It’s fascinating to learn that the first movie fan magazines were created in the mid-teens, when the movies were still quite young. They flourished in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and evolved into gossipy journals in the 1950s and 60s. Today’s pop culture blogs and tabloid TV shows can trace their roots directly to those early publications, yet few people have ever taken them seriously…until now. Prolific film historian Anthony Slide has written a definitive history and reference guide called Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators and Gossip Mongers (University Press of Mississippi). I read an advance copy some months ago and was impressed with—
—the depth and breadth of Tony’s research.
Last week I attended the opening-night reception for an exhibition inspired by the book at the David L. Wolper Center in the Doheny Memorial Library at USC. This multifaceted exhibit is open to the public, free of charge, through July 30. It’s well worth a visit: there are pieces of ephemera and personal memorabilia on display that you may not ever get a chance to see again. Kudos to librarians Steve Hanson and Ned Comstock for assembling such a fine array of material.
Among those in attendance were Constance Van Wyck, whose father was character actor Lucien Littlefield and whose mother, Constance Palmer, was a pioneering fan magazine writer. It’s fascinating to see some of her reporter’s notebooks with penciled notations from various interview assignments.
Some of Tony’s other sources were there, as well: actresses Marsha Hunt, who underwent the “starlet” treatment at Paramount in the 1930s, and Samantha Eggar, who is featured on the cover of a 1960s magazine in which Elizabeth Taylor accuses her of trying to steal Richard Burton! Topping the list, agewise, was Pauline Wagner, who doubled Fay Wray in King Kong and appeared in small roles in such pictures as Lady Killer with James Cagney. She will celebrate her 100th birthday this coming August.
A vintage fan magazine and the stenographer’s pad on which Constance Palmer recorded her notes for an article inside.