Gillian Kelly: Robert Taylor: ‘The Invisible Star’
Robert Taylor can be labelled as a significant ‘forgotten’ star of Hollywood cinema. Taylor signed to MGM in 1934 and remained there for over thirty years. Beginning his career as a matinee idol in the 1930s, Taylor moved on to grittier roles in the post-war period and starred in costume epics such as Quo Vadis? in the 1950s. Finally, he moved on to a star in weekly detective show on American television in the 1960s. I argue that Taylor may be ‘forgotten’ today as a result of his star persona being built around four normative and ideologically conservative social categories: as white, heterosexual, American and male it may be that he appears to scholars and retrospective audiences as too ‘normal’ and thus ‘invisible’ in the field of star studies. This is further underlined by the way in which Taylor seemed to seamlessly fit the genres and trends of each decade he worked in. Yet Taylor presents a particularly interesting case study of a star because of his ‘past remarkable’ status and in relation to his longevity, if we consider that his star persona was principally based around his looks. The fact that he was able to sustain a career for over thirty years opens up questions and assumptions about stars and the aging process, particularly male stars. This paper will discuss the invisibility of a star who crossed the four dominant social norms (whiteness, heterosexuality, American-ness and maleness) yet sustained a long and successful career despite the apparent limitations of his ‘star qualities’.
Hanna Klien: When Stars Gaze Back: Darshan as a Concept of Stardom and Spectatorship
In Hindu religion darshan refers to the exchange of glances between the devotee and the deity in worship. This concept of the gaze bestows power to the object, as union is only experienced and blessings are only received if the deity gazes back. Generally, Hindi cinema has been closely connected to visual culture in India and stars have often been worshipped similarly to deities. Accordingly, the impact of darshan on forms of filmic representations as well as stardom has been identified in Indian film studies. This paper investigates the negotiations of the darshanic gaze in contemporary Hindi films with a special focus on the global star Shah Rukh Khan, introducing a concept of stardom beyond the paradigms developed in the context of Hollywood. Recent changes in Hindi film industry have led to an increasing appropriation of Western film making practices. Modes of representations marked by iconicity or formal devices such as the direct, frontal address, which are strongly connected to filmic representations of darshan, have been transformed in this process. Consequently, new forms of spectatorship have emerged making scopic relations based on darshan more accessible to transnational and –cultural audiences. These forms of spectatorship have considerably influenced the construction of Khan’s star image. Although the emphasis of the paper lies on the filmic texts, it also refers to various reception contexts. Clearly differentiating between spectator and actual viewer, examples from India, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago offer insights into the impact darshan has on the relationship between Shah RukhKhan and his fans. Thus, the question of how local, culture-specific concepts of stardom can be incorporated in other contexts shall also be discussed.
Jaap Kooijman: Whitewashing the Dreamgirls:Connecting the Star Images of Beyoncé and Diana Ross
Throughout her solo career, African American superstar Beyoncé’s skin color has been subject to media controversy, including claims that she was “whitened” on the cover of Vanity Fair (November 2005), “whitewashed” in a L’Oréal hair coloring advertisement (August 2008), and put on “blackface” for L’Officiel Paris (February 2011). In this article, I explore how the argument of skin color continues to be raised when black pop artists become global superstars. As Alice Echols has pointed out: “Black artists who defy the tests of ‘blackness’ … may achieve superstardom, but they often find their racial crossings leave them open to charges of self-loathing and selling-out” (2002, p. 197). Building on the work of Richard Dyer and others, in this article I will “read” the star text of Beyoncé in relation to the star texts of comparable personas – both “real” and fictional. First, I will make the connection between Beyoncé and Diana Ross, who also has been accused of “selling out” and “whitewashing” her star image to please a mainstream and global audience (Bogle 2007; Dyer 1986; Kooijman 2005). Second, I will analyze how Beyoncé’s star text plays a significant role in the shaping of the Ross-inspired fictional character Deena Jones in the movie Dreamgirls (Bill Condon, 2006). Third, I will compare Beyoncé to the fictional character of Mahogany as performed by Diana Ross in the movie Mahogany (Berry Gordy, 1975). In this way, I hope to show how star images can travel over time, connecting both “old” and “new” stars as well as “real” and fictional personas.
Michael Lawrence: Sabu, Prince of Technicolor
Sabu was the only Indian film star to be produced in and by the west during cinema’s classical period. Born near Mysore in South India in 1924, he became an international star at the age of twelve, and remained an exceptional presence in popular film, first in Britain and then in the United States. The construction and perceptions of Sabu’s Indian origin inevitably reflected the historical and political contexts for his fame, but they were also shaped by the industrial and technological factors specific to popular cinema. This paper focuses on the star’s popular association with Technicolor spectacle. Homi K. Bhabha suggests that skin functions as ‘the key signifier of cultural and racial difference’ and is ‘the most visible of fetishes’. He reminds us, however, that ‘skin, as a signifier … must be produced or processed as visible’. In Sabu’s Technicolor productions, popular fantasies concerning his ‘cultural and racial difference’ are indeed perpetuated by the characters he played, and his ‘difference’ is emphasised, exaggerated by the colour process in which his skin is presented as a ‘most visible’ fetish. The vibrancy of Technicolor was perceived to enhance the vigour and sensuality of what one critic was to call Sabu’s ‘dusky athleticism’ (1943c, p. 8). But while George Basten has suggested Sabu was ‘upstaged’ by the Technicolor spectacle, and other critics have argued that the star was simply objectified by the process, close attention to the Puckish brio and dynamic vivacity of Sabu’s performances suggests how he transcended this “talismanic” relationship with Technicolor.
Xiaoning Lu: Chen Qiang: Affect Engineering and Stardom in Chinese Socialist Cinema
This paper examines Chen Qiang’s film stardom as the villainous class enemy in Chinese socialist cinema (1949-1966) in order to interrogate a predominant theoretical model in star studies that privileges the star’s charisma and the spectator’s identificatory pleasure in the construction of film stardom. It also aims to use this case study to explore the complexity of star phenomenon in socialist China. Despite playing various screen roles across genres, Chen Qiang is best known and acclaimed for playing the evil landlord on screen. Chen’s stardom, which discourages identification and emulation, seems rather odd in a cinema that aimed to propagate socialist ideology and reform Chinese citizens. His stardom also encapsulates theoretical predicaments of the then prevalent discourse of “film worker” in China, which emphasized the affinity of the actor and the character and the correlation of the actor’s performance and his proactive process of “experiencing life.” By examining key film texts and para-cinematic discourses of Chen, this paper explores this structurally distinct stardom within the framework of participatory politics. It argues that the politics of participation necessitated the merger of the actor’s political action and his theatrical performance as well as the collapse of the distinct boundary between actor and audience, thereby constructing Chen’s stardom that hinges upon the audience’s immediate emotional responses to the embodiment of the evil. Ultimately, Chen’s stardom helped engineer a desired affect – class hatred – in socialist China, hence furthering the masses’ political participation.
Neepa Majumdar: Listening to Stardom: Considerations of Voice in Star Studies
The register of stardom, as a network of texts, as publicity, as melodramatic mode, as a form of desire, is one that foregrounds the visual domain, even while the other senses are acknowledged and engaged. Recent work on star voices recognizes the cinematic star text as a more properly audiovisual construct, with its implicit oppositions between voice and body, interiority and exteriority. This paper uses the figure of Shahrukh Khan to take stock of what it means to listen to stars in specific socio-historical contexts. One way to restate this interest in star voices is to consider the actor’s vocality as part of an overall acoustic ecology constituted on the one hand by the actor’s acoustic signature within the sound design of a specific film, and on the other, by the different sonic contexts of film, talk show, stage show, interview, etc. While accounting for various combinations of star voice and star body (substituting a different voice for the star body in the case of dubbing, a different body for the same voice in the case of playback singing in India, and other permutations), my interest is in competing zones of recognisability in multiple forms of “dual” voice-body star texts, and in various points of interface between the live and the recorded, between star bodies and sound technologies.
Ania Malinowska: Heroines at the Outskirts of Culture: De-Romanticising Hollywood Queens
In his 1954 novel, The World in the Evening, Christopher Isherwood defined camp as „a swishy little boy with peroxided hair, dressed in a picture hat and a feather boa, pretending to be Marlene Dietrich”. His definition points to what has been so far omitted in cultural interpretations of camp: to impersonation as an alternative form of stardom based on a borrowing and relocation of an image to give it an independent (alternative) life. Camp travesty of Hollywood stardom should not be merely seen as a gender-politics-oriented strategy to build legitimized social presence. It should be also seen as a process of generating independent (and competitive) performances, idols and ideals, that propose a refined version of a Hollywood star and Hollywood femininity, setting the idea of stardom outside the Hollywood paradigm, to settle and cultivate it at the outskirts of culture. In my paper, I would like to bring to light camp as an alternative form of stardom, which full of admiration for “traditional star images”, makes a blasphemous incorporation and transposition of the Hollywood model. My presentation will include examples of Polish cinema (Piętro wyżej, 1937) and literature (Lubiewo by Michał Witkowski, 2004) and will aim to present how individual images of Hollywood Queens (female stars) have been transferred outside the Hollywood context to function independently of their big screen existence to create an autonomous paradigm of stardom.
Lori Morimoto: Transcultural Proximity and the Japanese Fandom of Hong Kong Stars, 1985-2000
The Japanese female fandom of Hong Kong cinema that flourished from the late 1980s through the early 2000s hinged not on an attraction to the hyperkinetic action and martial arts films that characterized Hong Kong film fandom in the West, but on the multi-talented stars who peopled the Hong Kong silver screen. Singers-cum-TV stars-cum-movie idols such as Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, and Aaron Kwok were the focus of a star-centred fandom that, by virtue of stars’ own wide-ranging oeuvres, exposed Japanese fans to a far wider swath of Hong Kong popular culture than their Western counterparts. For these fans, the relative lack of mainstream media attention on such stars, together with the low degree of Hong Kong film distribution in Japan through the end of the 1990s, meant that fans who wanted more of favourite stars increasingly pursued alternative avenues of media and information acquisition. These, in turn, engendered a paradoxically intimate mode of transnational star fandom that effaced differences of language, nationality, and (popular) culture. In this paper, I examine the ways in which fannish activity fostered a sense of transcultural proximity to Hong Kong stars among Japanese female fans and, through discussion of fan reactions to Aaron Kwok’s first Japanese concert tour of Japan in 1996, I interrogate the limits of this imagined proximity as it comes up against the reality of the star himself. In so doing, I offer a way of thinking about transcultural fandom that engages with national and cultural specificity without being over determined by it.
Rebecca Naughten: The Industrial Contexts of National Stardom: A Spanish Case Study
Despite stardom's industrial dimension being routinely passed over in critical analyses, the industrial contexts of stardom in a given national culture is integral to both the form and content of stardom and the star image. This paper will argue, following Willis (2004), that stars cannot be separated from the industrial contexts of their production, and that they also can be seen to be as reflective of their industry as they are of contemporaneous cultural assumptions. Due to a number of nationally-specific factors in the Spanish film industry since the 1990s, 'Spanish cinema' has been becoming a more nebulous and hybrid entity. If stars are 'a means by which Hollywood has been able to present itself as a global rather than a national film industry' (Drake 2004: 76), this paper examines what the impact on Spanish stardom has been of Spanish stars and their images circulating in a national cinema that has increasingly acknowledged and utilised the codes and conventions of a more international form of cinema production. This paper will take as its main example Eduardo Noriega, a Spanish star who emerged in the late 1990s, the point at which a shift in the balance of factors (industrial versus national and / or cultural) shaping Spanish stardom was becoming apparent, and will also suggest that the trend for Spanish stars crossing national boundaries to further their careers is simultaneously symptomatic of both success and crisis in the Spanish cinema of this era.
Jennifer O’Meara: Star Speed; the Fast-Talking Voices of Independent Cinema
While considerable literature has emerged on the production and aesthetics of American independent cinema in the past decade (King 2005; 2009, Tzioumakis 2006, Berra 2009), discussion of indie stars has been limited. In my paper, I will argue that popularity of independent actors often rests on distinctive vocal qualities that enable them to carry dialogue-driven films. This builds on observations by Kozloff (2000), Murphy (2007) and Berliner (2012) that independent cinema often distinguishes itself from Hollywood through verbal creativity. Focusing on two fast-talking indie stars, Chris Eigeman and Parker Posey, I will outline how their unique embodiment of words has led particular writer-directors to create roles with them in mind. Diane Negra (2004, 86) suggests that when Posey was required to play a character in a Hollywood film with a lisp, it implied her standard caustic delivery was unsuitable and had to be changed for mass appeal. However, the requirement also draws attention to her broader vocal skills, which I will argue are key to appreciating her roles in Hal Hartley's cinema. Eigeman, on the other hand, has played articulate character in three films by Whit Stillman, and another three by Noah Baumbach. For one of these, Stillman insisted to financiers (eager to cast a bankable star) that only Eigeman could play the part. Using Martin Shingler's (2006; 2011) analyses of what constitutes a star voice, I will defend Stillman's claim and argue that, for both Eigeman and Posey, their persona and appeal traces back to a 'distinctive and easily-identifiable' (Shingler 2006) sound.
Catherine O'Rawe: Alain Delon: Stardom, Italian Style
The major French/Italian co-productions starring Alain Delon (Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and his Brothers, (Visconti, 1960), L’eclisse/The Eclipse (Antonioni, 1962) and Il gattopardo/The Leopard (Visconti, 1963)) have been little studied from the viewpoint of Delon’s star image and performance style. One of the reasons for this is the neglect of star studies within the discipline of Italian film studies: additionally, work on star studies in the Italian context has emphasised the need to view stars as ‘cultural symbol and conduit for ideas about gender, values and national identity’ (Gundle 2008) and so has been unable to account for the influence of non-Italian stars working in Italian cinema. This paper will examine Delon’s performance style in the three films, probing the established definitions of his ‘impassive acting style’ (Hayes 2004), and ‘expressionless face’ (Austin 2003). It will raise the question of whether Delon’s critical status as ‘homme fatal’ who is ‘too beautiful’ (Vincendeau 2000) has obscured the range and variety of his performance idiom in these French/Italian films, and how the fact of dubbing his voice into Italian works to support or undermine his position as erotic object of the camera’s gaze.
Donna Peberdy: Narrative Trans-actions: Performance in the Global Ensemble
The network narrative is a multi-strand interlocking narrative device featuring multiple storylines that overlap as part of a wider thematic. It has become an increasingly common storytelling strategy both in Hollywood and internationally, a format facilitated and bolstered by global co-productions and the transnational movement of directors and actors and encapsulated by films such as Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), Paul Haggis’s Crash (2004) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006). Conversely, the anthology film, such as Rodrigo García’s Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (1999) and multi-directed Paris, je t’aime (2006), presents a methodic mosaic of vignettes with discrete and distinctive storylines that function both independently and as parts of a whole. Critics such as David Bordwell, Paul Kerr and Vivien Silvey have suggested that network narratives and anthology films reflect changes in global production, distribution and exhibition contexts and can be read as a response to an increasingly mediated and interconnected global stage. This paper focuses on the actors, actions and interactions presented in these narratives, considering how both the network narrative and anthology film offer different negotiations on the ensemble film. Bringing together a medley of actors and cultures, the global ensemble offers the potential for a truly transnational format. However, while the ensemble film conventionally brings together a cast of several key players whose roles within the narrative take on equal importance and/or screen time, the global ensemble presents the illusion of a coherent collective, offering a critique of globalisation via performances of disconnection, disengagement and disparity.
Mariapaola Pierini: Rodolfo Valentino, The Star as an Actor
Starting from Miriam Hansen’s important contribution until more recent studies (such as Valentino, Cinema, cultura, società tra Italia e Stati Uniti negli anni Venti, ed. by S. Alovisio and G. Carluccio, published on the occasion of the international Conference hosted by the University of Torino in 2009), the case of Valentino offered to film studies many interesting hints and approaches, mostly centered on issues related to stardom and reception. The technical and stylistic aspect of Valentino’s on-screen performances, although investigated, is still a topic where the acting component needs to be fully explored and analyzed. The paper aims to investigate Valentino’s complex acting style, focusing on the various registers of his performances and on the peculiarity of his technique, in which expressions, gestures and body movements are melted in a unique and eclectic way. In the context of Hollywood mode of production of the Twenties, during the contradictory process of institutionalization, Valentino emerges as a star strongly labeled as exotic, whose performances not only reflect his identity but also negotiate it through specific signs and strategies significantly managed by the actor. In this perspective, our aim is to collect and develop the elements emerged in the Torino Conference, updating the debate and providing additional perspectives to the analysis of the relations between star and performance.
Lisa Purse: Confronting the Impossibility of Impossible bodies: Tom Cruise as Ageing Action Star
‘The star functions less as character than as integral production value. Tom Cruise as ‘Tom Cruise’ in Mission: Impossible is its own kind of spectacle’ (Arroyo 2000: 24). In the Mission: Impossible films (1996, 2000, 2006, 2011) Cruise establishes an action stardom predicated on the assertion of an emphatic mode of spatialised physical performance. Each film’s action sequences foreground not just the character’s penetration of space and mastery of extreme physical risk, but the actor’s capacity to perform that penetration and mastery. Such moments bring together an ostensibly real-world location with impossible physical feats and a performance mode that draws productively from elements of Cruise’s complex star persona – e.g. extreme persistence, determination, and the seemingly ageless face and body – in spectacles of undented fortitude and physical capability. But Cruise is also one of several actors negotiating their action stardom in relation to the ageing process. Ageing as theme and as spectacle has become newly ‘at issue’ in contemporary action cinema, in films that self-consciously pair an ageing action star with a less experienced or younger co-star (The Guardian 2006, Live Free or Die Hard 2007, Looper 2012), and the nostalgic returns of 1980s action stars (Rocky Balboa 2006, Rambo 2008, The Expendables 2010). In the context of a film franchise predicated on the achievement of the impossible, this paper analyses how Cruise as ageing action star confronts his own encroaching inability to perform the impossible. In doing so the paper explores Cruise’s relationship to this wider cycle of ageing action star performances, and reveals the negotiations around narrative and action spectacle that attend the presence of these new ‘older men’.
Amy -Claire Scott: We Do Not Manufacture Princesses Like You Manufacture Automobiles: Hollywood Studio Stars and Manufacturing Political Flexibility in Thirty Day Princess
One of the fundamental approaches to stardom in the Hollywood studio era is the argument that star images can contain within them resistance of, and contradictions to, the dominant ideologies they embody. This tendency has often been discussed in terms which imply that these contradictions are extra-textual side-effects working in tension with fundamentally normative narratives, but the possibility that the ideological tensions at the heart of certain star images were a deliberate marketing tactic on the part of the studios is yet to be explored. In the 1930s a cycle of films emerged which used journalism self-consciously as a metaphor for studio filmmaking. This cycle includes numerous narratives which explore the deceptive, unstable, and deliberately contradictory nature of the diegetic and extra-diegetic star images being produced within and by these films. Looking at Paramount’s comedy Thirty Day Princess (Marion Gering, 1934), I will show how the narrative explicitly constructs film stardom as a series of related but contradictory demands which must be embodied by the same individual in order to maximise financial success for those responsible for the construction and manipulation of the star identity. Rather than only being decipherable through a process of counter-reading, I will suggest that the practice of multiple and conflicting meanings being embodied by the same star was a practical and deliberate approach to the challenges of marketing films to a geographically, economically, and socially diverse demographic. The key to selling a star image to a mass audience, I will argue, is manufacturing ideological flexibility.
Andrew Shail: The Emergence of Film Celebrity in the UK
One of the most dramatic of the reinventions that comprised cinema’s second birth in the UK was the appearance, in 1911, of the first publicity campaigns for celebrities whose fame was based solely on their appearance in films: celebrities of the medium. An industry capable of generating and sustaining both its own population of celebrities and an apparatus for fostering their fame was a major component of cinema’s emergence as a distinctive medium. This ‘sudden’ growth nonetheless emerged from roots established several years earlier, and this paper outlines the circumstances in which intra-filmic celebrity, to extend the metaphor, first germinated and then sprouted. I will explore differences between the circumstances in the UK and those in the US outlined by Richard de Cordova in 1990, both to show that Western Europe was developing its own notion of intra-filmic celebrity even before the influx of publicity for stars from the American ‘creators’ of film celebrity in 1911, and to show that even this transatlantic influx was determined by the state of the UK film market.
Salma Siddique: Goodbye Neverland: Child Star Ratan Kumar and the Move to Pakistan
The division of British India into independent post-colonial nations of India and Pakistan in 1947 had decisive consequences for the individual careers of many film artists of the Indian subcontinent. In the early nineteen fifties of post-partition India, Ratan Kumar was a reputed child artist, having gained considerable popularity for his roles in Bombay films like Boot Polish (1954)and Jagriti (1954). However, living as they were in the shadow of the long Partition, Ratan Kumar’s Muslim family finally migrated to Pakistan in 1956.This paper focuses on Kumar’s second innings in the newly formed Pakistan, where Bombay films continued to be extremely popular and the audiences happened to be avidly familiar with this child star. Of particular interest is the film Bedari (1957), which was a Pakistani replica of his successful Bombay film Jagriti. While marking his first role in Pakistan, Bedari also marked his last childhood role on screen and paved the way for an expeditious adulthood to assume the male lead in his next films. His filmmaking family was influential in this transformation, but no less important were the backdrop of a crisis ridden film industry in Lahore that was short on ‘stars’ and an increasingly protectionist home market created in response to the might of Bombay films. In his appearance on the Pakistani screens and disappearance from the Indian, the processes of memory and amnesia that have shaped the two nation states, mark Ratan Kumar’s stardom too. Drawing attention to the competing identities and nationalisms in the subcontinent at this historic juncture, the paper locates these conflicts in the persona of the child star Ratan Kumar.
Iain Robert Smith: Transnational Vamp: The Global Stardom of Bollywood Dancer Helen
In the documentary Helen: Queen of the Nautch Girls, produced by Merchant Ivory Films in 1973, narrator Anthony Korner describes the Bollywood dancer Helen as “India’s most perennial superstar.” Drawing on the work of Tim Bergfelder on transnational film stardom, and Edward Chan on the global reception of Bollywood, this paper will consider Helen in relation to the tensions underpinning her star image – looking both at her performances and the debates surrounding her relationship to the broader Indian culture. As Jerry Pinto has observed, while Helen was technically of Anglo-Burmese descent, she was “perceived as a white woman” and this impacted on the construction of her star image as ‘vamp’. Through a close examination of her most celebrated item numbers including “Yeh Mera Dil Pyar Ka Diwana” in The Don (1978), “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja” in Caravan (1971) and “Gham Chhod ke Manao Rang Relly” in Gumnaam (1965), this paper will analyse the ways in which her star image was constructed in relation to the leading actors and actresses in each film. Furthermore, by examining the documentary Helen: Queen of the Nautch Girls along with various written accounts of her career, the paper will explore how Helen has been positioned in relation to wider debates surrounding the social and sexual politics of Indian culture. By bringing together this close analysis of performance with a discursive analysis of Helen’s reception, the chapter will ultimately consider the ways in which her ethnic background has impacted on her performance of the vamp.
Sarah Thomas: After ‘M’: Transnational Influences and Echoes in Screen Performance
M is a film text tied closely to ideas of nationhood and how films may be interpreted as reflecting specific moments of national culture, politics and society. These readings have been directed at both Fritz Lang’s original version of M (1931) – as a cautionary tale of interwar German social and political pressures; and also of Joseph Losey’s remake (1951) – as an indictment of the HUAC hearings in post war America. What this paper aims to analyse is how readings of screen performance both illustrate and complicate this national perspective by emphasising the transnational aspects of acting that can be seen in the performative echoes that followed Peter Lorre’s celebrated performance in Lang’s film. Through a comparative analysis of Lorre’s performance as the serial killer with David Wayne’s performance of the same role in the 1951 version, I will explore how shifts in national setting and context alter interpretations of the role, particularly emphasising the performance of ‘ordinariness’ and ‘otherness’ by both actors, and also placing Wayne’s performance within the context of the transnational genre that Losey’s film belongs to: film noir. I will also examine other alterations between the two versions, including the impact that a significant new character performance (as a lawyer) by Luther Adler has on the structure and tone of the 1951 film, and how this affects Wayne’s performance. In order to provide a thorough commentary on the nature of transnational screen performance that M illustrates,I will compare Lorre’s earlier transnational performances across the German, French and British versions of M that were all filmed in 1931, and consider the other transnational performative echo of ‘M’ that took place in 1951: Peter Lorre’s own reworking of his serial killer characterisation in his directorial debut, Der Verlorene (The Lost One), made on his brief return to Germany and which comments on both performative and cultural contexts between Europe and Hollywood.
Niamh Thornton: Betwixt and Between: Gender and Mexican Film Stars Online
Between the mid-1930s and the 1950s there was a so-called Golden Age of Mexican film, with a high output of genre films by a state-supported studio system. These produced numerous stars, many of whom built transnational film careers in Latin America, the US and Europe. Many are still well-known names and fan vids and clips of their work can be found on YouTube. In a previous study I considered two prominent female stars, Dolores del Río and María Félix and how their star text has continued to evolve online through fan vids on YouTube (Thornton, 2010). While del Río and Félix were the two most high profile female stars of their time and have continued to have a long afterlife online through fan vids and clips, there is a different approach to how male star profiles have developed online. What can be found are clips, interviews and song sequences. This paper will focus on three male stars, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Emilio Fernández, and examine how their YouTube content compares to that of their female contemporaries and consider how their online star texts differ.
Isak Thorsen: Valdemar Psilander - an International Star in the Silent Era
This presentation will focus on Valdemar Psilander (1884-1917), who was the greatest male star of the Danish silent cinema. From 1911 to 1916 Psilander starred in more than 80 multi-reel films from Nordisk Films Kompagni. Tall and handsome with a sense of the more restrained acting style that suited film Psilander quickly became an international name. Especially among audiences in Germany, Russia, Central Europe and South America he was worshipped. Through adverts and postcards Nordisk Film used Psilander’s name and face massively in the promotion of the company’s films. Psilander became tired of the ‘one-dimensional’ parts he was offered at Nordisk Film and in 1916 he left the company and established his own: Psilander-Film. But before the new company took off Psilander died of a heart attack at the age of 32. Nordisk Film had so many finished films with the Psilander on the shelves that the company kept releasing films with the popular star until 1920. Based on research in the Nordisk Special Collection, the survived business archive of Nordisk Film the presentation will describe and analyse Psilander’s short and glorious career. A career, which coincides with the emergence of the multi-reel film and film stars.
Ginette Vincendeau: Bardot and the Origins of Star Studies
The impact of Brigitte Bardot as ‘scandalous’ film star and mass-media celebrity in 1950s France was unprecedented in its novelty and magnitude. From 1956 to the early 1960s, Bardot drew audiences worldwide and provoked both obsessive imitation and violent hostility. She also, unusually, generated at the time a vast amount of writing beyond film criticism and journalism: novelists, sociologists and philosophers pondered the BB phenomenon. This presentation examines salient manifestations of Bardot as object of study, as evidence of her own importance and of her influence on the emerging field of studies of popular culture – including Simone de Beauvoir’s famous essay on her and especially Edgar Morin’s 1957 book Les Stars, arguing that it is no coincidence that the first ever serious study of stardom coincided with Bardot’s appearance.
Johnny Walker: From Pinter to Pimp: Danny Dyer, Cult Stardom and the Critics
Danny Dyer is one of the most prolific actors working in British cinema today. He is also one of the most critically loathed (and mocked). Best-known for his star role as a football hooligan in Nick Love’s The Football Factory (2005), the assumed typicality of his “laddish” persona, and his star-billing on the covers of many direct-to-DVD films aimed at a young male audience, has afforded him a “branding” that has proved difficult to shake. Indeed, the critical response to his work has been typified most emblematically by the prominent film critic Mark Kermode, whose dubious, high-pitched, impersonation of the actor has become an Internet viral hit among Dyer’s most vehement detractors. In this paper, I will argue, that, whilst Dyer’s mediated persona is unquestionably controversial, the B-movie star is rarely looked at impartially, and that the negative reception of his films—that are often marketed to suit the aforementioned “brand,” regardless of their content or narrative—is often informed by class-based antagonism, as recently outlined in the work of Owen Jones (2011). Grounded within the historical discourse of the British film star (as advanced by Babington, et al 2002), and via analyses of some of Dyer’s most severe criticisms, I consider the complex nature of—and reasons for—his critics’ responses. My arguments are substantiated by the acknowledgement of some of his most notable—and diverse—career performances, including his early theatre work for Harold Pinter, the cult DVD hit The Football Factory, the exploitation films Straightheads(2007) and Outlaw (2007), and his later direct-to-DVD oeuvre, including the much-reviled Pimp(2010).
Yiman Wang: Speaking in a “Forked Tongue”: Anna May Wong’s Linguistic Cosmopolitanism
In the gallery of racialized actors throughout Hollywood history, Anna May Wong is a rare example who did not perform English with an “Oriental” accent on the screen or the stage. She made her transition from the silent era to talkies in Europe where she not only learned the British accent, but also studied German and French for her roles in the multi-lingual versions of her films. She also mobilized her heritage language (Toisan dialect) when an “Oriental” language was called for by the role. Her multi-lingual performance on the Euro-American front formed an intriguing contrast with her lack of mandarin Chinese, which made the Chinese nationalist attempt to claim her as a compatriot “travelling in America” inherently problematic. Drawing upon theories of performance and critical race/ethnic studies, combined with rare archival materials, my paper probes Wong’s self-reflexive enactment of the “Oriental” (or other exotic) roles assigned to her. I specifically focus on Wong’s multi-faceted vocal performance in the transnational context in relation to audiences from varied linguistic and cultural backgrounds. I ask: 1) in what ways Wong’s “Oriental” performance differed from and/or converged with yellowface acting; 2) how to understand Wong’s linguistic cosmopolitanism in the face of and in relation to the restrictive racial politics in China and Euro-America during the colonial era; and 3) what kind of agency Wong acquired through forging an ironic relationship with her stereotypical roles that she oftentimes disapproved. This paper extends my thesis on Anna May Wong’s “yellow yellowface” performance (proposed in my 2005 article in Camera Obscura), and argues that Wong’s unconventional vocal enactment of “Oriental” roles perverts what Homi Bhabha calls the colonizer’s “forked tongue,” and reinvents it as a novel minority strategy of negotiating with the hegemonic structure in Euro-America and China alike.
Tom Whittaker: Being Clint Eastwood’s Voice: Spanish Dubbing, Performance and Personification
While approximately 80% of all films viewed in Spain are dubbed each year, Spanish dubbing actors have received little critical attention. If there has been little scholarship surrounding the role of the dubbing artist, this is arguably because he or she is usually seen as an invisible conduit between the audience and the star: his/her anonymity usually ensures that the audience identifies with the on-screen star, while at the same time remaining undistracted by the heavy artifice of a disembodied voice. This paper will examine the vocal persona of Constantino Romero, the Spanish voice of Clint Eastwood, a dubbing actor, who through his frequent media appearances, has a conspicuously visible presence in Spanish popular culture. In exploring both the reception and the discourses that surround dubbing in Spain, this paper shows that the dubbed voice entails its own structures of fascination for the audience. Indeed, so widely admired are the vocal performances of these dubbing actors, that they would appear to assert themselves as texts in their own right, serving as complex sites of negotiation between audience, star and dubbing artist. As I will show, far from invisible, the material texture of the dubbed voice asserts itself as an autonomous component of the film, a vocal spectacle which invites the audience to revel in its performance. The paper will also explore the extent to which Romero’s vocal persona both contributes towards and calls into question his Spanish ‘personification’ of Clint Eastwood.
Faye Woods: Ryan Gosling’s Face: American Masculinity and the Reluctant Man of Action in Drive
Ryan Gosling’s star identity offers a particular modulation of American masculinity which combines both strength and softness, at once traditional yet progressive (demonstrated in the range of internet memes build around the actor). This paper will consider some aspects of this identity and how they inform his reluctant man of action in Drive (2011). This arthouse action film from a European director displays a fascination with tropes of American masculinity and the Hollywood action/thriller genre. Drive utilises Gosling’s star identity as a ‘serious’ actor, Oscar-nominated and a regular at film festivals, to wrong-foot its audience as it shifts between crime thriller, tentative romance and hyper-violence. The mysterious nameless ‘Driver’ is a character built from archetypes of filmic masculinity: the silent man of action, the romantic saviour, the moral protector, a man who moves between childlike innocent and violent avenger. The film plays on the combination of tenderness and control which are central to Gosling’s star identity, yet pushes his innate intensity – central to his relationship dramas – to explosive extremes. Drive renders almost mute an actor whose characters often depend on a verbose charm, with the camera dwelling on Gosling’s face and expressive eyes – a key element of his star appeal. Whilst his active body is the source of his skilful driving and physically intense violence, it is the Driver’s inscrutable face that is foregrounded, whether gazing at Irene or splattered with blood. This forces the audience to search the face for meaning, allowing – perhaps encouraging – them to read Gosling’s star identity onto the blankness, reading the Driver’s actions through Gosling’s prism of sensitive masculinity. This focus on an – often elusive – emotional response to the Driver’s escalating violence lends a melodramatic intensity to the film’s violence, serving its play with genre tropes.
Julie Lobalzo Wright: The Crossover: Why Popular Music Stardom and Film Stardom are Often at Odds With One Another
Crossover stardom has become commonplace in the modern age as cross media opportunities have expanded the ability for stars to achieve stardom in multiple mediums. Although crossover stardom appears as a contemporary element of stardom, stars have crossed between mediums since the beginning of cinema with varying success. Moreover, success and failure is debatable as number of film appearances may be deemed unsuccessful due to box office returns or critical appraisals, while one box office hit can lead to the perception of a successful crossover (For example, Madonna as compared to Eminem). Film and music stardom do not easily fit together, I argue, as the two mediums construct stardom in different ways. Although transitions into the cinema by music stars would seem straightforward due to genre and/or characterization (music stars appearing in musical films, such as Beyoncé in Dreamgirls or portraying characters based on the star’s life, such as Prince in Purple Rain), very often the crossover from music to film necessitates an alteration to their established star image. Drawing from a range of popular music stars, this paper will focus on three key areas in relation to music stars as film stars: the success/failure perception, corporate “synergy,” and the (often) non-corresponding nature of music and film genres. In addition, I will discuss how film stardom, as theorized by Richard Dyer, is often at odds with popular music stardom, especially the notion that film stars “must stay broadly the same in order to permit recognition and identification.” Finally, I hope to reach some conclusions as to why crossover stardom seems both ever-present and fruitless in the contemporary era.
Sabrina Qiong Yu: Transcending the Boundaries of Language on the World Stage: Tang Wei’s Performance in Late Autumn
Language ability (more specifically, English ability) is considered crucial to transnational film performance. Inadequate language skills or accent often become a great handicap in a star’s trans-border career. This paper tries to demystify the myth of English on the world stage through a close examination of Chinese actress Tang Wei’s award-winning performance in South Korean film Late Autumn (2011). The story is about a Chinese female prisoner who is given 72 hours parole to attend her mother’s funeral in Seattle and falls in love with a South-Korean man played by Korean actor Hyun Bin whom she meets on the coach. In most of the film, two actors communicate with accented English. But the film has minimum dialogue. The actors have to depend heavily on facial expressions, gestures, movements, and above all, creative ways of delivering dialogue to portray the characters. By analysing Tang’s understated but powerful performance in this doubly alienated space – in a South Korean film and set in the US – I argue that the boundaries of language can be broken and expanded by innovative and imaginative performance, and the global performers are playing an important but underestimated role in redefining film acting.
Yingjin Zhang: Film Stars in the Perspective of Performance Studies:Play, Liminality, and Alteration in Chinese Cinema
This paper seeks to link two evolving disciplines and explores the ways star studies may benefit from performance studies’ emphasis on liveness, interactivity, and alteration. What interests me in particular is how key concepts from performance studies such as play and liminality can help us address an apparent lack of attention in English scholarship to romantic male roles from Chinese films. While the popularity of martial arts and action genres have pushed Chinese actors like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, and Jet Li to the forefront of star studies in recent years, equally successful actors like Tony Leung Chiu Wai have been kept out of sight in most cases. With references to Tony Leung’s performances in In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000), which won him the Best Actor Award at the Cannes International Film Festival, and Lust Caution (Ang Lee, 2007), which provoked immediate controversies and contradictory receptions in the Chinese-speaking world, this paper analyzes acts of repetition, dark play, and alteration as illuminated by performance studies and argues that they contribute to a conjectural view of polysemy in star studies as they do in performance studies.
The organising committee would like to thank the following sponsors:
Special thanks to the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland for sponsoring the keynote panel.