A Taylor made star: male beauty, changes in masculinity and the 'lost' stardom of Robert Taylor, Hollywood 1934 - 1969

Kelly, Gillian Patricia (2015) A Taylor made star: male beauty, changes in masculinity and the 'lost' stardom of Robert Taylor, Hollywood 1934 - 1969. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Despite being a central figure of Hollywood’s Classical era, Robert Taylor can now be regarded as a ‘lost’ or forgotten screen star, an interesting paradox when considering his continued success and longevity during his career. This thesis presents the first substantial study of Taylor’s star persona, examining its initial construction and subsequent developments from 1934 to 1969. Considering ideas surrounding gender, ageing and film genre, the thesis draws on existing literature on stardom and masculinity, and examines Taylor’s persona within the histories of both Hollywood’s Classical era and mid-20th century America. This helps to place Taylor within the wider industrial, cultural and social contexts in which he worked. Taylor, I argue, presents the model for the ‘perfect’ star because of his ability to consistently fit the film industry across time. While star studies continues to concentrate on more unusual stars, I feel that it is important to discuss what makes a typical star, the kind which Taylor embodied. This typicality, however, did not prevent him enjoying a long and successful career and he remained a popular leading man for 35 years until his death. The complex paradox of Taylor’s persona remaining consistently recognisable while also developing over time allowed him to seemingly seamlessly fit changes within America and the film industry. Furthermore, as he matured he developed a sense of nostalgia strongly connected with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’. The findings in this thesis are drawn from extensive viewing of most of Taylor’s films and television appearances and the examination of ephemeral material, including magazine covers and press articles, in order to assess Taylor’s on- and off-screen personas and their development over time. The thesis takes a mostly chronological approach, allowing Taylor’s persona to be placed within specific historical moments. Decade overviews are presented alongside detailed case studies covering key genres Taylor worked in. Through doing this, I not only trace Taylor’s star persona over the entirety of his career, but am able to compare his career trajectory and constructed image to other (similar) male stars working at this time. Contextualising my analysis of Taylor’s star persona further allows me to develop ideas around the concepts of male beauty, men as object of the erotic gaze, white American masculinity, and the (somewhat unusual) longevity of a career initially based on a star’s good looks. Most notably, I identify Taylor’s importance to Hollywood cinema by demonstrating how a star persona like his can ‘fit’ so well, and for so long, that it almost becomes invisible, resulting in the star becoming ‘lost’ or forgotten after their career has ended.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: star studies, film studies, masculinity, male beauty, performance, screen performance, textual analysis, Robert Taylor, classical Hollywood, Hollywood cinema, Hollywood history, 20th century history, modern American history, male stars, actor, film actor, American actor, lost stars, forgotten stars, Hollywood stars, masculinity on film, archival research, performance analysis, visual analysis, stardom, American film, film fan magazines, star persona, heterosexual white American masculinity
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Funder's Name: UNSPECIFIED
Supervisor's Name: Lury, Professor Karen and Geraghty, Professor Christine
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Gillian Kelly
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6396
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2015 14:05
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2015 14:17
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6396

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