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What Price Hollywood?Gender and Sex in the Films of George Cukor$
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Elyce Rae Helford

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813179292

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813179292.001.0001

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The Theatricality of Gender and Drag Performance

The Theatricality of Gender and Drag Performance

(p.99) 6 The Theatricality of Gender and Drag Performance
What Price Hollywood?

Elyce Rae Helford

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter attends to a seemingly disparate trio of films, the romantic adventure Sylvia Scarlett (1935), the theatrical Western Heller in Pink Tights (1950), and the melodrama-with-music A Star is Born (1954). The three are bound by scenes in which the female protagonist appears in male drag. Katharine Hepburn plays male for almost an entire film that went on to flop hideously at the box office, while Sophia Loren impersonates Old West stage presence Adah Isaacs Menken, with outrageous impact. Perhaps most unexpected of all, Judy Garland dons boyish drag for a song-and-dance number just before breaking down over her alcoholic husband’s disastrous life. While the films’ purposes and impacts differ, together they illustrate the concept of gender-as-performance, as it bends but does not break classic Hollywood cinematic traditions.

Keywords:   drag, performativity, gender, theatricality, Judy Garland

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