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Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to Book Passage, I am Susan Leipzig and I want to thank you for supporting your local independent book store. Our author today is Jeanine Basinger and the book is "The Star Machine." For those of your friends who are not here, you will be able to catch it or they will be able to catch it on fora.tv on the internet. Jeanine Basinger is a wonderful film historian who is a talking head on most every documentary Turner Classic Movies does. She is a professor of film studies and founder and curator of the cinema archives at Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. She is also a trustee of the American Film Institute, a member of the Steering Committee of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation and one of the board of advisors of for the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. She has also appeared in numerous documentaries. This is her tenth book on film. You will find that it's a fascinating in-depth look at the bygone area era of the Studio System and how it groomed stars. So please welcome Jeanine here today. Thank you very much and I am personally very happy to support an independent book store anytime, especially this one where I have shopped happily many times. So it's good to be here and I am happy to see all of you and thank you for coming on such a beautiful day. I am going to talk a little bit - I would just say briefly about what the book is, read briefly about it and then I will be happy to answer questions about the old Studio System, the book or anything that you would like to ask me. I for many years interviewed film stars and film directors, related to my work as a film historian and to other books I have written. And I was very fortunate as I looked back on it to realize that I got to meet the biggest names, people like Joan Crawford, Betty Grable although one doesn't normally connect those two to one another, Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, people who really talked a lot to me about movie stars, about stardom, what it was like what it was and particularly the great women stars, who were really, extremely perceptive in describing what it was like to be a movie star. I never expected to write a book about it exactly although, over the years as it went by, I always remembered the day, when I first asked Joan Crawford a question. I had been thinking a lot about it. And I, she was a very nice woman; she was very nice to me but a little scary. And I blurted out to her what do you do all day, I mean you know, like when you are not being a movie star and she was like she had like laser beam blue eyes just you know, and she said, "Jeanine, when you are a movie star, that is what you do all day. You can't ever do anything else." And I thought that was both fascinating and some what tragic. And later it was explained to me by Clint Eastwood that the status of movie star is one that, you don't know what it's going to be until you are it and then you can't change it. you can't never get away from it and it is a kind of trap and you know, of course well lined and well paid trap, so it was just a subject that I kept going back to and back to and decide it finally. What I was interested in was writing about this studio system and how it sort of manufactured people into being stars - took people who, you wouldn't necessarily think who are going to be stars and shape them. And what I found is although there was no formula for there really was a very specific delineated, defined process that the studios used. So that's what the book is about. So here is a little bit about that from the book just to set up how I began thinking about the issue. It's a crackpot business, that sets out to manufacture a product, it can't even define, but that was old Hollywood. Thousands of people in the movie business made a Wizard of Oz living working hidden levers to present an on awe inspiring display on theatre screens, movie stars. Hollywood made them and sold them daily, gamely producing a result for what would creators actually had no concrete explanation. Some times they made film that told the story of their own star making business and even then they couldn't say exactly what a movie star was. They just trusted that the audience wouldn't need an explanation because it would believe what it was seeing on the screen a movie star with star presence could verify its own existence. She is got that little something extra says James Mason in 1954 as a star born and since he is talking about Judy Garland and we are watching her sing the man they got away obviously the point is made. She does have that little something extra so we can all let it go with, that as a definition it is it isn't much and it wasn't much it was all that anyone needed and in fact that really isn't any arguing with that. The truth is that nobody either then or now can exactly define what a movie star is except by specific examples, but the work at day world of movie making never gave up trying to figure it out. As soon as the business realized that movie givers wanted to see stars, they grappled with trying to find a useful definition for the phenomenon of the movie stardom which is really not like any other kind. Marlon Brando called these attempts 'a lot of frozen monkey vomit.' So on my bad days of writing this book I always thought Jeanine you are writing a book about "frozen monkey vomit" and that those were the dark days but I did get it done. But when you add up the monkey's offerings it's clear that over the years Hollywood collected a sensible list of informed observations. These are some of the things that I read in studio files over the years. A star has exceptional looks, outstanding talent of some kind, a distinctive voice that can be recognized and imitated, a set of mannerisms that are attractive not unattractive, palpable sexual appeal, energy that comes down off the screen glamour androgyny, glowing held radiance, panache: a single tiny flow of that merge their perfection which can endear them to ordinary people, charm: the good luck to be in the right place at the right time. Some kind of emblematic quality that audiences believe is who they really are. The ability to make viewers know what they're thinking when the camera comes close, an established type by which it is met they could play the same role over and over again and that of course was one of the main goals of star machine type casting, feeling comfortable in front of the camera and then finally and they wrote these words over and over again in their files that little something extra which of course is something that wasn't defined are kind of variation of justice Potter Stewarts famous remark about pornography, I know it when I see it. So of course that makes sense because seeing it is in fact the only reliable definition of stardom. The problem for the business was that the audience as they were selling to didn't all agree and what they saw. Some said that Greer Garson was a talented actress of lady like grace and charm Pauline Kael of course defined her as one of that queenly horrors of Hollywood and legions of fans loved Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, but Noel Coward said they were an affair between a mad rocking horse in a rawhide suitcase and I always thought what that he - he didn't say which was the rocking horse and which was the suitcase I have puzzled over there for quite a while. If you can help me with that I am I am happy to hear it. Hollywood followed majority opinion and it promoted the stars that there was the most consistent audience agreement and then they tried to figure out the mystery of why one guy Clark Gable who look to certain way could become a star and one who looked exactly like him really John Carroll couldn't be. It fascinated them and they did work on it but they never found an answer to it. And the end they decided questions and answers didn't matter, they would just keep their options open there would always be an unknown abstract and unpredictable part to the star making process. They would always be reconciling opposing elements and taking big chances, treading a fine line between what would be their objective business plan and what they knew would be subjective audience response. A star was born, not made says, W. Robert Lavine in a book called "In a Glamorous Fashion". He was right, but also wrong. "You don't manufacture stars," says Joan Crawford, who of course was in a position to know, "you manufacture toys." She was wrong but also right. It was one of those kinds of things. So the old studio moguls succeeded because they accepted that there was no real need for them to define stardom. "Anything that worked" was all the definition they needed. She is got that little something extra would be fine. Since they were in business, they knew they would need to control as many things about creating movie stars as possible, but they were willing to gamble on the rest. The intelligence of the Hollywood businessmen who came to this conclusion and their astounding nerve really is seldom acknowledged. So Hollywood, with its factory like studio system, cheerfully made a living manufacturing a product it could not define, confident that someone out there, the little people and that's us, would do it for them and pay them for the privilege. So they busied themselves looking for a Judy Garland to put up on the screen, so the audience could find her and say, "She is got that little something extra". They looked for actors and actresses who could project this thing this something extra, this mysterious x-factor of stardom. You know it really was a crackpot idea. But against all odds they made it work because in fact whatever it was this x-factor was visible to the audience and the audience embraced it. Louis B. Mayer and I am sure you all know who he was, really was one of the kings of star making in the old days. He knew it was good business to let the public think they were the most important part of the star selection process; that stardom happened without calculation. Speaking to general fans on one of Louella Parsons weekly radio broadcast in 1946, Mayer gave all the credit to the audience. He said, "I don't discover stars Louella, I am only the talent scout who brings the public talent, presented in what I think is the proper manner. It's the public who pays its money, chooses and makes the star". Behind the scenes, approximately the same time, Mayer wrote a very tough minded article in an industry magazine. And the article was called "What is a star?" And Mayer wrote these words "The idea of a star being born is bourgeois. A star is created carefully and cold bloodedly, built up from nothing, from nobody; age, beauty, talent least of all talent has nothing to do with it. We could make Silk Purses Out of Sows Ears everyday in the week." And that is what they did or what they try to do. So my book is about "The Star Machine," that Hollywood created with which to manufacture their silk purses. It's a somewhat scary story really about how a really tough minded business would do pretty much anything to make money, lots of money. The dreams, the fantasies, the escapes' movie stars brought to the audience; those were means to their end. Star power was for the film business just a sailable illusion. Judy Garland stardom was ethereal, indefinable, but for them quotidian and unglamorous; that something as evanescent, as memorable, as durable as a garland could be the product of a cut and dried business process is really fascinating. And that's what I wanted to write about and set out to write about. My book is about the star machine as a daily routine inside the studio. Knowing how much the business depended on movie stars and knowing how much young actors, actresses or waitresses or gas jockeys wanted to become movie stars, the studios laid out a plan to locate suitable candidates, hire them, fix them up, and put them on the market. They never had any illusions about it. They knew they were shooting for the moon and at the mercy of a fickle public, temperamental actors, shifting times, and countless others unpredictable factors, but that never slowed them down. They manufactured the product they needed and manipulated their system shamelessly from case to case. They used it, abused it, treated it as a religion or kicked it down the stairs; whatever worked best, fastest and to the highest degree of profit. For one star they would follow their own rules to the letter, for another they would throw everything to the wind. They rode the whirlwind, but in the most efficient way possible. And what I had do in the book is I tell you what the process was. They changed people's names, they created fake biographies, they gave them cosmetic surgery, they planted fake stories about them and took them through a process of posing for photos, playing bit parts and if someone came to them in perfect condition like a Tyrone Power, they quickly put him in and just moved him forward. So inevitably as I wrote the book I didn't want to write about the big name stars, who had already been written about. I tried to take people who really were a product of the system, like a Diana Durban or a Tyrone Power, people of that sort. And I also deal with people who are on sort of inexplicable movie stars, like Wallace Beery. Why should an old mug like Wallace Beery become a top box office movie star? It's all very odd really. So what I did though was I defined divided the book in to two sections. The first where I described the system, how they did it, and also write about their malfunctions, because a lot of people they tried to make into stars didn't work. So I have an Edsel chapter as it were. And then I take test cases. So that's basically what the book is. It tells you a little bit about, it gives you a sense of flavor. I had a lot of fun with it because I got to read old movie magazines. And this was the highlight of my life for five years. These old movie magazines are just fabulous. They are just full of all kinds of wonderful lies and they also have things like advise to the lovelorn columns, written by who have been divorced five times or recipes recipes that are you know if you made these recipes, they were doomed. They there were Mickey Rooney's recipes for dishes with eggs. I don't want to be cooking Mickey Rooney's recipes, thank you very much. But there were also some ones that you knew had been created for comedy; like Preston Sturges, allegedly very seriously, gives a recipe for sausage ala turbogo and it has one sausage, several mushrooms, a tomato and an egg and there is an asterisk that says, "The sausage is optional." You know, he had to be having fun. And I love the clothes and Jean Seaberg models, the St. Joan Jumper evidently suitable for being burnt at the stake, you know it just they are full of wonderful things, and you realize what a mysterious I mean actually they were having a hilarious time here, and creating fantasy, which is what we knew when we went and they were lot smarter than we may have thought. So the book is about that, and I have lot of fun writing it and I hope you would, if you buy it have fun reading it. So what would you like to ask me about the system, or the book or oh it does also conclude with a chapter about today's movie stars, and how the system differs, because of course today we don't have the system anymore. And although we still have movie stars, they come from a very different process and their professional lives are very different. They have gained a lot but also lost a lot. The old stars would have liked their salaries and their freedom, but today's stars would have liked the privacy and protection of the police and the systems that existed in the old days. In the old days the stars worked very hard. They went just to the studio every day. They were employees, they punched the clock. They had to be there at six am, seven at the latest and they worked six days a week. And they had no down time, because if they weren't shooting they were they will be having wardrobe test or posing for photos or having diction lessons or getting their teeth fixed, when it was time to vote they were not allowed to leave the studio, the ballots were brought to them. You know leaving the studio lot meant time lost if they were ready to go to shoot them and they weren't present. So it was a very interesting thing to study and to realize you know what the unglamorous part of it really was.