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introduction Making Movies and Incorporating Gender In no line of endeavor has woman made so emphatic an impression than in the amazing film industry . . . [O]ne may not name a single vocation in either the artistic or business side of its progress in which women are not conspicuously engaged. —Robert Grau, “Woman’s Conquest in Filmdom” [A]ny position which a man has occupied in the new industry has been, and is now, occupied by a woman. —Mlle. Chic, “The Dual Personality of Cleo Madison” I nthe1910sandearly1920stheAmericanfilmindustryofferedwomen opportunities that existed in no other workplace. Female stars like Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand, and Gloria Swanson earned some of the highest salaries in the world, and many more women worked in creative rolesbehindthecamera.Inanygivenproductionthescreenplaywaslikelyto havebeenpennedbyawoman,aswasthecontinuityscript,thestep-by-step guide outlining all production activities. A female director may have guided the female star, who quite often worked for her own production company. Some women did it all. Lois Weber, the most famous female filmmaker of this period, was a screenwriter, actress, director, and producer, often on the same project.1 After the shooting ended, a woman may have edited the film, a female censor may have re-edited it, a female exchange owner may have distributed it, and a female manager might have exhibited it in her theater. When in 1920 the Ladies’ Home Journal predicted that within five years “the feminine influence will be fully ‘fifty-fifty’ in ‘Studio Land,’” it was more than just wishful thinking.2 Women filmmakers (broadly defined to include a range of production activities ) were present in most facets of the American film industry by 1909. At the height of their activity, between 1918 and 1922, women directed forty-four feature-length films, headed more than twenty production com­ panies, wrote hundreds of produced screenplays, became the first agents, and held positions as editors and heads of scenario and publicity departments .3 Women outside of the United States entered filmmaking at about the same time: Elvira Notari in Italy; Olga Wohlbrück, Lotte Reiniger, and Thea von Harbou in Germany; Olga Preobrazhenskaya in Russia; Ester Shub in the Ukraine; Lottie Lytell in Australia; Germaine Dulac in France; andAdrianaandDoloresEhlersinMexico.Nocountry,however,witnessed the number of women filmmakers that the United States did, nor did any other country experience the swift expulsion of women from filmmaking in theyearstofollow.4 Althoughwomenretainedtheirpositionsasscreenwriters , it was a different story elsewhere on the lot. By the mid-1920s, female directors and producers, many of whom were critically and commercially successful, found themselves defined as unfit. Girls who wanted to become editor’s apprentices were discouraged. Female stars no longer started their own production companies. By 1927, on the eve of the sound era, director Lois Weber advised young women to avoid filmmaking careers. “Don’t try it,” she cautioned. “You’ll never get away with it.”5 Only one female film director, Dorothy Arzner, sustained a successful career in mainstream Hollywood during the so-called golden age of the 1930s and 1940s. Not until the 1970s would the numbers of women directing and producing feature films begin to increase.6 Why did the early American film industry offer such a range of opportunities to women at this time? Just as important, why did these opportunities disappear? This study is not the first to recognize the work of these early filmmakers or to ask these questions. In fact, scholarship on women in the early American cinema has blossomed over the past decade. Scholars and archivists are making heroic efforts to discover extant films by early women filmmakers and are producing fascinating analyses of the films themselves. Recent biographies of filmmakers Dorothy Arzner, Alice Guy Blaché, Nell Shipman, and Lois Weber have significantly advanced our knowledge of the contribution of women to the early American cinema and are symptomatic of a turn within film studies scholarship toward history, 2 Introduction albeit with the insights of feminist and film theory.7 This study contributes to this emergent body of scholarship by offering a historical analysis of the gendering of filmmaking. It uses concepts from the sociology of gender and work, methodology and context from women’s and business history, and insights from feminist film studies to create an overview of gender and film production from 1896, when the Vitascope first premiered, to the rise of the studio system in the mid-1920s. By stepping back and taking a broad view, by including the experiences of women in all facets of the film industry , and by contextualizing...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781421402093
Print ISBN
9780801890840
MARC Record
OCLC
794701465
Pages
332
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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