Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the Birth of Method Acting
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 11/08/2022
American actress Aline MacMahon's youth was spent honing her talents while performing at local events in New York City. After popular stage success on Broadway, she headlined a touring company in Los Angeles, where she was discovered by legendary Hollywood director Mervyn LeRoy and put under contract to Warner Brothers.
During the 1930s and 1940s, MacMahon starred in countless films and was among the most influential actors of the era, her talent revered as highly as peers Katherine Hepburn, Paul Muni, and Bette Davis. Her pioneering use of a new acting style brought to America from Russia by Konstantin Stanlisavsky—now widely known as the Method—began a revolution on the screen and made her an industry darling.
Although popular with audiences and widely lauded for her versatile, naturalistic style, MacMahon's despair at the lack of challenging roles and fallout from her political activism would soon dim her star in the most tragic of ways. Blacklisted during the Communist Red Scare of the 1950's she became the subject of covert FBI surveillance and was denied work for many years.
John Stangeland's biography of this unique actress, Aline MacMahon, offers an insightful look into the life and oeuvre of this largely overlooked talent and how the atmosphere of Hollywood's golden age created an inescapable blueprint for a career nearly destroyed by politics and fear.
1. Till the First Star Shook in the Air
2. An Old Sweetheart of Mine
3. Teach Me, and set My Feet on the Way
4. The River of Stars is Rolling
5. No One has Ever Known Her Alive
6. Once in a Lifetime
7. At Once They Circled Her Round
8. Reward Unlimited
9. Gold Digging
10. Seeds of Freedom
11. One Way Passage
12. The World Changes
13. We Fight it Round by Round
14. Ah Wilderness
15. With Eyes Like Stars, to the Deep
The Hollywood film industry has always been overstocked with bubble-headed starlets whose acting talents are, at best, dubious. There hasn't been much evolutionary progress from Toby Wing in the 1930s to Megan Fox today. However, there have also been many impressive but unjustly neglected performers both then and now, and one such overlooked actress was Aline MacMahon (1899-1991), whose film career (in addition to her stage work) encompassed 43 movies from 1931 to 1963, including an Academy Award Best Supporting Actress nomination for Dragon Seed (1944). Aline MacMahon was a unique and memorable talent, a restrained and subdued actress in an era of tinny voices and bulging eyes, and author John Stangeland has given MacMahon her due in this concise, very entertaining and well-researched biography.~Roy Kinnard, author of The Films of Fay Wray
John Stangeland's Aline MacMahon: The Golden Age of Hollywood, Red Channels and the Birth of Method Acting in America succeeds in showcasing the career and legacy of MacMahon through engaging prose and exceptional research, thoroughly celebrating and chronicling her story. Stangeland draws from periodicals, personal correspondence, archives, interviews, and more, to effectively portray MacMahon's life and persona, both on and off the screen.~Annette Bochenek, PhD, Hometowns to Hollywood
Stangeland shines a much needed spotlight on one of the great actresses of stage and screen whose talent and versatility was admired by many. Aline MacMahon is given her due in this well-researched and thoughtful biography which offers an intimate look at her devotion to her craft, her enduring marriage, and her political beliefs. Absorbing and highly readable, this biography will rescue MacMahon from obscurity and give her the recognition she so greatly deserves.~Raquel Stecher, film historian and critic