Here I am again, talking about one of my very favourite subjects: women in silent cinema.
In fact, let’s get right into it – on Monday 30 May I am delivering an online lecture on the very subject. It is called “The Women Who Built Hollywood: A Feminist History of Early Cinema” and I would love you to join me. Here’s the official blurb from the website.
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.
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.
“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
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.
The event is being held in collaboration with the London Drawing Group, as part of its Feminist Lecture Programme, which is full of fascinating subjects. You may remember that I worked with this group before, to give a lecture on Asta Nielsen.
Tickets for the lecture are on a pay-what-you-can basis and the lecture will be accessible all around the world. If you book a place but can’t be online at the right time, you can catchup via a recording later in the week. The lecture will be online 6:30-8:30pm on Monday 30 May BST.