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Title: Norma Shearer, the happily married divorcee : marriage, modernity and movie magazines
Author: Lanckman, Lies
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 2790
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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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.
Supervisor: Jeffers McDonald, Tamar Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General)