Julie Lobalzo Wright The Extraordinary Rock Star as Film Star: David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth
SPEAKER Julie Lobalzo Wright wrote her thesis on male music stars in British and American cinema and has a chapter in The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop (Routledge 2013)
SYNOPSIS Challenges the perceived failure of rock stars to become cinematic stars by focusing on one example where all the elements of the rock star image fit within the cinema and examines Bowie’s excessive music star image and performance, in The Man Who Fell to Earth, particularly focusing on his queer alien image.
KEY POINTS Rock stars are a difficult fit within film star theory. Dyer’s assertion that stars must “stay broadly the same” (Dyer, 2004) can be at odds with music stars consistently changing their image. While David Bowie embodies these tensions, his first starring role in The Man Who Fell to Earth (Roeg, 1976) is one of the few examples of a rock star successfully crossing over. His star has also occupied a space at the margins due to his androgynous, queer image.
At the Cannes International Film Festival (1978) / With Bing Crosby (1977)
'Star' with live footage (1972)
KEY QUOTE ‘Bowie’s moderate success as a crossover star in the cinema is due to three main areas associated with his music star image: visual transformation, emphasis on performance and his non-naturalistic, 'alien' image. All three areas are encapsulated by Bowie’s queer iconography, especially his androgynous persona. These areas all intersect in The Man Who Fell to Earth and are part of the reason his star image was such a perfect fit for the character of Thomas Newton. However, these areas also contribute to his inability to become a significant film star.’
Russell Harty interviews a television set about David Bowie fame and fandom (1975)
A Strange Fascination?: Conference Report by Julie Lobalzo Wright