Mediating Girls’ Imaginations and Identities
Chapter Eight: Blue Bloods, Movie Queens, and Jane Does: Or How Princess Culture, American Film, and Girl Fandom Came Together in the 1910s
In the early 1910s, as the American film industry moved away from trick shorts and one-reelers, movie fan magazines began presenting adolescent actresses as real-life embodiments of fairy tale princesses. For instance, in September 1918, leading fan publication Photoplay Magazine introduced Paramount’s youngest star, fourteen-year-old Lila Lee, not only as a magically precocious talent, but moreover as an everyday personification of the Cinderella myth.
If you had grown up to be a great big girl of fifteen or sixteen, and had seen a lot of moving pictures, and thought they were wonderful, and you could do it too—if [a] man came along and said, “I wanna make you a star”—just like that—would you believe your good fairy was on the job again? [… After all] many a Cinderella has found her way to fame and fortune thus unexpectedly in the world of make-believe.1
Titled “Do You Believe in Fairies?” Joseph Shorey’s article epitomizes the typical write-up released by the fan press in the mid-1910s, a decade when girl actors in their teens and early twenties emerged as the clear preference of American movie audiences. In fact, by 1915 teenage players such as Mary Pickford, Viola Dana, and Mary Miles Minter—curly-haired, rosy-cheeked, and famous for impersonating fairy princesses and “the doll baby character of the heroine”2 on screen—often placed first in nationwide popularity contests published by film fan magazines. Simultaneously, the trade press appointed them as the most...
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