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Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood

, 332 pages

27 halftones

October 2006



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Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood

Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood explores when, how, and why women were accepted as filmmakers in the 1910s and why, by the 1920s, those opportunities had disappeared. In looking at the early film industry as an industry—a place of work—Mahar not only unravels the mystery of the disappearing female filmmaker but untangles the complicated relationship among gender, work culture, and business within modern industrial organizations.

In the early 1910s, the film industry followed a theatrical model, fostering an egalitarian work culture in which everyone—male and female—helped behind the scenes in a variety of jobs. In this culture women thrived in powerful, creative roles, especially as writers, directors, and producers. By the end of that decade, however, mushrooming star salaries and skyrocketing movie budgets prompted the creation of the studio system. As the movie industry remade itself in the image of a modern American business, the masculinization of filmmaking took root.

Mahar's study integrates feminist methodologies of examining the gendering of work with thorough historical scholarship of American industry and business culture. Tracing the transformation of the film industry into a legitimate "big business" of the 1920s, and explaining the fate of the female filmmaker during the silent era, Mahar demonstrates how industrial growth and change can unexpectedly open—and close—opportunities for women.

Karen Ward Mahar is an associate professor of history at Siena College, New York.

"Accessible and informative, this volume is for all who are seriously interested in the study of women in film."

"With meticulous scholarship and fluid writing, Mahar tells the story of this golden era of female filmmaking... Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood is not to be missed."

"Mahar views the business of making movies from the inside-out, focusing on questions about changing industrial models and work conventions. At her best, she shows how the industry's shifting business history impacted women's opportunities, recasting current understanding about the American film industry's development."

"A scrupulously researched and argued analysis of how and why women made great professional and artistic gains in the U.S. film industry from 1906 to the mid-1920s and why they lost most of that ground until the late twentieth century."

" Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood offers convincing evidence of how economic forces shaped women’s access to film production and presents a complex and engaging story of the women who took advantage of those opportunities."

"A fascinating entry into the formative years of the American film industry and how its doors opened and then closed on women directors."

"Adds significantly to the growing field of feminist film studies."

" Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood differs from most recent work on the topic... The general idea here is one of several bold suggestions that merit (and will hopefully spark) serious consideration and further investigation."

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