Child Actors/Child Stars: Juvenile Performance on Screen

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Child Actors/Child Stars:

Juvenile Performance on Screen

8-9 September 2011,

David Puttnam Media Centre, University of Sunderland

Co-hosted by the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland and the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex

Child Actors/Child Stars: Juvenile Performance on Screen Conference

Provisional programme

Thursday 8th September

12-1.00pm Registration

1.00-1.30 Welcome/Introduction

1.30-2.45 Keynote 1: Karen Lury, ‘“Living props”: awful child actors and other animals’

2.45-3.00 Comfort Break

3.00-5.00 Conversation with Jon Whiteley (accompanied by screening of film extracts)

5.00-5.30 Refreshments Break

5.30-6.30 Presentation: David Redfern on Baby Peggy/Diana Serra Cary

6.30-7.15 A Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor: screening of a video essay by Susan Smith

7.15-8.15 Wine reception

8.30 Meal (Roker Italia)

Friday 9th September

8.30-9.30 Late registration/technical familiarisation session/refreshments

9.30-10.45 Keynote: Linda Ruth Williams, ‘The Tears of Henry Thomas: Steven Spielberg’s Performing Children’

10.45-11.00 Comfort Break

11.00-12.30 Panel A

Panel B

12.30-1.30 Lunch

1.30-3.30 Panel C

Panel D

3.30-4.00 Refreshments Break

4.00-5.30 Panel E

Panel F

5.30-6.00 Closing discussion


Panel A: Child Stardom and Performance during Hollywood’s ‘Classical’ Era

Linda Berkvens: From America’s Sweethearts to the ‘Two Greatest Has-Beens’: Shirley Temple, Mary Pickford, Image and Performance

Martin Shingler: Janis Wilson was almost It: or Whatever happened to Now, Voyager’s Tina?

Catherine Jurca: Mickey Rooney’s Egregious Style

Panel B: The Child and National Cinema

Eylem Akatav: ‘Do one’s dreams become smaller as one becomes bigger?’ Memory, Trauma and the Child Turkish Cinema

Nidhi Gulati: Nation’s Destiny in the Fist of a Child: Cinematic Imagination of Children (Post independence, 1947-1954)

Sarah Wright: Pitusín: Spain’s First Child Star

Panel C: Child Stardom/Celebrity: questions of agency and control

Jane O’Connor: From Jackie Coogan to Michael Jackson: What Child Stars can tell us about Wider Ideologies of Childhood

Melanie Kennedy: Tween Girl as ‘Becoming’ through Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus

Holly Chard: ‘Kid Power Conquers Hollywood’?: Macaulay Culkin, Child Stardom and Nineties Hollywood

Kiri Bloom: Little Demon or Little Dear? The Contrasting Portrayals of Linda Blair and Heather O’Rourke in the Media

Panel D: The Child as Conveyor of Sorrow/Loneliness/Mourning/Monstrosity

Derek Johnston: ‘Child of Sorrow’: Child as Symbol of the Poisoned Future in Adaptations of the Kozure Ōkami (Lone Wolf and Cub) Manga

Elayne Chaplin: The Lost, the Lonely and the Little Salaryman: Shōnen on Screen

Sarah Forgacs: The Death of the Father: Mourning Children in Le pere de mes enfants (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2010)

John Paul Green: Frightening Children: Doctor Who and the Monstrous Child

Panel E: Voicing the Child in Animation

Christopher Holliday: Emotion Capture: Evaluating Vocal Performances by Children in the Computer-Animated Film

Rayna Denison: Adult Actors, Children’s Voices: Anime and the Performance of Childhood

Panel F: Non-professional child acting

John David Rhodes: ‘The most beautiful ass, first prize: death (Salò’s young non-actors)’

Michael Lawrence: Ahmed’s Hesitation: Children, Empathy and Performance in Abbas Kiarostami’s Khane-ye Doost Kojast? / Where Is the Friend’s House? (1997)
Margherita Sprio: Performing Authenticity: Children and Iranian Film


Eylem Akatav

Do one’s dreams become smaller as one becomes bigger?’ Memory, Trauma and the Child Turkish Cinema

The military intervention of September 12, 1980 repressed both the radical Right as well as the radical Left in Turkey whilst aiming to depoliticise society. It crushed all political parties and particularly leftist organisations, and temporarily suspended democracy thus bringing political life to a complete halt. The coup suppressed all kinds of social opposition by force and applied a systematic depoliticisation of the masses. The considerable effort by filmmakers to come to terms with this national trauma has resulted in an outpouring of cinematic texts in Turkey since 2000. The growing body of films that focus on the 1980 coup’s consequences on individuals’ lives calls for exploration of the relationship between cultural memory and Turkish cinema. In view of the idea that cinema presents a medium of memory the paper will look at how the process of depoliticisation is still effective in the representations of the coup in recent films My Father and My Son (Cagan Irmak, 2005) and Bastards (Murat Saracoglu, 2008). Both films struggle creatively with the dilemma of how to represent experiences of atrocity (particularly torture applied to leftists) that defy their ability to know, narrate, and depict them. What brings these films together is their use of children. This paper will argue that these films use the child image and performances to depoliticise their narratives. Yet, they resurrect and recreate while remembering a traumatic past that encompass cultural memory. Children’s performance as well as melodramatic codes of staging and lighting, deep focus, distorted close ups and expressivity of sound all coordinate to evoke appropriate emotional orientation to the text. The narratives are anchored by the emotional spectacle of children in danger, thus providing a unifying emotion as opposed to a political and critical distance. Hence the films’ narration relies on sustaining this emotional appeal. The conception of childhood innocence is constructed through child performances in film and as this construction presumes that ‘children exist in a space beyond, above, outside the political’ (Jenkins cited in Wilson, 2005, 331).

Linda Berkvens

From America’s Sweethearts to the ‘Two Greatest Has-Beens’: Shirley Temple, Mary Pickford, Image and Performance

Shirley Temple was arguably the top star of the 1930s, taking first place in the Quigley Poll from 1935 through 1938. Although much has been written about the nature of Temple’s stardom (for example Charles Eckert’s ‘Shirley Temple and the House of Rockefeller’), very few sources address the construction of Temple’s star image. This paper will attempt to address this gap. It argues that Shirley Temple’s image between 1934 and 1940 was built on Mary Pickford’s 1920s image as America’s Sweetheart. The paper will demonstrate how and why Temple’s image was modelled after Pickford’s onscreen image, but it will also investigate the differences in the two actresses’ performances of children. Finally, the paper will pay brief attention to both stars’ transitions to more mature roles. The paper will largely be based on original historical research. It will demonstrate the construction of Temple’s image by locating it in its original context and it will offer explanations for the fashionability of Temple as a performer in child’s roles in the mid- and late-1930s.

Kiri Bloom

Little Demon or Little Dear? The Contrasting Portrayals of Linda Blair and Heather O’Rourke in the Media

This paper will focus specifically on two young actors who became known for their performances in classic horror films. In The Exorcist, Linda Blair became the ultimate ‘demonic child’ as Regan MacNeil. In contrast Heather O’Rourke was cast as the angelic Carol Ann in Poltergeist. The paper will explore the way in which these two young actresses were prepared for their roles and treated during filming. We will then look at how they were portrayed in the media once the films had been released - and in particular whether or not the roles played by the children biased contemporary press coverage. Given that both actresses starred in sequels to the original films we will speculate on to what extent these iconic roles type-cast Linda Blair and Heather O'Rourke in their subsequent careers. This paper will use contemporary press coverage of the films and actors in question.

Elayne Chaplin

The Lost, the Lonely and the Little Salaryman: Shōnen on Screen

An important (and much analysed) feature of anime has been the representation of the girl/shōjo – a figure that combines hyper-femininity (idealised beauty and nurturance) with action-hero combat abilities. Indeed, when it comes to resolving anime’s narrative dilemmas it seems that (to echo Thomas Lamarre) ‘only a girl can save us now’. Conversely, the onscreen figure of the boy/shōnen is more ambiguous and uncertain. Repeatedly orphaned (literally or figuratively), cast out on unending or unsuccessful quests (e.g. Pokemon’s Ash) and often linked connotatively to Japanese tradition, the boy-child can be seen as a salaryman-in-waiting, defined by duty and emotional restraint (e.g. Mononoke-hime’s Ashitaka). Moreover, when (pubescent) emotions are unleashed, the shōnen is transformed into the ‘monstrous masculine’ of Japan’s nuclear nightmares (e.g. Akira’s Tetsuo). Significantly, this marginalized masculinity is not confined to anime. Kikujiro (Kitano Takeshi, 1999), for example, focuses on a situational relationship between an unwanted boy (Sekiguchi Yusuke) and childlike man (Beat Takashi) that emphasizes the social exclusion of both. Therefore, this paper would seek to examine modes of performance in representations of boys in post-1980 Japanese cinema, investigating the extent to which their marginalization (both visual and narrative) articulates a broader, socio-cultural ambivalence toward the issue of gendered identities.

Holly Chard

Kid Power Conquers Hollywood’?: Macaulay Culkin, Child Stardom and Nineties Hollywood

Macaulay Culkin was one of the most famous and highly paid child stars in the history of Hollywood cinema. A major beneficiary of the rise in family film production in the early 1990s, at the height of his career he could command $5-8 million per picture. Through his leading role in one of the highest-grossing comedies ever made, Home Alone (1990), Culkin became an international celebrity and consolidated his image as a child star for the nineties, combining traditionally cute looks with a thoroughly modern self-assured personality. While the child star can exercise agency over their performances, they have limited power over the formation and circulation of their identity in a wider context. This paper considers the construction of Culkin’s star image throughout his childhood acting career. Drawing upon range of primary materials, I examine the ways in which Culkin, his father/agent and the US media industry tried to shape and exploit his star persona. Through analysis of several key film texts, I evaluate whether Culkin’s star performances demonstrate a desire to control and shape his image, and consider whether such performances were ultimately subordinate to his extra-textual identity as a star. The paper concludes with examination of the rapid decline of Culkin’s Hollywood career. In particular, I consider the extent to which his physical transition to adolescence distanced him from his reputation as a child star and led to greater scrutiny of his acting abilities and his personal life, thus highlighting the problems faced by the ‘aging’ child performer.

Rayna Denison

Adult Actors, Children’s Voices: Anime and the Performance of Childhood

It is common practice in Japanese anime voice casting to use adults instead of children for children’s roles. This paper examines the issue of adults performing as children in anime from two perspectives: first from the point of view of seiyū (voice actor) performances and, second, from an industrial perspective that examines the effects of such voice-casting on adult actors. This paper investigates the interstices between youth and adulthood in Japanese acting styles, and compares these with the industry that positions its actors in sometimes surprising ways. For example, the cross-gendered performances of many female seiyū will be considered in light of the concomitant moves towards the infantilisation of female youth cultures in Japan, most commonly associated with the post-1980s kawaii (cute) movement. This kawaii movement has had its basis in commercial consumption cultures that are now echoed in the practices of voice casting and stardom. Stardom in Japan is more overtly controlled, and the power of talent agencies to situate stars as seiyū will form the basis of the industrial analysis in this paper. Two examples will be considered in depth: Rie Kugimiya and Rina Satō (who have both starred in a range of television and film texts). In focusing on this issue through Kugimiya and Satō, this paper will highlight some of the unusual ways in which Japanese voice casting practices map onto the representations of children in anime and its surrounding cultures.

Sarah Forgacs

The Death of the Father: Mourning Children in Le pere de mes enfants (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2010)

Mia Hansen-Løve’s second film Le pere de mes enfants/Father of My Children (2010) is a film whcih deals with the suicide of a film producer and the effect this has on the three young daughters he leaves behind. The oldest child Clémence must negotiate her entry into adulthood and deal with the legacy her father leaves behind, while the two younger children (played by non-professionals and whose roles were largely improvised) struggle to come to terms with the loss of their father and the impact this will have on their adult lives. This paper will argue that this film, which examines children mourning the death of their father, is an example of what Emma Wilson has called ‘a cinema of mourning children’. Whereas films such as Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) and Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room (2001) centre around parents mourning the death of their child, I argue that Hansen-Løve reverses this to present us with a portrait of children mourning the death of a parent. Using the recent work of Judith Butler in her collection of essays Precarious Lives: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2006), I aim to examine how the film addresses the precariousness of life and the ramifications this has on the family as a unit, while simultaneously following a child’s work of mourning and how this negotiates itself alongside the construction of their subjectivity.

John Paul Green

Frightening Children: Doctor Who and the Monstrous Child

Given that Doctor Who is one of the most successful children’s science fiction television shows in history, it is surprising that few children have appeared in the series, particularly during its initial run between 1963 and 1989. While the first episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ hinted that the series would focus on the figure of the child companion, it rapidly moved away to concentrate on the eponymous hero. Aside from a handful of adolescent travelling companions who accompanied the Doctor, children would not provide a point of identification in the show. As C. E. Webber noted in a 1963 BBC report, “child characters do not command the interest of children older than themselves.” The overall absence of pre-adolescent children in Doctor Who during its initial run goes against the popular image of the monstrous child in several key British postwar science fiction novels and films, notably John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos (and subsequent film adaptations Village of the Damned and sequel) as well as Joseph Losey’s unrelated film The Damned. Since the show’s re-launch in 2005, however, there have been several memorable stories involving malevolent children. Rather than avoid the image of the ‘bad’ child, the new series engages with issues around children, their behaviour and their otherness. Focusing on the two-part story ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,’ this paper will address issues surrounding the appearance of the monstrous child as well as exploring how monstrousness is evoked through the child actor’s performances, which in turn provide the ‘behind-the-sofa’ scares expected of the series.

Nidhi Gulati

Nation’s Destiny in the Fist of a Child: Cinematic Imagination of Children (Post independence, 1947-1954)

The paper attempts to explore the imagination of children and portrayals of childhood in Indian mainstream cinema historically and captures childhood as constructed in this medium of popular culture. Taking the theoretical frame that popular culture is pertinent site of cultural interpretation and as a legitimate slate for reading social history, the present study approaches mainstream Indian cinema. Gender, sexuality, caste, class and religious community act out in cross- hatch with childhood in shaping that history. It is discussed that in films which are not about children, they are seen peripheral to the social systems, or are only as future replacements for what they will be when they grow up. In contrast, we see the films of this time play out the politics of identity, where children are bestowed with a sense of agency in the specific historical- social context. The central argument of the paper is that the narration of childhood, children and child rearing in Hindi Cinema in the post independence decade echoes the crises that the young nation faced at that time. The paper examines the cinematic portrayal of children in two popular films: Bootpolish (Shoepolish, 1954, Raj Kapur), and Dhool ka Phool (A Flower from Dust, 1959, Yash Chopra) to link the imagination of childhood with that of the nation. A family’s struggle for identity for their adopted child in Dhool ka Phool is an appeal for Nehruvian secularism and personifies a liberal, inclusive vision of India. This cinematic imagination sees the child as struggling to deal with hunger, poverty, urbanization, religious identity and striving for self-respect, individualism, secularism, autonomy and social justice. These issues are also concomitant with that of the emerging modern nation state.

Christopher Holliday

Emotion Capture: Evaluating Vocal Performances by Children in the Computer-Animated Film

‘I can still hear her little voice’ – James P. ‘Sulley’ Sullivan, Monsters, Inc.

From Walt Disney to The Simpsons, the usual practice across both feature-length cel-animated cartoons and television animation has been to cast adults in the vocal roles of children. The child labour laws in the U.S. governs juvenile voiceover work; the physical stresses and strains that long hours can place on the child actor’s voice; and the fact that children’s voices change as they grow, have all been factors regulating this practice. While these concerns raise broader questions about the performance of children in animation, in this paper I want to examine the tendency within computer-animated films to cast children as children. These films, I argue, offer the pleasures of ‘captured’ performance, and foreground what Roland Barthes terms the “grain” of the child’s voice. By examining the meaningless ‘babbling’ and spontaneous vocalizations of hte aptly-named child ‘Boo’ from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001), this paper offers new ways of conceptualising the relationship between animation and child performance, suggesting that computer-animated films celebrate childhood by emphasising the verbal mannerisms and vicissitudes of the unprompted child actor. The calculated fit between the CG children onscreen and the rhythms of their unrefined speech expresses an active engagement with the pleasures of simply ‘being young’ rather than privilege ‘growing up’. Monsters, Inc. deliberately accentuates how the character’s screen voice is authentically ‘made’ by a child-as-a-child, preserving the unique vocal capabilities of 4-year-old Mary Gibbs as Boo, whilst framing her performance in a narrative which dramatises most literally the powers held within the voice of children.

Derek Johnston

Child of Sorrow’: Child as Symbol of the Poisoned Future in Adaptations of the Kozure Ōkami (Lone Wolf and Cub) Manga

In the Kozure Ōkami (Lone Wolf and Cub) manga and its adaptations, Ogami Ittō and his infant son Daigoro are the only survivors of a family slaughtered by a power-seeking rival. Ittō is presented as the ideal of the samurai who seeks to pass these qualities on to his son. The relationship between father and son serves to set the Lone Wolf and Cub narrative apart from many other stories of vengeance-seeking ronin, but it also acts to underline the theme of the manga, which condemns the lingering effects of feudal society upon modern Japan. The portrayal of Daigoro is the main means of transmission of this concept, as he is shown to have the form of samurai society, but also the capacity for violence, without any understanding. This paper will examine Japanese film and television adaptations of the manga in relation to their portrayal of Daigoro. It will consider the particular demands and effects of transforming the acts of a three-year-old child from drawn form to actual performance. Comparison will be made with the change in the child’s age and the role played by the son in Max Allan Collins’ graphic novel Road to Perdition, identified as an homage to Lone Wolf and Cub, and its 2002 film version.

Catherine Jurca

Mickey Rooney’s Egregious Style

As one of the most popular stars of the late 1930s, Mickey Rooney played a crucial role in bringing a new realism to American audiences just about fed up with the excesses of Hollywood glamour. The Andy Hardy films both stimulated and satisfied a demand for ‘real films’ that dealt with the ‘real problems’ of ‘ordinary people’. At the same time, his technique as an actor became increasingly exaggerated and anti-realist. I argue that Rooney’s famed ‘mugging’ was essential to the success of Boys Town, one of the most important films of 1938, which proved to the satisfaction of Hollywood’s champions as well as critics that messages and entertainment might be profitably and pleasurably combined. As Father Flanagan, Spencer Tracy embraced a naturalistic acting style that communicated a quiet sincerity and faith in the good work s that the real-life founder of Boys Town had achieved. Rooney’s over-the-top self-dramatization, by contrast, tempers the social problem elements, making preachment palatable, in part by drawing constant attention to the film’s commitment to entertaining audiences. With Boys Town, an endless, almost pathological desire to please became the keynote of Rooney’s egregious style, and later the foundation of his roles in the Garland-Rooney musicals of the early 1940s.

Melanie Kennedy

The Tween Girl as ‘Becoming’ through Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus
The tween subject as an exclusively female pre-adolescent belonging to a distinct consumer culture is seen to emerge alongside a heightened visibility of girls within popular culture from the mid-1990s onwards and amongst continuing anxieties about girlhood and constructions of femininity in this intensely mediated environment. Disney’s Hannah Montana franchise of the Noughties, and within this the site of Miliey Cyrus as a star, can be seen as the epitome of this culture pertaining to a particular gendered, age-specific consumer demographic. Within girlhood studies, the figure of the girl is repeatedly discussed as being in a constant state of ‘becoming’ regarding the development of a gendered identity. Looking at the relationship between Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart’s development into young womanhood within the narrative of the franchise (including the television series, theatrical film, merchandise) and Miley Cyrus’s offscreen transition from tween to young adult (through her ‘scandals’, taking on more mature roles in her acting and music career) will allow for an interrogation of how this multi-media brand addresses the tween as ‘becoming’ and how it negotiates the socio-cultural anxieties of female pre-adolescence. By carrying out a star study of Cyrus during her role as Hanna Montana/Miley Stewart within the fields of girlhood studies and postfeminist media studies, one can understand how popular culture constructs the culturally ‘appropriate’ way for pre-teen girls to become feminine, and how it deals with a star making her own transition into young womanhood.
Michael Lawrence
Ahmed’s Hesitation: Children, Empathy and Performance in Abbas Kiarostami’s Khane-ye Doost Kojast? / Where Is the Friend’s House? (1997)
Child protagonists recur throughout New Iranian Cinema. The films’ presentation of children is often acknowledged in discussions that approach them as neo-realist parables, whimsical fables or allegorical critique (in which children are understood as substitutes for adults). The performances of the non-professional child actors in these films have received considerably less attention, even though the being of the child at the centre of these films—the child actor’s own being, and also his or her being (as) another (or substitute) child—is arguably central to their complex aesthetic, ideological and ethical ambiguity. This paper will consider a key moment from Abbas Kiarostami’s Khane-ye Doost Kojast?/Where Is the Friend’s House (1997), focusing on the presentation of its young hero, Ahmed, and of the performance by its young actor Babek Ahmed Poor. Ahmed has just discovered his classmate Mohammad’s exercise book in his satchel; earlier that day Mohammad was warned he would be expelled if he failed to complete his homework. Ahmed must decide whether to disobey his mother and leave his home to try and find Mohammad’s house in the neighbouring village (whether to act), or obey his mother and stay (not act). Babek’s performance here, his being (as) Ahmed, presents Ahmed ’s empathic solidarity with and responsibility for another child—a being with, or being for, Mohammad—which results in his defiant act, his wilful departure. I will attend to Babek’s halting and tentative performance (of Ahmed’s hesitation and of his eventual decision) and suggest how through staging here the child’s imaginative and effortful being (for) another child Kiarostami’s film reveals the often overlooked empathic actions that constitute the child actor’s dramatic labours.

Jane O’Connor

From Jackie Coogan to Michael Jackson: What Child Stars can tell us about Wider Ideologies of Childhood.

The death of former child star Michael Jackson in 2009 reignited public debates around the potential dangers of early fame. This paper explores the ways in which the status of child stars has changed over the course of the twentieth century in line with shifting attitudes towards childhood in general, and with the proliferation and diversification of media formats. Starting with the Hollywood ‘Child Star’ era and moving on to child stars of television and more recent films, the connection between the kind of children audiences have demanded to see on screen and wider ideologies of childhood will be explored. It will be demonstrated how representations of childhood innocence and naturalness have often been at odds with the ‘real life’ experiences of child stars, and the continuing practice of allowing children to become media celebrities is questioned.

David Redfern

In October 2006 at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival it was my great pleasure to interview Diana Serra Cary (b.1918) a former child star. Born in Hollywood where her father was a riding double for Tom Mix, Peggy Montgomery was discovered by the movies at 19 months, and by the time she was three years old had made some 150 two-reelers for the independent Century Studios, at first in support of the canine star Brownie the Wonder Dog, but very soon as a star in her own right, under the name ‘Baby Peggy’. Graduating to features in 1924, Peggy continued to charm audiences well into the late 1920s, but eventually suffered the inevitable fate of a child star: she grew up. Like her great friend Jackie Coogan she discovered that her parents had been conspicuously less than wise with her very considerable earnings, so that she was obliged to begin a new career in vaudeville, while occasionally making appearances in sound films as a teenager. After her marriage to Bob Cary in 1954 she achieved her lifetime ambition of becoming a freelance writer specializing in Mexican and Western American history. In 2006 at the annual Le Giornate del Cinema Muto held at Sacile, Italy, Diana Serra Cary talked at length and with candour about her experiences as a child star during the silent era and her lifelong struggle to come to terms with her own personal identity. In reviewing her career as an early child star, this presentation will draw upon that interview along with extracts from Baby Peggy’s films.

John David Rhodes

The most beautiful ass, first prize: death (Salò’s young non-actors)

This paper will explore the implications the labour of the ‘child’ or late adolescent performers who appeared in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious film Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975). In the tradition of neorealism—and in the tradition of his own casting methods—Pasolini cast non-actors in the roles of the young boys and girls who are rounded up for the use and abuse at the hands of the film’s Sadeian protagonists and raconteurs. These performers, however—and, again, in the tradition of neorealism and Pasolini’s own practice—worked alongside professional film actors. The film stages its own methods of casting in the scenes in which the kidnapped youths are ‘auditioned’ for their roles in the villa in which they will be forced to perform sexually for their captors and in which they eventually all meet their deaths. Salò’ is a film shrouded in myth and rumour regarding its mode of production. Apocryphal stories abound regarding the actual death and mutilation (on the the production set) of the young performers. Other rumours suggest that these non-actors all met untimely deaths as a result of their participation in the film. (Responsible accounts of the film by those involved in its shooting completely refute these stories.) Not only does the film stage meta-critically the problems of assent, freedom and impelled labour that attend the labour of film actor—and the child actor in particular—but it also extends Pasolini’s ongoing allegorical use in his polemical writings of the 1970s in which the figure of the child organises his critique of late capitalist modernity. Moreover, the film’s intense emphasis on these young non-actors’ nudity raises the difficult problem of the sexualization of young bodies in the context of cinematic spectacle. This paper will trace the ambiguities and complexities of Salò’s use of the non-professional child actor in theoretical, documentary, and historical terms. It will also connect these concerns to Adam Chodzko’s conceptual art project Salò: Reunion (1998) in which the artist attempted to stage a ‘reunion’ of Salò’s non-professional actors for the purposes of a video, but ended up having to hire ‘stand-ins’ for the performers whose whereabouts could not be traced, save for one actress. Salò: Reunion revisits the uncomfortable problem of the non-professional child actor as a fundamentally exploited, evanescent, or disappearing subject.

Martin Shingler

Janis Wilson was almost It: or Whatever happened to Now, Voyager’s Tina?

In October 1942, a juvenile actress by the name of Janis Wilson made her screen debut in Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper), appearing alongside an impressive cast headed by Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. Her performance as Tina ensured her place within film history. Back in 1942, it earned her a contract with Warner Bros. and a part in the Bette Davis film Watch on the Rhine (Herman Shumlin, 1943). The teenage actress subsequently made a further five films, including two with Barbara Stanwyck in 1946, ‘My Reputation’ (Curtis Bernhardt) and The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone). However, by 1949, at the age of eighteen, her film career was over. In comparison to Margaret O’Brien’s career at MGM from 1942, Janis Wilson’s seems disappointing in terms of the quality of the films she made, her lack of star billing, screen time and longevity. However, in this paper I shall argue that Wilson’s short film career was not insignificant and that her small number of minor roles are worthy of appreciation in terms of her work as a juvenile actor. Concentrating largely on her remarkable screen debut and her defining role as Tina in Now, Voyager, I shall consider how she plays with adult actors, her emotional range (and the transitions she makes between emotions), and the extent to which she had what Karen Lury, in her book The Child in Film (2010), has defined as ‘It’.

Susan Smith

A Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor: screening of a video essay

The death of Elizabeth Taylor on 23rd March 2011 prompted a global outpouring of tributes to the actress right across the various sectors of the media, many of which highlighted her beginnings as a child star and the rapid nature of her rise to fame. This video essay will offer my own reflection on the significance of Taylor’s early career and the contribution made by this childhood phase to her enduring stardom. In doing so, it will draw upon my AHRC funded research project on the actress’s work in film, exploring the particularly crucial role played by Taylor’s star-defining performance in National Velvet (1944) and the ways in which her on-screen identity is profoundly rooted in her association with animals and nature.

Margherita Sprio

Performing Authenticity: Children and Iranian Film

Performance and children’s performance in particular is overtly untheorised within the debates that surround film studies although ideas about realism are very well rehearsed. What might be some of the issues raised by the scrutiny of film performances by non-professional child actors within the wide context of Iranian cinema? How might issues of performed authenticity relate to contemporary concerns that mark out ‘reality’ as being the problem of the moment? How do children figure in this debate? What marks out the child’s performance in film? As well the work of both Samira Makhmalbaf (The Apple, 1998) and Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, 1990) testifies, contemporary Iranian cinematic practices very often utilise the idea of restaging lived experiences. Non-professional actors re-perform their ‘original’ experiences and the director creates a narrative from these authenticities. In this context, the feature film format is refigured in order to re-think the role of the performative and the nature of truth giving within the realm of the moving image. Power relations, and the ethics of realism are further complicated through the explicit manipulation of the film director and their overt interventions both within and outside of the film. This paper will look at the historical context for this form of realist performance through making connections between this contemporary practice and earlier modes of film and performance.

Professor Linda Ruth Williams

The Tears of Henry Thomas: Steven Spielberg’s Performing Children

This paper discusses the direction of child actors by a filmmaker who is well known for his cinematic analysis of childhood: Steven Spileberg. Taking its cue from Henry Thomas’s remarkable audition for the role of Elliott in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (filmed and now widely available as a DVD extra, and on YouTube), this paper discusses children as a focus for melodrama in Spielberg’s work, the performance of tears, and the ethics of making children cry. Spielberg changed his customary working practices in filming E. T. in order to encourage suitably realistic performances from his three primary child actors (Drew Barrymore and Robert MacNaughton, as well as Thomas), filming in strict narrative sequence (thus guaranteeing the requisite surprise, horror and grief from his children – a technique which blurs the distinction between performance and ‘real’ response), and fostering a genuine emotional bond with the creature E. T. (who/which was also at times performed by a juvenile). This paper draws on theories of performance in melodrama and pornography (which also addresses the blurring of the real and the fabricated in performance), as well as critical and biographical material on Spielberg and his working practices, including interviews with the actors both during production and the marketing of the film, and reflective interviews once they had reached adulthood. It also references other remarkable performances which the director has elicited, including Haley Joel Osment in A. I. and Christian Bale from Empire of the Sun.

Sarah Wright: Pitusín: Spain’s First Child Star

Created in part as Spain’s answer to Chaplin’s Hollywood side-kick Jackie Coogan (known as Chiqilín in Spain), silent child star Pitusín (Alfredo Hurtado) was promoted by his mother who was anxious to earn a living following the death of her husband. She enrolled him in acting classes and put forward the two thousand pesetas required to fund his first film, La Buenaventura de Pitusín (Luis R. Alonso, 1924). The show-reel was successful and Pitusín went on to star in a plethora of silent films before going on to a career in production working with Orson Welles. Although he has been the subject of scant critical attention, Pitusín is widely regarded as Spain’s first child star. This paper will explore the modes of Hurtado’s performance style in La Buenaventura de Pitusín, the facial and bodily gestures influenced by the acting styles of silent film, and, through press cutting from the 1920s and 30s, it will explore the construction of ‘Pitusín’ as child-star persona.


Eylem Atakav

Dr Eylem Atakav is Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Women and Turkish Cinema: Gender Politics, Cultural Identity and Representation (Routledge, 2012) and the editor of Directory of World Cinema: Turkey (Intellect, 2012). She is currently working on two co-edited collections Women and Contemporary World Cinema and From Smut to Soft Core: 1970s and World Cinema.

Linda Berkvens

Linda Berkvens recently completed her doctoral thesis at the University of Sussex. Her thesis examines how female star images were created during the classical Hollywood period, using a case study of Barbara Stanwyck.

Kiri Bloom

Kiri Bloom is a PhD research student and Tutor with research interests in both Victorian Literature and Film. As a Weekly Class Tutor at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education she has taught An Introduction to Classic Horror, and in her spare time Kiri has worked on a wide variety of feature films as a film extra and child stand-in.

Elayne Chaplin

Dr Elayne Chaplin has been a film studies lecturer for more than 20 years. Her PhD thesis (entitled ‘Boys, Men and Monsters’) examined the independent horror films of the American writer/director, Larry Cohen, in relation to portrayals of the monstrous masculine. Current teaching and research interests include East Asian cinema and animated film.

Holly Chard

Holly Chard is a PhD Candidate and Associate Tutor in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. Her doctoral research examines the career of Hollywood filmmaker John Hughes and focuses on his work within the teen movie, comedian comedy and family film genres during the 1980s and 1990s. Her research interests include film history, American cinema and popular culture, and issues of representation in contemporary U.S. film and television.

Rayna Denison

Rayna Denison is Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia where she teaches animation, Asian Cinema and Japanese Cinema. She is published in these areas, with work that includes family and children’s films; for example, ‘Star-Spangled Ghibli: Star Voices in the American Versions of Hayao Miyazaki’s Films,’ in Animation Journal (2008). She is currently working on an AHRC funded research project titled: Manga Movies: Contemporary Japanese Media Franchising and Adaptation.

Sarah Forgacs

Sarah Forgacs is a PhD candidate in the Department of Film Studies at King’s College London. Her thesis is entitled Filming in the Feminine: Varda, Denis, Breillat & Ozon and examines the writings of the French feminist philosopher Hélène Cixous in relation to the work of these four directors. She is currently working on a number of entries for Directory of World Cinema: France to be published by Intellect Press later this year.

John Paul Green

John Paul Green is lecturer in film, media and cultural studies at the University of Sunderland. His research interests include science fiction television and cinema, broadcasting history and fictional British heroes and national identity, with a particular focus on James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. His publications include ‘The Regeneration Game: The Changing Faces of Heroism’ (2010) in Impossible Words, Impossible Things: Cultural Perspectives on Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, ‘You Know My Name, But Who Am I? Structure and Agency in the Making and Remaking of James Bond’ (2008), in Recycling Culture/s, and ‘From Bringland With Love' (2007), in The Little Bond Book. Recently, his research has moved from heroes to villains, examining the television and cinematic incarnations of Jack the Ripper. He has contributed to the BBC television series’ Arena and Inside Out as well as appearing in three episodes of Doctor Who.

Nidhi Gulati

Nidhi Gulati is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Elementary Education, Institute of Home Economics, at the University of Delhi. She has her Masters in Child Development (M.A.), Delhi University, and Bachelors degree in Education. She is pursuing her doctoral from CIE, researching Childhood and cinema. Nidhi has more than 8 years of teaching experience and is currently head of the department. She has been the principal investigator of a collaborative research proposal entitled, University School Resource Network, which aims at bridging the gap between university and school education, 2007 -2011 (funded by SRTT). As a convenor of core committee, she developed syllabus of D.Ed. (Diploma in Education), in partnership with State Council of Educational Research and Training and RRC, DU. She has presented papers in various national and international forums. Her research interests are childhood, gender and schooling, and classroom based research.

Christopher Holliday

Christopher Holliday is a doctoral candidate at King’s College London. His thesis explores the visual codes and conventions of computer-animated cinema. He is currently researching issues of film acting, performance, body and voice within the context of traditional cell animation and contemporary digital media.

Derek Johnson

Derek Johnston was awarded his PhD from the University of East Anglia based on his thesis Genre, Taste and the BBC: The Origins of British Television Science Fiction. He has published and presented on a number of subjects, largely connected with genre film and television in a British context, but also with the transformation and transportation of media properties, characters and narratives between media forms and national and cultural boundaries.

Catherine Jurca

Catherine Jurca is Professor of English at the California Institute of Technology. She has published several articles on classical Hollywood film and is the author of the forthcoming Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year (University of California Press, 2012).

Melanie Kennedy

Melanie Kennedy is a PhD student in the School of Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia, and her thesis is titled Noughties Tween Films and Television Shows and ‘Generation Z’. Her research areas of interest are girlhood studies, tweens and tweenhood, feminist theory and popular culture, postfeminist media studies, youth media, and generational studies.

Michael Lawrence

Michael Lawrence is Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. His research focuses on histories and theories of screen performances by children, animals and non-professional actors. Michael is currently working on the figure of the war orphan in international cinema, from Journey for Margaret (1942) to Ivan’s Childhood (1962). He is writing a monograph about Sabu for the BFI and also co-editing a collection on animal life and the moving image.

Karen Lury

Karen Lury is Professor of Film and Television Studies in the School of Culture and Creative Arts at the University of Glasgow. She is the author of The Child in Film: tears, fears and fairy tales (IB Tauris, 2010) and is currently working on an AHRC funded research project Children and Amateur Media in Scotland (

John David Rhodes

John David Rhodes is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Sussex. He researches cinema’s engagement with other aesthetic forms (literature, architecture, visual art) and the mutual implication of theory (aesthetic, political) and material history. He is the author of Meshes of the Afternoon (BFI, 2010) and Stupendous, Miserable City: Pasolini’s Rome (Minnesota UP, 2009), and the co-editor of Antonioni: Centenary Essays (BFI, 2011), Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image (Minnesota UP, 2011) and On Michael Haneke (Wayne State UP, 2010).

Jane O’Connor

Jane O'Connor is a senior lecturer in Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. She started her career as a primary school teacher and went on to complete postgraduate studies in sociology and cultual studies at University of York, Goldsmiths College and Brunel University. Her doctoral thesis was entitled The Cultural Significance of the Child Star and formed the basis of her first book. Her research interests focus on 'exceptional' children, discourses of childhood and representations of children and young people in the media.

David Redfern

David Redfern is a film historian who is currently preparing a biography of stage and screen actor James Stephenson (1889-1941) to be published shortly.

Martin Shingler

Martin Shingler is Senior Lecturer in Radio & Film Studies at the University of Sunderland and combines expertise in radio theory and film history. He is also a specialist in the work of Hollywood film star Bette Davis and has published numerous essays on her, in books such as Hollywood Spectatorship (2001), Screen Acting (1999) The New Film History (2007) and Film Moments (2010) and in journals such as Screen and Film History. He is the co-author of two books, On Air: Methods and Meanings of Radio, with Cindy Wieringa (1998) and Melodrama: Genre, Style & Sensibility, with John Mercer (2004), and has recently written Re-Mapping Star Studies for the BFI’s Film Stars series, which he co-edits with Susan Smith.

Susan Smith

Susan Smith is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Her research interests include stardom and performance, children’s film and literature, the animated film, cinema and the natural world, the American film musical, Hitchcock and film authorship, cinematic tone and point of view. She has recently completed a book on Elizabeth Taylor (with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council) for the BFI’s Film Stars series which she co-edits with Martin Shingler. She is the author of Voices in Film (2007), The Musical: Race, Gender and Performance (2005) and Hitchcock: Suspense, Humour and Tone (2000). Other publications include ‘Opening up The Secret Garden (Agnieszka Holland, 1993)’ in Film Moments: Criticism, History, Theory, (eds.) James Walters and Tom Brown (2010) and ‘The Animated Film Musical’, in The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, (eds.) Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris and Stacy Wolf (2011).

Margherita Sprio

Margherita Sprio is Senior Lecturer in Film Theory at University of Westminster. After studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths and The Slade School of Fine Art, all of Margherita’s research interests have been driven by issues of the trans-cultural across the fields of film/screen-based media and contemporary art practice. After working internationally as a practicing artist, she moved into research and teaching within an Art History/Theory and Film Studies context. She is currently working on the manuscript Screening Italians – Identity, Memory, and Sexuality in Migrant Italian Film and Culture.

Professor Linda Ruth Williams

Linda Ruth Williams researches popular genre cinema, censorship, stardom, gender and sexuality. She is currently working on two major projects, on the British director Ken Russell, and on children and childhood in Steven Spielberg’s films. She is also developing projects on the 1970s US director Hal Ashby, and on contemporary female stardom. She is the author of The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2005) and the co-editor of Contemporary American Cinema (Open University Press, 2006) 

Sarah Wright

Sarah Wright is Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Royal Holloway, University of Hull.  She is the author of The Trickster-Function in the Theatre of Garcia Lorca (Tamesis, 2000), Tales of Seduction: The Figure of Don Juan in Spanish Culture (I B Tauris, 2007) and is currently working on a project on representations of the child in Spanish cinema.

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