Document Type

Book Chapter


The emergence of the cinema star, according to Richard DeCordova, is intimately linked with the decline of the allure of the apparatus of motion picture projection. Until about 1907, the focus of attention was on the technical feat of displaying images and stories on the screen. Most of early cinema was documentary in nature, with aspects of everyday life, circus performances and sporting events depicted on-screen. This changed somewhat because of the constant need for new and interesting (at least previously unseen) film product. The early connection of film to the craft of illusionism and magic can be seen in the films of Georges Melies, an illusionist turned film-maker, and in the position of the exhibition of films as a type of novelty act in vaudeville theaters. In both cases, the enigmatic quality of the production was related not so much to the plot as to how the images were created and juxtaposed. Early films (pre-1907), according to DeCordova, could be characterized by their close connection to 'action' and movement. The construction of the film celebrity emerged only after an initial decade of exhibition. It is part of traditional - although now challenged - film history that the large production houses, such as Biograph, impeded the development of the star by not releasing the real names of the actors involved in any film.