The Sunday Intertitle: The Film Face

I can recommend the BFI disc of Anthony Asquith’s SHOOTING STARS, if you turn the contrast up. It’s from the early phase of AA’s career, when he would do extraordinary cinematic things, and also it’s a nehind-the-scenes story about the film biz.

The disc also has great little vintage extras, including STARLINGS OF THE SCREEN, a strange little piece about a talent contest. Here are the girls auditioning to become movie stars.

They affect me with a kind of visceral horror. It’s an instantaneous thing. When I look a bit longer, I find one girl out of each pair to be quite attractive and the other to be just normal-looking. But for some reason, the instant effect of each image is SHOCK, a sense that I’m seeing something I shouldn’t be seeing. Faces from beyond.

None of the poor girls became stars, as far as I can tell. When you see them playing in scenes, the livelier, more natural setting seems to render them all equally attractive and fun. Although probably only in the British Film Industry of the time could such (ir)regular-looking gals have a shot at fame.

Not that women should be judged solely on their appearances! It’s just disconcerting when there’s a beauty pageant format, and —


2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The Film Face”

  1. Suddenly envisioning a competition to find The Next Edna Mae Oliver.

    I’m always amused when an actress’s bio includes WAMPAS Baby Star. It sounds silly and fake, but it was a real thing. WAMPAS was a publicists’ organization and the ladies — only ladies — were studio contract players they named in a publicity campaign. It smells like a gimmick to get starlets to show up at a WAMPAS party and/or provide members with a pickup line, but it was a pretty big deal and some of them became real stars. Of course, they were already contract players.

    Now and again in old movies an overripe female character would be identified as one of the Floradoras or a Ziegfeld Girl, a shorthand for long-faded glamour with an insinuation of not being talent-dependent. I’m surprised WAMPAS Baby Star didn’t gain currency as a replacement when such characters migrated to sitcoms.

  2. I’m always happy to see Toshio Mori and Lillian Bond and Lona Andre and Mary Carlisle — all from 1933, a good year for WAMPAS baby stars.

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