restricted access 7. "Doing a ‘Man’s Work’ ": The Rise of the Studio System and the Remasculinization of Filmmaking
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chapter seven “Doing a ‘Man’s Work’” The Rise of the Studio System and the Remasculinization of Filmmaking I n July of 1923 Photoplay profiled Grace Haskins, “Girl Producer.” At the age of twenty-two Haskins earned her moniker by writing, directing , and producing her first film, Just like a Woman. In the space of five years Haskins moved from working in a Hollywood hotel, to answering fan mail, to “talking herself into a job in the cutting room,” and then becoming a continuity writer. All the while her ultimate aim was to direct, but “she knew enough of the game to know that no producer was ever going to give her her chance. Not for a long, long time, anyway.” Not one to give up, Haskins turned to “several moneyed men,” “dusted off” a scenario she was working on, and secured a deal with independent distributor W. W. Hodkinson . With check in hand Haskins collected a company of actors, found a ready-made set, and began making her film. Suddenly “people who had assured her that she couldn’t, possibly, hope for success, began to take an unwelcome interest in the proceedings.” Damaging rumors surfaced, but Haskins persevered. Just like a Woman reached the screen on March 18, 1923.1 Haskins intended “to keep right on producing,” but like most small independent filmmakers in 1923, she vanished. Unlike many male directors, however, Haskins did not resurface in any of the major, or even the minor, studios. But this scenario in itself could not account for the disappearance of female directors in the 1920s, for the new “majors” hired plenty of experienced filmmakers to grind out the features and programmers that fed their theater chains.2 Rather, something changed in the very definition of a filmmaker. Although industry writers praised women directors for their “deft touches” and “finesse” as late as 1921, by 1928, the year that the sound film triumphed over the silent film, there was only one working female director , Dorothy Arzner, a filmmaker noted for her masculine persona and approach. By 1928 filmmaking in Hollywood was unquestionably “man’s work.”3 Although Haskins could not have guessed it, she was one of the last female filmmakers of her era.4 <= In many ways Hollywood epitomized modern heterosociability. Mixedsexgroupscouldbefoundafteraday ’sshootingatlate-night“wateringholes” like the Green Room, where in 1913 one might find Jack Holt, Warren Kerrigan , Bob Leonard, Ella Hall, Francis Ford, Grace Cunard, Otis Turner, and Cleo Madison. And writers, split evenly between men and women, formed the heterosocial Screen Writer’s Guild and “its social arm, The Writer’s Club,” in 1920. It boasted a membership roster that was 25 percent female and a clubhouse with a pool and spaces for dances, billiards, and cards.5 But by and large professionalization segregated the geography of Hollywood by sex. As we have seen, the industry’s first trade associations modeled themselvesonfraternalsocieties .In1915,whentheLosAngelesequivalentofthe Screen Club moved into “one of the most popular clubhouses on the West Coast,” men who belonged to the club could choose from an English bar, a billiard or a pool room, a lounging room, and a dining hall known as “the Stein Room,” which held a “weekly good-fellowship dinner, with toasts, vaudeville acts, and music.” “Ladies night” occurred one evening a month, when the club held a tango dinner.6 By 1917, as filmmakers migrated to Hollywood, the Los Angeles Athletic Club surpassed the Screen Club in popularity. According to Photoplay the Athletic Club was “the capital of the screen rialto—the Lambs, Players, and Friars rolled into one.”7 Such organizations were not new. During the last third of the nineteenth century, while middle-class work was still almost exclusively male, clubs and lodges rose to supplement taverns and restaurants as places for masculine recreation and business dealings. But by the early twentieth century, as women entered the world of middle-class work, these all-male organizations took on added significance. Since work itself was “no longer a male club,” the spittoon migrated to fraternal organizations. Forced to be genteel at home and at work, middle-class men retired to their clubs, where they might drink, smoke, swear, and revitalize themselves by indulging in the rituals of manhood. But the sexual exclusivity of the Screen Club and similar organizations was not just to insulate men from the encroachment of women in the workplace. The project of professionalization required 180 “A Business Pure &Simple” masculinization. Men needed common ground to put aside their differences and band together for the good of their field. “The exclusion of women,” argues Anthony Rotundo, “linked the bitterest of rivals in the solidarity of male professions.”8 Not surprisingly, then, when the Motion Picture Directors’ Association (MPDA) was founded in February of 1915, it was described as “a fraternal order.” As such, it claimed that “its rituals render impossible the idea of coercion and eliminates any element of partiality or unfairness.”9 It is true that in 1916 the MPDA admitted Lois Weber as an honorary member, but the “rules of the organization” had to be “set aside for this purpose,” and just to be certain, the directors added that “no other of the gentler sex will be admitted to membership.”10 Although the MPDA defied its own order in 1923, adding director Ida May Park as an honorary member, it also added actress Lottie Pickford (Mary’s sister), theatrical impresario Daniel Frohman, and playwright Augustus Thomas, indicating that the definition of honorary membership meant recognition for good work; it did not confer professional rank as a film director. Thus near the height of their numerical strength, female directors were excluded from the MPDA, which policed its professional neutrality with the rituals of a male lodge.11 The rise of these clubs and organizations denied women filmmakers valuable contacts. The list of Athletic Club members in 1917, for example, was a male who’s who of Hollywood: Charlie Chaplin, producers Oliver Morosco andWilliamSelig,directorAlChristie,andnotedactorsFordSterling,Fred Mace, Tyrone Power, and William and Dustin Farnam. Ironically, a member of the Athletic Club looking for investors to back a new film project might find himself at a gathering of the “The Uplifters,” which no longer referred to reformers but to an internal organization of film industry magnates, “democratic millionaires, jurists, doctors, and real estate impresarios.” “Every so often they get together in one of the period dining rooms of the club,” claimed Photoplay, “and lift their voices in song and their arms in—well, we might call it homage, to the spirit of good fellowship.”12 Good fellowship that was by definition off-limits to women. <= Despite the inherently masculine project of professionalization, women still found opportunities behind the camera as a result of simple pragmatism. Thanks to “doubling in brass,” actresses were often well-versed in various duties behind the camera, and it was practical and cost-effective to use all able-bodied employees to their fullest capacity. Thus, at first the reorganiThe Rise of the Studio System 181 zation of film production along more efficient lines did not exclude women from behind the camera. The nascent efficiency movement was not innately masculine. We know that scientific manager Wilbert Melville began his career at Alice Guy Blaché’s Solax studio in 1911. In 1913 he visited the Western Lubin plant (which was laid out like “a well-planned kitchen”) and introduced to the industry the principle of cost accounting and a new kind of scenario department , where “the scripts are prepared for the directors in such shape that they can be produced as written.” “Sooner or later,” claimed Moving Picture World, “other motion picture manufacturers throughout the world must follow ” these innovations “if they wish to meet competition and survive.”13 According to Janet Staiger, the new sort of script, known as a continuity script, laid the foundation for the central-producer system. It was this system, which first arose in the mid-1910s, that led to the dissolution of the impromptu collaborative style of filmmaking that allowed so many women to gain experience behind the camera. The continuity script included not only dialogue and stage directions for every scene but all the necessary information regarding cinematography, direction, lighting, sets, titling, and costuming. Covering every craft necessary to make a movie, the continuity facilitated the breakdown of filmmaking tasks into discrete crafts and heightened the ability of a central producer to keep a close eye on the progress of all the movies being made on the lot.14 With continuity scripts for every production, the central producer could allocate all the resources of the studio efficiently, plan budgets well in advance, and monitor each stage of the production process for cost and efficiency.15 At first the rise of the continuity script boosted the status of women on the lot. Continuities emerged from the scenario department, and writing was the least sex-typed of all studio crafts. According to Lizzie Francke half the scenarios produced in the silent era were written by women, and female scenario department heads were common.16 Indeed, many women writers in the 1910s literally defined the craft. Catherine Carr’s The Art of Photoplay Writing (1914), Marguerite Bertsch’s How to Write for Moving Pictures (1917), and Anita Loos and John Emerson’s How to Write Photoplays (1920) were all handbooks on the special requirements of writing for the movies.17 Thus, as the continuity script was developed, women were well-positioned to become these new technical experts.18 Continuity writers became the “brains” of the production process. Creating continuities based on budget , available properties, and available personnel, the continuity writer 182 “A Business Pure &Simple” assumed some of the previous duties of the film producer.19 The director now worked hand in hand with the continuity writer on the development of the story before a single scene was shot. Indeed, in some studios the director was not allowed to make any changes once the final continuity was approved. He or she had to shoot the film as written.20 The role of the continuity script within the central-producer system gave writers, many of them female, a new creative authority behind the camera. Many writers took advantage of their new authority by becoming directors themselves.21 As continuity writer Marguerite Bertsch remarked in 1916 when she was asked how it felt to direct for the first time: “You know I never wrote a picture that I did not mentally direct. Every situation was as clear in my mind as though the film was already photographed.”22 From the point of view of continuity writers the shift from “mentally directing” to physically directing was a natural one. Initially, then, the dissolution of the collaborative system of filmmaking that characterized the nickelodeon era and its replacement by the central-producer system served to elevate, rather than eliminate, the creative role of some women in the early film industry. Even women who were not continuity writers appeared to benefit from the early implementation of efficiency methods. Regular scenario writers, those who originated the stories but not the continuities, began to direct more frequently in the mid-1910s as the script in general increased in importance . Writer-actress Nell Shipman’s initiation as a Universal director is illustrative. According to Shipman’s autobiography, when the director and leading lady ran off together while she was working on location at Lake Tahoe in 1914, “the Universal star [Jack Kerrigan] said I must take up the megaphone. ‘You wrote this mish-mash,’ he said, ‘so you can direct it.’”23 At about the same time, Universal actress-writer Jeanie Macpherson was said to have won her chance to direct by “pestering” Laemmle when a film she wrote, The Tarantula, had to be reshot after the print was accidentally destroyed and the original director was no longer available.24 In addition to Nell Shipman and Jeanie Macpherson, Universal writers Ruth Ann Baldwin, Ida May Park, and E. Magnus Ingleton became directors between 1916 and 1917.25 At least four women directed at Vitagraph after 1916: Marguerite Bertsch, Lucille McVey Drew, Lillian Chester, and PaulaBlackton.26 Atotherstudios,too—largeandsmall—womenwithwriting experience became directors after the introduction of the continuity system , whether they wrote continuities or scenarios. Scenarist Julia Crawford Ivers directed The Majesty of the Law (Bosworth, 1915), The Call of the Cumberland (Pallas, 1916), The Son of Erin (Pallas, 1916), and The White Flower The Rise of the Studio System 183 (FPL/Paramount, 1923).27 Writer Frances Marion directed Just around the Corner (Cosmopolitan, 1921) and a Mary Pickford vehicle, The Love Light (United Artists, 1921).28 In the mid-1920s scenarist Lillian Ducey directed Enemies of Children (Fisher Productions, 1924); writer Dot Farley directed comedy shorts for Mack Sennett; scenario editor Miriam Meredith worked as an assistant director at the Thomas H. Ince studios; and Elizabeth Pickett, a Wellesley graduate, wrote and directed shorts for Fox, becoming West Coast supervisor for the Fox Variety series.29 The implementation of efficiency measures under the nascent centralproducer system did not initially prevent actresses from becoming directors either. Economy encouraged Carl Laemmle of Universal to allow actresses to begin directing in the mid-1910s. Ultimately, Universal employed more female directors than all other studios combined. The first actress to become a director while at Universal was Cleo Madison, who, according to Photoplay , cajoled studio manager Isadore Bernstein into allowing her to direct in 1915. Madison had worked in production for the legitimate stage prior to joining the film industry. She directed a few two-reelers for Universal, and in 1916 she directed two five-reel features.30 In 1917 three more actresses became Universal directors: Ruth Stonehouse, Lule Warrenton, and Elsie Jane Wilson.31 <= One reason Universal hired so many women to direct was because its pictures were relatively low-cost, low-risk ventures.32 “By the late teens,” observed Richard Koszarski, “Universal was known as a giant factory where work was easily attainable but working conditions (especially salary) remained substandard.”33 But despite the growing tendency to entrust women with only low-budget films, in the context of an open market Universal’s female directors gained enough experience to join the growing legion of independent filmmakers. Most had been employed by Universal as writers or actresses for years but left within months after becoming directors to try their luck as independents. Ruth Stonehouse, for example, directed for less than a year at Universal before she signed a contract with the Overland Film Co. to produce six features a year for states’ rights release.34 Like most new independents these companies typically failed. Cleo Madison, who picked up the megaphone to much fanfare in 1915, could not get her own company off the ground in 1917.35 Lule Warrenton had a single critical success under her own company in 1917 but then returned to the Universal fold and gaveupdirectingentirely.36 IdaMayParkwas more successful. After direct184 “A Business Pure &Simple” ing for three years at Universal, she created Ida May Park Productions in 1920. She released two features, including the well-reviewed Butterfly Man (1920), but her company quickly faded.37 Other women directors joined the independent movement as well. Margery Wilson, a Griffith alumnus, directed short comedies and one feature, That Something (1921), for Margery Wilson Productions but then lost her companytoherlender.38 VeraMcCorddirectedonefilm,thepoorlyreceived Good-Bad Wife (1921), for states’ rights release before she too lost her company in a dispute with her lender.39 In 1921 writer Marion Fairfax wrote and directed The Lying Truth, “a story of the newspaper world.” Although trade papers announced that she was preparing another film, The Lying Truth was her only production.40 A company formed by Lillian and George Randolph Chester, writer and director, also came and went in 1921.41 The Cathrine Curtis Corporation, first announced in 1919, appeared to operate along similar lines. Curtis, a “society girl” who starred in one film, described herself as a “screen interpreter.” Her company, which ran an impressive advertisement listing officers, a board of directors, and counsel, appeared to act as a literary agency as well. Curtis’s first and only production, The Sky Pilot (1921), was an expensive “super-special” starring Colleen Moore and directed by King Vidor for First National. After The Sky Pilot, which was a success, the company vanished.42 All of these companies were probably victims of the 1921 recession that forced even the largest studios to suspend production. Some companies created by women writers after 1916 were not production companies per se but freelance writing services. The Eve Unsell Photoplay Staff, Inc., offered “everything from script to screen”: continuities, synopses, “opinions and revisions,” subtitling and editing, and representation of authors and publishers. Although literary agents abounded by 1921 (many of them women), Unsell hoped to bring filmmakers and authors to a new level of mutual understanding. When officially unveiled, Unsell’s company already held contracts with Famous Players–Lasky and star Katharine McDonald’s First National company. Also an apparent victim of the 1921 recession, Unsell’s company disappeared by June of that year.43 <= The initial implementation of efficiency measures, then, most evident in the use of the continuity script, opened up new opportunities for women to direct and produce movies in the 1910s. Indeed, the feminization of filmmaking may well have seemed imminent to some observers, for the number The Rise of the Studio System 185 of women directors more than doubled between 1915 and 1919. But even as women were becoming directors and producers in greater numbers than ever before, efficiency measures took on new meaning as film costs skyrocketed after 1916. Although business was booming and well-heeled patrons were attending the movies, studios were experiencing some difficulty generating enough internal financing to cover the budgets of their most expensive stars and feature productions. What the industry needed to continue to grow were reliable sources of outside capital. Thus far nearly all banking interests scorned film producers as fly-by-night operators. The one exception was the Bank of Italy, a California bank founded by two immigrants, A. P. and Attilio (the “Doc”) Giannini, that looked favorably on small, struggling businessmen. The Gianninis made several successful loans to exhibitors during the nickelodeon era and by the 1910s had created a system by which they loaned money to fund production of a film but held the negative in a vault until the loan was repaid.44 Other bankers were frightened off, however, when the two ventures that attracted outside capital in the mid-1910s, Triangle and the World Film Corporation, both collapsed. This “initial lack of recognition by the financial elite,” argues Janet Wasko, “drove the movie leaders even harder to build a legitimate industry, in order to be accepted in the financial world.”45 AsthefilmindustrybeganremakingitselfinearnesttoattractWallStreet investors, the presence of women in its ranks came under greater scrutiny. Women in the American film industry had thus far enjoyed more latitude and leverage than women in any other industry, including the stage. But women in powerful and visible positions were not the norm for most industries , particularly the financial industry.46 As the film industry began to look at itself through the eyes of the financial community, the theatrical legacy that encouraged the participation of women behind the camera seemed as archaic, and perhaps embarrassing, as the haphazard production methods of the nickelodeon era. As the theatrical origins of the film industry gave way to the cinemaspecific efficiencies of the central-producer system, the transition exposed a fundamental conflict surrounding the female filmmaker, a conflict that had existed since the nickelodeon era: the day-to-day job of a director or producer was to instruct and correct, indeed, to “boss” women and men face-toface .Inanyotherindustrythiswouldeasilydefinethepositionasmasculine. Evenafewwomenwhowereoffereddirectingopportunitiescitedthework as too masculine. Ida May Park initially refused to direct features in 1918 “because directing seemed so utterly unsuitable to a woman.”47 When D. W. 186 “A Business Pure &Simple” Griffith asked Lillian Gish in 1919 to write and direct her sister Dorothy’s next comedy, she was “dumbfounded.” The Ladies’ Home Journal agreed, noting that “the Lillian Gish temperament is hardly the kind one would expect to see in executive command.”48 Even in the allied world of theater, where women had worked as producers and managers for decades, women sometimes hesitated to assume what they believed to be men’s work. Musical comedy star Emma Carus professed reluctance when thrust into the job of stage producer in 1911. “I had many hard tussles with refractory working crews,” she informed Green Book readers, “who did not relish the idea of a woman ‘bossing’ them,” and she found it expedient to adopt “a regime of strict, though not severe, discipline ” for her own company after encountering disrespect from some chorus girls.49 Women in the film industry who pursued filmmaking careers adopted a similar approach. Louis Reeves Harrison asserted in his 1912 profile of Alice Guy Blaché that “she handles the interweaving of movements like a military leader might the maneuvers of an army [yet] she accomplishes gently what a man would attempt by stinging sarcasm.”50 Even during the uplift movement some commentators described women filmmakers as transgressing proper gender boundaries or as women who somehow adopted aspects of masculinity, suggesting that success was not possible without masculine traits. In praise of Weber one source noted that she “has the masculine force combined with feminine sympathies and intuition which seem the peculiarly combined gifts of women of genius.”51 L. H. Johnson of Photoplay, visiting Lois Weber on the set of Hypocrites, described Weber as a “demon-ess” who“workslikeaman,”turningoutfilmswith“super-masculinevirilityand ‘punch.’” Yet she was attractively dressed in “a silk shirt-waist and a smart skirt and chic tan boots” as she issued commands to her “chief subject and vassal, a perspiring camera man, crank[ing] as though Old Nick, instead of [a] pretty woman, were a yard behind him.”52 <= Although the film industry did take a new tack after 1916, this transition did not take place overnight but rather over several years, the very years when the numbers of women directors and producers grew most rapidly. Even as the film industry appeared to hold out enormous opportunities for women behind the camera, and even as women took those opportunities and made their own, they were increasingly handicapped by gender. This can be most clearly seen in their treatment by the trade press, which neatly divided women filmmakers into two camps: the New Woman (such as serial-heroine The Rise of the Studio System 187 filmmakers) or the artist (such as Lois Weber). Both of these generalizations marginalized and weakened the position of women in the film industry as it began to refashion itself into a serious and modern business. The first category, the New Woman filmmaker, appeared to liberate women from the constraints of traditional gender roles. But women directors who created New Woman–style characters onscreen, and those who asserted their right to direct films on the grounds of equality with men, were treated as novelties by studio publicity departments and the press. No studio was more adept at promoting and exploiting the novelty of the New Woman than Universal, the undisputed leader in the arena of advertising and exploitation. Throughout the 1910s Universal’s publicity department boasted of its modern women. When “Miss Robins” of the accounting department “experienced the novel sensation of riding in an up-to-date flying machine” while on vacation, it was duly reported in the Universal Weekly. So, too, was the fact that Ella Hall, a “dainty little actress,” was “an expert driver” and that serial star Marie Walcamp rode a motorcycle.53 Of special interest was the Universal female baseball team, formed in late 1915 by Ida Schnall,formercaptainandorganizeroftheNewYorkFemaleGiants.54 And at least two directors, Cleo Madison and Elsie Jane Wilson, were depicted in the masculine attire already associated with film directing: tall boots or puttees and riding breeches.55 Most outstanding, and most often cited by historians, was the apparently feminist politics of Universal City. In 1913, shortly after the incorporation of Universal City, the studio’s publicity department declared that it was “the only municipality in the world that possesses an entire outfit of women officials,” including a female mayor, Lois Weber, and a female police chief, actress Laura Oakley.56 Some historians cite this curious fact as evidence of Laemmle’s unusually liberal attitude toward women. But Universal City promoted itself as a land of make-believe. Like a modern-day theme park it was a place where “work is play and play is work” and where for a dollar tourists could take “a new ‘rubberneck’ autobus” to see the town where “‘movie’ actresses control politics.”57 While there is evidence that Universal’s female council took its duties seriously, Universal’s “suffragettes” were immediately co-opted by the publicity department.58 In February of 1914 comedy director Al Christie combined filmmaking and promotion for his newest release, When the Girls Joined the Force, by parading thirty female members of the Universal police force, each “dressed in regulation cap, blouse, skirts to the knees and silk stockings with a row of buttons down the side,” through the business district of Los Angeles. “Traffic became congested and business was 188 “A Business Pure &Simple” atastandstill,”reportedtheUniversalWeekly:“Itwasthesilkhose.”Christie, who secured permission for the parade and the shooting, deemed it “necessary to show a real police station, a real city hall, a real parade, and a real crowd of interested men.” As amused onlookers watched, Lois Weber, as mayor of Universal, appointed actress Stella Adams the city’s new chief of police.59 Was this feminism or just spectacle? It was true that the New York suffrage parades of 1911 and especially 1912, with its twenty thousand participants , provided part of the inspiration, but so did the 1912 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies, in which chorus girls dressed as “Lady Policemen,” “Lady Soldiers,” and “Lady Voters” marched onstage to the patriotic beat of John Philip Sousa and declared that their emblem was “the Chicken,” slang for a sexually attractive and possibly available chorus girl. As Susan A. Glenn notes, such spectacles as the Follies deflated the fears that suffragists were coarse Amazons, but at the same time, “they also worked to ridicule the goal of women’s political efficacy.”60 Universal’s double-edged publicity undercut the seriousness of its femaledirectors .Universaldirectorswereallowedtoappear“feminist”enough to spark interest but not enough to offend. This became apparent when the outspoken Cleo Madison created a rupture in Universal’s publicity machine in 1916. Madison told William H. Henry of Photoplay that she wrestled her directorship from Laemmle by refusing every director assigned to her. She claimed, “I have seen men with less brains than I have getting away with it, so I knew I could direct if they’d give me the opportunity.” In Henry’s estimation Madison was “so smart and businesslike that she makes most of the male population of Universal City look like debutantes.” Henry asserted that if he ever saw her again onscreen, he would only be able to think of the actress as a “cool, calculating business machine.”61 So, too, might the legions of fans who read Photoplay. Several months later, the studio apparently tried to repair the damage in an article written by a Universal publicist entitled “The Dual Personality of Cleo Madison,” in which Madison came across as a competent but unmistakably feminine director. “She is both a professional woman, and a domestic one,” claimed the writer, “and it is impossible for her to decide, at times, which is the real taste and which is the cultivated one.” The magazine detailed her life in “one of the most charming bungalows in Hollywood, where she lived in apparent domestic bliss with her mother and “invalid sister, to whom she is devoted and for whom she makes her home as beautiful and attractive as a home can be.”62 Madison was quoted in this article as stating that “every play in which women appear needs the feminine touch,” adding, The Rise of the Studio System 189 “Lois Weber’s productions are phenomenally successful, partly because her woman creations are true to the spirit of womanhood.”63 Other Universal directors received the same treatment. In 1918 Frances Denton of Photoplay was sent to Universal to find out “whether doing a ‘man’s work’ would necessarily make a woman unfeminine.” Watching Ida May Park and Elsie Jane Wilson at work, the former in a “dainty pink and white blouse” and the latter in silk gloves, her conclusion was “Unfeminine ? Hardly!”64 The petite Ruth Stonehouse was particularly degraded by Universal’spublicitydepartment.In 1917 Universal’s Moving Picture Weekly claimed in an article entitled “Such a Little Director” that actors were finding it difficult to treat Stonehouse with “the added respect due to her dignity .” Next to a photo of an actor peeking flirtatiously at Stonehouse from around a camera, the writer notes that the star of the film “seems to have forgotten that [Stonehouse] is not just a little girl, as he plays ‘Ring-aroundthe -camera’ with her.”65 How much Universal’s women directors colluded with the publicity department is impossible to know. However, a writer for the New York Star treated Gene Gauntier similarly in 1914, when she was still working out of her own studio on 54th Street in New York. On the set of A Maid of ’76, actress-producer Gauntier necessarily worked while in her Revolutionary-era costume. The writer noted that the rehearsal of a particular scene “was daintily interrupted now by a pretty colonial maid in oldfashioned Dresden silk, hooped, bepuffed, and lace trimmed, and whose coquettish white curls capered from beneath a pink silk bonnet.” When she looked through the camera, Gauntier cut “as piquant a figure as any one ever saw doing a businesslike act in this world.” Noting a wandering cat on the set, the writer described Gauntier as “scamper[ing] like a pussy down the aisle to the scene of controversy about whether so-and-so or such-andsuch would be quite the proper thing under the circumstances.” Juxtaposing Gauntier’s appearance with her masculine command, the writer described her “feminine mind” as having been “trained” to take quick and decisive action .66 Women filmmakers who were touted as artists, and those, like Weber, who argued that women brought special talents to the screen, were also constrained by gender. It is true that Weber created her own persona as the serious “domestic directress.”67 Weber argued that she liked to direct because “a woman, more or less intuitively, brings out many of the emotions that are rarely expressed on the screen.”68 But Universal’s publicity department also used implicitly gendered language to laud Weber, praising her, for example, forher“remarkableinsightintocharacter.”69 AndwhenWeberwasassigned 190 “A Business Pure &Simple” to direct the famous dancer Anna Pavlova in The Dumb Girl of Portici (1915), it was reported that since only a director of “supreme artistry” would do, Weber was the natural choice. This artistry was implied by stating that only “a woman would understand a woman.”70 As long as “feminine” traits were considered important, women filmmakers were tempted to use gendered arguments to bolster their positions in the film industry. The belief that women and men were essentially different was still dominant in American culture in the 1910s, so these arguments carried a particular resonance. But as the definition of filmmaking shifted away from the feminine realm of art and toward the masculine realm of industry, not just these women, but all women in the industry, lost ground. Lois Weber provided the archetype of the feminine director by assuming a maternal persona. When the somewhat cynical Frances Marion interviewed for a job in 1914, she was surprised by Weber’s approach: Weber offered to protect and guide Marion under her “broad wing.”71 When Weber finally got her own studio in 1918, she deliberately made it look as much like a home as possible, distancing her studio and herself from “that business air which pervades studios generally.” When arriving at Weber’s studio for an interview, one writer thought he had the wrong address. Only “a very modest little sign” indicated that the large house with fruit trees and flowers was in fact Lois Weber Productions. Even her production methods were unorthodox; Weber shot her scenes in sequence (to allow for better character development) long after other directors took all the shots requiring a particular background at once to save money. Although Weber said in 1917 that she was not an “idealist,” adding that all filmmakers were in business to make money, her methods sacrificed efficiency for art. “Efficiency?” Weber exclaimed in 1918. “Oh, how I hate that word!”72 As a highly successful director Weber was excused from the economies of film production. Other women were not. But Weber’s fame and her outspokenness on the issue of filmmaking and gender reinforced the view that all women filmmakers were intrinsically different from men in their approach . Many women filmmakers were already being relegated to genres that would later be called “women’s films.” When Frances Denton of Photoplay visited the Universal lot in 1918, she found Ida May Park working on “a melodrama,” and Elsie Jane Wilson directing some “sob stuff.”73 Universal directorsRuthStonehouse,LuleWarrenton,andElsieJaneWilsonallmade films centering on children.74 Lillian Gish’s first and only picture as a director , Remodeling Her Husband (1920), was described as “a woman’s picture. A woman wrote it, a woman stars in it, a woman was its director. And women The Rise of the Studio System 191 will enjoy it most.”75 While many women, like Weber, Gish, and Warrenton , appeared to genuinely prefer “feminine” genres, the overall effect was to increase the tendency to define all women as suitable filmmakers only when the subject was germane to women. <= The marginalization of the woman filmmaker as either a feminist novelty or a feminized artiste appeared to have had only a limited impact on the activities of women filmmakers in the 1910s. But the ideological consequences of this gendered view became clear in the context of the rapid-fire changes that occurred in the film industry during and after World War I. World War I changed the film industry in two major ways: first, the American film industry finally drew positive attention from government and big business , and second, the decimation of European filmmakers created room for the industry to extend its dominance to the far corners of the world. With these shifts the industry ended its quest for cultural legitimacy and became a bona fide big business. By 1923, when Grace Haskins completed her picture , Hollywood no longer particularly needed nor desired female directors or producers. High-ranking politicians, like high-ranking bankers, kept their distance from the moving picture industry until a few years before the United States entered the war. In 1915 the film industry gained a major boost with Woodrow Wilson’s alleged exclamation after a White House screening of Birth of a Nation: “It is like writing history with lightning.” By the time that the United States finally declared war in 1917, Wilson marshaled the forces of the film industry as he did other major industries. The major contribution to be made, of course, was in propaganda, both at home and abroad, to be accomplished through the Creel Committee on Public Information. Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew served the war effort alongside Wall Street tycoon Bernard Baruch, now head of the War Industries Board, and food administrator Herbert Hoover. Meanwhile, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks popularized liberty bonds through live appearances and even short films. The icing on the cake came in 1918, when the government declared filmmaking “an essential industry,” so vital to winning the war that it had to keep operating even in the face of shortages. Movies were vital not only to keeping up morale at home but to export American values and goods abroad. “Trade Follows Film” was the new Hollywood mantra.76 On top of this sea change in the industry’s reputation came staggering 192 “A Business Pure &Simple” new levels of cost and scale. A failure could no longer be so easily forgiven. Tomeetthepressuresoffilmmakingatthisnewlevel,studiomanagersbegan to impose the central-producer system even more stringently. The first to do so was Irving Thalberg, a young man hired to assist Carl Laemmle at Universal in 1918. Thalberg imposed strict compliance, “wherein shooting scripts, production schedules, and detailed budgets were seen as requisites.” Directors who demonstrated particular talent as writers were allowed to continue to both write and direct, but for most Universal directors, responsibility for scenarios and continuities rested in the scenario department, freeing them to concentrate on shooting the film.77 Although the use of the continuity script had earlier opened up opportunities for women in the early centralproducer system, the new “businesslike” approach to filmmaking taken by Thalberg imposed a stricter sexual division of labor and enhanced the power of the central producer. After Thalberg became manager at Universal, only one woman director was hired, and she was a special case.78 Florence Turner, financially destitute after her British company was destroyed by war, was hired to direct a series of short comedies in 1919. Given the minor genre, this was a gesture of kindness.79 Thalberg’s methods became standard as the studio system coalesced after World War I. As we already know, the rise of the studio system, with its hold on first-run theaters, made it nearly impossible for independent companies , many of them headed by women, to survive in the 1920s. The studio systemalsocurtailedtheleverageenjoyedbystars, a critical avenue to power for women, through oligarchical control of the industry and the seven-year contract. There was only one route left for women to continue to participate as filmmakers: as employees of the majors. But the rise in the scale and scope of the film industry just after World War I finalized the masculinization of filmmaking by implementing a strict division of labor, closing this avenue as well. As the studio system emerged, the shift from a theatrically informed model of production and progress to one informed by American industrial norms was completed. Although movies were still a creative product, under the studio system of the 1920s the movie industry became, above all else, a Big Business. Three events occurring between 1921 and 1923 ushered in the studio system: (1) a brief but devastating recession, (2) Wall Street investment and participation,and(3)thesubsequentriseofhugenewproducer-distributorexhibitor combinations—the new “majors”—that owned or controlled their own theaters. The recession of 1921 shook the complacency of studios that did well during the war years and during the immediate postwar boom. It The Rise of the Studio System 193 was during this brief halcyon period before the recession that independent companiesproliferatedandthebudgetsofthemostextravagantfeaturefilms reached an astonishing $150,000 to $350,000. When the recession hit, the country as a whole suffered from deflation, but the moving picture industry was already facing the consequences of bloated expenses and overproduction . Rental prices fell drastically while budget-conscious patrons stayed home. Larger studios could afford to suspend production, but most of the new independent companies were closed permanently.80 The financial health of the larger studios, though wobbling in 1921, rapidly improved as Wall Street investors cast a new eye on the movie business . Otto Kahn, of Kuhn, Loeb, and Company, already showed his favorable take on the movies with a cameo in Reliance’s upscale serial Our Mutual Girl (1913). A German immigrant and Wall Street financier with a taste for night life, Kahn commissioned a study of the entire industry before granting $10 million in preferred stock to Famous Players–Lasky in 1919 to allow that company to buy its own theaters. From Wall Street’s perspective real estate is a good investment—it becomes collateral for future loans.81 The imprimatur of Kuhn, Loeb, and Company attracted competing Wall Street investment firms such as Goldman, Sachs, who now also desired a toehold in the burgeoning film industry. But Wall Street cast a wary eye on the still-haphazard—and financially dangerous—methods of film production.82 Demanding stars, profligate directors and producers, and “unbusinesslike methods” fell away under the scrutiny of Wall Street advisers hired not only by Famous Players–Lasky, who won a berth on the Stock Exchange, but by companies that hoped to do so. “There is no room for such items in a report to stockholders,” said one banker.83 Although the industry itself had long attempted to rationalize production by hiring outside efficiency experts and imposing a modicum of centralized control, the unique culture of moviemaking always mitigated against complete success.84 Individual directors still retained a great deal of creative control, and quasi-independent director units survived despite the implementation of a central producer. But investment bankers were particularly inspired to see what they could do to rationalize production, and to this end they sent representatives to Hollywood to ensure efficient production and the safety of their investments. Along with its $10 million stock issue, Kuhn, Loeb, and Company imposed rigid scientific management economies on Famous Players. One cost-saving measure had Famous Players personnel dropping friendly salutations like “Regards” from telegrams, transforming requests into rude edicts.85 All employees were given numbers and color194 “A Business Pure &Simple” coded badges (the latter rendered comically ineffective by color-draining klieg lights).86 According to Lewis Jacobs, the Wall Street “producer-supervisor ” assumed “more and more power” in the 1920s, “making the director, stars, and other movie workers mere pawns in production, of which he assumed full charge.”87 It seems likely that these Wall Street producer-supervisors brought with them their own masculine work culture and traditional ideas regarding women and business. Uplift, for example, fell by the wayside . “This is certainly not a campaign to make the world safe for high-brow pictures,” said Kahn; “any such effects one way or the other will be entirely accidental.”88 In 1927, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, Moving Picture World condemned “the absolute domination of the financier” and the “peculiar, steel-mill efficiency in a business that thrives through art.”89 It was insider Irving Thalberg who became the architect of a regimented production mode that characterized moviemaking under the studio system when he joined MGM in 1923. One-half to three-quarters of MGM’s revenues were generated by its first-run theaters. The job of the production supervisor was to make sure that the studio kept the company’s first-run screens humming with enough product. To that end Thalberg centralized production on a new scale, implementing a mode of production characterized by “meticulous scheduling and script development, close collaboration with the various department heads to ensure efficiency and to maintain production values, and careful supervision of each picture.”90 In the mid-1920s Thalberg had five male supervisors under him, each assigned projects well before the director or other creative personnel. They closely developed the project, and once in production, “monitored shooting, keeping an eye on budget and schedule as well as the day-to-day activities on the set.” Directors were assigned just before production began but were able to contribute to the final script and to the first cut.91 Similar changes were occurring in other studios. Like other large industries, studios needed to fulfill contracts and maximize overhead through steady production. Under these conditions the formula picture reigned supreme. Minor directors were told to imitate the style of prominent directors, and prominent directors were “asked to repeat successes.”92 Underthenewstudiosystem,moviemakingwasincreasinglyregimented. Stories emerged from the scenario department. After the central producer approved the continuity script and set the budget, a director, cameraman, crew, and cast were assigned; and properties, sets, and costumes were made. When the set was ready, the director shot the film according to the continuity . A new worker, the “script-girl,” later called the continuity clerk, worked The Rise of the Studio System 195 by his side. Her job was to take copious notes to make sure that every player and every prop was in precisely the same spot in the event of any retakes, whichmightbeshotbyadifferentdirector.93 Once the film was “in the can,” it went through the laboratory and then to the editing department. By using the continuity script and the slate numbers as a guide, the cutter could assemble a rough cut. From there an editor would make the final cut.94 The studio then released the film in its predetermined slot on the company’s program . The boundaries between film crafts solidified under the studio system, and as they did, each craft became sex-typed. Some positions experienced little change. Art directors were male.95 Costume designers were mostly female .Andscreenwritingremainedopenedtowomenthroughoutthe1920s. But directing, producing, and editing became masculinized. The average director was now a “glorified foreman,” chiefly valued for his administrative ability rather than his artistic leanings. He was no longer the sole creator but the “representative of a creative team; he is the man in authority, the field commander who accepts responsibility.”96 According to Cecil B. DeMille the director in the 1920s was an administrator who “never sleeps”: “Because if he superintends a staff of brilliant and infallible scenario writers, temperamental stars and untemperamental actors, helpless extra people, nut cameramen , artistic artists, impractical technical directors, excitable designers, varied electricians and carpenters, strange title writers, the financial department and the check signers; if he endeavors ultimately to please the exhibitors , the critics, the censors, the exchangemen, and the public, it’s aperfect cinch he won’t have time to sleep.”97 Directors need to be “dominating,” a quality DeMille believed to be “rare in men and almost absent in women.”98 The masculine image of the film director that characterized associational life in the Screen Club and the MPDA emerged full-blown. Cecil B. DeMille and Erich von Stroheim, in particular, honed this image in the 1920s. Both were among the chosen few who were partly excused from the economies of the studio system on the basis of their past success, and both enjoyed a measure of creative control far out of reach for most directors. But despite their exceptionalism, DeMille and von Stroheim became the popular archetypes of the Hollywood director, placing an insurmountable ideological distance between the “domesticated directress” of the 1910s and the masculinized ideal of the 1920s. DeMille began work on his masculine persona as soon as he arrived in Hollywood in the mid-1910s, where he told his brother William “real men lived.” William recalled thinking it strange that his brother, as well as 196 “A Business Pure &Simple” other directors, wore outdoor gear even while filming inside on stages but chalked it up to the frontier mentality of early Hollywood.99 Indeed, the high-profile, gun-toting, puttee-wearing male directors of the 1920s defined the work of directing movies as highly physical, even as sets moved indoors and microphones replaced megaphones. By mid-decade the primary argument put forward by the major studios to explain the exclusion of female directors centered on the physical demands of the job. Cecil B. DeMille argued that although indoor sets eliminated long hours in the saddle, and although a director had plenty of assistants to “perform much of the trying labor,” most women would “crumple from the strain” of eighteen-hour days.100 In a 1927 article Carl Laemmle, the man who once employed more female directors than any other studio head, concluded, “It costs from fifty thousand dollars to a million or two to make a picture, and I can’t afford to bet that much money on uncertain physical strength . . . I would rather risk my money on a man.”101 The safari attire donned by the Hollywood director was, of course, more than just practical. DeMille consciously created a hypermasculinized image to instill respect and authority. “Commanding absolute loyalty from his staff,” according to Kevin Brownlow, “he directed as though chosen by God for this one task.”102 When Gloria Swanson worked with DeMille, she recalled that he entered the set “like Caesar, with a whole retinue of people in his wake.”103 Even DeMille’s office was a shrine to masculinity, crammed full of trophy heads, guns, swords, cannons, leathers, and furs.104 Writer Frances Marion described it as a “sanctum sanctorum” inspiring awe among DeMille’s underlings.105 Observers of DeMille noted his military bearing, but Erich von Stroheim took this common directorial metaphor literally.106 Von Stroheim, born into a petit-bourgeois family in Vienna, turned an exceedingly brief military career into a full-blown character sketch—the severe Austrian officer—which he played onscreen and off. Von Stroheim became “The Man You Love to Hate,” among fans and production managers. After directing the critical and financial success Blind Husbands (Universal, 1919), he was labeled a genius in Hollywood, and von Stroheim took the masculinized role of the film director to its most brutal extreme. According to Richard Koszarski, von Stroheim once physically beat an actress to achieve the emotional effect that he desired.107 Although most of his films were expensive and overblown boxoffice failures, von Stroheim carried such a presence that producers continued to employ him throughout the 1920s, even as at least one writer called him a “poser supreme.” Writing not too long after Thalberg fired him from The Rise of the Studio System 197 the set of Merry-Go-Round (Universal, 1923), the journalist described von Stroheim to be “as vain as a girl, and as egoistic as a third-class poet.” Von Stroheim, however, saw himself as a maligned artist of the Griffith school and embodied a masculinized idea of the director-as-artist. Bombastic and patriarchal, he bullied those who criticized him for delays, cost overruns, and films so absurdly lengthy they could not possibly be exhibited without severe editing. Ultimately, he submitted. As Koszarski observes, “after the firstblushofsuccess,hesoonlearnedthattherelationship”betweendirector and studio head was that of “employer and employee.”108 By the 1920s the most important qualities that the director brought to the set were leadership and discipline. Female directors fell outside these parameters, stereotyped as soft, emotional, and intuitive. The arguments put forward in the 1910s—that the movies needed a “woman’s touch”—now servedtoexcludewomenfrombecomingdirectorsinthemajorstudios.Even as independent filmmakers, women ran into interference on the grounds of gender. When Margery Wilson rented studio space from Robert Brunton in 1920 to make That Something, he warned her that the set would be “bedlam” becauseasawomanshecouldnotcontrolthecastandcrew.109 Asproduction values swelled after the war, requiring huge casts and dozens of specialized workers, the quiet, refined, and even domestic style of filmmaking associated with women seemed to have no purchase in the new Hollywood.110 Even Lois Weber joined the chorus. In a 1927 article about directing entitled “The Gate Women Don’t Crash,” the author introduced Weber as the woman who “retired from motion pictures with about $2,000,000 in cash and property, a nervous breakdown, and the record of being the only woman who had been able consistently to stand the gaff of directing.” When asked if she would recommend filmmaking as a potential career for girls, Weber issued a stern warning: “If you feel a heaven-sent call, take careful stock of your qualifications,” she advised. “If you haven’t got a superabundant vitality , a hard mind that can be merciless in shutting off disturbances, and the ability to keep going from sunrise to midnight, day after day, don’t try it. You’ll never get away with it.”111 Directors, largely shorn of the creative input they enjoyed before the studio system, based the masculine definition of directing primarily on the physicaldemandsofthejob.Butthetechnicalnatureoffilmdirectionserved the same purpose. Although female directors like Alice Guy Blaché and Lois Weber were among the first to employ cutting-edge cinematic techniques, DeMille argued that the technical and mechanical aspects of direction lie “outsideawoman’smind.”Toproveit,duringa1927interviewaboutfemale 198 “A Business Pure &Simple” directors he turned to his screenwriter and constant aide Jeanie Macpherson and asked if she understood how he had made the Red Sea part in The Ten Commandments (Famous Players–Lasky, 1923). Macpherson, who wrote, directed, and starred in her own weekly two-reelers in 1913, replied with a demure, “No, Mr. DeMille.”112 <= Although directors garnered the lion’s share of publicity, producers became the most powerful individuals on the lot under the studio system. Not surprisingly, production duties were masculinized as well. As budgets reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, writerproducer Jane Murfin claimed that studios assumed women were simply not smart enough or experienced enough to handle this level of fiscal responsibility : “Men don’t expect women to understand the intricacies of business, the cost of production and distribution, the percentage of overhead , locked up capital and liquid assets, and especially the complications of banking transactions. I admit I’ve sometimes wondered just how clearly the men themselves understood them, and one or two unwisely frank gentlemen have even admitted that they were congenitally hazy about ‘earned and unearned profits’ and the ‘circuit velocity of money,’ doubtless due to the parental influence of their mothers.”113 Cecil B. DeMille represented both production and direction when the film-friendly Gianninis of the Bank of Italy made him vice president of one of their branches: the Commercial National Trust and Savings Bank in Los Angeles. The Gianninis “packed the board” of each of their branches with industry insiders—producers, directors , actors, and actresses—but industry insiders were likely drawn from the new major studios, so they likely favored each other over independent filmmakers when extending credit. DeMille illustrated this when he made a $200,000 unsecured loan to Samuel Goldwyn as one of his first acts as a banking official.114 A few women did find work as producers in the 1920s. Paramount hired Elinor Glyn, author of the scandalous novel Three Weeks and the woman who coined the phrase “IT,” or sex appeal, as an all-round production adviser in the 1920s.115 Jane Murfin wrote and coproduced five films for First National (most of them featuring a dog, Strongheart, predecessor to Rin Tin Tin) between 1921 and 1924, and codirected one film for First National, Flapper Wives (1924), listed as “her own production.” Murfin did not direct again, but she became RKO’s first female production supervisor in 1934.116 Much more significant was June Mathis, one of the most influential The Rise of the Studio System 199 figures in 1920s Hollywood and the woman who might have set a precedent for female producers under the studio system. Mathis became chief of Metro’s scenario department in 1919 after working as a screenwriter for only one year. At the age of twenty-seven Mathis made script selections, adaptations, and continuities for the studio. In 1921 she adapted Ibanez’s war novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, insisting that the studio hire Rex Ingram to direct it and cast bit player Rudolph Valentino as the male lead. The Four Horsemen became known as one of the best films of the year. Already well known, Mathis became a celebrity.117 After her triumph with The Four Horsemen she was hired by Samuel Goldwyn as editorial director of Goldwyn Pictures. She set studio policy and handled continuities and scenarios. It was during her term that some of the most prominent directors in the movies worked for Goldwyn: King Vidor, Victor Seastrom, Marshall Neilan, and Erich von Stroheim.118 Mathis, who enjoyed what the Los Angeles Times called the “Most Responsible Job Ever Held by a Woman,” survived as a Hollywood producer despite her involvement in two of the greatest production fiascos of the 1920s.119 The first occurred after she hired von Stroheim to film Greed (1924). When he was finally done, von Stroheim handed Mathis a “finished ” forty-two-reel film. Mathis cut the film to thirteen reels herself, and further editing was done by her best title writer, but von Stroheim loudly complained that his masterpiece was ruined, and his fans blamed Mathis for tampering with genius.120 The headaches caused by Greed paled next to those stemming from Ben Hur (1926), however. Mathis fought for months with the Goldwyn studio over casting and crew for the filming of the $1 million script, which was shot, per her request, in Italy. Mathis won most of her battles, but when she arrived on the set in early 1924, director Charles Brabin refused to permit her to “interfere.” To make matters worse, labor disputes and permissions from the Italian government slowed progress on the film. When Goldwyn became part of MGM in 1924, the studio fired Mathis along with the director and star.121 Despite these difficulties, First National hired Mathis as editorial director, where she “demonstrate[d] her successful supervision of a major studio’s entire output.” But in 1927, at the age of thirty-five, Mathis died after a seizure.122 Although female producers survived in less important companies, no woman of her stature emerged within the studio system to take her place. As direction and production became rapidly masculinized after World War I, the increasingly important craft of film editing was still open to women, at least for a while. With the rise of the continuity script and the 200 “A Business Pure &Simple” central-producer system, the position of “film cutter,” like that of other workers, became a specialized element of the postproduction process. Using the continuity script and the slate numbers as a guide, the cutter could assemble a rough cut, and even a final cut, often without the director’s personal instruction. By 1922, editing had reached the status of a creative craft, one that was just below that of director in terms of its creative impact on the final product.123 It was true that inexperienced “boys” were often hired to piece together films according to continuities, but in the 1910s and early 1920s many studios recruited women from the joining room to become “cutter girls.” Margaret Booth recalled her move from joiner to cutter in the mid1910s in a matter-of-fact manner: “Irene Morra was the negative cutter and she took me to help her and showed me how to cut.” Viola Lawrence, a former film polisher, learned how to cut film at Vitagraph in 1915. By 1918 the “master cutter” gained recognition as an important creative force behind the finished film. Rose Smith cut Griffith’s Intolerance with her husband James Smith, and at least a dozen other women were counted among the first editors in Hollywood, among them Anne Bauchens, Blanche Sewell, Anne McKnight, Barbara McLean, Alma MacCrory, Nan Heron, and Anna Spiegel .124 Editor Adrienne Fazan recalled that in the early 1920s “every studio had a few women editors . . . [A] woman could get started then.”125 Women who learned to edit in the 1910s and early 1920s enjoyed long careers. Viola Lawrence became head editor at Columbia in 1925, Margaret BoothbecameMGM’ssupervisingfilmeditorin1936,andCecilB.DeMille employed editor Anne Bauchens for more than forty years.126 According to Douglas Gomery, “all filmmakers from the late 1930’s through the late 1960’s who worked for MGM had, in the end, to go through Margaret Booth to have the final editing of sound and image approved.”127 But editing was masculinized as well. Viola Lawrence recalled having “all boy assistants ” (but for one) in the 1920s and 1930s, as did Adrienne Fazan.128 Even female editors who began their careers in the 1910s and early 1920s ran into hostility from male editors. Viola Lawrence’s husband, Frank, who taught her to cut film in 1915, was “mean” to the female assistant editors he supervised at Paramount in the 1920s. “He just hated them,” she claimed. “If any of the girls were cutting—if they did get the chance to cut—he’d put them right back as assistants,” but he “broke in a lot of boys.” In the early 1930s, editor Adrienne Fazan recalled, “MGM didn’t want me to become a feature cutter.” Production head Eddie Mannix told her that film editing was “just too tough work for women,” who “should go home and cook for their husbands and have babies.” (It was Dorothy Arzner, the only woman The Rise of the Studio System 201 to survive the purge of female directors in the 1920s, who took Fazan out of the short film department by asking specifically for a female editor.)129 As editing became recognized as a critical step in the production of what were now often million-dollar films, it, like direction and production, became a masculinized craft. <= In the 1920s a new generation of female studio workers faced an oc­cu­ pationally sex-typed industry. After 1916 the dominant paradigm for the American film industry shifted from the stage, with its egalitarian work culture, to a model based on American business. As this shift took place, opportunities for women behind the camera, from office jobs to the director ’s chair, grew increasingly gendered. The American film industry was not unique in this regard. There are now enough histories of gender and business to perceive a pattern. As industries grew from being small and decentralized at the beginning of the twentieth century to becoming larger and more “professional,” women who had once been welcomed were now defined as unfit. Susan Coultrap-McQuinn found that female writers who flourished in the mid-nineteenth century (and indeed wrote the best-sellers of the era) did so under the paternalistic guidance of “gentlemen publishers ” who spurned commercialism. By the early twentieth century, however , a “new idea of the Businessman Publisher” had emerged. The new publishers “were workaholics who emphasized activity, energy, and time orientation. They organized their offices for efficiency and profits.” Coultrap -McQuinn asserts that “the increased emphasis on vigor and marketing made authorship seem more than ever to be a male activity.”130 Wendy Gamber found similar changes in the once “female economy” of milliners. Milliners were dependent on credit from wholesalers to secure the fabric, lace, and other materials needed to make their product. In the mid-nineteenth century women in small business actually received credit more easily than their male counterparts because of the belief in the moral superiority of women. By the late nineteenth century, however, as wholesalers began to adopt more “rational” methods, they began to view their female clients as “unbusinesslike.” Since ready-made hats infiltrated the market at about the same time, the number of female milliners plummeted; whereas there had been almost 128,000 in 1910, there were fewer than 45,000 in 1930.131 A female economy also ruled in the beauty business before the turn of the century . Several early twentieth-century entrepreneurs made fortunes when the beauty industry was small and decentralized but suffered when national 202 “A Business Pure &Simple” markets necessitated the replacement of woman-to-woman customer culture with dealer relations. Interestingly, Kathy Peiss found that women in the beauty business “often struggled with husbands or relatives for control of their companies,” a finding that bears a striking resemblance to what happened to male-female filmmaking partnerships. In particular, women in the beauty industry, like women in the film industry, were hampered by access to distribution outlets. Instead of theater screens, women were fighting for space on department store shelves, where they were elbowed out by “prestigious male perfumers, considered skilled craftsmen,” and the established brands supplied by large wholesale suppliers. Max Factor used the nascent film industry to launch a line of nationally advertised cosmetics in 1928.132 A few women were able to survive and even begin businesses in the 1920s, but most withdrew. Even the powerful Helena Rubenstein sold her company to Lehman Brothers in 1928. By 1935, observed Catherine Oglesby, “the great majority” of the beauty firms once owned by women “have passed over into the hands of large companies controlled by men who are directors in large holding companies.”133 That same year a Fortune magazine writer concluded that “women’s place is not the executive’s chair”: women who succeed in feminized markets are “not professional women . . . Elizabeth Arden is not a potential Henry Ford . . . It is a career in itself, but it is not a career in industry.”134 As Gamber notes, “large-scale enterprise meant male enterprise.”135 <= By the mid-1920s, the power of stardom diminished, the independent movement ended, and the gendered studio emerged. Directors and producers were almost exclusively male, and film editing was rapidly becoming masculinized.Ofthecreativecraftsbehindthecamera,onlyscreenwriting,a job that often paid poorly and was chronically disrespected, remained open to women. By 1928, when the “talkies” triumphed, the reorganization of studio work that followed merely codified the sexual division of labor that had emerged after World War I. The era when actresses and writers easily slipped into the director’s chair, when a woman was one of America’s most critically acclaimed and successful directors, and when “America’s Sweetheart ” was one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood was over. Yet the very presence of this generation of women filmmakers demonstrates that the male domination of Hollywood moviemaking was not a foregone conclusion but rather the outcome of a historical struggle that might have had a different ending. The Rise of the Studio System 203 ...


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