Cover for DECORDOVA: Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America. Click for larger image

Picture Personalities

The Emergence of the Star System in America

Moving pictures existed for over a decade before anything resembling a star system appeared. Then, within the space of a very few years, American cinema went from being completely devoid of stars to being completely dependent on them. Picture Personalities is an invaluable account of this crucial development in cinema and modern culture.

Conventional wisdom attributes the rise of the star system to the charisma of individual performers or to the public's desire to idolize an appealing star. In Picture Personalities, Richard deCordova argues that the fledgling movie industry and the press conspired to develop the star system, along with a system of discourse to support it.

How actors became stars and how they began to assume public identities distinct from their fictional roles was closely tied to the journalistic discourse of the period, produced by the trade press, newspapers, general periodicals, fan magazines, publicity stills, posters, and other material. DeCordova shows how the studios worked to fabricate moral images of the stars' marriages and personal lives and how a series of star scandals in the 1920s challenged those images and brought about changes in the conventions of representing stars. A new foreword by Corey K. Creekmur enhances this first paperback edition.

"This is film history at its best, relying on a wealth of archival sources to reject, refine, and clarify the received history, sifted through a sophisticated theoretical model of relationship between culture, industry, and consumer. It all adds up to the definitive tale of the myth of Hollywood stardom."--David Desser, coauthor of American-Jewish Filmmakers: Traditions and Trends

Richard deCordova was an associate professor in the Department of Communication at De Paul University. Corey K. Creekmur, an associate professor of English at the University of Iowa, is coeditor of Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Essays on Popular Culture.

To order online:

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
Seeing Sarah Bernhardt

Performance and Silent Film

Victoria Duckett

Doing Women's Film History

Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future

Edited by Christine Gledhill and Julia Knight

Journal of Film and Video

Edited by Stephen Tropiano

Classic Hollywood

Lifestyles and Film Styles of American Cinema, 1930-1960

Veronica Pravadelli

Wanted Dead or Alive

The American West in Popular Culture

Edited by Richard Aquila

Emir Kusturica

Giorgio Bertellini

Agnès Varda

Kelley Conway

Heroes and Scoundrels

The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture

Matthew C. Ehrlich and Joe Saltzman

History by Hollywood

Robert Brent Toplin

Contesting Identities

Sports in American Film

Aaron Baker


Confronting Modern America in the Western Film

John H. Lenihan

D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film

The Early Years at Biograph

Tom Gunning

When Frankie Went to Hollywood

Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity

Karen McNally

The Europeanization of Cinema

Interzones and Imaginative Communities

Randall Halle

The Inquisition in Hollywood

Politics in the Film Community, 1930-60

Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund

Henry Mancini

Reinventing Film Music

John Caps

The Other Fifties

Interrogating Midcentury American Icons

Edited by Joel Foreman

Keepers of the Flame

NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media

Travis Vogan