PERSONAL: Female. Education: University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D.
CAREER: Arizona State University, Phoenix, instructor in interdisciplinary studies program; Chapman University, Orange, CA, assistant professor of history; University of California, Berkeley, visiting assistant professor of history.
AWARDS, HONORS: Excellence in Scholarship Award, Chapman University, 2005.
Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2001.
The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Samantha Barbas is a historian who studies the fan culture that has surrounded Hollywood from the beginning of the American film industry. Her first book, Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity, was described by Library Journal reviewer Carol J. Binkowski as "a unique film history with astute commentary." The book examines how audiences in the first half of the twentieth century attempted to turn themselves from passive consumers of movies into an active part of the film culture. As Bar-bas shows, moviegoers wrote millions of fan letters, sought to know the truth about stars' personal lives, conducted lively debates, and even organized themselves into clubs that actively publicized their chosen star and petitioned the studios to give him or her better roles. Critics praised the book. Barbas "does a nice job contextualizing movie star popularity in the midst of early-twentieth century social and cultural changes," George Potamianos noted in the Journal of American History. Movie Crazy is "a creative, accessible, and well-written book," Hiroshi Kitamura commented in American Studies International.
The original Hollywood gossip columnist is the subject of Barbas's second book, The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons. This is the first biography of Parsons, whose famous columns, which appeared between 1915 and 1960, arguably launched the entire entertainment journalism industry. Although Parsons wrote her own autobiography, Barbas's thoroughly footnoted work shows that much of that book was fiction. The First Lady of Hollywood "is a terrific book about an unusual life," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. New York Times Book Review contributor Mark Lewis termed it a "thoughtful biography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Studies International, October, 2002, Hiroshi Kitamura, review of Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity, p. 97.
Choice, March, 2006, review of The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons.
Journal of American History, March, 2003, George Potamianos, review of Movie Crazy, p. 1563.
Library Journal, October 1, 2001, Carol J. Binkowski, review of Movie Crazy, p. 100; October 1, 2005, Carol J. Binkowski, review of The First Lady of Hollywood, p. 76.
New York Times Book Review, November 20, 2005, Mark Lewis, review of The First Lady of Hollywood, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2001, review of Movie Crazy, p. 55; August 8, 2005, review of The First Lady of Hollywood, p. 224.
Variety, October 3, 2005, Beatrice Williams-Rude, review of The First Lady of Hollywood.
Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2005, Catherine Seipp, review of The First Lady of Hollywood.