fan magazines acknowledged that nobody who was part of the entertainment community had the celebrity of the former First Lady. Audiences wanted to read not about specific people, but about all...

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CHAPTER 13. The End of the Line and a New Beginning

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pp. 226-232

The old-style fan magazines did not so much end as change subject matter. The old fan magazine titles were discarded and new ones created, but the reinvention process had little impact on the approach or the content style. Movies might have been steadily losing their audience, along with the need for fan magazine coverage, but in the 1980s the television soap operas were...

APPENDIX 1. U.S. Fan Magazines

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pp. 233-246

APPENDIX 2. Selected U.K. Fan Magazines

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p. 247-247

APPENDIX 3. Fan Club Journals

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pp. 248-249

Notes

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pp. 250-259

Bibliography

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pp. 260-266

Index

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pp. 267-281


E-ISBN-13: 9781604734140
E-ISBN-10: 1604734140
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604734133
Print-ISBN-10: 1604734132

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010