The aim of this essay Is to use historical artifacts such as film promos, posters and magazines assess the difference between film culture in the early days of film and cinema versus in the present day; specifically how stardom and fan culture has changed overtime and how movie advertising has changed and adapted to modern society. I will do this by looking at the 1911 ‘Motion Picture Story’ magazine and comparing it to the 1928 ‘Photoplay’ magazine. These magazines were designed for the increasing number of fans that were curious about the nameless actors they were watching in the movies they adored and even fell in love with.
Public interest in actors started in the early 1900s when cinema became more popular and more and more films were being produced with the same actors appearing every time. Film studios were being bombarded with fan letters writing to find out more about they’re favourite actors and actresses; hoping to get they’re questions answered. It wasn’t until 1910 that studios agreed to reveal the names of the actors to the public and took until 1912 for this to be done by all studios. The first celebrity to be publicly names was Florence Lawrence, previously known as “The Biograph Girl” Despite some commentators believing that revealing actor’s names would put an end to inquisitive fans and insistent letters, this is where celebrity and fan culture really started to evolve. Fans now wanted to know more about actor’s personal life..which is exactly what these magazines set out to do.
The ‘Motion Picture Magazine’ (1911) was originally created for exhibitors who reviewed new film releases and knew which films would be more successful in cinemas (selling tickets etc); however the context of the magazine became more aimed towards movie goers and started to consist mostly of short story reconstructions of popular films and also contained business profiles of the public’s favourite stars. The magazine became such a hit that it was published months until 1977. However, while the ‘Motion Picture Magazine’ was at one point the most popular film magazine, it was soon taken over by the ‘Photoplay’ magazine which quickly became the supreme magazine in the late 1920s and 30s. This is because the focus of the magazine shifted to stars and their private lives; which the public was becoming increasingly interested in.
The ‘Photoplay’ magazine became massively popular due to its contents being aimed at the majority of film-goers which were women. It contained beauty, fashion and relationship advice columns as well as celebrity “gossip”. In 1920, the magazine began giving out ‘The Photoplay Medal of Honour’ awards to films voted for by the readers- this became one of the first major awards In film history.