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234 × 156 × 38 mm
448 pages
48 illustrations
16 Sep 2019

Show People A History of the Film Star Michael Newton

Show People offers a comprehensive history of the film star from Mary Pickford to Andy Serkis, traversing more than one hundred years and drawing on examples from America, Britain, Europe, Asia and elsewhere. Renowned film writer Michael Newton explores our enduring love affair with fame, glamour and the cinematic image. Newton builds up an expansive picture of movie stardom through striking and diverse figures such as Ingrid Bergman and John Wayne, Anna Karina and Sidney Poitier, Maggie Cheung and Raj Kapoor. He celebrates the great performers of the past, and looks forward to developments in the future, while also illuminating the inner workings of the movie industry and what moves us in a film, and in an actor’s performance. Ultimately, Show People is a book about cinephilia, the love of cinema, and our complex connection to that celebrated and beleaguered figure, the movie star.

‘Thorough and thoughtful, Michael Newton's Show People is a major addition to existing literature on the subject of film stardom. I can't wait to read it a second time.’ — Gary D. Rhodes, author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America and The Birth of the American Horror Film

‘In Show People, professor and columnist Michael Newton waxes rhapsodic about a century of acting, with a special fondness for performances about performance . . . I spent a few nights rewatching movies I hadn't seen in a while, simply because of the way Newton writes about those small beats we love without knowing how to quite explain, the ones that can get reframed with new, wider context when you think about them more.’ — Genevieve Valentine, National Public Radio

‘Newton waxes rhapsodic about a century of acting, with a special fondness for performances about performance. . . . It's a dreamy sort of cinema love letter. . . . The best pieces split the difference between retrospective and confessional, exploring the love story of the cinema audience watching someone appeal to a deep truth by lying as hard as they can. For Newton, actors are their own liminal experience—a life subsumed by the assumed lives they play in front of us, whether by offering everything or holding something back. . . . Hollywood is one heck of a con. We love it anyway. We love it because it's a con. It's a job so good that con routinely fools itself; some of the most highly praised movies ever made are about making movies. . . . Trends come and go; stars burn and then fade. In the age of the internet, ceaseless candidness in the face of public scrutiny has become its own layer of performance. We're all due on set, all the time, for our next scene. Stories are our favorite way to make sense of the world; those who can become stories become stars’ — NPR

Show People examines how film stars shaped the medium, rather than vice versa. In fact, it's a collection of essays on individual actors, from Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin to Scarlett Johansson, sometimes focusing on a single film, sometimes on whole careers, and sometime just on gossip . . . [it] made me want to seek out some of the oddities and forgotten classics he mentions.’ — Nick Curtis, Evening Standard

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Michael Newton teaches literature and film at Leiden University. He is the author of numerous popular books on film and cultural history, including Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children (2002), and Age of Assassins (2012), both for Faber & Faber, and two BFI Film Classics – Kind Hearts and Coronets (2003) and Rosemary’s Baby (2019).


Part One: The Silent Star
1 Mary Pickford: The Biograph Girl
2 Pola Negri: Inventing the Star
3 Charlie Chaplin: The Tramp

Part Two: The Golden Age
4 ‘Asta’ and ‘Cheeta’: The Animal Star
5 Peter Lorre: Character Actor
6 Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly: A Star Danced
7 Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant: The Public Image
8 Vivien Leigh: Ruinous Selves
9 Veronica Lake: Half-obscured Faces
10 Carole Lombard: The Screwball Heroine
11 Greer Garson and Joan Fontaine: The Forgotten Star
12 Orson Welles: The Film Star as Fragment and Failure
13 Ingrid Bergman: Intermezzo

Part Three: National Cinemas – Stars for the Nation
14 Lamberto Maggiorani and Maria Pia Casilio: Absent Film Stars in Vittorio De Sica’s Films
15 Moira Shearer: The Marionette
16 Gloria Swanson: Having a Face
17 Ava Gardner: I Am Not an Actress
18 Montgomery Clift: He’s Not There
19 Setsuko Hara: The Still Point
20 Toshiro Mifune: Studying Lions
21 Nargis and Raj Kapoor: My Heart Is Hindustani
22 Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni: Nothing Is Sadder than Laughter
23 John Wayne: How to Grow Old
24 Audrey Hepburn: Frankenstein’s Creature
25 Marilyn Monroe: The Suffering Star
26 Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner: Imitation of Life

Part Four: New Wave Stars
27 Janet Leigh and Tippi Hedren: Torturing the Audience
28 Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant: The Strange Death of the Hollywood Golden Age
29 Anna Karina: The Muse
30 Celia Johnson and Julie Christie: The Adulterous Star
31 Sidney Poitier: The Defiant One
32 Dustin Hoffman: Little Big Man
33 Woody Allen: The Director as Star
34 Robert De Niro: For Real

Part Five: Posthuman Stars
35 Harrison Ford: Blade Runner and the Replication of the Person
36 Maggie Cheung: Centre Stage
37 Naomi Watts: Mulholland Drive
38 Scarlett Johansson: A New Kind of Emptiness
39 Shu Qi: A Placeless Heaven
40 Andy Serkis: Lear’s Shadow