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Female Stars of British Cinema

The Women in Question

Melanie Williams

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The first full-length academic study to deal exclusively with female stardom in British cinema

Film stars are often seen as a Hollywood creation but this book explores how British cinema developed its own culture of stardom, and how its female stars have been prized by audiences worldwide. Female Stars of British Cinema uses case studies of seven female stars whose careers span the 1940s to the present day – Jean Kent, Diana Dors, Rita Tushingham, Glenda Jackson, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Lloyd, and Judi Dench – to explore how British star femininities have developed over time, and how the image of the British female star has responded to broader social and cultural changes. These ‘women in question’ offer a way into the complexities of British cinema’s culture of stardom which has sometimes espoused glamour and sometimes rejected it, and is entangled with issues of regional, national and ethnic identity, as well as class, sexuality and age. Exploring and investigating the variety of British star femininities over the last seventy-five years, this book also interrogates the omissions and absences from that same cinematic firmament.

Contents

List of figures
Acknowledgements
1. Introduction: questions of female stardom in British cinema
2. ‘A girl appears in camiknickers’: Jean Kent’s austerity stardom
3. ‘Blonde glamour machine’: Diana Dors in the 1950s and beyond
4. British new waif: Rita Tushingham and sixties female stardom
5. ‘A constant threat’: Glenda Jackson and the challenges of seventies stardom
6. ‘From schoolgirl to stardom’: the discovery and development of Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Lloyd in the 1980s and 1990s
7. National treasure: Judi Dench and older female stardom into the 2000s
8. Conclusion: the unbearable whiteness of being (a female British star)
Bibliography

About the Author

Melanie Williams is Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. She has published work on British cinema in many journals and edited collections and is the author of Prisoners of Gender: Women in the Films of J. Lee Thompson and the co-editor of British Women’s Cinema, Ealing Revisited and Mamma Mia! The Movie: Exploring a Cultural Phenomenon.

Reviews

This book’s sharp analysis of seven carefully-chosen British female stars is fully attendant to issues of class, celebrity, femininity and nation. Concentrating on women with long careers as well as those which were cut short by prevalent difficulties and obstacles, the book develops many pertinent insights about the formulation and impact of diverse star personae in a British context. It is essential reading for those interested in British cinema and in film stardom more generally.

- Professor Sarah Street, University of Bristol

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