Monday, December 17, 2018

5 Influential Women in the Early Film Industry.

Photo Camera, Photography, Old, Retro  When one talks about the early film industry we hear about Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and several male producers but who were the pioneering women behind the lenses.

I stumbled across a book title that hinted there were women producers, women filmmakers and women writers back in the early days but I'd never heard of them, even in the film appreciation class I took in college.

I stumbled across a fact.  Only 11% of today's films are written by women while over half of the movies prior to 1925 were written by women.  Here are some of the women who contributed to that.

1.  Alice Guy who lived from 1873 to 1968 and made a name for herself as the first female film director in addition to being an actress, writer, and producer.  After learning the ropes in France, she moved to the United States to found her own studio at a time when men dominated the field.

 She directed hundreds of film between 1896 and 1916 and managed to influence the industry at the same time.  She is also known for insisting on using a specific style of acting that was well suited to the cinema in addition to integrating special effects, and using close-ups to convey emotional moments. 

2. Lois Weber born in 1879 and died in 1939.  She was also an director in addition to being a writer, actress, and producer.  She is known for using an allegorical style in her films as she created social commentary on subjects such as class tensions, the plight of women in poverty, and religious hypocrisy. 

She got her start when she and her husband aka the "Smalleys" moved from theater to motion pictures in 1907. They often acted opposite of each other in films written by her. Soon, they were cranking out films for Universal Film Manufacturing company that did well.  In fact, they made soon began making four reel films such as The Merchant of Venice before turning to making films on social injustices.  In 1916, she became the only women elected to the Motion Pictures Directors Association.  She ended up divorcing her husband in 1922 which coincided with her decreased output.

3. June Mathis lived from 1887 to 1927 and was known in Hollywood as a writer.  She began in Vaudeville before deciding to work for Metro as a screenwriter.  Her scripts were in such demand by the actors that Metro made her head of the scenario department.

She managed to write poignant, deeply intensive films with sex and humor that appealed to the masses.  Over her career she wrote or co-wrote over 114 produced screenplays which did well.  Some movies were vehicles for stars while others were adaptions for plays and books.  She is most known for casting Rudolf Valentino in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" in 1921.  She died in 1927.

4. Frances Marion was another director, actress, writer and producer who was lived from 1888 to 1973.  She trained under Lois Weber and was noted for either writing the film or creating the scenario for over 300 films spanning from 1915 to 1946 working as mostly under studio contract for MGM.  Her work received two Academy Awards during her career. 

When she wrote screenplays, she managed to focus on an actors strength which helped define the careers of actors such as Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford and her husband Fred Thompson.  She could write across genres from hard gritty dramas to comedies to literary adaptions.  She directed two films in the early 1920's based on her experiences in World War I.

5. Anita Loos,  born in 1888 and died in 1991, began her writing career working with D.W. Griffith.  She is known for creating more interesting titles in his movie " Intolerance".  During her 30 year career (1911 to 1942), she is credited with writing over 150 scripts.  She also wrote the novel "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" which has been made into movie form at least two times since it was published in 1925.

She made a name for herself by writing scripts with strong female characters who worked on overcoming their shady pasts.  She often worked with director John Emerson whom she later married and moved from studio to studio with.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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