Like a Natural Woman, Like a Natural Woman, 0813562643, 0-8135-6264-3, 978-0-8135-6264-3, 9780813562643, , , Like a Natural Woman, 0813562651, 0-8135-6265-1, 978-0-8135-6265-0, 9780813562650, , , Like a Natural Woman, 081356266X, 0-8135-6266-X, 978-0-8135-6266-7, 9780813562667, , , Like a Natural Woman, 0813573912, 0-8135-7391-2, 978-0-8135-7391-5, 9780813573915,
Like a Natural Woman

Spectacular Female Performance in Classical Hollywood
Kirsten Pullen (Author)
31 photographs, 6 x 9
Paper, August 2014 $27.95   ADD TO CART
Cloth, August 2014 $85.00   ADD TO CART
Web PDF, August 2014 $27.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
epub, August 2014 $27.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
Subject Area:
Film, Media Studies, and Communications, Women's Studies, American Studies


 Bathing beauty Esther Williams, bombshell Jane Russell, exotic Carmen Miranda, chanteuse Lena Horne, and talk-show fixture Zsa Zsa Gabor are rarely hailed as great actors or as naturalistic performers. Those terms of praise are given to male stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean, whose gritty dramas are seen as a departure from the glossy spectacles in which these stars appeared. Like a Natural Woman challenges those assumptions, revealing the skill and training that went into the work of these five actresses, who employed naturalistic performance techniques, both onscreen and off.

Bringing a fresh perspective to film history through the lens of performance studies, Kirsten Pullen explores the ways in which these actresses, who always appeared to be “playing themselves,” responded to the naturalist notion that actors should create authentic characters by drawing from their own lives. At the same time, she examines how Hollywood presented these female stars as sex objects, focusing on their spectacular bodies at the expense of believable characterization or narratives.

Pullen not only helps us appreciate what talented actresses these five women actually were, but also reveals how they sought to express themselves and maintain agency, even while meeting the demands of their directors, studios, families, and fans to perform certain feminine roles. Drawing from a rich collection of classic films, publicity materials, and studio archives, Like a Natural Woman lets us take a new look at both Hollywood acting techniques and the performance of femininity itself.


"This well-researched and detailed study of female performance in classical Hollywood cinema and its persistence and ubiquity in modern celebrity culture is (almost!) as entertaining as the films and stars discussed."
—Adrienne L. McLean, author of Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom

"Kirsten Pullen’s engaging and illuminating work breaks new ground in performance studies, film and television studies, and women’s studies. A gem not to be missed!"
—Elana Levine, author of Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television

"This is an excellent book, a solid career overview of the work of a group of Hollywood stars of the 1940s and 1950s whom, the author convincingly argues, played themselves onscreen with the sort of naturalism that one associates with the assured performances of male 'method' actors of the era. Pullen has a keen knowledge of Hollywood history. Fascinating reading for the layperson or the academic; perfect for a resource for a course in American cinema. Highly recommended."

Author / Editor Bio

 KIRSTEN PULLEN is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the department of performance studies at Texas A&M University. Her publications include the book Actresses and Whores: On Stage and In Society.

Table Of Contents

Introduction Playing Herself: The Naturalist Paradigm and the Spectacle of Female Sexuality
1 Engineered for Stardom: Publicity, Performance, and Jane Russell
2 More than a Mermaid: Esther Williams, Performance, and the Body
3 Light Egyptian: Lena Horne and the Representation of Black Femininity
4 Carnival!: Carmen Miranda and the Spectacle of Authenticity
5 Famous for Being Famous: Persona, Performance, and the Case for Zsa Zsa Gabor


Indian Voices
Alison Owings
Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture
Jennifer Ann Ho
Feminism and Popular Culture
Rebecca Munford, Melanie Waters
Hidden in Plain Sight
Colin Williamson