Film and TV Studies

Excerpt from Recycled Stars, by Mary R. Desjardins

The following is an excerpt from the recently published Recycled Stars: Female Film Stardom in the Age of Television and Video, by Mary R. Desjardins. The popularity of television in postwar suburban America had a devastating effect on the traditional Hollywood studio system. Yet many aging Hollywood stars used television to revive their fading careers. In this book, Desjardins examines the recirculation, ownership, and control of female film stars and their images in television, print, and new media. 
Desjardins cover image, 5802-2“Probably more than any other female star persona of the silent era, Gloria Swanson’s represented the range of identities possible for the “New Woman,” who symbolized the transformative promises of early twentieth-century modernity. While Swanson did not wield as much power in the film industry as did the actress, producer, and studio owner Mary Pickford, nor were her characters usually as sexually free as those played by Clara Bow or Louise Brooks, her persona was a blend of textual and extratextual identities that suggested female self-fulfillment was about taking advantage of the moment and projecting oneself into the future. After a series of very successful films produced by Paramount Studios, Swanson became an independent producer and businesswoman in the 1920s to sustain her labor power and image value. The actress and the characters she played also made the most of the prosthetic potentials of the commodity (e.g., fashion) to control or sustain their place and duration in the marriage economy and to be recognized by their mates and other women for this achievement. Publicity about Swanson during her acting career up to the early 1930s made maintenance of a place in various economies, both traditional and new, an explicit goal….