Early Women Directors

Early Women Directors

Early Women Directors

Early Women Directors

Excerpt

The present striving by women to achieve their rightful place in all levels of society--a striving commonly referred to as Women's Lib.--has sparked a number of books and a deluge of articles on women in film, women's place in films and the film industry, and the image of women that the cinema has created. The careers of several women directors have been the subject of much analysis and discussion, most of it regrettably far too biased to be worthwhile.

This outpouring of words on women in films has ignored one period of film history--the early years. Few women writers seemed willing to undertake the research necessary to uncover the facts concerning women directors before the coming of sound. It was far easier to protest about discrimination against women than to accept that there were more women directors at work in the American film industry prior to 1920 than during any period of its history. It would almost seem that women's rightful place was in the home, cooking, and bringing up children, rather than researching film history in the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library.

During the silent era, women might be said to have virtually controlled the film industry. The stars were all women--the number of male actors who achieved any real prominence may be counted on the fingers of one hand--and many such stars had their own independent producing companies. Not only major stars, such as Mary Pickford, Corinne Griffith, or Mabel Normand, but also relatively minor actresses like Leah Baird, Helen Gardner, Alla Nazimova and Olga Petrova boasted their own producing organizations. Certainly such companies might be managed by men, but if, say, Gloria Swanson chose Joseph P. Kennedy to manage her company, that in no way detracts from Ms. Swanson's integrity or power.

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