The Hollywood Star System
Many film aficionados pine for the Golden Age of Hollywood, when American cinema established the world’s most powerful and pervasive filmmaking style. It was Tinseltown’s most glamorous and fabulous stretch. However, that classical Hollywood era had its seedy side. There was the pervasive manipulations of an era in which the “casting couch” was routine and the likes of Harvey Weinstein were common. Not to mention an extreme lack of diversity. There was also the fact that studios back then pretty much owned their actors and actresses. It was based on the method used to create, promote, and exploit stars.
Talent scouts were hired to spot new performers with potential. Emphasis was placed on image rather than the ability to act, which the studios figured could be taught. Once signed to an exclusive contract, the studios gave the performers new names, and even new backgrounds. Performers were then be given voice, acting, and dance lessons. In a type of apprenticeship, new performers were first tried out in supporting roles. Those with potential progressed to lead roles in minor productions, and if they did well, got to star in major productions. The system was effective, but also rife with abuses.