Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

  • List Price: $18.95
  • Save: $1.12 (6%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 11 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
The Star Machine has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Book is in good condition. Outside cover shows signs of wear. Pages and binding in perfect condition.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Star Machine Paperback – January 6, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$7.77 $6.22

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$17.83 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 11 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • The Star Machine
  • +
  • I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies
  • +
  • A Woman�s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930�1960
Total price: $58.13
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


“Startling. . . . An enormous new book of star lore . . . Basinger nestles with almost delicious comfort into the intimate procedures of star manufacture.”
The New Yorker

“Luxurious, often delicious. . . . Ms. Basinger tells her story with her customary verve and sass-she's the Rosalind Russell of film historians.”
The New York Observer

“Entertaining and informative. . . . [Basinger], whose enthusiasm for movies is reflected on every page, has a deft way of encapsulating the kernel of an actor's attraction.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“Engaging. . . . Smart, deeply researched but also chatty and fast-flowing. . . . Basinger's study of the studios' relentless spin control makes an instructive prism through which to view long skeins of Hollywood film history.”
Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Jeanine Basinger is the chair of film studies at Wesleyan University and the curator of the cinema archives there. She has written nine other books on film, including A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930–1960; Silent Stars, winner of the William K. Everson Award for Film History; The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre; and American Cinema: 100 Years of Filmmaking, the companion book for a ten-part PBS series. She lives with her husband in Middletown, Connecticut.

Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at Audible.com. If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at ACX.com.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307388751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307388759
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,068,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book because it billed itself as a a look at how "the studios worked to manufacture star actors and actresses" and the description said it would "become an invaluable part of the film canon."

Wrong, and wrong again. It is a collection of biographies, based on information that appears to come from other books and fan magazines, plus a liberal serving of the author's own opinions. She seems to have had no access to unpublished information. The biographies are mostly long lists of the films in which the stars appear, punctuated with commentary from the author's viewings of these films, but very little insider knowledge of how the human beings who became those stars were "remade" by the studio or "made" themselves. Here's an example in her section on Loretta Young:

"She studied every aspect of filmmaking, asking serious questions about lighting and camera angles, making herself the master of her own makeup and costuming."

That's very general information I probably could have found on Wikipedia or in any biography of Young. How, exactly, did she influence her makeup and costuming - could we have some examples? Aren't there any details available about how she worked with the lighting and camera crews to get a certain effect? I wanted the author to show, not tell, how Young used her demands to manage her performance or the film as a whole, and how the studio reacted.

Another irritant is that Basinger has a huge crush on matinee idol Tyrone Power, who died in 1958, and in addition to a long section about his career, she compares everyone else to him. A few sample quotes (there were many more): "Robert Taylor, Metro's most beautiful hero (was) their answer to Fox's Tyrone Power.
Read more ›
6 Comments 86 of 103 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger tells the story of how Hollywood movie studios produced stars from the 1930s through the 1950s by running them through a machine of sorts. Stars were assigned a type: star, character, or supporting, and then placed in movies that fit their type. Names were changed, teeth capped, hair cut, bodies shaped, biographies written, articles planted in the papers, and stars were born. I cannot gush enough about this book. Basinger fills it with over 200 photos of the stars that capture the era with their soft lighting and fabulous fashions. She picks specific stars and follows their journey through the star machine to show how it succeeded and how it just as often failed. She also uses stories of stars who broke the mold and made the machine unnecessary. The book feels decadent, like a box of good chocolate or fluffy slippers. But the way Basinger talks about movies is anything but fluffy. She's the chair of film studies at Wesleyan University, and reading the way she describes films, I would absolutely pay money to hear her teach a class on the subject. She gives even the flimsy, frothy comedies of the 1930s depth by discussing how a character is developed before they even walk onscreen. This is a book that demands a class or TV special filled with clips. I discovered stars I'd never heard of and fell back in love with long time favorites. My too see list has expanded exponentially.Two small notes: Johnny Depp's singing was dubbed in CryBaby, but he's proven he can sing since in Sweeney Todd. And, why the hatred toward Abbot and Costello? They are two of my family's favorites! Those points aside, if you are a fan of old movies, this is a must read. Charmingly written with insight and witty asides, Basinger's love for film shines on every page.
3 Comments 21 of 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
The Star Machine operated in Hollywood during the Golden Age of American Cinema for a little over 30 years. With the introduction of sound
recording, technological wizadry and a focus on the "star" among the public the major studios carefully groomed men and women for stardom.
The process took raw talent as well as theatre professionals through the wringer of a seven year contract; appearing in B films and moving through the hoops to appear in major roles in important movies. Not everyone, of course, made it or were happy when they were on the top of the motion picture ladder. Nevertheless, MGM, RKO, 20th Century-Fox, Columbia, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal and the minor studies continued to produce about 450 movies per year at the height of the golden age. MGM was the best studio with excellent cameramen, directors, producers, makeup artists and set designers to produce lavish entertainment for the millions who made movie attendance a two or three trip event during the 30s and 40s.
Basinger delves into detail on how the stars were selected, groomed and functioned within the system. Some people like Joan Blondell and Norma Shearer who married Irving Thalberg the MGM boy boss-wizard did well.
Others became disillusioned as did the good actor Tyrone Power who was typecast as a romantic/adventure hero. Deanna Durbin the musical teen walked away forever in 1948 disgusted by the business as did the reclusive Jean Arthur. Errol Flynn and the wild Lana Turner were disobedient and raised all kinds of hell without the approval of studio bosses. One of the most fascinating tales she spins is that of Eleanor Powell an average looking girl who was a great dancer.
Basinger tells these people's interesting stories while we learn about how and why movies succeed.
Read more ›
Comment 26 of 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
The Star Machine
This item: The Star Machine
Price: $17.83
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: two guys from milwaukee 1946, everything i never wanted to be