Jetta Goudal versus the Studio System: Star Labour in 1920s Hollywood

Author(s): Frymus, Agata

Jetta Goudal commenced her rise to Hollywood stardom in 1923. Like many other players hailing from the continent, her publicity was built upon the notion of temperamentality and represented Goudal as a volatile and irrational woman, prone to abrupt fits of rage. This perception soon started to work against her own professional interests. Her consecutive Hollywood contracts – first with Distinctive Pictures, then with Famous Players-Lasky – were both terminated prematurely, which resulted in Goudal suing them for a breach of contract. She promptly signed a new agreement with Cecil B. DeMille, but again ran into difficulties which found their way to the court room. In depicting her legal struggles, public commentators used the association between Goudal, Frenchness and problematic behaviour to explain her actions in terms of irrationality and impulsiveness rather than framing it within the context of wider power dynamic. This paper interrogates legal suits between Goudal and three of her former employers, discussing the ways in which a star image can function not only as a commodity, but also as an instrument of control. In constructing her in terms of an unruly persona, the public discourse denied Goudal her own stance in the matters relating to labour.

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Preferred Citation
Frymus, Agata: Jetta Goudal versus the Studio System: Star Labour in 1920s Hollywood. In: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Jg. 39 (2019), Nr. 1, S. 36-53. DOI:
 author = {Frymus, Agata},
 title = {Jetta Goudal versus the Studio System: Star Labour in 1920s Hollywood},
 year = 2019,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 39,
 address = {Abingdon},
 journal = {Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television},
 number = 1,
 pages = {36--53},
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