Movie Stars: Biblio, Theory, Jeremy Butler’s Star Texts (Bogart)

Geremy Butler, Star Texts
Wayne State University Press, 1991. 382pp pages

Theories of film and television have traditionally neglected the significance of performance and the many functions of the screen star’s image.

Editing, framing, composition, and camera movement concerned early theorists more than theater-based acting.

What was lost in this emphasis on elements of film form was an understanding of the significance of human bodies–their movement and later, their speech–to the pleasures of the cinema. And yet spectators did not consciously watch movies for the editing or framing; they came to see vivid personalities in narrative situations. They came to see stars in performance.

Star Texts focuses on comprehending performance and stardom. Part One consists principally of the thoughts of film and theater directors and playwrights regarding the actor’s creation of a character.

There are influential statements on acting from Constantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, and V. I. Pudovkin. Juxtaposed to their “naturalistic” approaches to performance are the theories of iconoclasts such as Bertolt Brecht, Lev Kuleshov, and Robert Bresson.

Parts Two through Four, in contrast, focus on the interpretation or reading of performance as it has been articulated by screen theorists. The essays in Part Two lean toward general principles of the “semiotics of acting” with some comments on the functions of individual stars.

Part Three concentrates on particular star images, offering the reader more tangible evidence of the applicability of screen theory to performance texts.

The essays in this section feature methodologically diverse analyses of individual stars including Shirley Temple, Humphrey Bogart, Lana Turner, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, and Rudolph Valentino.

These essays all focus on the image of the star and refer to individual film performances to illustrate the themes on discourses associated with that star. Several of the authors then relate the star image to the society that produced it and/or the individual spectators who view it.

Previously, most star analysis was concentrated on the cinema, but today’s television stars enthrall viewers.

Consequently, Part Four of Star Texts includes analyses of the television stars’ functions as signifying elements within that medium.

The presence of stars is essential to the visual pleasures and economic structures created by television and cinema.

In order to truly understand how they function and thus to enhance our own experience of film and television, studies of performance and star image, such as those in Star Texts, are vital.