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marthawells

Martha Wells

The Invisible Woman


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marthawells

Erasing Women

The reason I worry about women writers being forgotten (erased) from history, is because one of the times that it happened wasn't all that long ago.

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp tells the story of the women writers, directors, editors, and producers of early pre-Code Hollywood. Women who built studios, made stars, won Oscars, and who have been almost completely erased from history and the public consciousness.

....during the teens, 1920s, and early 1930s, almost one quarter of the screenwriters in Hollywood were women. Half of all the films copyrighted between 1911 and 1925 were written by women.

Growing up in the 70s, I remember hearing that Ida Lupino was the first woman director. She wasn't even close to being the first, but all the others had been forgotten, no one talked about them.

For example, Frances Marion. Beginning in 1917, she was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter (not highest paid woman screenwriter, but highest paid period) for thirty years. She wrote 325 scripts, over 200 were produced, and she was the first woman to win a screenwriting Oscar. She was a director and a producer, the only woman on the first board of directors of the Screen Writers' Guild, and its vice-president. (As a war correspondent, she was the first Allied woman to cross the Rhine in World War I. She walked along a road through a deserted battleground, alone, and in the dark.)

As the 1930s ended and the 1940s began, Marion's scripts for MGM were uncredited, and she and the few other women writers still working there had to carry scripts in unmarked envelopes so no one would know they were writers. They were required to let people assume they were secretaries.

This is one of the reasons I wanted to do The list of non-European Fantasy by Women Writers. (It's now up to about 106 writers.)

If we don't list them, talk about them, remember them, prove to people they existed, they (we) disappear.

***

I also highly recommend Pre-Code movies, which you can catch occasionally on TCM. These were movies made before 1934 when the rule was there were no rules. There's sex, adultery, drugs, extreme violence, more adultery, bad people profiting from doing bad things, and some more adultery. Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck is one of the signature movies from that period. A lot of them feature women as main characters.

The one I want to catch is Gentlemen's Agreement, which is about a woman and two men who agree to have a threesome relationship. TCM has teasingly showed a scene from it in documentaries, but I'm not sure they've ever actually aired it. ETA: I had the name completely wrong, but corucia found it anyway: Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion - 'Design For Living' (1933) - that concerns a two man, one woman living arrangement. It was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, with Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Here's a review of it: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s3757livi.html
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Hi Martha,

I checked on IMDB, and there's no film that matches the 'Gentlemen's Agreement' title. There's a couple of silent films from the Teens, but they're 'A Gentleman's Agreement', with no descriptions. There's also the 1947 'Gentleman's Agreement', but I'm sure that's not the one that you want.

There is a movie that was just released on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion - 'Design For Living' (1933) - that concerns a two man, one woman living arrangement. It was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, with Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Here's a review of it: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s3757livi.html

Regards, DavidK


Thank you! I think that must be it. I must have completely gotten the name wrong.


Easy enough to do. And even if it isn't the movie you were thinking of, it's a Lubitsch, so it's probably well worth watching. It's on my list to see...

We were taught about Dorothy Arzner, and I remember hearing about Frances Marion as a screenwriter, but I didn't know until just now that she was a director as well. Will look forward to seeing her things.

You're right, Martha--I didn't know ANY of that. (Not a movie buff, but sure didn't realize how prominent women were in screenwriting, directing, producing, etc. in that era.)

I know that women composers were ignored/forgotten--mostly because KMFA has had that program "Into the Light" bringing works by women onto the air.