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Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 18, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377661
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A penetrating, lively cultural history of movie stardom. . . . [The author] has a witty, readable style, but don't let that pop façade fool you.  There is substance here, as he dissects how each period in American history finds or create stars to serve its needs.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Wide-ranging. . . . Superb. . . . Capacious and thought-provoking. . . . In Gods Like Us, Boston Globe film critic Burr presents a fresh take on the medium’s history, eschewing the standard roll call of moguls and filmmakers, preferring to understand the triumph of Hollywood as a carefully orchestrated harnessing of the ferocious power of celebrity.”
The Boston Globe
 
“David Thomson, watch out! In the pithy new book Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern FameBoston Globe film critic Ty Burr delivers thoughtfully epigrammatic descriptions of movie stars, actors, and celebrities. He wittily traces the progression of these characters from the early days of film to their current incarnations on the internet, from the young Frank Sinatra, who ‘looked like a freshly hatched ostrich but his singing voice promised a slowly crested big-band orgasm,’ to Harrison Ford, who is able to ‘make grumpiness seem sexy.’ . . . Gods Like Us soars when it meditates on individual stars and their personae. . . . The whole book is worth guzzling for the golden nuggets on movie stars and celebrity sprinkled throughout.”
IndieWire

“Any Hollywood history can describe a star’s X factor. But not many film historians can see the whole equation as Ty Burr does in Gods Like Us, his lively and provocative chronicle of the genesis of movie stars and the metamorphosis of movie stardom. He offers original thinking about the audience factor.”
The New York Times
 
“A brilliant and even profound history of stardom for an era that doesn't begin to know how very badly it both wants and needs it.”
The Buffalo News
 
Gods Like Us is a standout, as enjoyable as it is informative, when it comes to the astrology of public entertainment.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A lively anecdotal history of stardom, with all its blessings and curses for star and stargazer alike. From Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin to Archie Leach (a.k.a. Cary Grant) and Marion Morrison (a.k.a. John Wayne), from Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts to today's instant celebs famous for being famous, Burr takes us on an insightful and entertaining journey through the modern fame game at its flashiest, most indulgent, most revealing and, occasionally, most tragic.”
The Huffington Post  
 
“Burr is an ever-witty presence on the page (see: Clara Bow, with her ‘blat of raw sexual energy,’ or Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘this slab of Black Forest ham’). A terrific writer, then, yes, but also an astute reader of history, as in his near-breathless analysis of three midcentury seismic shifts—the emergence of Marlon Brando, television, and rock & roll. Burr gives each subject a good chew.”
Austin Chronicle

“Burr’s Gods Like Us is a constantly interpretive history of and idiosyncratic meditation on stardom. . . . It is an important work, precisely because it is such a difficult task that is all too rarely undertaken.”
The Daily Beast
 
“Burr has both a fan’s and scholar’s grasp of the history of film, and he travels along a celluloid highway that extends from the early days of Thomas Edison to Zac Efron. Of greatest interest to the author is our evolving notion of celebrity—of what celebrities mean. . . . A focused history of films.”
Kirkus Reviews

Gods Like Us is an entertaining, wide-ranging account of the way movies created a new kind of fame, and changed the world in the process. Ty Burr's encyclopedic history of movie stardom is gossipy (in the best of sense of the word) and insightful, and his cultural analysis is as provocative as it persuasive.”
—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers

“The sharp, illuminating Gods Like Us is as enjoyable and addictive as the greatest bucket of movie popcorn you've ever had. For anyone who loves cinema, this is a ‘must own’ book.”
—Dennis Lehane, author of Live by Night and Mystic River
 
“[A] solid analysis of celebrity. . . . In this fascinating cultural study, film critic Burr explores the rise of stars in the early film industry. . . . Burr chronicles the star system—silents, talkies, movie factories, postwar studios—while citing factors such as television (‘evoked not glamour, but ordinariness’), music (Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna), MTV, HBO, and YouTube (‘teenagers have at their disposal the fundamental moviemaking facilities of a Hollywood studio in the 1930s’).”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Ty Burr has been a film critic at The Boston Globe since 2002. Prior to that he wrote about movies for Entertainment Weekly, and he began his career as an in-house movie analyst for HBO. His previous books include The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together. He lives, writes, and teaches in the greater Boston area.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
39%
3 star
14%
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See all 28 customer reviews
It's hardback and brand new thank you!
Rebecca Bond
It is also a very well thought-out philosophical examination of the nature of identity.
Alan L. Chase
I'd recommend this book to anyone who has every watched a movie or TV show.
Erik_In_Vegas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Ty Burr has written a book which on the cover says it is about movie stardom and modern fame. In his introduction he says he is writing a history of movie stardom, then says his book is not solely about movies, but as the decades move forward, "the gates open to different kinds of stars, TV...pop music ...and the internet". Television, with the exception of Lucille Ball is hardly touched upon, not much is told about pop music, with the exception of Michael Jackson. There are some mixed messages both, as to what the book is covering and Burr's feelings toward the celebrities. At times he is dismissive and at others full of wonder at their talent; but always in incredulity at the fame these people hold and its effect on the public. It is at many times a very cynical look at the world of fame.

The beginnings of the motion picture industry is recounted, the star system and the first stars; Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. The question of why and how we obsess over movie stars is never really answered. There is a chronological history of the movies...the need to laugh in the 80's and the rise of the action heroes like Harrison Ford, the change of attitude reflected in Animal House. The introduction of MTV and the internet winds up this history.

This is a good account, but scattered in its focus and it still leaves the question for the reader to answer themselves on how and why we are fascinated by movie stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paula Alvarado on November 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first and major idea worth taking from this book is the concept of celebrities as personas. I thought this was very interesting, and it has completely changed the way I see not only famous people but even pairs who have received some kind of recognition.

When developing this concept through history the book drags a bit, it could have been shorter. But the chapter on internet and the way it has allowed everyone to experience something similar to being a celebrity is so interesting it paid for the whole book. Someone said in another review that the question of why we care about celebrities is not explained, but I thought it was well explained in that chapter. "What draws us to other people's fame is the hope of discovering a self that never dies." (I don't think I'm spoiling anything by quoting that since you have to read what comes before and after to fully understand it.)

A great read for people curious about the sociological aspect of fame and the way the concept is changing, even disappearing to leave place for something else.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Irene Glazer on February 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book I've read on the history of movies and movie starts.

The writing is very entertaining, in a gossip like style, but very perceptive and thoughtful. The subject feels thoroughly researched and analyzed, with a minimum of superfluous information.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LCG on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully written book offers an essential time line that explains why we oftentimes follow the lives of actors, singers, and other celebs with such devotion. Most interesting is the common thread regarding both the positive and negative effect fame has on the people who own it. It comes with a price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By classicalsteve on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Burr's book tackles some simple questions about celebrity: Why do we care who movies stars are? Why is the public obsessed with not only their careers but their lives off-screen? Not only are they elevated to heights that even monarchs of past eras would envy, but the public believes that the persons being portrayed in films, and other media such as television and music, are who they really are. While Burr occasionally reveals who particular movie stars really are, he tackles how different stars created unique personas which fit the type of movies they played in. Particularly in the Golden Age of Hollywood, from the late silent era up until circa the age of Marlon Brando, stars were fitted into archetypes, some of which consciously constructed by the studio executives. Clark Gable was the male sex symbol of the 1930's, playing daring and confident lead roles to a female audience who would have jumped into the screen given half a chance. The studios actually molded him into something he wasn't, offering publicity shoots of him riding horses and fishing for game. According to Burr, Gable never did these things prior to becoming a Hollywood star. John Wayne was neither a real cowboy nor a war hero. The real John Wayne, named Marion Morrison, disliked horses when he was younger and avoided enlistment during World War II. (And could you imagine a male cowboy sex symbol named "Marion"?) Cary Grant, the idol of millions of women across the globe, was in reality a shy and insecure man, famous for saying that even he wasn't Cary Grant but wished he were. These are some of the examples offered by Burr in a thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly insightful book on film celebrity.

"Gods Like Us" is a history of Hollywood through the careers of actors.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ty Burr is the movie critic for the Boston Globe. Burr has watched thousands of movies over his long career. He writes with entertainiing insight on the popular genres of film, music and home entertainment in the 21st century. The book:
a. Burr gives us a mini-history of the birth of the movies and stars who emerged int he silent era from Florence Lawrence in the very beginning of the industry to such silent icons as Charlie Chaplin; Gloria Swanson; Rudolph Valentino; Norma Talmadge and many more. The movies were begun by corporate executives who came from Central European backgrounds. They were mainly Jewish (with the exception of Zanuck) but created the studio systme. Major studios emerged in the golden age. MGM; Paramount:
RKO; Twentieth Century Fox and Warners were the leaders.
b. Burr examines several of the great films and stars of the early sound era such as Clark Gable, John Wayne, William Powell and such femme fatales as Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Betty Davis.
c. The most fascinating part of the book for this reviewer was Burr's study of post World War II film and music. He traces the emergence of Marlon Brando a more realistic actor and graduate of the Actors Studio. We see the rise of Elvis Presley and the impact of rock music on our culture. Television is explored with such early stars as Milton Berlie, Lucille Ball and the TV situation comedy.
d. Burr describes the careers of such modern stars as Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford.
Our culture today is one in which we ourselves can become stars through the use of facebook, You Tube and other modern innovations.
This is a fascinating book for movielovers which will both teach and entertain the reader1 Well done!
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