University of Sussex
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No crinoline-covered lady: stardom, agency, and the career of Barbara Stanwyck

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:20 authored by Linda Berkvens
This thesis examines how Hollywood’s female star images were created, promoted, and sold to the public, using a case study of Barbara Stanwyck. The research focuses in particular on the models of womanhood Stanwyck offered, her position as a female star in the male-controlled film industry, and her shifting image from the start of her career in 1930 until her final television performance in a continuing-character series in 1969. The research takes a different look at star studies as it is conventionally approached within the discipline of film studies. I use a historical approach that examines stars not just as images but also as part of a film’s production, distribution, and exhibition process. I also attempt to develop the dominant approach of examining stars as images by using the historical approach to demonstrate how star images were created and promoted, and I argue that an understanding of these historical and industrial processes provides a better knowledge of the fashionability of stars. In writing the thesis I therefore rely on previously unused primary materials found in various papers and archival collections, fan magazines, and newspapers. The analysis of these materials demonstrates the relationship between Stanwyck’s image and the cultural and industrial events or trends of the time by locating the image in its original context. The chapters are arranged chronologically by decade, but they are primarily organized around a key historical, social, or industrial aspect that describes the focus of that decade. In my conclusion I offer explanations for the shifts in Stanwyck’s fashionability and I consider the usefulness of the historical approach to understand star images.


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  • Media and Film Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

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