The star system emerged as new information about film actors and actresses could be produced for the public, usually centering on the private lives of these players. According to “The Star” by Richard deCordova, in 1913-1920’s there was a shift in the discourse surrounding film actors that was aimed at illuminating aspects of actors and actresses’ lives beyond the screen. Cinema fans became increasingly fascinated with the day to day actions of the faces in “filmdom”. deCordova writes that journalistic discourse around actors began to emphasize family life, marriage, and relationships. A huge publicity apparatus became centered around the love lives of actors and actresses. If you’ve seen the 1952 classic film, “Singing In The Rain“, this idea is made perfectly clear with on-screen romance publicized as a real life romance between fictional silent stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. The opening of the movie shows Lockwood and Lamont entering Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the premiere of a new movie as an energetic gossip columnist, Dora Bailey, fawns over the two stars. Dora Bailey gets right to the point and asks Lockwood and Lamont what their fans are truly interested in: their romantic status.
The discourse surrounding early film stars really focuses on relationships, courtship, and marriage. While perusing some 1920 issues of Photoplay magazine, I came across a couple articles that discussed the love life of cinema stars. The first article, “The Pickford-Fairbanks Wooing” is in a way parallel to the Lockwood and Lamont example. The article discusses the relationship and romance between to on-screen giants translating to their romance in real life. The article is even previewed with the subtitle, “A story of filmdom’s greatest real life romance”. Another article, ““What Do You Think of These Husbands?”, took a look at the relationship and marriage between Director Harry Beaumont and actress Hazel Daly. It was clear that the public was interested in how Beaumont managed to separate his directorial work from becoming a jealous husband, while directing his wife through romantic scenes.
As early as the 1920’s, the public developed a fascination with the love lives of stars. It is clear from the plethora of gossip columns surrounding Taylor Swift’s latest boy toy or the heated Aniston-Pitt-Jolie love triangle that we are still very much interested in the romantic lives of celebrities. It is also clear that celeb romances continue to foster publicity. Jessica Biel’s recent marriage to Justin Timberlake and decision to take his last name has garnered huge publicity for both Biel and Timberlake’s careers. A star’s life beyond the screen was and remains to be an area of pure fascination for cinema fans.