Gods Like Us
On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame
By Ty Burr
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780307377661, 448pp.)
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
List Price: $28.95*
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WITH 8 PAGES OF BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS
How—and why—do we obsess over movie stars? How does fame both reflect and mask the person behind it? How have the image of stardom and our stars’ images altered over a century of cultural and technological change? Do we create celebrities, or do they create us?
Ty Burr, film critic for The Boston Globe, answers these questions in this lively and fascinating 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), Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts, and such no-cal stars of today as the Kardashians and the new online celebrity (i.e., you and me), Burr takes us on an insightful and entertaining journey through the modern fame game at its flashiest, most indulgent, occasionally most tragic, and ultimately, its most revealing.
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.
“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 Fame, Boston 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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’).”