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Norma Shearer, the Happily Married Divorcee: Marriage, Modernity and Movie Magazines

Lanckman, Lies (2016) Norma Shearer, the Happily Married Divorcee: Marriage, Modernity and Movie Magazines. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:62963)

Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only until 1 July 2021.
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Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only
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The central aim of this thesis is to examine five of Norma Shearer's pre-Code films - all made between 1930 and 1934 - and to place these films and their accompanying fan magazine rhetoric into a wider context, both within Shearer's career and within Hollywood history.

It does this for two reasons. Firstly, it hopes to problematise the now commonly held view of Shearer as a noble, respectable, but ultimately rather dull star by demonstrating the ways in which these films allowed her to become an active advocate for a particular brand of often sexually transgressive modernity, in which she embraced consumer and leisure culture, female employment, companionate marriage and even the sexual single standard. Secondly, the thesis examines the fan magazine rhetoric on the star alongside these films and shows how her successful and happy marriage to MGM Head of Production Irving G. Thalberg served to strengthen, rather than soften, her position as a quintessential modern both on and off screen. After all, the marriage, in which Shearer and Thalberg were professional as well as romantic partners, allowed Shearer to promote a certain kind of companionate marriage, complete with mutual professional satisfaction, successful parenthood, and sexual compatibility. At the height of her fame, Shearer was the star who demonstrated to her female fans that a woman, in the brave new world of the early 20th century, should be able to have it all.

Finally, then, the thesis examines how Shearer's ultra-modern reputation came to an end in the mid-1930s, and attributes this development primarily to two influences, one historical and one biographical. Firstly, in July 1934, the Hays Production Code was enforced; particularly targeting female sexual transgression on screen, this censorship text would make it virtually impossible for Shearer to make the types of films she had become most famous for. Secondly, then, in September 1936, Shearer's husband's premature death ensured that the star, who had previously been characterised as a modern wife, now became identified as a tragic, aristocratic, noble widow. Since her films no longer allowed her to develop an alternative persona, this is how Shearer remained known after her retirement, after her death, and to this day.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Jeffers McDonald, Tamar
Uncontrolled keywords: film studies, star studies, Norma Shearer, fan magazines, modernity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2017 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2020 04:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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