Latin American industry examples contrast here with the US industry, where, the evidence shows, the ranks of women working as scenario writer, director, or producer thinned out by Mahar , ch. It is commonly asserted that by the only woman still working as a Hollywood studio system director was the now-celebrated lesbian Dorothy Arzner. Less exclusive focus on directors, however, opens up this territory. Certainly Wanda Tuchock was another woman to stay employed in Hollywood, as Anthony Slide pointed out early Slide , Her first silent era credit is as continuity writer on the Marion Davies star vehicle Show People , the treatment for which was written by Agnes Christine Johnston while Johnston was on the staff at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio.
One of her next assignments at MGM was as scenario writer for the all-black cast classic Hallelujah , directed by King Vidor, who also wrote the story. Like hundreds of other titles in the silent to sound transition years, Hallelujah was released in both sound and silent versions. Motion picture titles that straddle two technological moments, such as John S. It is now well established that the phasing out of women paralleled the development of the motion picture business into the corporate studio system, in place by the mids.
Wallace Reid Productions, operating from to , and Leah Baird Productions, started with cool producer Arthur Beck, and lasting from to Another economy is operative outside Hollywood, and thus we find women financing companies with family fortunes, organizational fund-raising, professional earnings, and divorce settlements. Some, like Madeline Brandeis , worked on the edge of Hollywood, where she started Madeline Brandeis Productions to produce educational shorts, operating between and A Midwesterner whose first film was produced in Chicago, Brandeis funded her first production with her settlement from the Omaha, Nebraska, Brandeis Dry Goods Store heir to whom she was married.
The work of Frances Flaherty with her husband, Robert, considered the first American documentary maker, spans — These initiatives have in common their nontheatrical distribution and their educational or political goals. Producer Juliet Barrett Rublee envisioned theatrical distribution for her tribute to the Mexican people, shot by a professional Hollywood crew.
Little research has been done on the earliest companies founded by women outside Hollywood, but Mahar mentions the Blaney-Spooner Feature Film Company in , the Liberty Feature Film Company in , and the company organized in by author and playwright Eleanor Gates, who was interested in adapting her own literary work for the screen , In the first decade, when film production sprouted around New York before the exodus to the West Coast, however, there was no major production center.
In recent years, three of her feature films, Cleopatra , Sister to Carmen and A Daughter of Pan have been restored and screened. Williams in an era of race-segregated theaters. Regional history itself provided the impetus for another extant title, The Lost Colony , commissioned by the state of North Carolina and directed by Elizabeth B.
Nell Shipman Productions — specialized in melodrama set in the North woods, taking dramatic advantage of the wildlife and rugged Priest Lake, Idaho, landscape. A representative sample of her shorts and features are extant, including the short White Water , featuring an exquisitely photographed, tightly cross-cut river rescue scene that rivals D. Lost, however, is the Ruth Bryan Owen production Once Upon a Time shot in Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne, Florida, which stood in for mythical Arabia in a production the director-producer cast with local amateur theatre actors.
One of the titles the company produced, Just Squaw , is held by the Library of Congress along with earlier Western genre films in which she starred produced by other companies. Wong started the Mandarin Film Company and worked as actress, director, scenario writer, and producer of The Curse of the Quon Gwon , recently discovered and restored.
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It has long been established that the immigrant Jews who founded the US motion pictures studios, all of them male, began in dry goods and entertainment because these were the avenues open to them. The case of immigrant Jewish women is the reverse of that of the men who became moguls.
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For women, the two vehicles to entry were acting and writing, and these worked in different ways. Actresses of Asian or Hispanic descent or those who had migrated from Eastern Europe made difference, exotic-tinged, work for as opposed to against them. In changing her name from Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon to Alla Nazimova , a young girl from a Russian Jewish immigrant family borrowed an exotic-ethnic effect, but later, as a mysterious lesbian and political radical, her persona acquired new associations.
In the silent era, European exoticism was also faked. Welsh immigrant Muriel Harding styled herself as Polish countess Olga Petrova and as a move for artistic control, started Petrova Pictures Corporation in , outside the studio system McMahan , Valda Valkyrien , the Danish actress born in Reykjavik, Iceland, adopted the aristocratic persona of Mademoiselle Valkyrien to help her career when she immigrated to the US. She found work at the Thanhouser Company and later announced the Valda Valkyrien Production Company, although the evidence that the company produced any films has yet to be found.
And when I was poor, I hated the rich. Frederica Sagor Maas , a second generation Jewish American born in the US in , and blacklisted along with her husband in the s, died January 5, at the age of She would sign a contract for several films with the Essanay Company, then in Chicago. The single film phenomenon is a pattern and marks another way insiders were outsiders.
Work on the early motion picture set was relatively flexible, and in acting and directing were jobs like any other, on a par with lab work Jacobs , At the Famous Players-Lasky Company in California, writer Beulah Marie Dix , newly arrived from the East Coast in , stood in as an extra, learned about the camera, and took care of the lights Brownlow , Many, like Bradley King , moved up from the lowest rung jobs as stenographers.
Boundaries between family and business were often blurred, best exemplified by the position of Gertrude Thanhouser , listed on articles of company incorporation as primary company stockholder,who acted, wrote, and served as a Thanhouser Film Company executive. The paternalism of Cecil B. All had long tenures beginning in the s when what became Paramount Pictures was the Jesse L. Paula Blackton as director and actress was recruited along with her children in Vitagraph Company cofounder Stuart J.
Later in London, at Blackton Productions, Stuart Blackton gave daughter Marian Blackton a valued place in production decisions as well as her start as a writer. Paula Blackton with J. Stuart Blackton and their children Charles and Violet at the grand piano. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Griffith, founders of United Artists, The motion picture set was also a newly gender-mixed workplace that fostered liaisons, and the married or romantically linked creative team was a norm.
Going it alone was the exception. Historical evidence, however, challenges gender assumptions. We find men who were financially irresponsible as in the case of the Victor Company started by Harry Solterer with Florence Lawrence and women who demonstrated remarkable business acumen. She understood all the articles of incorporation, the legal discrepancy on Page 7, Paragraph A, Article 27, and coolly referred to the overlap and contradiction in Paragraph D, Article The couple mode within the familial system was most likely a continuum, from the rocky liaisons undermined by infidelities to the collaborators-for-life, exemplified by teams whose contracts stipulated joint work, like writer-editor team Katharine Hilliker -H.
Caldwell, who practiced job-sharing. Sidney Drew Lucille McVey gave their marital status names to production companies although of a very different kind since the Chesters were writers who attempted to produce only once The Son of Wallingford , Further Mahar raises the delicate issue of who did the work, suggesting that it was Mrs. Drew who produced and directed the series within the Vitagraph Company , The fan magazine publicity that espoused an equal partnership ideal, however, creates a smoke screen around the circumstances.
As Shelley Stamp explains in her critical analysis of the domestic discourse around directing-producing team Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley, these relationships contained many ingredients. In many cases the separation of female from male partner in a creative team may be an artificial after-the-fact operation. The following list of working partnerships indicates that most were husband-wife relationships. Clarke actor-director. Eloyce Gist editor — James Gist director-writer-producer.
Becker producer. Caldwell editors, producers. Taylor director. Griffith, and Charles Chaplin. Alice B. Russell actress-producer — Oscar Micheaux director-producer. Schneck producer.
Essential characteristics of motion pictures
Williams writer-producer — Jesse L. Williams producer. Elsie Jane Wilson actress-director-writer — Rupert Julian director. Gaskill writer-director. Fan magazine writers liked to point out exceptions to the rule that creative teams were husband-wife teams. A rare photograph of mother Sarah Y.
Mason , who worked with Victor Heerman as a husband-wife writing team, plays on her double role dexterity. Also unusual is this image of parents and children not featured as a performing family. Sometimes atypical units were featured in fan magazine articles as when the home life of Cleo Madison was filled in with a mother and the invalid sister she supported. A woman was single because she was divorced as Madison or in between husbands or lovers. She was single even if, especially if, she was in an established lesbian relationship like Dorothy Arzner and her partner Marion Morgan or writer Zoe Akins and actress Jobyna Howland.
What we want to know most of all is what went on inside the homes of Hollywood celebrities and their friends. We can infer from the great number of exterior photographs of motion picture celebrity homes that fan magazines tantalized readers with these images.
Photoplay made the connection between these exteriors and the domestic comfort of their interiors in a article. To score a photograph of Alla Nazimova standing outside her mansion in jodhpurs would have been a coup. Then again, the number of willing subjects reminds us of how many not only understood the motion picture advertising value of signs of wealth but also its diversionary function. Mabel Normand outside her home sitting in her chauffeur-driven limousine belies a life of scandal and chronic illness.
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The diversion of the home also promoted diversion itself as an ideal. Here, the aura of work-as-play enveloped writers as well as players.
Highly paid Famous Players-Lasky scenario writer Beulah Marie Dix walking her dachshund in front of her luxurious Southern California stucco residence reassures readers that her work is not exactly work. One angle on the story about Dix and a rationale for taking interior publicity photographs , might have been that she worked from home. Male-female working partnerships raise the difficult question as to whether the female contribution was submerged or whether joint authorship had its own assumed standard.
Collaboration was the norm in the first decade at the start of which all creative workers were uncredited. One early film historian would thus describe the development of the motion picture industry as moving from anonymous production to screen credit Jacobs , Credits were not advertised in trade papers until in when the Edison Company published relatively complete cast lists actors, directors, authors and around the same time a few companies placed cast credits in titles, as Bowser determined from examining surviving motion picture film prints Bowser , The focus here on women directors is both a misnomer and a key.
Ida May Park espoused both positions at different times in her career Denton 49; Park — Many have noted the apparent inconsistency between public statements and the responsibilities these women undertook, most notably directing, producing, and executive managing, and Lant reminds us to consider the historical moment in which these statements are made Here we also emphasize the conditions under which women worked.