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MA2061 Hollywood Star Performances

Tutor: Jacob Leighkatherine hepburn

Teaching: 10 hours lecture, 10 hours seminar

Value: ½ unit

Availability: Autumn Term

Course Outline:

 

On this course, we study acting and performances in popular Hollywood films from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. This is the period sometimes known as the ‘golden age of Hollywood’, ‘classical Hollywood’ or ‘the studio era’. In addition, on this course we will study some of the philosophical and critical principles which support judgements of performances, which we often only assess in terms of their believability or naturalness. We will examine how the judgement of a performance depends upon plausibility, but we will also consider how performances can connect productively with other parts of a film. Studying the performances of stars in some major Hollywood films and considering the achievements of stars and films will increase your understanding of why this period of American cinema is still celebrated so highly today. In addition, studying performances in these films will help you to increase your ability to evaluate films generally. Therefore, I will be encouraging you to interpret star performances as part of the general process of interpreting a film. The two major topics of the course are: a) the relationship between star and performance; b) the relationship between performance and direction. We will also look at a range of other related topics, including: presence and character; voice, appearance and movement; thought, emotion and identification; distance and closeness; parody and comedy; transparency and display; story and spectacle.

 

Assessment:

All components of the course are compulsory: students will be required to attend at least 70 per cent of all screenings, lectures and seminars or they will automatically fail (unless an adequate medical or other certificate is produced). If a student misses a seminar presentation or does not do the required course work one week, this will count as a missed seminar. Final assessment is by means of a 5,000-word essay handed in at the beginning of the following term. Any work that is found to be plagiarised (whether through direct quotation or paraphrasing) will be failed. Please see the Undergraduate Student Handbook for further details about plagiarism.

Essay Topics:

The ten films on the course allow us to explore a range of ideas and examples of Hollywood star performances. I will set essay questions that relate to these ten films. I will also suggest further films featuring the same star or by the same director, but you can write an essay on any star from any period, relating their performances to their films. Alternatively, it will be possible to consider the ways in which a single director uses different stars.

Course breakdown

1.Film: Stage Door (Gregory La Cava, 1937)

Reading: Britton, Andrew (1995) Katharine Hepburn. London: Studio Vista. 62-72 & 124-139.

Topics: evaluation of a performance; acting and direction; contexts for performances; star persona and screen acting; Hepburn and feminism; expressive objects.

(Gregory La Cava, 1937)Reading: Britton, Andrew (1995) . London: Studio Vista. 62-72 & 124-139.Topics: evaluation of a performance; acting and direction; contexts for performances; star persona and screen acting; Hepburn and feminism; expressive objects.

2. Film: The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)


Reading: Cavell, Stanley (1981) ‘The Importance of Importance: The Philadelphia Story’ in Cavell, Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard University Press, 135-160.

Topics: Hepburn and rebirth; Philip Barry; the identity of Tracy/Hepburn; the humanisation or the chastisement of Hepburn; the comedy of remarriage and the role of the woman. 

3. Film : Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1937)

Reading: Rothman, William (1988) ‘Pathos and transfiguration in the face of the camera: A reading of Stella Dallas’, in Rothman, The “I” of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History, and Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 85-94.

Topics: Stanwyck, stardom and class; feminist interpretations of Stella Dallas; the melodrama of the unknown woman; expressive coherence. (King Vidor, 1937)Reading: Rothman, William (1988) ‘Pathos and transfiguration in the face of the camera: A reading of ’, in Rothman, . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 85-94.Topics: Stanwyck, stardom and class; feminist interpretations of ; the melodrama of the unknown woman; expressive coherence. 

4. Film: The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)

Reading: Cavell, Stanley (1981) ‘Cons and Pros:The Lady Eve’, in Cavell, Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard University Press, 45-70.

Topics: performance within a performance; acting as display; irony; acknowledgment; disguise and impersonation. 

5.Film: All I Desire (Douglas Sirk, 1953)

Reading: Walker, Michael (1990) ‘All I Desire’, Movie 34/35, winter, 31-47.

Topics: Sirk and melodrama; the relationship between performance and mise en scène; frames for performances; theatrical performance and social appearance; presentational and representational acting.  

 

6.Film: To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)

Reading: Thomson, David (2004) ‘By a Nose’ in The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. London: Little Brown, 80-94.

Topics: violence and misogyny in the Bogart star persona; Bogart’s postures, gestures and facial movements; ethnicity and class characteristics; Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe/Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler/Hawks and Huston; Hawksian women and the companionate couple.

 

 

7.Film: Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)

Reading: Mast, Gerald (1982) Howard Hawks, Storyteller. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, extracts.

Topics: Montgomery Clift and John Wayne; stardom and acting; Hawks’ style.

8. Film: The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)

Reading: Sarris, Andrew (1975)The John Ford Movie Mystery. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 170-182.

Haskell, Molly (1997) ‘What Makes John Wayne Larger than Life?’ in Haskell, Holding My Own in No Man’s Land: Women and Men and Film and Feminists. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 147-160.

Topics: John Wayne; the ‘Fordian’ performance; John Ford’s style.

(John Ford, 1962)Reading: Sarris, Andrew (1975) . Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 170-182.Haskell, Molly (1997) ‘What Makes John Wayne Larger than Life?’ in Haskell, . New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 147-160.Topics: John Wayne; the ‘Fordian’ performance; John Ford’s style.

 

9. Film: In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)

Reading: Perkins, V.F. (1992) In a Lonely Place’, in Ian Cameron (ed.) The Movie Book of Film Noir. London: Studio Vista, 222-231.

Topics: using a star; dismantling the image; direction and performance.

 

10. Film: Rebel without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)

Reading: Keane, Marian (1993) ‘Dyer Straits: Theoretical Issues in Studies of Film Acting’, Post Script 12:2, winter, 29-39.

Topics: Nicholas Ray; American melodrama of the 1950s; method acting.

Further Reading

As a starting point, I recommend that you read at least one of these two books:

Klevan, Andrew (2005) Film Performance. London: Wallflower Press.. London: Wallflower Press.

Naremore, James (1990) Acting in the Cinema. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Bibliography

Affron, Charles (1977)Star Acting: Gish, Garbo and Davis. New York: E.P. Dutton.. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Baron, Cynthia, Carson, Diane and Tomasulo Frank P. (eds) (2004) More than a Method: Trends and Traditions in Contemporary Film Performance. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Contains an essay on Cruise.. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Contains an essay on Cruise.

Barkworth, Peter (1980) About Acting. London: Secker and Warburg.. London: Secker and Warburg.

Barkworth, Peter (1984) More About Acting. London: Secker and Warburg.. London: Secker and Warburg.

Bingham, Dennis (1994) Acting Male: Masculinities in the Films of James Stewart, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Blum, Richard (1984) American Film Acting: The Stanislavski Heritage. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Research Press.. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Research Press.

Blum, Richard (1989) Working Actors: The Craft of Television, Film and Stage Performance. London: Focal Press.. London: Focal Press.

Braudy, Leo (1976a) The World in a Frame. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

Braudy, Leo (1976b) ‘Film Acting: Some Critical Problems and Proposals’, Quarterly Review of Film Studies 1:1, February, 1-18.

Britton, Andrew (1984) Katharine Hepburn (London: Studio Vista, 1995; first published 1984).

Cameron, Ian (ed.) (1992) The Movie Book of Film Noir. London: Studio Vista.. London: Studio Vista.

Cardullo, Bert et al (eds) (1998) Playing to the Camera: Film Actors Discuss their Craft. New Haven, London: Yale University Press. (eds) (1998) .

Cavell, Stanley (1979) The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film. Enlarged Edition. Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard University Press; first published 1971.

Cavell, Stanley (1981) Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard University Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1984) ‘What Becomes of Things on Film?’ in Cavell Themes Out of School: Effects and Causes. San Francisco: North Point Press, 173-183. Also reprinted in Rothman, William (ed.) (2005)

Cavell, Stanley (1984) Themes out of School: Effects and Causes. San Francisco: North Point Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1995) ‘The Thought of Movies’, in Cynthia A Freeland and Thomas E Wartenberg (eds) Philosophy and Film. London: Routledge. Also reprinted in Rothman, William (ed.) (2005) Cavell on Film. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1996) Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press..

Cavell, Stanley (2004) Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life. Cambridge, Mass.; London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Cohan, Steven (1997) Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Bloomington University Press.

CineAction 55, July 2001, Special Issue on Stars, with articles on Ethan Hawke, Joan Crawford, Anthony Hopkins, Hedy Lamarr, The Marx Brothers, Jim Carrey, Hugh Grant and Joan Fontaine.

Dyer, Richard (1998) Stars. London: BFI; first published 1979.. London: BFI; first published 1979.

Dyer, Richard (1987) Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society. London: Macmillan Education.. London: Macmillan Education.

Gallafent, Edward (1994) Clint Eastwood: Actor and Director. London: Studio Vista.. London: Studio Vista.

Gledhill, Christine (ed.) (1991) Stardom: Industry of Desire. London: Routledge.. London: Routledge.

Gledhill, Christine (ed.) (1987) Home Is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. London: BFI.. London: BFI.

Harvey, James (1987) Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Hepburn, Katharine (1991) Me: Stories of My Life. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Hirsch, Foster (1984) Method to their Madness: The History of the Actors Studio. New York, London: W.W. Norton.

Kalter, Joanmarie (ed.) (1979) Actors on Acting: Performance in Theatre and Film Today. New York, London: Sterling, Oak Tree Press.

King, Geoff (2002) New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction. London, New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers.

McCann, Graham (1991) Rebel Males: Clift, Brando, Dean. London: Hamish Hamilton.

Mulhall, Stephen (1998) Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ndalianis, Angela and Henry, Charlotte (eds) (2002) Stars in Our Eyes: The Star Phenomenon in the Contemporary Era. Westport, Connecticut; London: Praeger. Essays on Dennis Hopper, Robert De Niro, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Keanu Reeves.

Perkins, V.F. (1972) Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Ross, Lillian and Helen (1962) The Player: A Profile of an Art. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Rothman, William (2004) The “I” of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History, and Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; first published 1988.

Rothman, William (ed.) (2005) Cavell on Film. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Rothman William and Keane, Marian (2000) Reading Cavell’s The World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Sante, Luc and Holbrook Pierson, Melissa (eds) (1999) O.K. You Mugs: Writers on Movie Actors. New York: Pantheon Books..

Screen – 26:5, 1985, Special Issue on screen acting.

Smith, Ella (1985) Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck. New York: Crown; first published 1974.

Smith, Murray (1995) Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Stacey, Jackie (1994) Stargazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship. London: Routledge.

Stern, Lesley and Kouvaros, George (eds) (1999)Falling for You: Essays on Cinema and Performance. Sydney: Power Publications.

Stern, Lesley (2002) ‘Putting on a Show, or The Ghostliness of Gesture’. Published at:

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/02/21/sd_stern.html

Stanislavski, Constantin (1967) An Actor Prepares. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Thomson, David (1967) Movie Man. London: Secker and Warburg,

Thomson, David (1977)‘The Look on an Actor’s Face’, Sight and Sound 46:4, autumn, 240-244.

Toles, George (2004) ‘Auditioning Betty in Mulholland Drive’ Film Quarterly 58:1, fall, 2-13.

Tomlinson, Doug (ed.) (1994) Actors on Acting for the Screen: Roles and Collaborations. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.

Vineberg, Steve (1991) Method Actors: Three Generations of an American Acting Style. New York: Schirmer.

Wilson, George (1986) Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Wexman, Virginia Wright (ed.) (1980) Cinema Journal 20:1, Special Issue on film acting. 20:1,

Wexman, Virginia Wright (1993) Creating the Couple: Love, Marriage, and Hollywood Performance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wojcik, Pamela Robertson (2004) Movie Acting: The Film Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Wood, Robin (1976) ‘Acting up’, Film Comment 12:2, March/April, 20-25.

Wood, Robin (1998) Sexual Politics and Narrative Film: Hollywood and Beyond. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wood, Robin (2002) Hitchcock’s Films Revisited. New York: Columbia University Press; first published 1965.

Wood, Robin (2003) Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, and Beyond. New York: Columbia University Press; first published 1985.

Wood, Robin (2006) Personal Views: Explorations in Film. Detroit: Wayne State University Press; first published 1976.

Zucker, Carole (1990) Making Visible the Invisible: An Anthology of Original Essays on Film Acting. Metuchen, NJ, London: The Scarecrow Press.

Zucker, Carole (1995) Figures of Light: Actors and Directors Illuminate the Art of Film Acting. New York and London: Plenum Press.

Zucker, Carole (2002) Conversations with Actors on Film, TV and Stage Performance. Westport: Greenwood Press.

 
Reference Works

David Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Cinema.

Amy L Unterburger, The International Dictionary of Films and Film-Makers – Volume 3 – Actors and Actresses, Third Edition (London: St James Press, 1997).  
 

   
 
 
 

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