“Take my Moneybox”: The Symbolic Powers of the First Child Movie Stars in Early French Cinema (1906-1916)

Bekir Düzcan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper analyzes why child film star series produced by major French production companies (Pathé, Gaumont, Eclectic, and Éclair) in the early 1900s (Bébé, Bout-de-Zan, Willy, and the Maria Fromet series) were received with such interest by global audiences. This period, prior to World War I, was a brief era when French cinema held significant hegemony worldwide, before Hollywood's dominance began. There are ideas suggesting that child film stars emerged with American cinema. Contrary to this, however, French producers competed fiercely in the 10 years following 1906, producing series featuring child film stars. Substantial budgets were allocated for the marketing of these series, ultimately gaining a considerable fan base not only in Europe but also in America. When examining these film stars from the early 20th century within their historical context, they emerge as the first international child stars with international fame and financial success, unlike child musicians, vaudeville artists, and theater actors from the 18th and 19th centuries. Inspired by the field analysis of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, this article aims to establish a connection between the struggles within the field and the symbolic needs of the audience as reflected in the content of child star films. The films were viewed at the Eye Film Museum archive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-54
Number of pages27
JournalSociology Lens
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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