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THE WOMEN WHO BUILT HOLLYWOOD: A Feminist History of Early Cinema

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT HOLLYWOOD: A Feminist History of Early Cinema

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Today, Hollywood looks like it's run by men, but it was built by women. We welcome back Pamela Hutchison for some feminist film history!

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Today it looks like Hollywood is run by men, but it was built by women. In fact, there were more women working in Hollywood in its first two decades than there are now, or have been at any time since. If Hollywood is ever to achieve gender parity in its studios and boardrooms, it should look back to its beginnings.

“Of all the different industries that have offered opportunities to women, none have given them the chance that motion pictures have.” Screenwriter Clara Beranger, 1919

““One may not name a single vocation in either the artistic or business side of its progress in which women are not conspicuously engaged. In the theatres, in the studios and even in the exchanges where film productions are marketed and released to exhibitors, the fair sex is represented as in no other calling.” ‘Women’s Conquest in Filmdom’, The Motion Picture Supplement, 1915

In this lecture we will discover how much the cinema of today owes to the brilliant but often overlooked women of the silent era: the stars, directors, screenwriters and producers. Women like Mary Pickford, who said: “I am the star, I am the producer, and I am the owner of this picture.” Or Lillian Gish, who recruited an all-woman crew for her directorial debut. Hollywood became the world leader in cinema thanks to the wit of screenwriter Anita Loos the visual flair of director Lois Weber, the charisma of stars such as Gloria Swanson and Gish and Pickford.

Travel back in time to a period when the Universal studio produced 170 films directed by women in a seven-year period – a feat never to be repeated, or even approached by any Hollywood studio since. When the best films were made by women, for a majority female audience.

About Our Lecturer

Pamela Hutchinson is a freelance critic, writer, curator and film historian based on the south coast of England. She writes for Sight and Sound, Criterion, Indicator, the Guardian and Empire and regularly appears on BBC radio. She has written essays for several edited collections and is the author of the BFI Film Classic on Pandora's Box, editor of 30-Second Cinema (Ivy Press) and co-author of Discovering Lost Films of Georges Méliès in Fin-De-Siècle Flip Books (John Libbey). Her passion is silent cinema, which she indulges at SilentLondon.co.uk

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