Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood

Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood

Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood

Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood

Synopsis

In the early part of the twentieth century, migrants made their way from rural homes to cities in record numbers and many traveled west. Los Angeles became a destination. Women flocked to the growing town to join the film industry as workers and spectators, creating a "New Woman." Their efforts transformed filmmaking from a marginal business to a cosmopolitan, glamorous, and bohemian one. By 1920, Los Angeles had become the only western city where women outnumbered men. In Go West, Young Women, Hilary A. Hallett explores these relatively unknown new western women and their role in the development of Los Angeles and the nascent film industry. From Mary Pickford's rise to become perhaps the most powerful woman of her age, to the racist moral panics of the post-World War I years that culminated in Hollywood's first sex scandal, Hallett describes how the path through early Hollywood presaged the struggles over modern gender roles that animated the century to come.

Excerpt

By 1920, city and country were all mixed up. Between the “War to Liberate Cuba” and the “War to Make the World Safe for Democracy,” migrants made their way from rural homes in record numbers. The process was a familiar one, dating back to before the Civil War. What was different about these migrations was the velocity of the movement, the volume of those on the move, and the destinations to which their ambitions drove them. Generally westward migrants continued as before, but few now went in search of a homestead on some sketchily mapped piece of the country. Hopes for a different life lay, for most, along city sidewalks, great and small. Thus the 1920 census made official what many already knew: for the first time, the majority of the U.S. population lived in cities. Imagining the migrants who headed for cities in the new century conjures images of wayfarers in unfamiliar dress disembarking from steamships at Ellis Island, or from trains with the musical rhythms of the race-riven South. Such snapshots abound, documenting the generation between what we now call the Spanish-Cuban-American War and World War I. In this period the movement of the “new immigrants” from Southern and Eastern Europe peaked and the first Great Migration of black Americans streamed north. Both groups mostly settled in midwestern and northern cities, against whose brick, concrete, and steel they hurled their ambitions. The same 1920 census revealed the altered landscape wrought by their resolve: in no major city east of . . .

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