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In the motion picture industry, a star vehicle, or simply vehicle, is a film written or produced for a specific star, regardless of whether the motive is to further their career, or simply to profit from their current popularity. It is designed to optimally display its star's particular talents or personal appeal. The term is also applied to stage plays and television programs. In some cases, a performer may produce their own star vehicle as self-promotion or a vanity project.
Under the old studio system, vehicles were sometimes created for a promising young, inexperienced, or imported actor who had signed a long-term contract with a major studio. By showcasing that actor's talents, the vehicle was an attempt to create another bankable star bound to the studio until their contract expired. Vehicles were created for rising or established stars as diverse as Fred Astaire, Greta Garbo, the Marx Brothers and Elvis Presley. In some cases, audiences could be depended on to buy tickets to a succession of a favorite star's vehicles regardless of subject matter or even overall quality, as long as care was taken to present that star well.
With the demise of the studio system, star vehicles are less common in the movie business, although they continue to appear occasionally (e.g. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, The Rock's The Scorpion King, or more recently Miley Cyrus' The Last Song). They remain common in television, where sitcoms routinely function as vehicles for stand-up comedians. Welcome Back, Kotter, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Seinfeld, Home Improvement, George Lopez, Everybody Loves Raymond, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Bernie Mac Show are some notable examples from the US.
- 'Vanity Fair' is a splendid star vehicle for Reese Witherspoon - Paula Nechak, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- A star vehicle is born - St. Petersburg Times - July 26, 2003