They don’t make stars like they used to
Especially for Baby Boomers like us, it keeps coming back to a bittersweet refrain: They don’t make stars like they used to! Some movie stars from the 1940s and ’50s may no longer be physically around, but their memory, charisma and golden stellar glow live on, sometimes even eclipsing the more currently palpable and hyped-up dazzle of today’s stellar sensations. Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Bette Davis have all gone to the movie and actual Heaven (hope springs!), but their film starrers continue to be screened by show biz buffs for the nth time around. Compare that to today’s show biz faves, Zac Efron, Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus—would they be similarly remembered and extolled 50 years hence? Uh, we rather doubt it.
Why were the iconic stars of yesterday much more durable and memorable than the luminaries of today—and perhaps tomorrow? Veteran show biz observers attribute it in part to the studio system of yore, with major studios churning out dozens or even scores of films a year, hence the need for them to discover and build up new stars whose appeal could be relied on to keep drawing viewers to the cinemas for the long term.
For instance, singer-actress Judy Garland began her film career as a child in 1935 and went on to act in her last film, “I Could Go on Singing,” in 1963. That’s almost 30 years of stellar output, through the thick and thin of her many struggles with her myriad personal demons. Could we possibly expect Efron to “last” as long?
Stars created during the era of movie studios had to be really great-looking and versatile actors, hence their sustained popularity and longevity. For instance, Bette Davis’ filmography ranges from the 1934 classic, “Of Human Bondage,” to “The Whales of August” (1987). That’s even longer than Garland’s “reign!”
On the local film scene, the same longevity is evident in the iconic output of our own “major” film studios—Sampaguita, LVN and Premiere. Senior stars who are still performing to this day include Eddie Garcia, Gloria Romero, Susan Roces, Anita Linda, Perla Bautista, Ronaldo Valdez, Alicia Alonzo and Celia Rodriguez.
In the 1960s, the independent film producers started coming to the fore, many of them popular stars who put up their own production companies so they could choose better starrers for themselves and keep their movies’ profits for themselves. After all, they reasoned, movie fans watched their movies because they were starring in them, so why allow other financiers to reap the profits?
The star-producers’ move was “logical,” but their stellar discoveries weren’t as well chosen and trained as they themselves had been. So, stars created from the ’70s onward have had shorter career life spans than their predecessors.
In fact, given viewers’ shorter attention and excitement spans these days, some new stars topbill only one or just a few films before having to give way to newer discoveries—who are similarly here today, gone next year!
Once again, that bittersweet refrain (all together now): They don’t make stars like they used to…
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