tv Earth Focus LINKTV February 21, 2019 9:00am-9:31am PST
♪ just you ♪ and nobody else but you ♪ it was straight, seven-year contracts and you were owned, body and soul. i give you heart, soul, blood and guts, as much as i can do, the best that i can do it. and that's a lot. if they had the choice, would you be more famous in 20 years because you died, i am convinced some of them would have said yes, the true stars would have. annenberg media ♪ and: with additional funding from these foundations and individuals: and by: and the annual financial support of:
hello, i'm john lithgow. welcome to "american cinema." some people say the star is the greatest invention of american cinema. american films have to have big names in bright lights. in the old days of the studio system, there was a structure for developing stars. they were owned, body and soul, signed to long-term contracts. a powerful publicity machine, run by the studio, they could reach an audience of millions.
but that alone did not guarantee success. the problem for the studio was to find the one personna out of many possible characters to boost an actor to stardom. humphrey bogart, for instance, played as a cheap hood before he was recast and ultimately immortalized as rick in "casablanca." stars today are still a unique match of individual flair and audience aspiration. with the studio collapse, stars catapulted to power and became the most bankable commodities in hollywood, who can often determine whether or not a film is made. in this program, narrated by kathleen turner, we look at how this reversal of roles came about, starting with an old-fashioned star like joan crawford who was shaped by the studio system. you'll also hear from contemporary stars like jack lemmon and julia roberts and find the answer to that elusive question: what makes "the star"?
(dramatic music playing) (narrator) the names on movie marquees draw the audience in like moths to a flame. the public's love affair with stars lasts forever. movie stars exist in a beauty that transcends time. (john waters) a movie star is mythic, a movie star is like no one you've ever seen walking around in your daily life. america invented the star. and there's a specific time when that happened, it happened in 1910. that's when the star was born. (thunder crashing) (music playing) (narrator) from the early days of motion pictures,
stars have incarnated the visions of directors, provided the story elements for audiences and bankrolled more films than any other financial asset. hi, nice meeting you. how do you feel about coming tonight? nervous. why shouldn't i be nervous? there's a lot of people here. i'm nervous - i'm human, what can i tell you? (stephen schiff) julia roberts is a star. julia roberts is pure, corn-fed american star. so what happened after? he climbed up the tower and rescued her? she rescues him right back.
and that comes from dazzle, and that comes from the smile, that comes from the eyes, and that comes from -- the entire package is sort of an instant dream to a certain number of people. i mean, people want it. they want to see it, they want to be exposed to it, they want to -- when they pay their money -- get that thing. (thunder crashing) (narrator) the launch of a star career signals a love affair between the public and a movie persona. for the public, it's a new infatuation, for the star, the end of life as they've known it. well, you sort of say, "oh, s---," you know. it's strange because it's -- i mean it's sort of -- it's like the ebb and tide, it will come and it will go
but there are moments when you sort of just have to choke it down and say, well, i guess people think that i'm good at this. (narrator) the greatest stars were often the ones that lasted lifetimes, extraordinary individuals, refining their image with age. (karl malden) gary cooper had a style all his own. he knew the camera, he knew himself. and his style was "less is more." what's that? what's what? that? oh, that's an anklet. new? no, it's platinum. i never noticed it before. well, i only wear it when i don't have stockings on. where'd you get it? in spain. from whom? an anklet isn't exactly something a sister gives you. a man? i'll say... he was a bullfighter. a bullfighter... hmph. his name was sebastian.
say, what's this with you and those sebastians? i mean, his name was michel, it happened in san sebastian. oh, it happened in sebastian. any dimples on his knees? nope. just scars. he was very brave, and he had the narrowest hips. you should have seen him in the ring. he had more grace, more style. ah! owww.... ! i'm sorry, i didn't mean to do that. did i say anthing wrong? no, it's just that i don't like anklets on women. you don't? i think they're very vulgar. well, why didn't you say so? it doesn't mean so much to me. not anymore. audrey hepburn is a great example. she was just so incredible and so brilliant. it was the way i felt watching an audrey hepburn movie, that's something that i wanted to do, make somebody laugh like that or maybe make somebody just die
if this couple doesn't get together. so that's what i was aspiring to. tell me, what kind of money do you girls make these days? ballpark. can't take less than a hundred dollars. hundred dollars a night? an hour. an hour?! you make $100 an hour and you've got a safety pin holding your boot up? i just want to be an actor, i don't want to be a star, and i certainly don't want to be a celebrity. you know, you look at a star like julia roberts, and she's talking about how she just wants to act, she wants to just be left alone and just let her do her job and all that sort of thing. and you look back at someone like joan crawford, and they're saying "i'm a star, i'm a star, look at me!" you say, what happened here, what's the difference? what makes a star go on? surely, the danger of a success and difficulty of following it?
the endless enmity surrounding success in our business, is this worth going on with, do you know what i mean? oh, yes, indeed, every minute of it. the old kind put up with it, they were trained, they went to school to learn how to be famous in the studio. this is your first lesson. first thing i want to see you do is walk. the heel comes down first and then the ball of the foot, like that. do either one of you know what was wrong? no. first, your posture. i'm going to have virginia grey a young featured player, show you the correct way of walking, sitting down, going up the stairs and coming down again. we had what amounted to a finishing school on the lot. we had a drama school. they went to school regularly and they became good enough so that they were turned over to directors and used on films.
you see, we were trained with a stable of stars. when i was growing up and in my teens, i used to sneak over my set when i was playing an extra and sneak over and watch the lewis stones, wally beery, greta garbo, three barrymores. (narrator) many young hopefuls came here seeking stardom, but only the lucky few were introduced to the public as potential stars. here's one of my favorites, and i know you like her too, she's the personification of youth and beauty and joy and happiness: joan crawford. (music playing) (douglas fairbanks, jr.) how did joan crawford become a star? well, she was determined to be a star. she learned to dance, she learned to sing, she went to drama school, learned voice placement. she worked all the time. she was only happy working.
on our honeymoon together, she enjoyed a few days of it. but the main thing she wanted is get back to work again. she just loved getting back to the job. you're a little stenographer! yes, i'm a little stenographer. fascinating. i don't suppose you'd take a dictation from me sometime? well, how about some tea then? tea would spoil my dinner. i only have one meal a day and i rather not spoil it. why, are you reducing? reducing? me? do i need to? stars have to have the genuine article to be one, but then you've got to push it a little longer, and you have to have people to work on them to decide what will make them a little bit un-lifelike. (soft music playing) (sidney guilaroff) she was arguably the biggest star of her time, for young people.
each one is an individual, they're all different. they become stars because of their difference. (sidney guilaroff) they don't match the crowd at all, they don't even come close. people used to go to the movies to get away from everyday life. there was an illusion about what they saw on the screen, and that was very nice then, that distinguished them. nobody really looks like the kinds of movie stars that become stars. no one looks like that. the women are drag queens, female female-impersonators. they have to get in drag too. everybody has to get in drag to be a movie star, some kind of drag. tough-guy drag. because no one is really like that.
tell me... don't, chip. don't what? i don't want to die. if i have to die, i'm going to die last. you may need me and this winchester, curly. i'll make it worth your while. a few tiny people have what it takes to get there. but then you have to go that extra level to make them a movie star. you don't see these people walking to the drug store, and the ones that you do aren't stars, they're actors. a star in the old days was someone taken by a studio, trained, processed. the studio had its feelers out at all times and whenever information came in they said, "well, we do this to this star, put 'em together with this star move this star this way." i guess i was born out of my time, miss judith. i should have lived in the days when it counted to be a man. i just heard the oklahoma kid is old man kincaid's son! i'm starting to take over the numbers game. (gunshot)
humphrey bogart. before he became a star, before they knew what to do with him, he was in a lot of lousy roles and every now and then he would do something crazy like play the irish stable hand. morning, ladies. i managed to get you up? don't be fresh. well, i hear you've got the finest string of horses. the least you could do is let them look at you. if the little horses can get up to run and jump for you, you can get up to watch 'em. they made so many movies, 4 and 5 a year sometimes; and if you go back and look at all the movies, only a small percent of them really fit what we believe. but the public remembered those films, embraced them in those films, discarded the others. and then they were smart enough to start casting them as bogie. (man) from s. charles einfeld, advertising and publicity, to martin weisser. dear marty: bogart has been typed as a gangster character. now, we want to undo this. sell bogart romantically.
♪ no matter what ♪ the future brings ♪ as time goes by ♪ sam, i thought i told you never to play that -- i consider myself lucky that i got a taste of what we would now call the "old studio system." while we complained about harry cohen or jack warner or whoever was running a studio with an iron fist, these guys knew film; they invented film. (narrator) the investments studios made in individual stars had to last long enough for the largest pay-off. there were straight seven-year contracts and you were owned, body and soul. (narrator) the studios' goal with their iron-clad contracts was to test potential stars in roles the public might buy.
boys... i'm still getting letters from people, i have no idea why. but... it's very nice. ♪ i'm looking for trouble ♪ and i don't care ♪ what people say ♪ it doesn't matter ♪ what the people say ♪ what the people say ♪ what the people say ♪ jane russell was a comic sexpot. and you see her, and you have funny ideas, in, in more, in more ways than one. ♪ and though i'm riding ♪ for a fall ♪ it doesn't matter ♪ (jane russell) i would like to have done different characterizations. i was working with men as directors, they were picking the pictures and did the casting, you know. (music playing) casting is a very, very important thing. when i was a kid i used to think,
h---, if you're an actor you can play anything, you should be able to play anything! why won't they let me play lear? i may be only 26 years old, but nevertheless, give me a beard and i'll play lear. you know... nonsense. casting is very, very important, there's going to be some actors that are better for that part. excuse me, the 27th please. you're carrying precious cargo. 27. you may not realize it miss kirkaby, but i am in the top ten, efficiency-wise, and this may be my day promotion-wise. you're beginning to sound like mr. kirkaby already. why not now that they're kicking me upstairs. couldn't happen to a nicer guy. you know, you're the only guy that ever takes his hat off. really? something happens to men in elevators. must be the altitude, the blood rushes to their head. i could tell you stories that would -- i'd love to hear them. maybe we could have lunch in the cafeteria some time
or some evening after work? 27, i hope everything goes all right. i hope so. calling me on a day like this, what with a cold? how do i look? fine. thank you. that's the first thing i ever noticed about you. when you were in the elevator you always wore a flower. good luck -- and wipe your nose. it seems derogatory to say, "oh, he's a personality actor," or "he plays the same thing all the time." how well does he do it? (man) all those in favor... (jack lemmon) tracy, when he's just sitting and listening to somebody, i would say the son of a b---- is hearing for the first time. he hasn't heard that before, he's thinking about it. gary cooper had such distinctive characteristics in his behavior pattern.
well, jimmy, with, "ah, eh, ah, ooh, um, eh," you know, and the hesitations and this and that. but, god, you look back on some of those, and how he used them. oh, i, i'm sorry, gentlemen, i... i know i'm being disrespectful to this honorable body, i know that, i... a guy like me should never be allowed to get here in the first place, i know that! and i hate to stand here and try your patience like this but i... either i'm dead right or i'm crazy! all of the big, male hollywood stars, clark gable, spencer tracy, gary cooper, james stewart, all of them don't seem to be acting very much, and some of the later people, william holden, rock hudson, and i think that effortlessness of masculinity is really quite important. a good example of that is duke wayne. well, i don't favor talking to vermin,
but i'll talk to you just this once. you're not just getting started the line's been drawn. what billy did balanced the books so far. but if one of your men crosses my land, or even touches one of my cows, or do anything to that store, i'm not going to the sheriff, the governor or the president i'm coming to see you. mr. chisum, that sounds like a threat. (smack!) wrong word: fact! most of hollywood, or art, is after authenticity. but yesterday's authenticity is today's artifice. so the whole history of hollywood is a new authenticity, and brando is clearly a new authenticity. watch "streetcar," watch "on the waterfront." he changed a whole style of acting.
don't be afraid of me, i'm not going to bite you. i guess they don't let you walk with fellows, huh? you know how sisters are. yeah, you training to be a nun? it's just a regular college. it's run by the sisters of saint anne. where is that? in tarrytown. where is that? the country. i don't like the country, the crickets make me nervous. he was helpful, he was charming, he would give me his coat on the waterfront. it was very cold at night. he was a prince. i think i can say this -- he was one of my favorite leading men. i want you to stay away from me. i ain't gonna do it so forget it. i don't want you to do anything. you let your conscience tell you what to do. shut up about that. conscience, that's all i've been hearing! i haven't mentioned the word before. you just stay away from me.
edie, you love me! i never said i didn't love you. i said stay away from me! say it to me. stay away from me! very often what stars are doing is kind of giving of humanity, an inflection, an individuality to what is still a stereotype. they seem to represent sex, or integrity, or americanism, or virtue, or whatever. it was not too difficult to play the frustration of the character in this scene. because marilyn was an incredibly attractive lady, there was no question about it. daphne,
daphne, (thud) i wanted to thank you for covering up for me, you're a real pal. sugar, it's nothing. i just thought that us girls should stick together. and if it wasn't for you, they would have kicked me off. i'd be in the middle of nowhere sitting on my ukelele. oh, it's freezing outside, i mean, when i think about you, and your poor ukelele... if there's ever anything i can do for you. i can think of a million things. that's one of 'em! and i still like movie stars who are not like real people, that you will go out all day and not see someone like that. all my life, i've been a symbol. a symbol as eternal and changeless, an obstruction. a human being is mortal and changeable,
with desires and impulses. hopes and despairs. i'm tired of being a symbol, chancellor. i long to be a human being. (jeanine basinger) marlene dietrich, greta garbo, they're like some kind of ... other. if you come closer, i'll scream. it would be easier to scream without a straw in your mouth. (music playing) (jeanine basinger) it's a romantic kind of woman, that isn't one we connect to as easily as we do crawford wanting something for herself, and who's very realistic and down-to-earth. you don't own me -- nobody does. my life belongs to me. and you'll make one fine mess of it.
it'll still belong to me. marian, you frighten me when you talk like that. if i were a man it wouldn't frighten you, you'd think it was right to go out and get anything. use anything i had to get it. why should men be so different? all they've got is their brains they're not afraid to use them. neither am i. the key to the star image is that it is only an image, and yet we know there is a real person and that knowledge that we have that there is a real person makes us believe in the image. you see, pictures have given me all the education i ever had, since i never went beyond the fifth grade. no formal education whatsoever. i used to have to read scripts and then look up the words how to pronounce them and what they meant, before i could learn the lines. i left school when i was only twelve. never learned how to spell "regret." we'll be late. (richard dyer) she always managed to keep a fit
between all the different parts of the image, and that was always difficult for stars, to keep a fit between what they were like off screen, how they were sold, what the pin-ups were like, what roles they played. (man) the celebrities include joan crawford. here's richard green arriving with actress wendy barry. (richard dyer) well, in the so-called golden age of hollywood, studios certainly did control the image of stars strongly, they determined what films they would make, how that would be advertised, what they would wear, what stories about them went to the press and so on. so in that sense they, they controlled the image very strongly, indeed. we would bring people together that worked at the studio,
and insist that they date and send a photographer along and a reporter from a magazine, along on the date. they went along with it. they did the fake dates once a week if they wanted to, and then they went out and took opium or did whatever they did on the side, and nobody would report that, as long as they'd play the game as long as they'd talk to hedda and louella and mouth stuff that they wanted to hear. (john waters) they would leave 'em alone if they did the other stuff. (sylvia wallace) fan magazines were "fanny-wanny," they catered to the children, to the teenagers, and to people who wanted to love these dream people. mmm... oh, boy. darling, how i love my darling! i love my beautiful... they didn't allow a photograph of anyone with a glass in hand.
it might have been orange juice but it might be misinterpreted. because they never drank, and they never smoked, and they never s----. in the old hollywood pictures they couldn't do anything. they couldn't have babies when they weren't married, they couldn't be gay, they couldn't take drugs, they couldn't do anything, had to live this fake life. but the publicity department took care of that; if they had a life that wasn't acceptable, they dreamed up a fake life for them. and the press knew it was fake, but they reported it. it was completely a rigged game in the old days. (man) here is what it's like inside the cabin of the luxurious airliner. (arthur wilde) there isn't really too much news in hollywood, and it has to be manufactured. if i had to guess how many were written in a year, i would say 20 or 30 a day times 365. (man) must be getting near the big village... paulette's putting on her war paint. it was as important that they do the publicity
as it was that they stand up in front of the cameras to act. (clark gable's wedding) (john waters) being a star... eventually, you could never go out of your house, you could never have a good love affair, all the things most people want you have to give up if you become that famous. and they gladly do it. and i admire those kind of people. (john waters) i've always been a big fan of jayne mansfield. ♪ the best things ♪ in life are free ♪ but you can give them ♪ to the birds and bees ♪ (john waters) i mean, she just was publicity-crazed. she loved it, and she fed on it, and she needed more and more, it was like a drug, publicity, to jayne mansfield. she used to drop invitations to her wedding from helicopter.
i mean, she was truly publicity insanity. ♪ your love gave me ♪ such a thrill ♪ she was so over the top about being a movie star that it drove her crazy. she got a taste of publicity, she wanted more and more, where every day she would just be running around in bikinis, she walked down hollywood blvd. in a bikini walking an ocelot, handing out signed pictures of her to startled passersby. she was insane. and so i respect that. (jazz music playing) (jeanine basinger) one thing that happens is accessibility to stars grows. as you move into the 50's, and the studios are collapsing, you have stars not being protected by the machinery of the studio any longer. they're out on the streets, they're getting interviews that aren't controlled, television is picking them up and showing them to you, so they become more known for who they really are.