At times, we've discussed how the motion picture fan magazines of the 1930s played a major role in not only the career of Carole Lombard (shown on the cover of the July 1933 New Movie magazine), but just about every actor of note in the industry. Such magazines were incredibly pervasive during this era, with dozens vying for newsstand space.
We bring this up to discuss a book I believe I've only peripherally mentioned -- probably because I haven't been able to read it yet. It's called "Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers," and was written in 2010 by noted Hollywood historian Anthony Slide. It's been well received for giving background to these publications, from their inception more than a century ago (the first, Motion Picture Story Magazine, began in 1911), to their golden age which paralleled classic Hollywood's (the 1920s through the 1940s), to their decline for assorted reasons in the 1950s and '60s.
Slide will make an appearance at the Hollywood Heritage Museum (located at the relocated Lasky-De Mille barn across from the Hollywood Bowl) at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8. He'll discuss the fan magazines with the help of a PowerPoint presentation, followed by a book signing.
While I haven't been able to read the book yet (unfortunately, it's not found at many bookstores), I have been able to read about the book, including interviews with Slide. Regarding the truthfulness of the publications, he says, "All of the fan magazines were basically honest, even if they might bend the truth a little. They might put words into a star's mouth, but the words were in all probability what that star would have said had he or she been a little more intelligent or literate."
So chances are that what Lombard "said" in the above story (the February 1935 Screen Play) probably had some sort of verisimilitude to what she would have expressed had she sat down to write an essay on the topic. And, as we've stated before, Carole had some interesting, almost radical, things to say at the time about women's roles in society (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/157005.html).
Slide will likely also discuss how to read between the lines of fan magazines, what words and phrases to look out that might mean a star is gay or that an actress recently had an abortion. Another topic will likely be how the movie industry controlled the fan magazines. In 1934, the same year the Production Code became seriously enforced, the studios began issuing cards accrediting fan magazine writers. Without the card, writers could not get access to the studios and the stars. Some publications, such as New Movie, wouldn't play the game and their access -- and audience -- declined.
The weakening of the studio system in the early 1950s began diminishing the stature of the fan magazines as well. They seemed rather old hat as more lurid publications such as Confidential hit newsstands. But according to Slide, the personality most responsible for the downfall of movie fan magazines was not an actress at all, but someone who married into a family with some ties to the film industry...
...Jacqueline Kennedy, who as first lady wrested fan magazine covers from virtually every movie star of the time other than Elizabeth Taylor. Slide argues that Jackie, shown on the cover of the October 1961 Photoplay, was the pivotal figure in transforming fan magazines from movie to celebrity culture, a trend that accelerated in 1974 with the founding of People magazine. (Photoplay, the dominant movie fan mag for many, many years, expired in 1980, assimilated by Us Weekly.)
To buy tickets for the Feb. 8 event (and if interested, do so quickly -- the barn's capacity is 110), go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/217814. One-time fan magazine editor Lombard would certainly love to see you there.