Star System



A MULTIPLE MEDIA SYSTEM

Stardom in the cinema has always relied on relationships with various other forms of popular mass media. Historically, relationships between film stardom and other media have operated in two main ways: the flows of performing talent between other media and film, and the use of other media as channels to promote film stars.

As already discussed, theater originally fed the film star system in the earliest decades of cinema. With the birth of radio broadcasting in the late 1920s, a new popular medium arose, creating stars of its own, providing performers such as Bing Crosby (1903–1977) with the exposure to build a film career that continued into the 1960s. After the international popularization of television from the early 1950s, the small screen provided a fresh window for film stars whose glory years had passed to present television drama anthologies. Examples include Robert Montgomery Presents (ABC, 1950–1957), Charles Boyer Theater (1953), and The Gloria Swanson Show (1954). However, for the American cinema, television increasingly provided the testing ground previously served by the in-house training offered by the studios. Numerous stars initially worked in television before achieving film stardom. Clint Eastwood ( Rawhide , 1959–1966), John Travolta ( Welcome Back, Kotter , 1975–1978), Robin Williams ( Mork and Mindy , 1978), Michael J. Fox ( Family Ties , 1982), Will Smith ( Fresh Prince of Bel Air , 1990), Brad Pitt ( Glory Days , 1990), Jim Carrey ( In Living Color , 1990–1994), and George Clooney ( ER , 1994–1999) are just a few of the performers to gain film stardom following successes in television.

The ways in which the images of stars are produced and circulated also contribute to relationships between film and other media. Alongside films themselves, stars make a number of other media appearances. The name, face, and voice of a star will appear in the press, in television and radio advertisements, and on posters, DVD cases, and magazine covers. The Internet has added to the mixture of media channels circulating star identities, contributing to the presentation of stars in a variety of contexts, from film promotions to fan sites and "celebrity nude" sites. Through these channels, film stars make multiple media appearances, often simultaneously, and cumulatively these channels create and circulate the image of the star. A star's image today is therefore multiply mediated. Film stardom works across diverse sources of media output to make a star's image a sign of similarity and difference. Of course, organizing the multiple appearances of a star's image across different media requires planning. A star's multiple media appearances are therefore among the clearest indicators that film stardom is never the product of the individual performer alone but always of an array of collaborative and institutional actions systematically designed to make performers known to the moviegoing public.

SEE ALSO Fans and Fandom ; Film History ; Journals and Magazines ; Publicity and Promotion ; Stars ; Studio System

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Paul McDonald



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