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During Hollywood's golden era motion picture fan magazines were all the rage. Every month millions of ardent movie-goers anxiously waited for the new issues of PHOTOPLAY, MOVIE STORY, SCREENLAND, and other such publications to arrive in their mailboxes or on newsstands so they discover the latest intimate details of their favorite stars' lives. Fan magazines were their connection to that magical land known as Hollywood.
To the motion picture industry, fan magazines were the ultimate propaganda tool, for it was through these publications that celebrity agents and studio publicity departments spun the myths that made legends of ordinary people who happened to have the good looks, and sometimes talent, to be in the movies. It was the studios and the agents who wrote or--in the case of articles supposedly penned by celebrities--ghost wrote the stories that titillated movie fans across the country.
The studios and agents also made stars available for photo opportunities during which fan mag photogs would capture "candid" images revealing the real lives of stars. Sometimes the studios even provided color photos shot by their own photographers, which usually included images of the studio's biggest stars in action during production of their next big release. These color photographs often appeared on the front covers of fan magazines to announce each issue's intimate and probing cover story.
The celebrity stories appearing in these popular publications were usually about the behind the scenes lives of whichever celebrities the studios were currently promoting. While articles about male stars told of their hobbies and interests, stories about female stars typically described the delightful and wholesome home lives they shared with their families. For shock value, articles occasionally leaked rumors of stars misbehaving, which were always denied by the celebrity in the next issue, or in the next issue of a competitor's magazine. Articles by newspaper gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons also appeared in fan magazines, offering the latest lowdown on the biggest names in Tinsel Town.
Fan magazines were an important part of the dream factory that was Hollywood. The first such publication was PHOTOPLAY, which appeared on newsstands in 1911 and continued publishing all the way up until 1980, with many other mastheads coming and going during the intervening years. In some ways, the modern reincarnations of fan magazines are with us today in popular publications like PEOPLE magazine.
To help you relive the magic of the golden era's fan magazines, we've assembled a collection of 30 full-color cover images from the most popular movie star publications of the 1940s. For this use of these photos, we thank the American Museum of the Moving Image. Now, enjoy our little trip back to yesteryear when fan magazines were all the rage.