"Use the SONGS to sell your SHOW!": Sam Goldwyn, the Eddie Cantor musicals and the development of product-centred marketability

Selfe, M. (2020) "Use the SONGS to sell your SHOW!": Sam Goldwyn, the Eddie Cantor musicals and the development of product-centred marketability. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 40(4), pp. 649-682. (doi: 10.1080/01439685.2020.1730551)

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Abstract

This article advances understanding of Hollywood’s relationship to advertising and commerce by demonstrating that deeply embedded product placement is an older practice than current scholarship recognises. Focusing on a series of musical comedies, produced by Samuel Goldwyn and released through United Artists in the early 1930s, it argues that the development of product-centred marketing was shaped by the way different corporate structures affected the ability to control the marketing message, with independent production and non-vertically integrated distribution driving the development of more sophisticated onscreen product integration. Through close analysis of the film texts, their advertising surround and the surviving production documentation, I explore how Goldwyn’s approach responded to industrial conditions by making songs the locus for product plugs. I posit that major production numbers, including ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’, did not merely reflect consumer culture but were explicitly constructed as vehicles to carry embedded advertising. This enabled national and local tie-ups to be structured around strong consumer concepts, but also adapted to suit different exhibition contexts. I address why the dynamics of film history have worked to render these advertising imperatives invisible, and highlight their impact on both Cantor’s star performance and the development of Busby Berkeley’s directing style.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Product placement, advertising, film marketing, tie-ups, Hollywood, Busby Berkeley, Samuel Goldwyn, Eddie Cantor, United Artists, musicals.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Selfe, Dr Melanie
Authors: Selfe, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Research Group:Centre for Cultral Policy Research
Journal Name:Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0143-9685
ISSN (Online):1465-3451
Published Online:22 May 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 IAMHIST and Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor and Francis Group
First Published:First published in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 40(4): 649-682
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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