Silent Era Fan Magazines and British Cinema Culture: Mediating Women’s Cinemagoing and Storytelling

by Lisa Stead


Film fan magazines were an important element of British silent cinema culture, and a significant platform for mediating between the film industry and its female spectators. Film periodicals–magazines dedicated to movies and film culture–were read by both men and women. Across the teens and into the 1920s they increasingly targeted a female readership as women came to constitute a larger part of the British audience, and stars became a primary commodity for communicating with female consumers. Popular British magazines like Picturegoer and Girls’ Cinema addressed women as consumers of film culture beyond the picture palace by offering up-to-date compilations of star gossip, behind-the-scenes information, and glamorous illustrations. Fan magazines were repositories not just of film content, but of linking commercial “intertexts,”  acting as intermdiaries between film and a broader consumer culture. They featured star-endorsed advertising, and commentary on women’s fashion, cosmetics, and domestic labour. As such, fan magazines worked to make cinemagoing and knowledge of gendered cinema culture an important aspect of British women’s everyday experience of modernity.

“The Girl Who Dared” in The Picture Show in 1919. Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

The aims of this article are twofold. First, I seek to explore the ways in which such magazines mediated between film producers and British moviegoers, focusing on their specific address to female readers. I briefly survey the development of magazines on the UK market and their role in cultivating a gendered culture of cinemagoing. To do so, I focus on three popular British papers from the silent era: Picturegoer (1921-22, which then continued as Pictures and the Picturegoer [1922-1925], Picturegoer and Theatre Monthly [1925], and Picturegoer [1925-1931]); The Picture Show (1919-1960); Girls’ Cinema (1920-1932). Examining the similarities and differences between these publications illuminates their distinctive appeal for British women, relative to issues of class, age, and marital status.

Textual analysis of magazine content is contextualized with equal attention to their modes of consumption, considering how fans used periodicals in practices such as scrapbooking and collecting. I place this analysis in dialogue with the ways in which popular culture more widely represented film magazines and their female readers, looking at examples of their depiction in journalism, films, and fiction from the period. Such sources reveal the use of fan magazines in perpetuating popular caricatures of “cinema struck”[1]Author Beth Mavor uses this term to describe female fans in her 1932 novelette The Cinema Star (5). Shelley Stamp has made use of the term “Movie-Struck” in the American context, whilst Liz … Continue reading girls, feeding wider anxieties about female film consumers in this period. Attention to both the textual structures of the magazines themselves and their wider presence in silent-era popular culture thus facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of how fan periodicals were perceived as gendered objects.

Second, the article moves to focus on storytelling as a central feature of British periodicals in the silent era. Fiction was a significant linking thread across the multi-media modes of address that fan magazines utilized. They featured short story adaptations, included a great deal of film star “life stories,” and used narrative structures (such as seriality) to advance their advertising. Examining how magazines employed fictional and narrative tropes offers a new way of thinking about their gendered address, relative to their position within a larger fiction market aimed at women. At the same time, it facilitates a dual focus on women’s creative roles as the makers of such storytelling content in their work as adaptors and magazine writers.

Structuring this kind of analysis requires a detailed interaction with a large volume of magazines. British periodicals are currently accessible in relatively complete runs in original paper form and on microfiche/film at a variety of national and regional archives. These include the British Film Institute and the British Library, and a range of university libraries. Historical film magazines are also increasingly accessible in digital format through projects such as The Media History Digital Library. Beyond official repositories, original copies of fan magazines further exist in great numbers in personal collections.[2]In the process of researching British fan papers across the last decade, I have been contacted several times by private individuals wanting to donate their collections of old issues of magazines such … Continue reading This kind of increased access allows the researcher to survey changes over time, and to illuminate the specificities of their multi-media format, which utilized photographs, illustrations, interviews, advertising, and prose fiction across both color and monochrome.

Such access facilitates an alternative way of using the film periodical in film historiography. Fan magazines have most commonly been used as supporting materials, assisting in analyses of the reception and marketing of particular films and stars. Less work has been produced on the publications themselves, looking at their specific modes of address and the way they related to broader publishing cultures targeting female consumers–particularly in the UK context. Scholarly work into women and fan magazines has produced a range of significant insights into models of early cinema fandom and star systems (Studlar 1996; Orgeron 2009; Morey 2002), but such work has largely focused on American film magazines and American film culture.

Given the extensive gaps and ellipses relating to women’s roles as creators and consumers in existing historical accounts, fan magazines offer an exciting opportunity to connect film culture with cinemagoing cultures. That is, they allow us to explore the interaction between the images of modern womanhood that film industries produced on their screens. They further allow us to explore the way audiences experienced, sustained, and potentially challenged such representations beyond the theatre, both as consumers and creators.

British Periodicals

Several periodicals developed within the early UK market, beginning with The Pictures in 1911, which, on October 21 of that year, advertised itself as a “guide to all that is best and most worthy of being seen in the picture theatres” (1). A range of other short-lived and long-term publications emerged from the early teens onwards. These included The Picture World (1914-1916), Pictures and Pleasure (1913-1914), Film Flashes (1915-1916), The Picture Show, Girls’ Cinema, and Photo Bits and Cinema Star (1923-1924).

Film magazines developed to support a growing culture of cinemagoing, addressing both the casual cinemagoer and the ardent film fan. Their contents were largely focused upon female stars, and their featured advertising promoted domestic, cosmetic, and other commercial goods. Their editorial content included a range of male and female journalistic personas and column writers, but many of these were gendered explicitly female. Girls’ Cinema, for example, was shaped around the editorial voice of “Fay Filmer.” Further, in pages dedicated to reader letters and questions, female names tend to dominate the printed correspondence. Both officially and unofficially, therefore, female voices coalesced across a range of popular British periodicals. Whilst early papers focused more heavily on short stories and film fiction, into the later teens and 1920s greater space was given to film reviews and notices about upcoming releases, star interviews, advice columns, behind-the-scenes features, home life articles profiling the off-screen lives of stars, competitions, and a range of advertising for film-related and non-film related material.

One of the most prominent magazines on the British market in the silent era was Pictures and Picturegoer, which promoted itself in March 1928 as “the screen’s most popular magazine” (3). Published by Odhams, the paper addressed a largely middle-class readership, seeking to market to women who “enjoyed cinema-going as one part of a modern and aspirational lifestyle” (Glancy 2014, 51). In contrast, Girls’ Cinema and The Picture Show targeted working class women, but the two papers diverged in their address to women of different ages and marital status. Girl’s Cinema solicited a more explicitly youthful audience, addressing its readers as “Up-to-Date Girls” on October 16, 1920 (30). In contrast, The Picture Show addressed “married and middle-aged” readers (Glancy 56). Both magazines were published by the major newspaper and magazine publisher Amalgamated Press, which was founded in 1901 by Alfred Harmsworth.

These three publications serve as a useful indicator of the range of formats adopted by British periodical publishers in this period. Girls’ Cinema was shorter in length than its weightier counterpart Pictures and Picturegoer. It included a large number of competitions, prose serialisations, and original short stories in its early entries, and was dominated by its editorial persona of Filmer, who prefaced features and articles with a direct address to her readership as fellow cinemagoing “girls.” Pictures and Picturegoer was more text-heavy and featured fewer stories than Girls’ Cinema. It fostered a more explicit and consistent focus on cinema and cinemagoing, with less competitions and a greater array of behind-the-scenes reporting, star profiles, reviews, and notices about forthcoming features, alongside a wealth of high quality illustrations and photographs. Mark Glancy’s research has suggested that the paper targeted readers from the “new middle class” of the interwar period, who were “more likely to be regular cinema-goers” and more closely aligned with “a flourishing culture of consumerism” (52). The Picture Show was less expensive than Pictures and Picturegoer: like Girls’ Cinema, it was also smaller than Pictures and Picturegoer, and printed on cheaper paper. In further contrast to its Odhams counterpart,  The Picture Show had far more pictorial content and featured far less prose.

Female Readership: Address and Representation

All three of these papers worked to solicit a female readership by facilitating the film industry’s gendered marketing campaigns. Full page advertisements promoted film content aimed at women, including serials and melodramas, whilst tie-in advertising used female stars to sell cosmetics and household products to female readers. In their address to women, Picturegoer and Girls’ Cinema also went some way to emulate popular women’s magazines and working girl story papers, including of a range of content dedicated to fashions, dress-making, cosmetics, and feminine etiquette. In the case of Girls’ Cinema, this material was often quite loosely tied to film itself (if at all): cinema and cinemagoing instead often provided a generalised backdrop for magazine content, which focused on representations of and advice about modern girlhood.[3]A fuller discussion of girlhood and British film fan magazines between the wars, and a more detailed reading of how this operated in Girls’ Cinema in particular, can be found in Stead (2017).

British female film critic C. A. Lejeune described the gossipy intimacy of fan magazines in the early 1920s: “the personal note predominates and familiarises; you are made to feel at home as if you and the editor and the star were all on the best of terms. Your vanity is tickled. Your curiosity gratified” (1922, 7). This was certainly the case with Girls’ Cinema. Its intimate tone, inviting its readership into the editor’s confidence through agony aunt-style columns and letter pages, echoed the chatty informality of working girl magazines like Peg’s Paper (1919-1940). Pictures and Pictureoger also regularly gave readers access to the personal lives and spaces of its stars to pique the readers’ “curiosity,” fostering a sense of intimate access to stars’ private lives. The paper included regular “home life” features, which allowed readers to glimpse the domestic identities of their screen favorites. A piece from January 1925 is one such example. The article, titled “Pola Negri at Home,” details the actress’ domestic life alongside her work at the film studio, reassuring the reader that “Always she is the charmingest of hostesses, making you sit in the most comfortable chair, chatting with you as though you were her dearest friend” (25).

Fan magazines can be read textually for the content they presented to women, offering an impression of how the film and film publishing industries conceptualised gendered consumers. But periodicals were also interactive media, featuring the voices and responses of their readers in competitions, letters, and poetry. In doing so, they offer a distinctive resource for examining women’s historical cinema reception. Attention to this kind of material foregrounds some distinctly British aspects of these film periodicals, particularly where reader letters suggest how British women negotiated the overwhelming American content that film magazines presented. As my work on reading fan letters has suggested, fan letters published in periodicals like Pictures and Picturegoer show readers discussing and debating the appeal of domestic and foreign female stars, the perceived austerity of British actresses in regards to clothing and personal glamour, and the enticing modernity of American female star images in contrast (Stead 2011; 2013).[4]For a more detailed discussion of letter writing and the exploration of national models of female stardom in British film papers, see Stead (2011). See also Marsha Orgeron’s work on American fan … Continue reading Fan magazines here allow women readers themselves to mediate between the film industry and the publishing industry, finding a space for their own voices and concerns.

The Picturegoer, March 1923. Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

Beyond their own textual structures, attention to the physicality of fan magazines yields further insight into their uses and meanings for female cinemagoers. As ephemeral objects, film papers were quite beautiful things, and their status as collectable items is a relatively underexplored aspect of their appeal to and use by female readers. The more expensive periodicals like Pictures and Picturegoer featured full color covers in the 1920s, whilst The Picture Show’s reliance on photographic content meant that it offered a vivid visual archive of clothing, costumes, fashions, and styles. Many magazines included glamorous star portraits, and actively encouraged their readers to disassemble their pages. Editors often printed reader letters that spoke of making scrapbooks and collections from such images. Early issues of Girls’ Cinema directly used such activities to market the paper; a December 1920 issue included an article titled “Helping to Make the ‘Girls’ Cinema’ Known,” for example, featuring letters from readers which mention cutting out pictures and pasting them into books, or making mini art galleries from the magazine picture plates (n.p.). First-hand examples of these kinds of activities can be found in archives such as the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum (BDCM) in Exeter, which contains fan scrapbooks dedicated to early stars such as Vilma Bánky and the Talmadge Sisters. These scrapbooks feature images, articles, and interviews cut from the pages of British fan magazines and pasted into new configurations.

Film culture more broadly offers further insight into the way fan magazines were used by female cinemagoers, and the ways in which the film and publishing industries conceived of these uses. This is particularly the case where they appear in fictional and journalistic texts, which use women’s relationship with film periodicals as indicative of their broader identity as pop culture consumers. For example, the British silent film Shooting Stars (1928)–a behind-the-scenes satire of the film industry–features scenes poking fun at the feminized and romanticized tone of fan papers. One such sequence features a female fan magazine writer interviewing a young female star, Miss Mae Feather. The reporter records on her notepad such soundbites as: “Beauty to her the very Breath of Life” and “Adores all furry and feathery things.” Fan magazines are here positioned as a conduit for star promotion, but also as signifying a feminized pop culture discourse rife for parody.

This light-hearted caricature echoes the ways fan magazines were positioned in British culture more widely. They frequently functioned as emblems of female film fandom, which was depicted as intellectually void and symptomatic of the feminization of mass culture. In another article for The Manchester Guardian, for example, Lejeune described Picturegoer as “pathetic reading” (1922, 9). The Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen used the same magazine in her 1929 short story “Dead Mabelle.”  The story revolves around the experiences of the awkward, “cinema-shy” (303) bank-worker William Strickford, who is persuaded to go to the movies for the first time to see a film starring Mabelle Pacey, a fictionalized star-actress with whom he becomes besotted. Bowen described his accidental “outing” as a cinema devotee specifically through ownership of a British fan paper:

One night Jim Bartlett, routing about among William’s possessions, pulled out the Picturegoer from between some books and the wall. On the cover Mabelle, full length, stood looking sideways, surprised and ironical, elegantly choked by a hunting-stock, hair ruffled up as though she had just pulled a hat off, hand holding bunched-up gauntlets propped on a hip. Jim, shocked into impassivity, stared at the photograph (305-306).

Jim’s “shocked” reaction reads the magazine as signifying an inappropriate outlet for heterosexual desire, whilst simultaneously emasculating William by virtue of the magazine’s feminized and feminizing associations.

The value of film magazines to those who consumed them went beyond their association with lowbrow and potentially damaging reading matter, however. The printed letters of many of the women who wrote to publications like Picturegoer, for example, suggest its value as a source of virtual community, education in matters of personal style and etiquette, and access to a wealth of cheap entertainment. A Picturegoer fan letter from August 1928 describes the paper and its participatory qualities as constituting a “delightful debating society, open to all readers” (56). Another earlier letter writer describes the magazine as a place in which the voices of female fans matter, suggesting that “it is only through PICTURES that we are able to express our opinions” (1918, 518). Fan magazines were thus sites of female representation that came to themselves be represented within silent-era media, but they were also platforms for women to speak back to such representation through their participatory modes.


Turning to the magazines’ focus on storytelling offers an alternative way of interrogating their address to and use by female readers, in tandem with their creation by female writers. Storytelling was a significant aspect of silent-era film periodicals, and presents one of the clearest links between the developing film fan magazine and women’s popular print culture more widely at this time. A significant volume of cinema-themed short story content can be found on the British fiction market during the silent era, featuring in novelettes, story papers, and women’s and girls’ magazines. As I have suggested elsewhere, the “trend for cheap fiction” at this time “facilitated a greater discourse between cinema and fiction markets, both constituting equally low cost, popular, accessible and regularly consumed leisure forms, and both increasingly used by and addressed towards women” (Stead 2016, 52).

Fiction was used in a variety of forms within British fan paper. Most immediately, fiction appeared in prose adaptations of recent film releases, or in original cinema-themed short stories. Fictionalizing a movie could create an audience for a forthcoming film, thus offering a clear point of mediation between the film industry and its female spectators. Early issues of The Pictures featured around nine short stories, which corresponded “to moving pictures which are about to appear in the leading picture theatres” (1911, i). The editorial on December 23, 1911 promised readers that “As fiction,” its stories would be found “most interesting,” but also that having encountered a film narrative in prose form, a reader would be able to “more easily understand and more thoroughly enjoy the films to which they refer” (i).

Girls’ Cinema, December 1, 1923. Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum..

The promise of fiction was further used as a tool to draw in female readers by promoting interest in the private lives of stars. An early issue of Girls’ Cinema from December 1, 1923, for example, includes the promise of a “Long Complete Novel Inside” on its front cover, alongside a preview for “The Life Story of Rudolph Valentino” (n.p.) as its leading attraction. The magazine here uses fiction to transform stars’ lives into “stories” to be discovered and uncovered via print media. As the dual headline suggests, the magazine could present a unique blend of the romantic short “novel”–which constituted pre-sold popular reading matter for female consumers more generally–with the equally romantic and glamorous stories of the lives and adventures of stars.

Girls’ Cinema offers a clear illustration of how fiction could be centralized in the fan magazine in order to appeal to a distinctly female readership. The magazine included both adapted and original romance and adventure stories featuring female protagonists. It featured a great deal of serialized girl/cinema stories, such as the four-issue story “The Temperamental Wife,” featured in an early November 1920 issue, and billed as “A Charming Story of How a Petted, Spoilt Girl Nearly Ruined the Happiness of Many Lives by Her Whims” (n.p.). In doing so, it closely replicated the fiction-focused structure of other girls’ magazines of the period.

In contrast, Pictures and Picturegoer included but did not centralize fiction in its early issues. Where it did appear, a similar format was used to the earlier Pictures, including illustrative stills capturing moments of action and screen stars in costume. An issue from mid-1916 features a typical story drawn from a British film production: “The Spendthrift, Adapted from the Globe Exclusive By Marjorie MacKay.” The editorial describes the piece as an “intensely fascinating film in four parts” (7, 9). These kinds of tie-in adaptations were often focused on female protagonists, offering readers the chance to interact with female stars in formats other than interviews or picture plates. In doing so, they gave a sense of the multiplicity of female presentation that cinema culture offered its female consumers. Any given star image represented in an illustrated story simultaneous showed a woman playing a character and signifying as the “real” star themselves. At the same time, their image circulated within the same and other issues of the magazine, where they might feature in interviews, stories about their home life, or photo shoots featuring other characterizations. As such, female consumers were offered depictions of modern womanhood marked by diverse characterizations and multiple identities. As I have argued elsewhere, this allowed fan magazines to foreground and sustain complex contradictions in star images which balanced both traditional and more progressive gender ideals for selection, adaptation, and appropriation by a female reader (Stead 2016; 2017).

Beyond short stories, storytelling techniques were also employed in advertising material as a method for selling domestic goods and cosmetic products. Attention to these techniques allows us to make connections between different multi-media aspects of the magazines and their gendered address. Such advertisements were presented as mini-fictions centred upon female characters seeking to improve their appearance or personal style. Illustrated adverts for cosmetics or domestic products were often constructed as tableaus, offering scenes frozen in motion centered upon young women, wives, or mothers in the act of dressing, washing, shopping, or conversing.

An advert from an October 1925 issue of Pictures and the Theatre, for example, features an illustrated image of a fashionably dressed young flapper, with bobbed hair, streamlined dress, and cloche hat, applying Glycola before a mirror. Her coat and umbrella are cast over the chair behind her, implying motion. The image is signed with the caption: “Before going out—just rub a little Glycola into the pores of the skin” (55). In contrast, a Picture Show advert from October 6, 1923 promoted Pompeian Day Cream by adapting the story format used more widely within the magazine, creating a fictional female character as the heroine of a half-page short story titled “The Dangerous Age” (1923, 23). The advert narrativizes her anxieties, representing her as a middle-aged woman jealous of her youthful daughter. The story credits Pompeian with resolving the friction between mother and daughter, leading to a typical “happy ending” resolution revealed through illustrated inserts. Female readers were thus increasingly schooled by fan magazines to read in these kinds of intermedial modes. They were encouraged to navigate prose and illustration, led by female protagonists and female stars across a range of commercial material–from film adaptations to advertisements.

The Picture Show, June 24, 1922. Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

Beyond tie-ins and advertising, fiction also bled less visibly into the presentation of star biographies, which tailored their “facts” to present specific inflections of modern womanhood. In some instances the life stories of young female stars were converted into feature articles or serialised first person installments accompanied by detailed illustrations. Such features thus adapted star biography into a more overtly “literary” mode. A typical example featured in Girls’ Cinema presents the life story of Juanita Hansen, titled “The Girl with the Courage of Ten” (1920, 18). The article profiles the American film star, recounting her early life in detail and beginning with tales about her pranks and mischief during her rebellious school days. An earlier issue similarly focused on “Madcap Mabel or, Mabel Normand’s Schooldays,” recounting “By special permission her tempestuous youth,” narrated by Filmer “for the very first time for the benefit of GIRLS’ CINEMA readers” (1920, 24). The piece again explores the girlhood of an aspirational adult star, and uses biography as both an entertaining mode of storytelling and a way to forge a connection between girl readers and female performers through potentially shared early experiences. Female stars were also given space to write their own stories. On June 24, 1922, The Picture Show promised readers many such life stories would be “told by [the stars] themselves” (15). Offering the life stories of female performers purportedly in their own words allowed magazines to market a sense of intimacy, promising to give readers less mediated access to the thoughts and feelings of stars.

Beyond such life writing, storytelling also provided a way for professional women writers to see their work featured in print, capitalizing on the career opportunities that new periodical publishing presented. Many magazines featured work by current popular novelists, who would either supply original content or pen adaptations of screen fictions, providing an opportunity for self-promotion. In the October 1, 1920 issue of Girls’ Cinema, for example, the editor, presents “Edith Nepean, the gifted novelist” as the writer of “our splendid serial story, ‘Shown up by her Family’ on page 17” (14). She expounds: “Mrs. Nepean was born in Wales, and is well known in literary and cinema circles” (14).

Other writers used tie-in story adaptations as a temporary means to support themselves. In her biography of British novelist Margery Allingham, Julia Jones writes of Allingham’s work with the Amalgamated Press in the teens, where she “tried [sic] her hand at viewing a film (they were silent, of course), and writing it up for publication in […] Girl’s Cinema” (2009, 87). Margery’s aunt, Maud Allingham, was the editor of The Picture Show at this time, and offered her niece an opportunity to write for the Amalgamated Press film papers. Jones offers the following description of this process:

Margery would attend a private showing, usually in Wardour Street, make note of the film’s plot and main characters then write it up at home into a 5,000 word short story. It was a tough, uncongenial discipline but it provided her with regular income for more than a decade. The titles of some of the stories which Margery was paid to write up during 1922 are eloquent of their content–Love’s Pay-day, The Path She Chose, Gilded Dream, The Dawn of Love. Margery may well […] have been somewhat cagey about admitting to her idealistic contemporaries that such were her sources of income (88).

Jones’ story emphasizes the lowbrow connotations of such subject matter. In doing so, it rehashes a popular conflation of the period between film culture, female spectatorship/readership, and romance (as earlier suggested in the references from Bowen and Lejeune); one which frequently cast the female cinemagoer and female reader as a hysterical and uncritical devotee of popular fictions.

At the same time, however, it also highlights the opportunities that such a culture of remediation offered women as creative figures. Stories are turned into films, and films turned into stories in the production and consumption of British film papers. These processes, seemingly wholly commercial in nature, nevertheless offered writers the chance to hone a distinctly new creative craft in producing a novel language of adaptation across media. They required new skills, too, from a female readership who sought to navigate the movement of stories–not just between media, but also within media–in the process of navigating the multi-media of the pages of these magazines, which included prose, illustrations, photographs, advertisements, and varied typography.[5]For a more focused discussion of the intermedial structures of storytelling in British fan magazines and its relation to gendered representations, see Stead (2016).

Magazines as a Resource in Women’s Film Historiography

Fan magazines from this period thus offer a variety of access points to silent-era British female audiences. More remains to be said, however, about the women (and men) who wrote for them. New work might interrogate in new detail the varied modes of gendered labour attached to their creation and circulation. In the 1920s, Picturegoer writers included figures such as Dorothy Owston Booth (contributor to a range of interwar magazines), Adele Whiteley Fletcher (American magazine writer and later editor of Photoplay in the 1940s), Elizabeth Lonergan, Nanette Kutner, and Helen Carlisle, for example. These names are representative of a much larger body of creative figures whose careers and experiences of working within extra-textual print networks of early film culture on both sides of the Atlantic have yet to be substantially researched. Fan magazine thus have considerably more to tell us about women and cinema culture in the silent era, and offer a distinctly different tool for reclaiming female creative labour in the early film industries, beyond the credit lists of films themselves.

The Picturegoer, May 1922. Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum..

As this article has shown, greater attention to the structures and textures of individual magazines is a vital access point to thinking about how film industries addressed female consumers at this time, and how cinema culture developed around its female audiences. Close reading of the magazines reveals the complexity of their address to female reader-spectators. Considering how such papers where themselves represented within popular culture further allows us to look in greater detail at how British female cinemagoers were conceptualized as media-consumers, and the negative and positive connotations of such images. Archival research is thus greatly enhanced by contextualizing such ephemera within a wider, intermedial understanding of popular British culture, where the reputation and representation of fan magazines and their female consumers circulated across fiction, film, and journalism.

See also: C.A. Lejeune


1 Author Beth Mavor uses this term to describe female fans in her 1932 novelette The Cinema Star (5). Shelley Stamp has made use of the term “Movie-Struck” in the American context, whilst Liz Conor has explored the use of the term “film-struck” in 1920s Australian cinema culture.
2 In the process of researching British fan papers across the last decade, I have been contacted several times by private individuals wanting to donate their collections of old issues of magazines such as Picturegoer or Picture Show, often passed down from older relatives. The impressively unscathed condition of these collections (some of which are now around a hundred years old) would seem to testify to the personal value that they held for their original consumers, giving them lasting significance beyond their ephemeral status.
3 A fuller discussion of girlhood and British film fan magazines between the wars, and a more detailed reading of how this operated in Girls’ Cinema in particular, can be found in Stead (2017).
4 For a more detailed discussion of letter writing and the exploration of national models of female stardom in British film papers, see Stead (2011). See also Marsha Orgeron’s work on American fan participation with magazine competitions and other interactive features.
5 For a more focused discussion of the intermedial structures of storytelling in British fan magazines and its relation to gendered representations, see Stead (2016).


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------. “Letter Writing, Cinemagoing and Archive Ephemera.” In Reclamation and Representation: the Boundaries of the Literary Archive. Eds. Carrie Smith and Lisa Stead. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. 139-53.

------. Off to the Pictures: Women’s Writing, Cinemagoing and Movie Culture in  Interwar Britain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

------.  ‘“So oft to the movies they’ve been’: British Fan Writing and Female Film Audiences in the Silent Era.” Transformative Works and Cultures 6 (2011): n.p.

Studlar, Gaylyn. “The Perils of Pleasure? Fan Magazine Discourse as Women's Commodified Culture in the 1920s.” In Silent Film. Ed. Richard Abel. London: Athlone Press, 1996. 263–97.

“The Temperamental Wife.” Girls’ Cinema 18 (6 November 1920): n.p.

“What Do You Think?” Picturegoer (August 1928): 56.

“What Do You Think?” Pictures and Picturegoer (May-June 1918): 518.

Archival Paper Collections:

Archives and Special Collections. University of Southampton, Hartley Library.

Cinema and Film Periodicals: British and Irish. The British Library.

Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell Collection. Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

Femorabilia Collection. Liverpool John Moores University, Special Collections and Archives.


Stead, Lisa. "Silent Era Fan Magazines and British Cinema Culture: Mediating Women’s Cinemagoing and Storytelling." In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017.  <>

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