#SummerHours Summer Reading: Women in Early Hollywood

Goodbye, winter caps—hello, summer hats! It’s that glorious time of year where many of us can switch from content creators to content consumers. NYWIFT members Mellini Kantayya and Kathryn O’Kane have put together #SummerHours, a series of fun summer books, movies, and TV shows by or about women.


By Mellini Kantayya

The Refinery 29 article, “What Women In Film Can Learn From The ‘Manless Eden; That Was Hollywood’s Silent Era,” by Elena Nicolaou, was another reminder of how throughout history, and specifically film and television history, women have been early to identify and seize opportunity in emerging fields—only to be edged out of  those fields, and their history, once they become mainstream.

Luckily, programs such as NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund are “dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of women in the industry…” with the goal of ensuring “…that the contributions of women to film history are not forgotten.”

Here are four books about women in early Hollywood I’ve put on my summer reading list:

Frances Marion Mary Pickford

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood, by Cari Beauchamp: Referenced in the aforementioned Refinery 29 article, the publisher describes the book as following: Cari Beauchamp masterfully combines biography with social and cultural history to examine the lives of Frances Marion and her many female colleagues who shaped filmmaking from 1912 through the 1940s. Frances Marion was Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter―male or female―for almost three decades, wrote almost 200 produced films and won Academy Awards for writing The Big House and The Champ.”

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Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood, by Karen Ward Mahar: Publisher description: “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.”

backwards and in heels

Backwards and in Heels: The Past, Present And Future Of Women Working In Film, by Alicia Malone: From the publisher: “Women have been instrumental in the success of American cinema since its very beginning. One of the first people to ever pick up a motion picture camera was a woman. As was the first screenwriter to win two Academy Awards, the inventor of the boom microphone and the first person to be credited with the title Film Editor. Throughout the entire history of Hollywood women have been revolutionizing, innovating, and shaping how we make movies. Yet their stories are rarely shared.

This is what film reporter Alicia Malone wants to change. Backwards and in Heels tells the history of women in film in a different way, with stories about incredible ladies who made their mark throughout each era of Hollywood.”

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Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood, by J.E. Smyth: From the publisher: “The first comprehensive history of Hollywood’s high-flying career women during the studio era, Nobody’s Girl Friday covers the impact of the executives, producers, editors, writers, agents, designers, directors, and actresses who shaped Hollywood film production and style, led their unions, climbed to the top during the war, and fought the blacklist.”

(Cover photo by Bridgette Matthews)

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