Mary Pickford (Library of Congress)
For more than a century, Hollywood has relied on star power as the most reliable way to draw an audience. From the early days of silent movies when Mary Pickford was able to command $10,000 a week, to today when actors like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks are guaranteed $20 million (or more) a picture, the film studios have recognized the crucial role stars played at the box office.
Brian Rose, professor emeritus at Fordham University, traces the history of movie stardom. He looks back at how originally film actors weren’t even identified by name, how Mary Pickford became “America’s Sweetheart” and the first real film star, and how the Hollywood studios manufactured stars like Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Lana Turner during its Golden Age. He also examines how the star system changed once television came on the scene, and how actors like Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, and Denzel Washington ushered in a new definition of stardom during the last few decades.
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