Celebrity and Modern Life

Celebrity and Modern Life

The Advertisement Era

The effect of the automobile on recreational habits was often decried in the 1930’s: the substitution of a passive amusement for something more active; standardization and regimentation; the moral problem of the parked sedan and roadside tourist camp. The Sunday-afternoon drive was devastatingly described — the crowded highways, traffic jams, and accidents; the car windows tightly closed against spring breezes; and whatever beauties the landscape might offer lying hidden behind forbidding lines of advertisements.

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Radio, Television and Media

Population changes are being paralleled by functional shifts within society, which are likewise reflecting themselves upon the family. Most important of these is the rise of individualism. Familism might be defined as the opposite of individualism; it is a form of social organization in which all primary interests and values focus about the family rather than the person. Early societies were like that, as are also some of the more agricultural ones today.

BBC Public Service vs. American Culture

The first priority for any government was to organize the allocation of frequencies. The method used in practice dictated the shape of the national broadcasting system. From the outset, British broadcasters looked aghast at the American experience and insisted that they would learn from and avoid American mistakes.

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Two New Magazines: Saturday Evening Post and Time

The first priority for any government was to organize the allocation of frequencies. The method used in practice dictated the shape of the national broadcasting system. From the outset, British broadcasters looked aghast at the American experience and insisted that they would learn from and avoid American mistakes. To prevent the chaos of too many competing stations, the British Post Office proposed that equipment manufacturers should form a consortium, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), to provide reguIar transmissions.

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Sports and Mass Media

Throughout all of Europe and the United States, changes in work patterns and new expectations of leisure in the interwar period fueled a demand far leisure that manifested itself in a growing variety of sporting activities. More people had more time for leisure, which was increasingly viewed as something they had a right to enjoy.

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Babe Ruth and Red Grange

Few adults found themselves able or willing to play football. Although teams made up of former college players were for a time quite active, the game was primarily for boys. But many were glad to watch so exciting a sport. Its dependence upon brute force satisfied atavistic instincts as could no other modern spectacle except the prize-fight. Baseball had become the national game because so many people played it as well as watched it. Football was destined from the first to be primarily a spectator sport.

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Women in Sports: Suzanne Lenglen and Others

Women in sport in the interwar period, the sport of lawn tennis proved to be a platform for female achievement. Suzanne Lenglen dominated the game from 1919 to 1926, and redefined what could be achieved by women. One historian said of her: “Her gifts were supreme. Her biting accuracy, coupled with divine balletic grace, dominated the game for so long without real challenge, that her immortality is unquestioned.”

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Women in Sports: Suzanne Lenglen and Others

Women in Sports: Suzanne Lenglen and Others

Women in sport in the interwar period, the sport of lawn tennis proved to be a platform for female achievement. Between 1923 and 1938 Helen Wills dominated women’s sports, winning eight Wimbledon singles titles, seven U.S. singles championships, and four French open singles crowns, not to mention scores of doubles matches and lesser tournaments and gold medals in the women’s singles and doubles competition at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.

She was born in California in 1905, and although she did not take up tennis until she was thirteen, her natural talent along with a careful training regimen provided by her coach, William “Pop” Fuller, and her father, Dr. C. A. Wills, at the Berkely Tennis Club, brought her to national prominence before she reached the age of eighteen.

Wills’ tennis game, which included powerful ground strokes and superb baseline play, was most noted for the intense on-court concentration and imperturbability that she was able to maintain while playing. While this concentration led to the nickname “Little Miss Poker Face,” her off-court manner was altogether different.

Suzanne Lenglen dominated the game from 1919 to 1926, and redefined what could be achieved by women. One historian said of her: “Her gifts were supreme. Her biting accuracy, coupled with divine balletic grace, dominated the game for so long without real challenge, that her immortality is unquestioned.”

Lenglen was unbeaten in seven years of tournament play: she won six Wimbledon Championships, six French Championships and two Olympic gold medals at Antwerp in 1920. The combination of her tennis-playing abiIity and radically different clothing on court attracted considerable comment.

In her last Wimbledon triumph Lenglen won the 1925 Championships, losing only five games in the process. A year later she withdrew from Wimbledon after a disagreement over playing schedules and turned professional, for a reported sum of $100,000. In February 1926, Wills met Suzanne Lenglen, the French champion who was then the reigning queen of women’s international tennis, in the finals of a tournament on the Riviera.

The match became a media event of incredible proportions, due in part to the marvelous contrast between the flashy, mercurial Lenglen and the calm, innocent Wills. Lenglen won narrowly, but when she turned professional later that year and Wills won her first Wimbledon title the following year, the young American was acknowledged to be the best amateur woman tennis player in the world and had become a popular heroine as well.

In the 1920s American players were preeminent in men’s tennis. “Big Bill” Tilden treated the game as a science, and developed theories of stroke-play, the power-game, tactics, and the crowd-puller. The enormous public appeal of Lenglen and Tilden helped tennis to develop a mass following.

Tennis was becoming a more active game for women, if only in a form that implicitly accepted that women were physically weaker and therefore played a “ladylike” version of the men’s game, though to same extent players like Lenglen threatened such assumptions.

In most sports women continued to suffer opposition and discrimination. Women’ s athletics was one of the last sports to be organized, and throughout the 1920s antagonists of women’s sports viewed athletics as indecent, unsuited to women’s physiques and in danger of producing “an unnatural race of Amazons”.

The struggle over the inclusion of women’ s athletics in the Olympic Games came to a head when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to include them in the Games of 1920 and 1924. In defiance of IOC policy Alice Milliat organized the first Women’s Olympics in 1922, which were also held in 1926, 1930 and 1934 under the new title of the Women’s World Games. These events were unexpectedly successful, attracting large numbers of competitors and spectators from western Europe, the British Empire and North America, and athletics became a growth sport for women.

Next Page: Paul Whiteman Enters American Scene

The Obsession with Records

The Obsession with Records

Society had been the pioneer in the promotion of sports. We have seen that in the middle of the century the more wealthy had been almost the only people with the leisure and means to enjoy them. As the opportunity to play games became available for a wider public in the 1890’s, the world of fashion tended more and more to favor those activities of which the expense definitely excluded the common man.

The same impulse that motivated the rivalry over elaborate entertainment and opera boxes was responsible for an attitude toward sport in which conspicuous waste rather than simple enjoyment became the general rule. James Gordon Bennett, Jr., determined to win the position in society denied his father, made sport his means of entrée into that exclusive world. He sailed yachts and fought his way to the proud post of commodore of the New York Yacht Club; he took up coaching and drove his four-in-hand in the Newport parade; he introduced polo and founded the Westchester Polo Club.

In the United States there was particular fascination with records. Two uniquely American games, baseball and football, lent themselves to detailed quantification and established a framework for other sports. Baseball had become the national game because so many people played it as well as watched it. Football was destined from the first to be primarily a spectator sport. Interest was mobilized by the press, but radio broadcasting transformed it into a new home-based entertainment. Matches and results were analyzed and players’ techniques discussed long before the press could report on them.

Outdoor recreation was to develop into a much more marked feature of American life as new opportunities opened up for ever larger numbers of people to play games. The democracy was to take over sport to an extent which its limited leisure and lack of resources still made impossible in these decades after the Civil War. But the path had been cleared. America had discovered a new world. Through this process sports personalities emerged, their identities developed and embellished by the media, the celebration of their accomplishments part of the entertainment industry’s invention of celebrity.

Heroic figures in the culture of industrial capitalism, sportsmen and women were recognized as maxirnizers of performance and output.In the 1920s the names of Babe Ruth and Red Grange became familiar because of their prowess in baseball and American football respectively. Football aroused spectator interest from the start, and the Big Three of the eastern colleges — Harvard, Yale and Princeton — at first completely overshadowed all other teams. It was long before comparable elevens were in the field.

Babe Ruth was the first modem athlete to be “packaged” and “sold” to the American people, not only for his sporting prowess but alsa for his character. He became a national celebrity who helped to make professional baseball America’s number one pastime. The great crowds attracted by football-totaling thirty and forty thousand — were naturally not entirely made up of those in the higher social brackets.

The game had a wider appeal, as the tremendous publicity given it clearly proves. Red Grange has been regarded as one of the greatest college football players of all time. His evasive running eamed him the title of “The Galloping Ghost” and when he signed for the Chicago Bears in 1925 not only did he secure a contract worth $3,000 per game but also, in the eyes of many, conferred respectabiIity on professional football itself.

From this time on, it was clear that money could be made in the game by college graduates. Few adults found themselves able or willing to play football. Although teams made up of former college players were for a time quite active, the game was primarily for boys. But many were glad to watch so exciting a sport. Its dependence upon brute force satisfied atavistic instincts as could no other modern spectacle except the prize-fight. Baseball had become the national game because so many people played it as well as watched it. Football was destined from the first to be primarily a spectator sport.

Next Page: Women in Sports – Suzanne Lenglen and Others

Sports and Mass Media

Sports and Mass Media

In seeking a concept of leisure that can be useful for his purposes, the sociologist may do one of two things: either he may accept leisure to be what people say it is or what it means to them; or he may seek an ideal construct.

As to the first, if he asks several persons at a baseball game, what brought them there, he will receive a variety of answers: “to enjoy the game,” “to get the sunshine,” “to get away from home,” “to rest.” If asked what leisure means to them on a more general level, the same persons are likely to consider it as “time off from work,” “free time,” “my own time,” “doing what I like,” “rest,” and so on. Throughout all of Europe and the United States, changes in work patterns and new expectations of leisure in the interwar period fueled a demand far leisure that manifested itself in a growing variety of sporting activities.

More people had more time for leisure, which was increasingly viewed as something they had a right to enjoy. Many also experienced a genuine rise in disposable income, and although same sports remained socialiy exclusive, increasing numbers of people enjoyed spectating and more working-class people found themselves able to participate in a range of sports.

The effect of the automobile on recreational habits was often decried in the 1930’s: the substitution of a passive amusement for something more active; standardization and regimentation; the moral problem of the parked sedan and roadside tourist camp. The Sunday-afternoon drive was devastatingly described — the crowded highways, traffic jams, and accidents; the car windows tightly closed against spring breezes; and whatever beauties the landscape might offer lying hidden behind forbidding lines of advertisements. “One arrives after a motor journey,” one eminent sociologist wrote, “all liver and no legs; one’s mind is asleep, one’s body tired; one is bored, irritable, and listless. 25 But what such critics forgot was that the great majority of Sunday and holiday motorists, or even vacation tourists, would have been cooped up in crowded towns and cities except for the automobile.

The country they saw may at times have been almost blotted out by billboards and the air they breathed tainted by gasoline fumes. But the alternative in many cases would have been the movie, the dance-hall, or the beer-parlor. The steamboat and the railroad began a century ago to open up the world of travel and provide some means of holiday escape from one’s immediate enviromnent, but until the coming of the automobile, recreation along these lines was a rare thing. The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up the summer resorts of the 1890’s, but every Tom, Dick, and Harry toured the country in the 1930’s — thanks to the automobile.

Much of the criticism of the way the automobile was used in leisure-time activities may have been justified, but any gen, eral condemnation of its part in national recreation implies that pleasure travel, outdoor life, and many sports should have largely remained the prerogative of the wealthy few who could afford other means of transportation.

As one commentator observed of Britain in the 1920s: “The majority of working people, even those in poor material circumstances, were not entirely powerless in the face of external change to shape their own destiny and to gain a sense of well-being from their own spare-time experiences.”

The hedonism that marked the 1920s was accompanied by nations of achievement and challenge, record attendance, and the rapid acceleration of commercialized sport. Between 1919 and 1926 Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, drew crowds totalling over one million. The first luxurious sports areas were built such as London’ s Wembley Stadium, which opened in 1923 and was designed to hold 100,000 spectators. In the 1920s Wembley hosted many types of sporting event, including soccer, tennis, boxing, ice hockey and greyhound racing.

An expensive amusement not only summed up the general opinion of the automobile in these pioneer years, but appeared to be all that could be expected of it. It was a plaything for the rich. Motoring and automobile racing took a place in the lives of wealthy sportsmen which had formerly been held by coaching; it was regarded as a sport comparable to yachting or riding to hounds. Operating expenses and the inevitability of breakdowns for long shut out any idea of the automobile’s more general usefulness, either as a means of transportation in the business and commercial world or as a popular recreation for the people as a whole. As late as 1911 Charles J. Glidden could single out as the primary effect of the advent of the automobile that it had “completely revolutionized the life of well-to-do people.”

The Early History of the Automobile, in so far as recreation is concerned, could hardly have afforded a more striking contrast to that of the movies. There were in all in this country some three hundred horseless carriages — gasoline buggies, electrics, steam cars — when moving pictures were first thrown on a screen in 1895. When John P. Harris opened his pioneer moving-picture theatre a decade later, there were almost eighty thousand. But though the early period of automobiling coincided so exactly with the years of the nickelodeon madness, the automobile and the movies reached entirely different groups of people.

Throughout the decade attendance records were broken at professional and elite amateur events. Newspapers and radio brought distant events to a public primed for news, and, for the media, sport had the distinct advantage of taking place, and making news, according to an established calendar of events fixed well in advance. For its spectators, the predictability of sporting events provided a stable element in an unstable world.

Sporting events enacted essentially optimistic dramas – there was always a victor (whether as hero or villain), a result, a decision, a definite outcome, and always anather game in which wrongs could be righted or triumphs repeated.

Sport as a central interest for many people has sometimes been explained in terms of the backcloth it provided for accommodating the larger and less predictable world beyond. Sport became a celebration of human achievement, constructed around individual sportsmen and sportswomen whose personalities were publicized and manipulated by the media.

Although they were not the creatian of this period, by the 1920s the nations of sporting records and achievements resonated with the cultural values of capitalism. The statistics, totals and averages of a sport such as American football – the “earned run average”, or the “yards gained rushing” – bore marked similiarities to the economic statistics, such as the Gross National Product or the Grade Point Average, that were beginning to enter everyday consciousness at this time.

Next Page: The Obsession With Records – Babe Ruth and Red Grange

Two New Magazines: The Saturday Evening Post and Time

Two New Magazines: The Saturday Evening Post and Time

Atkinson & Alexander published the Saturday Evening Post on 4th August, 1821. It was four page newspaper with no illustrations. By 1920 the Saturday Evening Post had a circulation of over two millions copies a week, and, with its mixture of fiction, current affairs and biographies of public figures, was staple reading for the American middle-class family. The magazine continued to grow in size.

A newer, brasher style of magazine appeared in 1920’s. The magazine equivalent of the tabloid dailies, True Story and its imitators found a new audience of young, working-class women eager for advice and reassurance. Every story had to be written in the first person in simple, homely language, and preach a strong moral lesson.

Perhaps the most enduring stylist change was inaugurated by Time, created by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden on the premise that “People are uninformed because no publication has adapted itself to the time which busy men are able to spend simply keeping informed”. The first issue of Time appeared on Mar. 3, 1923.

Individuals, not governments or mysterios forces, made Times news: “Since the personalities of politics make public affairs live… it is important to know what they drink, to what gods they pray and what kinds of fights they love.”

Two New Magazines: The Saturday Evening Post and Time

Next Page: Sports and Mass Media