Movie Stars: Approach–Richard Dyer’s Classification of Types

Research in progress (June 3, 2021)

The perspective of auteurism, which is usually applied to directors, has also led to a series of studies of actors-stars as auteurs, namely performers who have had unusual control over their careers and screen images.

The film scholar Richard Dyer has argued that the function of  movie stars as social phenomenon is to cover over the impossibility of constructing and maintaining a clear-cut subject-position.

“How they do this may be predominantly in terms of reaffirming the reality of people as individuals or subjects against ideology and history, or else in terms of exposing precisely the uncertainty and anxiety concerning of what a person is.” (p. 17)

Dyer has proposed a useful classification of movie stars along the following dimensions:

1. Actors who controlled their image, such as Fred Astaire or Joan Crawford.

2. Actors who contributed actively to their screen persona, such as Marlene Dietrich and Robert Mitchum.

3. Actors who were just one disparate voice among others in the construction of their screen images, such as Marilyn Monroe.

4. Actors who were totally the product of the studio machine, such as Lana Turner.