Like a Natural Woman: Spectacular Female Performance in Classical Hollywood
Bathing beauty Esther Williams, bombshell Jane Russell, exotic Carmen Miranda, chanteuse Lena Horne, and talk-show fixture Zsa Zsa Gabor are rarely hailed as great actors or as naturalistic performers. Those terms of praise are given to male stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean, whose gritty dramas are seen as a departure from the glossy spectacles in which these stars appeared. Like a Natural Woman challenges those assumptions, revealing the skill and training that went into the work of these five actresses, who employed naturalistic performance techniques, both onscreen and off.
Bringing a fresh perspective to film history through the lens of performance studies, Kirsten Pullen explores the ways in which these actresses, who always appeared to be “playing themselves,” responded to the naturalist notion that actors should create authentic characters by drawing from their own lives. At the same time, she examines how Hollywood presented these female stars as sex objects, focusing on their spectacular bodies at the expense of believable characterization or narratives.
Pullen not only helps us appreciate what talented actresses these five women actually were, but also reveals how they sought to express themselves and maintain agency, even while meeting the demands of their directors, studios, families, and fans to perform certain feminine roles. Drawing from a rich collection of classic films, publicity materials, and studio archives, Like a Natural Woman lets us take a new look at both Hollywood acting techniques and the performance of femininity itself.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Publicity Performance and Jane Russell
Esther Williams Performance and the Body
Lena Horne and the Representation of Black Femininity
Carmen Miranda and the Spectacle of Authenticity
Other editions - View all
actors actresses American Angeles audience authentic baiana body Brazilian camera career Carmen Miranda carnival celebrity character Cinema Classical Hollywood costars costume culture dance dancers Davis Oral History demonstrates dressed emotional especially Esther Williams fan magazines female femininity feminist film acting film performance film’s final Fuzzy Pink Nightgown Gang’s gender Gentlemen Marry Brunettes Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Gil-Montero girl Hollywood film Horne’s Hughes integrated musicals interview by Ronald Jane Russell Latin Lena Horne Lohan married Method acting Methodist University DeGolyer Million Dollar Mermaid minstrel Monroe Monroe’s movie musical narrative natural naturalist acting naturalist paradigm nightclub performance style persona photographs played production numbers publicity role romantic Ronald Davis Russell’s samba scene screen sexual shot Show Business singer singing skirt song spectacular stars Steven Cohan Stormy Weather Strasberg studio suggests swimming theater There’s Twentieth Century–Fox University DeGolyer Library University Press water ballets Williams’s women York Zsa Zsa Gabor Zsa’s