Books by Jeanine Basinger

Released: Jan. 30, 2013

"A fascinating, fact-filled story of marriage and the movies."
Exhaustive, entertaining take on how the silver screen has portrayed wedded bliss and wedded misery. Read full book review >
THE STAR MACHINE by Jeanine Basinger
Released: Oct. 24, 2007

"A smart study of star quality as an industrial process, written by an academic who still understands Hollywood's cheap, sensuous appeal."
A cinema archivist digs into the vaults of Golden Era Hollywood and comes up with a treasure trove of goodies. Read full book review >
SILENT STARS by Jeanine Basinger
Released: Nov. 4, 1999

Basinger brings considerable expertise but insufficient adventurousness to the all-too-often neglected world of silent film. Silent film, to paraphrase L.P. Hartley, is a foreign country, they do things differently there. The silent cinema had its own aesthetic, in some ways profoundly different from the movies that followed, and that aesthetic is unfamiliar to all but a handful of film scholars and buffs. On the evidence of her superb analysis of the '40s family melodrama, A Woman's View (1993), Basinger should be an excellent guide to that lost era. She has produced a sizeable tome devoted to 16 prominent actors and actresses (and Rin-Tin-Tin) of the period whose purpose, as she explains, is to celebrate "a group of silent film stars who are somehow forgotten, misunderstood or underappreciated," a group that might be said to include almost anyone who was a star in Hollywood's silent era. Unfortunately, Basinger is unduly timid in surveying the field. She includes among her subjects such overly familiar faces as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Rudolf Valentino and Lon Chaney. Certainly, as Basinger points out, Fairbanks and Valentino are not sufficiently recognized for their comedic efforts (indeed, the first half of Fairbanks's formidable career consists of breakneck comedies), but surely there were others equally deserving of rediscovery. Basinger is smart and perceptive, and her survey is filled with startlingly astute flashes. For example, she connects the appeal of Mack Sennett's slapstick comedy to a world in which physical labor was still the norm rather than the exception. But the results, for all its undeniable intelligence, feels at once overly familiar yet insufficiently detailed. A mixed blessing, of considerable value but finally unsatisfying. (300 b&w photos) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 2, 1993

Serious, extended study of the woman's film during the three decades of its heyday (1930-60), filled with both obscure and well- remembered titles. Basinger (Film/Wesleyan; The World War II Combat Film, 1986, etc.—not reviewed) enlivens her text with gleeful vocalizing (``Wheeeeee!'') while her bass notes support a thesis-driven breakdown of women's films into types and themes. Fewer actresses and films might have served the author better than this taxonomy, where the author's livelier voice gets muffled. Main theme: that the woman's picture ``held women in social bondage and released them into a dream of potency and freedom.'' Typically, a woman's picture reaffirmed the status quo—for example, by releasing a woman from stony boredom into happy activity that first becomes suspect and then a disaster, confirming the better value of things as they are. But Basinger points out that, unlike Westerns and other genre films, few women's pictures stuck absolutely to formula—they became much too unrealistic and contradictory for stable definition. The woman's picture placed a woman ``at the center of the story universe (`I am a woman and I am important')''; it reaffirmed that ``a woman's true job is that of just being a woman''; and it provided ``an escape into a purely romantic love, into sexual awareness, into luxury, or into the rejection of the female role that might only come in some form of questioning (`What other choices do I have?').'' Basinger's retellings of the films themselves bring much uplift—she goes into each story filled with intelligence and gusto, her sense of fun often overcoming stuffiness. And no doubt the 45 b&w illustrations will boost reader interest. Read full book review >