Movies and Conduct: A Payne Fund Study

Chapter 3: Imitation by Adolescents

Herbert Blumer

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IN childhood play the element of make-believe is a conspicuous feature. This accounts in a measure for the difficulty we encounter in evaluating the significance of the impersonation of movie rôles by children. Our materials seem to show, however, that among older individuals there is a wide imitation of motion picture patterns which are seriously incorporated into conduct and so pass out of the realm of mere make-believe. In this chapter attention is directed to the most conspicuous forms of such imitation, which are grouped under the heads of Beautification, Mannerisms, and Technique. If one may think of the imitation of the patterns for play as characterizing childhood, one may think of the copying of make-up, mannerisms, and technique as a mark chiefly of adolescents. In contrasting the behavior of these two age groups in this respect, the essential difference is between impersonation and copying-meaning by the latter the actual utilization in the ordinary conduct of life of what is imitated.


IT is common knowledge that motion pictures provide patterns for dress and beautification. They serve many as one of the main sources of information on styles of clothing and make-up. Probably every reader knows of some friend or acquaintance who has selected some detail of dress or make-up from motion pictures. The importance

( 31) of motion pictures in the presentation of models of dress has been recognized recently by the employment in one of the producing companies of a famous Parisian fashion expert. It is not necessary to give more than a few instances of the influence of motion pictures on dress and beautification. The following have been chosen at random:

Female, 19, Jewish, white, college sophomore.—I remember that I got my first striking illumination through the movies of the difference clothes may make in appearance. It was in Daddy Long-Legs where Mary Pickford paraded for five scenes, barelegged, in dark brown cast-offs, pig-tailed, and freckle-faced, good, sweet, but hardly beautiful; and then in the final scene, after a visit from Daddy and a bath in milk, with the curls down, the gangly knees covered, the ankles silk-shod, in pink satin, pearl-studded dress, a re-born gorgeous queen she emerged, as striking as the caterpillar-butterfly transition. At home that night I tentatively hinted about putting my daily glass of milk to better use, wound my straight black hair in tortuous curl papers, draped myself in red gauze, and compared effects. Since then I have carefully studied, attempted, and compared the effects of these past mistresses of the art of dressing and make-up. They are always first with the latest, my most reliable guide to styles, colors, accessories, combinations, lines, and general effects. So varied are the types, it is simple to pick out the ones they most closely resemble, and thus learn to bring out my best points. I have a little two-piece sweater suit suggested by something I saw on Colleen Moore; Norma Talmadge was the inspiration for my dignified dinner dress; my next formal is going to be a reproduction of something that was bewitching on Nita Naldi; and I am wearing my hair with a view to getting the same entrancing effect that Greta Garbo gets with hers.

Female, 19, white, college junior.—I am always more interested in what the heroine wears than in what she does. Most dresses worn in movies are too striking or too elaborate for me to copy, hut, where there is shown a different collar, a pretty cuff, or a novel trimming it is certain to crop out in some dress.

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Female, 16, white, high-school junior. —Most likely if it weren't for the movies we would wait a long time for styles to change. I copy all the collegiate styles from the movies. In the "Wild Party," starring Clara Bow, she wears a kind of sleeveless jumper dress which attracted my attention very much. Nothing could be done about it. My mother had to buy me one just like it.

Female, 16, white, high-school junior. —No, I don't think that I have ever imitated any stars in their manners. But I remember after having seen "Our Dancing Daughters" with Joan Crawford, I wanted a dress exactly like one she had worn in a certain scene. It was a very "flapper" type of dress, and I don't usually go in for that sort of thing.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore. —Just one other habit I will speak about which I adopted from the movies and that is the use of perfume on my ear lobes when I am going out (whether on a date or just a dinner engagement). This habit I acquired when I was about eleven years old; I do not know whether it is done generally or not, but I saw Norma Talmadge do it once and then her husband kissed her aside on her ear, and I thought, "Well, that is something new."

Frequently the tendency to copy types of dress and beautification seen on the screen appears in the semi-play activity of children. This type of behavior is shown in the following instances:

Female, 19, white, college freshman.— My interest became centered in hair dress-due to the fact that my hair was going through the growing stage. Many an hour have I spent trying to effect some style I had admired in the movies, so effectively, in fact, that I almost burned the cherished locks off and the shoulder bob curls seemed doomed for a while. This new way of dressing my hair "went over" fairly well with the family, but when I attempted to wear an ankle bracelet, one evening, I learned that certain adornments in the "reel" world are not - always appreciated in the real world.

Female, 19, Jewish, white, college sophomore. Then came the fascinating production, "The Poor Little Rich Girl." I think I saw it three times, and as a result, let my hair grow and put it

(33)  up in rags every night. I became an ardent Mary Pickford fan and hardly a picture of hers escaped me-"Pollyanna," "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," and the rest.

The tabulation of instances of imitation of dress and mannerisms from the motion picture autobiographies of 458 high-school students shows that 62 per cent report having made such imitations, 16 per cent are not aware of having made any imitation, and 22 per cent do not give indications which permit one to judge either way. It is clear from these figures that motion pictures are an important source of ideas of dress and beautification for many young men and women.


THE interest shown by adolescents in the gestures and mannerisms displayed on the screen is not less keen than i t is in the dress of the actors. Many kinds of pictures, particularly those dealing with society drama, portray forms of polite life in a vivid fashion. In doing so, they provide models of conduct for individuals who aspire to such life. This is seen in the following instances:

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—Then came my desire for romantic pictures. By this time I was allowed to go to the shows more often and was a bit older (14 years). I took a great interest in the "pretty girls." I noticed how they wore their hair and I especially watched their actions; by this I mean, when the setting would be in a café I would watch how the young ladies sat at the table, how they managed to carry on a conversation, and how they danced. These things had quite an influence upon me. I wanted to "fix my hair nice," and act nice iii the presence of my masculine friends.

Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—The appearance of such handsome men as John Gilbert, Ben Lyon, Gilbert Roland, and the host of others, dressed in sport clothes, evening attire, formals, etc., has encouraged me to dress as best possible in order

(34) to make a similar appearance. One acquires positions such as standing, sitting, tipping one's hat, holding one's hat, offering one's arm to a lady, etc., from watching these men who do so upon the screen, and especially if they do it in a manner pleasing to your tastes.

Female, 19, white, college freshman.—When I discovered I should like to have this coquettish and coy look which all girls may have, I tried to do it in my room. And surprises! I could imitate Pola Negri's cool or fierce look, Vilma Banky's sweet but coquettish attitude. I learned the very way of taking my gentlemen friends to and from the door with that wistful smile, until it has become a part of me.

Female, 20, white, college sophomore.—When I see an actress who makes a good appearance by standing and sitting with a straight back, I try to do the same. Good posture in an actress influences me a lot, also a graceful way of sitting. I think one learns from the movies something in the best of ways of portraying one's charms. A graceful way of sitting (as I have mentioned) is one way to present a charming picture. One can set forth one's figure and limbs in a graceful and appealing manner. I believe that I try to sit gracefully when I want to make a good appearance, in imitation of much of what I have seen on the screen.

Something of the variety of items which may be copied is indicated in the excerpt from the account of a high-school girl:

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—I will add that I picked up little trivial mannerisms. Some of these may seem foolish, but as this seems to be a sort of confession anyway, I'll confess; I figured that when I ever want anything real badly and am almost at the point of tears begging for it, I should clench my fists; that when I go out for the evening, drop earrings are more becoming than the screw earrings; that my hair behind my ears, like Greta Garbo, emphasizes the facial contour; that when I cry, I should not even attempt to wipe away the tears as they are so much more effective rolling downwards; and then there are hosts of other similar trivialities.

( 35) The following remarks represent the judgment of a college girl concerning the extent of imitation of mannerisms among her companions at high school:

Female, 20, white, college ,junior. —The discussing of movies at high school was an indoor sport. The girls and boys always talked of the pictures. They imitated the gestures and mannerisms of their favorite stars. They wiggled their eyebrows, moved their eyes in a certain way, pursed their lips to create an impression on each other. In this I was no better than the rest.

The accounts which have been given illustrate the copying of gestures and mannerisms by older girls and boys. Such copying, of course, extends down into childhood experiences. I n fact, it is very difficult to draw a clean-cut line between the imitation of mannerisms in play and the later deliberate practicing of gestures in more serious conduct. The following instance shows borderline behavior representing incidentally conduct which one finds rather frequently in children.

Male, 20, white, college junior.—Yes, constantly I practiced Bill Hart's narrowing of the eyes, twitching of the face muscles. I was never able to reproduce it as Bill did. I tried, I persevered, I (lid everything I could but never could I reproduce Bill's murderous, menacing look. I never decided where I would use i t. After months of tortuous, vain sweating before the mirror—interrupted on different occasions by my mother or father, sister or brother I gave it up. I didn't decide that Bill's look wasn't worth while. I finally concluded that I didn't have the stuff. It was Bill's alone.

As in this instance, so in the case of others, there is considerable practicing before a mirror, of mannerisms and (unties seen in motion pictures.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore. —Naturally, I pictured myself in the place of my favorite actresses, and often would stand before a mirror and try to assume some graceful position characteristic of them that I admired and wanted to copy.


Female, 17, white, high-school junior.—If I was impressed by the beauty of the heroine, I usually tried to imitate her facial expression. I seldom failed to dramatize some scene that particularly appealed to me. This I did in front of my mirror when I was alone in my room, and I enjoyed doing it very much.

Female, 19, Negro, high-school senior.—Oh, to possess what Miss Bow has that elusive little thing called "it!" After seeing her picture by that name, I immediately went home to take stock of my personal charms before my vanity mirror and after carefully surveying myself from all angles I turned away with a sigh, thinking that I may as well want to be Mr. Chancy. I would be just as successful.

The significance of the imitation of mannerisms and poses by adolescent girls and boys comes in recognizing that at this age they are usually being introduced to a realm of life somewhat new and strange. Forms of conduct may be imitated which promise to aid them in their adjustment, and at the same time to satisfy aspirations to be popular, "stunning," "proper," and sophisticated. Many motion pictures depict the life of polite society and deal in a vivid way with the conduct of young men and women. Selection of details for imitation is relatively easy for the interested observer. Viewed in this way, the mannerisms copied from motion pictures serve as a control that is, as an instrument to adjustment or to the satisfaction of one's desires.


As one might expect from these remarks there is a great deal of experimentation of the mannerisms or poses chosen from motion pictures. Whether in mirror-posing, or in association with one's companions, mannerisms are tried out as a means of gauging their personal effectiveness. Some are found to be successful and are taken on; much

(37) of what is imitated seems to be rejected shortly. This is frequently the result of disapproval or censure by others who regard unfavorably the conduct shown by the one who has made the initial imitation. The experimental character of this imitation of mannerisms with the subsequent acceptance or rejection of different forms of behavior is brought out in the following abbreviated accounts:

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—I have attempted to imitate the manners of several actresses, but I have never received any satisfactory results. I bobbed my hair when I was only eight years old, as a result of seeing someone in the movies doing likewise. I try to walk and move with ease and grace, but I find that it is a little difficult to act like others if I can't see how I look. I remember one movie star, Mabel Normand, who had large eyes, and from the admiring of them I gradually began to stare at others with wide eyes. My friends thought there was something wrong with my eyes because I (lid this, and perhaps I did acquire poor eyesight as a result. At other times I curled my hair, manicured my fingernails, and dressed like my favorite stars. Of course my attempts never brought any pleasing results, so I abandoned my imitations and became original. Sometimes I posed for hours at a time before my dressing table mirror, posing with my hands about my face, and moving my arms as gracefully as I could. In the movies, it always seems that the innocent, wide-eyed girls have the most suitors, and that shyness promotes respect and adoration on the part of the opposite sex. When I went to parties I tried to be a meek little maid, but it proved to be a failure in attracting sweethearts; only gay and vivid types are wanted by the modern generation.

Female, 20, white, college sophomore. —I'll admit I have watched Clara Bow to a great extent to see how she develops "It," and I'll also admit I've done my best to have "It" too. However, I'm certain it is nothing more than a pleasing or rather more than pleasing personality.

Female, 15, white, high-school freshman.—Once in a while I decide to wear sloppy socks like Sue Carol does. But my father does not approve of it. I only wish we could wear them to

(38) school, which I can't, of course. I simply adore Greta Garbo. She wears her clothes so sporty, and the way men fall for her. Boy! I'll bet every girl wishes she was the Greta Garbo type. I try to imitate her walk. She walks so easy, as if she had springs on her feet. But when I try to copy her walk, I am asked if my knees are weak. How insulting some people are!

The following is a more concrete account of an attempt to make use of a particular mannerism-this time, however, with ineffective results:

Female, 19, white, college sophomore.—About two years ago I saw a picture in which the heroine very coyly, when conversing with a young man, would close her eyes, slightly nod her head and smile. And when she closed her eyes, her eye-lashes were shown off to their best advantage. And so I decided that this was very "cute," and having always been vain about my eyes, I adopted the trick. It so happened that within about a week I attended a, formal dance. During the evening I used my charms, but to my dismay they weren't appreciated; but rather criticized! After several closings of the eyes and noddings of the head, my friend asked me if I was tired and wished to start home. You are assured that I didn't continue my newly acquired trick. And my coquette career came to an early end.


INDIVIDUALS may retain certain mannerisms which have been found to be effective and which yield satisfactory adjustment to the mode of life which is encountered. Considering once more that the adolescent may be confronted by a type of life for which he is not prepared by training and experience, one can understand that by copying forms of conduct seen in the motion pictures he may adjust himself more easily. That these models may serve as aids to behavior and subsequently give the person control is suggested by the following instances:

Male, 21, white, college senior.—As I got into high school and into my sixteenth and seventeenth year I began to use the

(39)  movies as a school of etiquette. I began to observe the table manners of the actors in the eating scenes. I watched for the proper way in which to conduct oneself at a night club, because I began to have ideas that way. The fact that the leading man's coat was single breasted or double breasted, the number of buttons on it, and the cut of its lapel all influenced me in the choice of my own suits.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore.—Movies first taught me that hands could be used so as to make them appear beautiful. A soft, relaxed pose, I learned, was the best; I began to notice carriage and bearing and to check up on myself and on others. Whenever I see a character with a nervous habit such as tapping of the table with a finger tip, rubbing the side of the cheek or swinging a leg, I hurriedly search myself lest I have any such habits.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore.—At present I am aware of two mannerisms which I have consciously adopted from the motion pictures or at least from actresses. The first is my manner of walking when I am wearing a formal evening dress; the second is the style of dressing my hair likewise for formal attire. I have consciously adopted these mannerisms for the simple reason that I think one must be cautious as to one's manner of walking and to becoming hair-dress. I think this either makes or mars a girl. The reason for my actually searching for an attractive gait and I might even say posing goes back to a dinner dance which I attended at high school some few years ago. I remember one young lady in particular (whom I will never forget); she was wearing a stunning evening gown. She had a pretty face and when she stood still she looked remarkably well. However, when she walked she just sort of sagged and flopped together; her shoulders rounded, her back looked hunched and her entire appearance was spoiled; no doubt her case was due to too high heels; at any rate she seemed to be laboring with her gait as if she were walking behind a plow. I noticed that each girl at [he party had her own individual walk which proved either attractive or unattractive and I wondered what other people were thinking about me. Right there I decided I would adopt a definite walk and be more careful about standing straight; either

(40)  I would get my imitation from a screen star or from some story description. Immediately the movies proved helpful for I saw Gloria Swanson in "Fine Feathers" (or some title similar to that) and I have been trying to imitate her gait since then—carrying myself upright with a rather swagger effect and still acting as natural as possible. As you may well see, it is difficult to describe; but I might say, not as a matter of boldly bragging, many people have remarked that I carry myself very well in an evening dress; each one attributes the appearance to the manner of walking.

Female, 18, Negro, high-school senior.—Movies are the means by which a great many people obtain poise. This is especially true as far as girls are concerned. I am sure I haven't the poise of my movie idols, but I am trying to develop a more ladylike composure as I grow older. My father has caught me several times, as I stood before the mirror trying to tilt my head and hold my arms as the girls on the screen would do. He does not know that I am trying to create that sophisticated manner, which is essential for social success.

Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—When I first started going out with girls, I did not feel at home. I did not know how to conduct myself properly. After facing this situation for some time I attempted to conduct myself in a manner much like I had seen the young fellows do on the screen. That is, look comfortable, whether I was or not. T was very much surprised when it worked. Evidently I was not the only one in a very unpleasant position. Adopting an easy-going air brought me through many tight situations. I am very thankful that the movies gave me some education along certain lines of etiquette. Ways of address, conduct at the table, etc., have been incorporated into my conduct merely by seeing them in the movies.

This help furnished by motion pictures to the initiation of the novitiate is stated simply in the following excerpt from a life history of a country girl introduced into urban society:

Female, 24, white, college senior. —I soon detected a difference between my manners and those of the screen. Sometimes I shocked my people by trying out some new-fangled idea of


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I wouldn't be natural if I didn't like - . She is really the modern gin-crazy type. But her eyes! They make her. If I could look like her, I'd give Norma Shearer the air.

The following humorous account reveals the same point in the case of a young boy:

Male, 16, white, high-school sophomore. —When Wesley Barry was in his height of popularity, it was my ambition to become an actor like Mr. Barry. I was going to try because I had the ideal make-up for him, having red hair and oh! so many freckles. Every movie that Mr. Barry played in I went to see. I soon got

(43)  into the idea of walking around with my hands in my pockets, my hair not combed; and my hands, face, and clothes were very dirty. Another thing I tried to imitate was going barefoot. Many a toe I have stubbed which has caused me agony, and many a cut I received on the bottom of my feet; and oftentimes I would go barefoot when it was too cold for bare feet.

Experiences more typical of adolescent girls are shown in the following:

Female, 17, white, high-school senior.—I have tried in many ways to adopt the mannerisms of my favorite actress, Anita Page. My first realization of this was after I had seen her picture entitled "Our Dancing Daughters." This picture, as well as Anita Page, thrilled me as no other picture ever has or ever will. She didn't take the part of the good and innocent girl, but she was the cheat and the gold-digger. One would think the leading man could never "fall" for that type of girl, but he certainly (lid. Many a time I have tried to tilt my head as she did, and wear my hair in back of my ears, and even stood in front of the mirror going through the same actions she had done.

Female, 18, white, high-school senior.—At different times, or after each movie, I think there is a great tendency to try to act like the girl you have just seen. Clara Bow has been my ideal girl, and I have tried to imitate some of her mannerisms. The way she wears her hair (which is a rather hard thing to do, because she changes the style so often), how she rolls her eyes, her quick smile, and all her little actions. I have learned from the movies how to be a flirt, and I have found out that at parties and elsewhere the coquette is the one who enjoys herself the most.

Female, 17, white, high-school junior.—In the movies the girls were always beautiful and lady-like and so I tried to be too. When I was twelve years old I had already decided to join a " bathing beauty" contest when I was old enough. I'd pose for a lung while some times before the big mirror trying to get "ef-fects." The reason I was such a conceited person is because I had been told I resembled a movie actress and I tried to look like her as much as possible. She had a beautiful face and figure and I determined to be like her. At night in bed I would lie awake

(44)  and day-dream about the big hit I would make if I were to go to California.

The remarks which have been made and illustrated concerning the experimental character of imitation apply also in the emulation of an actress or actor. A given rôle may "take" and be retained or else found to be unadvantageous and so be abandoned. Whatever the disposition, such instances show how people may copy mannerisms and schemes of behavior from motion pictures.


A third form of imitation of conduct portrayed in motion pictures may be termed "technique," in accordance with increasing use of this word in the vernacular. This term refers to a particular way of doing something; the form of behavior is regarded as a devise or instrument leading to the realization of a definite end. Probably the most interesting technique to adolescents shown in motion pictures is that of love.

It is an item of common knowledge that forms of lovemaking are presented with extreme vividness in motion pictures. Of course, love appears as the main theme in the majority of productions. General recognition of the great attention paid to the theme of love in motion pictures, and evidence showing extensive copying of love-technique dictate some consideration of this form of imitation. From the sample of 458 motion-picture autobiographies written by high-school students it has been found that in 33 per cent definite imitation from motion pictures of the ways of making love was present. In 28 per cent of the cases there is a definite denial of this kind of effect; whereas in 39 per cent information is lacking which permits one to judge either way. These figures err, if at all, on the side of conservatism because of the reluctance of many self-

( 45) conscious adolescent boys and girls to admit copying such forms of behavior from motion pictures. It is safe to assume that the extent of such imitation is even greater than is shown by the figures mentioned.

The instances which are given as illustrative of this kind of influence of motion pictures are but a few of many and have been chosen to exhibit the different kinds of experiences written about by high-school and college students. While some of the descriptions may seem "sensational," they are presented merely to show a significant type of influence wielded by motion pictures on the conduct of young men and young women.

Early instances of the imitation of forms of love-making appear in the semi-play of girls or older children, and in the so-called "puppy-love" of early adolescents. In these instances, the behavior is still somewhat of a fanciful or play-like character, although it may easily become more serious. The following cases will illuminate the nature of this early use of love-making copied from the screen:

Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—Love stories and pictures never held much attraction for me at this time (age 12). I had a cousin, however, who was extremely fond of them. As she was one year older than I, and was much stronger and bigger, I had to do as she wished. She would make me go with her to see ———— ———— and ———— in some of their silly love pictures; and then when we returned home, she made me snake love to her as she had seen the other two do on the screen. I did not appreciate this at all. Whenever we boys would go to see a love picture and the hero kissed the heroine we would always make a lot of noise and smack our lips very loudly.

Female, 16, white, high-school junior.—I have one girl friend that I love a good deal. She and I have been kissing each other "hello" and "good-by" for sometime. It is on her that I make use of the different ways of kissing that I see in the movies.


Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—After I entered high school I got to going out with girls and often took them to the movies. It was then that I became interested in passionate love scenes and deep, soulful pictures. After I had had one unsuccessful love I became aware of the basis for so many of the pictures. Often I would actually live the picture out. My favorite actors and actresses then changed to the type that was young and good-looking. In acting and talking to a girl I would often use the knowledge I gained from the screen and the actors. During my puppy loves this was especially true.

When the relations between girls and boys become more serious, as in the case of courtship, schemes of love-making are used more in accordance with their meaning in motion pictures. The following cases are a few examples of many autobiographical accounts showing this more serious use of "love-technique."

Male, 22, white, college sophomore.—By this time in my life I had begun to pay some attention to girls. I soon lost my enthusiasm over western pictures and developed a sudden appreciation of love pictures. I tried to dress after the fashion of the hero in these pictures. Of course, I had a girl that I called my sweetheart, and whom I wooed with all the technique of loving that I learned from my movie idols. Whenever I kissed her I tried to imitate the movie hero who had perhaps just rescued his girl from the villain.

Male, 18, white, high-school senior.—The first interest in love pictures came when I was about fourteen. This interest gradually developed as I grew older. I became more interested in girls, and began to love them. I sometimes practiced making love to my friends, after I had seen a love scene. I have seen plays of love and passion where children were not admitted, and from this I got ideas of how to make love to a girl.

Female, 14, Negro, high-school sophomore.—I learn how the movie stars kiss and make a dumb-dora out of boys they don't care for.


Male, 21, white, college senior. —The technique of making love to a girl received considerable of my attention, and it was directly through the movies that I learned to kiss a girl on her ears, neck, and cheeks, as well as on the mouth.

Female, 16, white, high-school junior.—When I saw "The Pagan" I fell harder than ever for Ramon Navarro. All my girl friends talk about is these wonderful love stories. When I see a picture like that it makes me like my steady boy friend all the more. All I have ever done is kiss him good night; and it happens that through the movies I have learned to close my eyes, and I use that "Deep Bend" pose.

Female, 17, white, high-school junior.—I have learned some technique. I have sometimes told the boy friend, "Well, here goes for," but otherwise I don't copy anyone.

Many of the writers tell in their autobiographies of observing their associates employing forms of love-technique which have been taken from motion pictures. Girls, particularly, mention incidents of such behavior in the case of their boy companions. Two instances of this sort are given here to illustrate the point.

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—Many times I've been with my friends and have thought of how some actress talked, or kissed her lover. Many times fellows have tried new ways of loving on me which they have seen, such as: how holds and kisses the actress which he plays opposite, or something of that nature.

Female, 16, white, high-school junior. —I know a fellow who (every time I'm with him) wants to neck. He wants to practice, I guess, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he's got his method from the screen. It's so absolutely absurd. I get a kick out of watching him work up a passion—just like but it doesn't mean a thing. Now, that fellow is absolutely getting an education from the films, but what good does it do him? It makes him appear silly. He's a nice fellow, though, but he has his " weakness."


From the accounts one judges that many boys and girls feel that they are expected to use such forms of conduct in their association with their companions; or else they anticipate such behavior in the case of their associates. Something of this sort is suggested by the two following cases:

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—From watching love scenes in the movies I have noticed that when a girl is kissed she closes her eyes; this I found that I also unconsciously do. I guess it shows whether or not a girl is thrilled if she opens or closes her eyes. When with the opposite sex I am rather quiet and allow them to tell me what to do. When they go to make love, to kiss or hug, I put them off at first, but it always ends in them having their way. I guess I imitated this from the movies because I see it in almost every show I go to.

Female, 19, white, high-school sophomore.—When I had my first "puppy" love affair I was very much disillusioned in my Prince Charming because he merely pecked me when he kissed me. In fact, I was quite disgusted I thought him bashful, and a fool for not knowing how to kiss after seeing so many movies.

Some of the girls call attention in their accounts to the frequency with which love practices are shown in motion pictures and express their judgment that it is natural for such practices to be copied by young men and women. Since these judgments arise out of personal experience, as is clearly seen in the accounts, they may be submitted as further evidence on the nature and extent of imitation of conduct shown in motion pictures. Several of these declarations follow:

Female, 16, white, high-school junior.—What movie does not offer pointers in the art of kissing? I do not think that it is surprising that the younger generation has such a fine technique. Movies have become so universal and apartments so small that the modern miss and her boy friend have to go to the movies so that the family may retire (the in-a-door bed is probably in the

(49)  living room). A young couple sees the art of necking portrayed on the screen every week for a month or so, and is it, any wonder they soon develop talent'? I am not allowed to have dates at home, so I know how true this is.

Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore.—I have learned quite a bit about love-making from the movies. They have so many love scenes nowadays that it can't be helped. They sure know how to pose for a kiss, especially ———and ———and — also how to perform it.

Female, 16, white, high-school junior.—In some movies I think there is too much love-making which is sickening, but on a1 whole the love scenes are sure to be imitated. Especially the manner in which an actor holds and kisses an actress, how long, and the pose they both take. As for myself, I get w(,11, in slang I would say a big kick out of watching movies, and then when going to a party see the boy-friend ;haying to do the same thing or do as near like it as possible.

Female, 17, Jewish. white, junior.—What I have learned about love-making in the movies I never have exhibited although many young girls think a way to attract boys is to wear tight clothes and keep their hair bushy with curls, as does.

Female, 17, white, high-school senior.— I think that a lovelier pair than and cannot be found. I think that they are divine in their love scenes. My boy friends try to act like does. It's funny to watch the way they try to kiss you and embrace you, and the expression they get on their faces, just like ———and other he-men in the movies.

The forms of "technique" which may be selected from motion pictures and appropriated for use may consist merely of small items, as in certain details of kissing, or in the use of one's eyes in attracting attention. They may also, however, include larger patterns of conduct covering, for instance, the full span of one's relation to the opposite sex. A rather detailed statement of the use of a "flirtation"

( 50) pattern selected from motion pictures appears in the following account written by a high-school girl:

Female, 16, Negro, high-school sophomore.—I imagine from what I see in the movies that love-making is very interesting, and I imagine there is fun in it. Before I was old enough to realize what love-making was, I would just see a love picture and that was all. But new when I go to parties I go for a geed time and net to see someone else have a geed time. I always go with a girl friend and she is very flirty, and I keep up with her. We flirt and talk with the boys; then sometimes we leave one party and go to another one in a car with two boys. We go out for a geed time and we have it. One night my girl friend and I went out and we said we were going to try method about "Love 'em and leave 'em." When we arrived at the party we were introduced to some very good-looking boys. They offered to take us car-riding. We accepted. While out, they began to ask us many questions about love and making love to us. We didn't resist and when we had gotten home, we made a date for the next evening and we never did see these boys again, and we kept doing this until we got tired. I wanted to see if that method would or could work for me and my pal.


THE instances which have been given offer a picture of the variety in the selection and appropriation of techniques of love-making which are presented in motion pictures. They force upon one the realization that motion pictures provide, as many have termed it, "liberal education in the art of loving." Many boys and girls secure from motion pictures much of their information on forms of conduct incident to relations between the sexes. A priori, this is to be expected. Boys and girls whose interests are being attracted to love seek knowledge of items of conduct which may be involved. Motion pictures with their vivid display of love-techniques

( 51) offer a means of gaining such knowledge. The possibilities of motion pictures in providing such instruction are suggested in the accounts already given, but are shown more fully in the following statements of experience:

Male, 19, white, college sophomore.—Not being much interested in flirting and vamping, I have net received from the movies any ways of flirting or vamping. And beyond the "collegiate" clothes I imitated from the screen, I have net learned any new or valuable ways to show my masculine charm (if any!). But I have learned a great deal about hew to kiss and make love, a subject in which I am still se profoundly ignorant that it will take a great many mere movie experiences before I will have become an expert in the art. But since my oscillatory experiences must await the time when SHE says "yes," I haven't taken advantage of my movie education. Nevertheless, I am bubbling ever with ideas along that line, and I don't think I'll have much difficulty, thanks to my movie education, in learning the technique of kissing.

Female, 20, white, college sophomore.—But movies are a liberal education in the art of making love. Every young person probably appreciates a love scene subjectively. I never learned any ways of flirting, because flirting is against the family code. I did learn something about the art of kissing, however; that the tableau looked far mere graceful if the young lady put mere weight en one feet than en the ether; the effect was softer. It has been helpful, tee, to see hew two screen levers manage their arms when they are embracing; there is a definite technique; one arm ever, the other under.

Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—As I progressed in years I became interested in the girls about me at school and at play and had a sweetheart whom I admired from afar, for as yet I was se bashful I became tongue-tied in her presence. I recall hew I wished that I could be as free and easy in their presence as Rudolph Valentine was, and I watched for his pictures with special interest for I thought that I might be able to assimilate some of his ability or technique, if you wish to call it that, and would be able to use it on my girl. '


Female, 19, white, college sophomore.—The movies certainly teach a person to flirt or perfect one's self-developed powers of flirting. They have, in a way, taught nee a little in the use of my eyes for different purposes—the demure, the childish, the quaint, the puzzled, the come-hither, or go-thither glances (and such that a girl in her youth makes use of); and they have all been strengthened by learning different uses for them.

Male, 19, Jewish, white, college sophomore.—I do admit that I have learned not a little "amateur" necking from such pictures as "Children of the Ritz." Whether I have applied my knowledge or not, I will not relate. hissing, vamping, flirting, making love, etc., are a very valuable educational influence in the lives of the younger generation. Such techniques are very necessary, and I feel that here the movies are performing; a real service.

In our discussion of mannerisms some attention was paid to the trying out of schemes of conduct which the subject attempts to approximate by deliberate copying. Such experimentation is also found, as one might expect, in the use of love-techniques. In view of the interest which pictures depicting love have for boys and girls who are, as many of them confess, unenlightened in this respect, it perhaps is to be expected that some "trying out" would be made of certain techniques. A case of whole-hearted experimentation along this line has been selected from the autobiography of a high-school senior, a girl aged eighteen:

White.—Most of my ideas of love have been formed by the movies. It seems on the screen that the wild girl or the one that pets gets the one she loves. I am now trying that method and am going to see how it will work. However, I find it pretty hard to kiss someone else besides the one I love. But the movie heroine does it, and so can I. The movies give one many ideas and I'm going to try this one. Time will tell.

As in the case of all experimentation there is here a process of rejection and appropriation. Individuals who "try out" love-techniques seen in motion pictures may succeed

(53) or may fail. To experience failure, frequently, is to discourage further imitations of motion pictures. Instances of unfortunate results, or of futility in using love-techniques, are given in the following series of experiences:

Male, 18, white, high-school senior.—Oh! for imitating a star I'm a card. — Once I tried to imitate smart-alecness at a dance, by kissing the girl I was dancing with. She gave me a "sock" in the jaw. As 1 saw she didn't like it, I went to her and apologized to her. This convinced me that imitating a motion picture star does not work; I gave it up.

Male, 19, white, college sophomorc.—When only fourteen years of age I fell in love with one of my classmates; and I can remember that after seeing Rudolph Valentine in "The Sheik of Araby," I would try to make love to my girl as he did to the heroine, but I guess I was a miserable failure.

Male, 20, white, college sophomore.—As to the art of kissing, the movies truly make of it an art supreme. Well, in spite of my attempts to duplicate such, I have not been an entire success.

Male, 17, white, high-school senior. —The movies were the first to give me the idea of kissing a girl. I tried it twice, but I failed to get the, thrill out of it that was plainly evident when the hero kissed the heroine.

Male, 20, white, college junior.—Later Valentine. I studied his style. I realized that nature had done much less for me in the way of original equipment than she had for the gorgeous Rodolfo, but I felt that lie had a certain technique that it would behoove me to emulate. I practiced with little success. My nostrils refused to dilate some muscular incompetency that I couldn't remedy. My eyes were incapable of shooting sparks of fiery passion that would render the fair sex helpless. I made only one concrete trial. The young lady who was trial-horse for the attempt is still dubious about my mental stability. Worse yet, she made a report of the affair to her friends. The comments that came drifting back to me left no doubt in my mind about the futility of carrying on any longer. I gave up.

Male, 20, Jewish, white, college junior.—I say without hesitation or embarrassment that on more than one occasion I have

(54)  attempted to imitate the John Gilbert-Greta Garbo methods of love-making and that while the fleeting glimpse of Gilbert technique has not been sufficient to teach me to become the world's greatest lover, I place the blame not on my inability to imitate what I have seen on the screen, but on somebody else's inability to imitate Greta Garbo's receptive qualities. But then we're still both going to movies.

It is probable that most forms of love conduct copied from motion pictures prove unsatisfactory in use, and so are abandoned, or else merely entertained in imagination. A number of the writers of the motion-picture life histories speak, however, of the successful employment of schemes selected from motion pictures. A few illustrations may be cited:

Male, 18, white, high-school senior.—I think what benefited me the most from the movies was manners. I think that most of my manners I learned at the movies. It has shown me other parts of the world, which I don't expect to see. I have learned how to make love and kiss a girl, and the most peculiar part is that it works.

Female, 19, Jewish, white, college sophomore.—To-day I have no ideal—it is rather ideas that the heroines give me now. I am especially interested in those closest to my own possibilities, in all points about them, but especially with the more perfect actresses (I pick them by their acting now), in their carriage, conduct, and particularly love-making technique I find this much more suggestive and effective than I could possibly find any book by, say, Elinor Glyn on How to Hold Your Man.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore.— Although I have never adopted any ways of flirting, I do not mean that I have never tried out the technique of the stars. Once I decided to try out a type of eye work that I had admired in a movie. It worked so well that I have not dared to use it since.

Female, 19, white, college sophomore.—Now here's a real confession! Ever since I saw Joan Crawford use her eyes to flirt with people, I caught that trick and use it to good advantage.

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Finally, we have accounts which show how individuals may appreciate the aid which motion pictures may give in this respect, indicating, incidentally, that what was copied has proved of value in adjusting oneself to different situations:

Female, 17, white, high-school senior.—I have learned how to flirt, and how to "handle 'em." I have also learned different ways of kissing, and what to say when made love to. I have had all kinds of chances to use what I've learned from moving pictures, and I've taken advantage of them. If it hadn't been for what I've learned from the movies and seen what the actresses did in such cases, it would go hard with me at times.

Male, 22, white, college junior.—As I look back over my experiences, it occurs to me that in this matter of the technique of love-making I have been more influenced by the movies than by any other factor. My ideas about love I received from books, but my "method," to put it rather crudely, I got from the movies. Incidentally I am not sure whether this influence has been wholesome or otherwise. Without it I might have become an unbearable prude; with it I was encouraged into indiscretions which I have later come to regret. On the whole, I think it was an evil; but, as with most evils, it was not unmixed with elements of good.

Several of the last accounts suggest the use of ideas, gained from motion pictures, as aids to adjustment in critical situations. In so far as motion pictures portray types of life which are likely to be encountered in the experience of a young man and woman, they may suggest ways of successfully meeting situations peculiar to this life. The formal relations between young men and women, the methods of attracting attention, courtship, and even more intimate relations are likely to be novel and unfamiliar situations to many. Motion pictures may furnish knowledge of how to act in such situations.

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FROM the discussion of childhood play and adolescent imitation it appears that there is a considerable amount of copying of forms of conduct shown in motion pictures. Our consideration has been devoted to those forms of such imitation that are most widely current and outstanding in the written accounts of the experiences of boys and girls, young men and young women. The discussion is not meant to convey the impression that selections from motion pictures are confined to patterns of play, mannerisms, gestures, and forms of conduct in relation to the opposite sex. There are undeniably many other details in motion pictures which are chosen by the spectators. Material objects such as household furnishings, form of interior decoration, schemes of architecture, patterns of business behavior and other items are subject to imitation, as is shown by casual and scattered references in the motion-picture autobiographies. Such instances merely strengthen one's appreciation of the extent to which motion pictures are influential in the matter of imitation. As has already been remarked, in this discussion attention has been given mainly to those forms of copying which appear outstanding and salient in the accounts.

It is extremely difficult, of course, to ascertain the extent of this imitation with exactness. Yet the evidence is quite conclusive in indicating that the degree is by no means small, if we may take the subjects of this report as somewhat representative of the general population in the age groups considered.

The explanation of why young people imitate forms of conduct presented in motion pictures does not seem to be an abstruse problem. It is much too simple, of course, to

(57) assume that because a detail of action or of a situation is shown it will therefore be automatically imitated. The psychology of imitation is somewhat more complicated. Its nature, however, seems to be reasonably clear; in the judgment of the writer it might be summed up in the statement that if an individual sees some form of conduct which promises to aid the realization of one of his aims, it is likely to be chosen. Thus, the young boy interested in play is quite likely to select as a theme the daring combativeness of a Wild West picture. The high-school girl who is interested in making herself beautiful and popular may be expected to select details of beautification and conduct which may he effective to the fulfillment of such interests. The young man who has become concerned with the courtship of girls is quite likely to choose types of behavior that he regards as helpful in such courtship. The delinquent boy who witnesses some clever manner of burglarizing might be counted on having some disposition to use it if it offers possibilities of serving his own interests. The appearance of imitation in such instances does not seem to raise any problems of a serious theoretical character.

It is of course true that motion pictures do not present patterns as mere skeletal forms of behavior mere instruments devoid of feeling. Ordinarily such details of action are clothed in romantic form, presented in appealing fashion, and followed usually by successful consequences. Their possibilities, in other words, are more vividly brought out and to this extent they are likely to invite imitation. In general, as long as motion pictures present in intimate detail and with a romantic garb, forms of conduct that arrest the attention of the perceiver and promise some success in the realization of his own interests, it is to be expected that there will be a great deal of copying from motion pictures.


It should be remembered that there is a considerable amount of deliberate effort and trial and error procedure in this process of imitation. Sufficient mention and illustration of this tendency have been given above so that here a mere reminder will suffice. Much, perhaps most, of what is selected for imitation is rejected in the process; much is confined to limited use in separate situations and on special occasions. Yet much is taken over and is incorporated into conduct. Occasionally success in experimentation may open up a new rôle so that one comes to exploit the possibilities of a new line of conduct contingent on the effective use of what has already been imitated. In this way the influence of the movies may be cumulative.

We have consciously refrained from placing any judgment on the value or harmful consequences of what is imitated from motion pictures by youths, since the interest of this study has been merely to show that such imitation goes on and to give some idea of its character.


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