New! The Clemons Library video collection offers Kino Lorber’s 6 part DVD set Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, providing a closer look at the part women played in transforming the lowly “flickers” into the phenomenon known today as “the movies.”
Women were among the earliest pioneers to tell stories with film. They achieved commercial success and earned critical acclaim by challenging gender stereotypes. And now their work has been preserved as evidence of what they accomplished, and would have accomplished had they not been pushed aside when the movies became wildly profitable.
The set has been expertly curated by Dr. Shelley Stamp and features an 80 page booklet with essays and photos. The films are accompanied by newly commissioned musical scores along with selected film commentaries and short documentaries.
SOME MAKERS & FILMS:
French film pioneer Alice Guy-Blaché produced The Little Rangers (1912) at her American studio, Solax. It’s a Western melodrama in which two young women saddle up to pursue a wife-beating outlaw. When they can’t dislodge the bad guy from his hideout with six-shooters, they smoke him out with flaming arrows! The film is essentially complete at 11.5 minutes, one of 350 films that survive out of more than 1,000 that Guy-Blaché produced from 1896 to 1920.
Lois Weber dazzles with innovative camera perspectives and editing in her short thriller, Suspense (1913). Other Weber films include a 31 minute fragment from Sunshine Molly (1915), a film dealing with sexual harassment and assault; 41 minutes from What do Men Want? (1921), about the consequences of troubled relationships; and the controversial film Where are My Children? (1916) that advocates birth control for the working class and condemns abortion for the wealthy.
Elsie Jane Wilson‘s The Dream Lady (1918), based on the novel Why Not? by Margaret Widdemer, is about a young woman using her inheritance to make others’ dreams come true. One client’s “bold fantasy” is to spend her vacation as a man. She bestows a romantic kiss on the dream lady for helping transform her appearance, then bonds intimately with a male acquaintance who’s unaware his new friend is a woman.
Lule Warrenton‘s When Little Lindy Sang (1916) is a short film in a series produced for children, a simple story about Lindy, the only African-American school girl in an otherwise all-white classroom. Lindy is snubbed by all but one of her classmates until she dramatically proves her worth. Warrenton’s indictment of racism appeared the year after D.W. Griffith’s racist epic The Birth of a Nation (1915).
Ida May Park‘s Bread (1918) examines exploitation of women in the entertainment business. Mary MacLaren plays an actress whose resistance to a producer’s sexual advances reduces her to spending her last pennies on bread. The surviving sixteen minute fragment of Park’s film was discovered with other discarded films in the sub-freezing, oxygen-free landfill beneath a demolished Ice rink in Dawson City, Canada.