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Film Stardom and the Ancient Past

Idols, Artefacts and Epics

Authors: Williams, Michael

  • The first major study of the use of the ancient past in the construction of Hollywood stardom after the silent era
  • Offers new perspectives on enduringly popular stars such as Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe, alongside less well-known films and stars, such as Buster Crabbe and the pre-Code comedy, Search for Beauty (1934)
  • Provides a historically rigorous and timely study on the contemporary ancient epic, including discussion of Alexander, Troy, Immortals, and Clash of the Titans, as well as analysis of ‘divinized stardom’ in the digital domain online and in social media
  • Presents exhaustive archival research and uses a variety of materials -- ranging from film texts, theory, fine art, fan-magazines, to studio production files and promotional materials
  • Brings together a number of fields both within Film Studies (such as cinema history, star and performance studies, set design, memory studies, genre studies), and beyond, including Art History, Classical Reception and Gender and Queer Studies
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Buy this book

eBook $79.99
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-137-39002-8
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $99.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-137-39001-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
About this book

This book offers the first comprehensive exploration of how the ancient past has shaped screen stardom in Hollywood since the silent era. It engages with debates on historical reception, gender and sexuality, nostalgia, authenticity and the uses of the past. Michael Williams gives fresh insights into ‘divinized stardom’, a highly influential and yet understudied phenomenon that predates Hollywood and continues into the digital age. 
Case studies include Greta Garbo and Mata Hari (1931); Buster Crabbe and the 1930s Olympian body; the marketing of Rita Hayworth as Venus in the 1940s; sculpture and star performance in Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004); landscape and sexuality in Troy (2004); digital afterimages of stars such as Marilyn Monroe; and the classical body in the contemporary ancient epic genre. The author’s richly layered ‘archaeological’ approach uses detailed textual analysis and archival research to survey the use of the myth and iconography of ancient Greece and Rome in some of stardom’s most popular and fascinating incarnations. This interdisciplinary study will be significant for anyone interested in star studies, film and cultural history, and classical reception.

About the authors

Michael Williams is Associate Professor in Film at the University of Southampton, UK. He is the author of Film Stardom, Myth and Classicism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Ivor Novello (BFI, 2003), and co-editor of British Silent Cinema and the Great War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Reviews

“In the book, the author effectively shows the links between the past and present, and therefore the ethereal nature of stardom … . Williams does so extremely successfully by examining studio portraiture, promotional materials, film texts and critical reception. … However, what makes this book even more impressive is Williams’ wealth of knowledge on the figures of the ancient past, thus he uses this in interesting and unique ways to explore the stars and their films.” (Gillian Kelly, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, January 15, 2019)

“We wish to highlight... the entertaining style of its author and the abundant documentation presented, its multidisciplinary nature, the originality of its approach…[Williams’] readings will undoubtedly illuminate both film scholars in general and specialists in the reception of the Greco-Roman classics.” (Alejandro Valverde Garcia, FILMHISTORIA Online, Volume 28. Nos. 1-2. 2018, 215-216.)

“This beautifully written book develops ideas which Michael Williams’s previous work brought to the attention of scholars in relation to silent Hollywood cinema and classicism, and tackles the perpetuation and persistence of the relationship between film stardom and Olympic ideals. A pleasure to read, this scholarly and authoritative study considers both the flagrant marketing of stars in this context, and more subtle influences which persist in Hollywood to this day.” (Lucy Bolton, Queen Mary University of London)

“Williams’ book seriously advances the scholarly study of cinematic stardom. In its emphasis on the connection with the ancient world, it is an original contribution to the exploration of one of film’s most important phenomena, and is hugely eclectic in the range of sources it draws on. I’m sure that the book will be much welcomed in the realms of film scholarship.” (Brian McFarlane, Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

“Ambitious, groundbreaking, and meticulously researched Williams’ book excavates the classical roots of the ‘new’ gods and goddesses of Hollywood, from the introduction of sound in film to the digitally enhanced cinema of the twenty-first century. Together with his earlier investigation of the silent era (Palgrave: 2013), this volume belongs on the shelves of all those interested in first-class interdisciplinary research and in how the past continues to interact with and reshape both present and future.” (Anastasia Bakogianni, Lecturer in Classical Studies, Massey University, New Zealand)

Table of contents (9 chapters)

Table of contents (9 chapters)
  • Introduction: An Archaeology of Stardom

    Pages 1-22

    Williams, Michael

  • Idols and Idolatry: Greta Garbo and Ramón Novarro in Mata Hari (1931)

    Pages 25-58

    Williams, Michael

  • ‘The American Adonis’: Search for Beauty (1934) and the Hollywood Olympian Body

    Pages 59-93

    Williams, Michael

  • Marketing the Post-War Goddess: Rita Hayworth and Down to Earth (1947)

    Pages 97-130

    Williams, Michael

  • Idols, Fragments and Afterlives: From Gloria Swanson to Beyoncé

    Pages 131-166

    Williams, Michael

Buy this book

eBook $79.99
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-137-39002-8
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $99.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-137-39001-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Film Stardom and the Ancient Past
Book Subtitle
Idols, Artefacts and Epics
Authors
Copyright
2017
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-1-137-39002-8
DOI
10.1057/978-1-137-39002-8
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-137-39001-1
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XIV, 311
Number of Illustrations
5 b/w illustrations, 16 illustrations in colour
Topics