August 20th, 2010

Zoe

Women in Early Hollywood

A while back on Facebook we were talking about the TCM documentary Complicated Women, about pre-code movies of the early 30s. I knew the 30s movies were a huge contrast (especially in depictions of women's careers and sex) to 40s and 50s movies, but this documentary had some really good examples. (I'd seen some of the ones featured, like Babyface with Barbara Stanwyck and "Queen Christina" and a lot of the Kay Francis movies, but many of these I'd never heard of before, like an early 30s "Gentlemen's Agreement" about a woman and two men in a menage a trois.)

It reminded me of this book which I wanted to recommend again:

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp

From a couple of earlier posts on it:

It uses the life and career of Frances Marion as a framework to tell the story of the women writers, directors, and studio heads of the 10s, 20s, and 30s. It's really fascinating, showing how women started out in influential positions but were eventually edged out of the Hollywood power structure in the 40s. Frances Marion wrote more than 300 scripts and produced over 130 films, and won two Academy Awards for writing. Yet just before she retired in 1946, the only writing job she could get was with a studio who required her and the only other female writer to sign a contract stating that they would not tell anyone that they were working as script writers; if asked, they had to say that their job title was "secretary."

From the prologue:

(Frances Marion) was credited with writing 325 scripts covering every conceivable genre. She also directed and produced half a dozen films, was the first Allied woman to cross the Rhine in World War I, and served as the vice president and only woman on the first board of directors of the Screen Writers Guild. She painted, sculpted, spoke several languages fluently, and played "concert caliber" piano. Yet she claimed writing was "the refuge of the shy" and she shunned publicity; she was uncomfortable as a heroine, but refused to be a victim.

She would have four husbands and dozens of lovers and would tell her best friends that she spent her life "searching for a man she could look up to without lying down." She claimed the two sons she raised on her own were "my proudest accomplishment" -- they came first and then "it's a photofinish between your work and your friends."

Her friendships were as legendary as her stories and some of the best were with her fellow writers for during the teens, 1920s, and early 1930s, almost one third of the screenwriters in Hollywood were women. Half of all the films copyrighted between 1911 and 1925 were written by women.



***
Links:

How to Find a (Real!) Literary Agent by A.C. Crispin -- Agents–When Do You Need One?, Getting Started–Compiling a List, Researching Agent Listings, and Following Submission Guidelines, How to Recognize Real Agents, Writing the Synopsis, Writing the Query Letter, Sending Out Your Query Letters, Playing the Waiting Game, Make Sure Your Manuscript Lives Up to Your Query, The Psychology of Querying.

SF Signal: Donating Books for a Library in Kabul