In the 1940s, two female intellectuals, coming from very different positions, began to theorize gender and economy in studio Hollywood. In this fourth series installment, Kerry McElroy delves into the changing and ironic state of affairs for actresses in the 1940s— unexpected autonomy and worsening exploitation. Food restriction, forced cosmetic surgery, suspensions, and poverty were largely the order of the tyrannical day. McElroy also looks at the last living Golden-Age star, Olivia de Havilland, and her landmark 1943 court case on contracts and suspensions.
The 1930’s saw the studio system in peak Fordist condition, especially in terms of its financial and bodily control over women. “Glamour” was the disciplinary strategy of the day, and the most famous women stars of the twentieth century learned to negotiate it in new ways. In this third series installment, Kerry McElroy looks at race, queerness, and economic disadvantage in Depression-era Hollywood. Women like Mae West created new channels of power, attaining international stardom and unfathomable wealth in the process. Bette Davis, on the other hand, brought forth a watershed court case for actors’ rights, and demonstrated just how much the industry feared political agitation and class consciousness.
After a halcyon decade of growth and promise for women in Hollywood, patriarchal, hyper-capitalism closed like a vise around the industry. With this second series installment, Kerry McElroy explores Los Angeles in the 1920s. Women migrating west in large numbers represented an exciting cultural phenomenon but also a social problem that needed to be regulated. Just as the “casting couch” was becoming an entrenched industrial practice, a notorious rape trial shocked the industry and re-victimized women. In the midst of these grim developments, a few actresses did manage to become global, superstars, amassing real wealth.
To understand the current #MeToo/Time’s Up moment, we must reckon with a century of Hollywood’s mistreatment of women. With this first series installment, Kerry McElroy takes us back to the industry’s earliest decade in Los Angeles. This was a time of surprising feminine power. Cinema emerged alongside the New Woman, utopian promises of California, the stunt queen, and global female celebrity. It took time for capitalist forces to reassert a gendered order.
Kerry McElroy announces a timely and compelling series that will run bi-monthly this fall at The Independent. The series titled, “Bette, Marilyn, and #MeToo: What Studio-Era Actresses Can Teach Us About Economics and Resistance Post-Weinstein,” highlights Hollywood legends (including Olivia de Havilland, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor) who all carved out spaces of autonomy in a decidedly male-controlled film industry at the height of its exploitative powers. McElroy will reveal, through analysis that spans seven decades, what these actresses have to teach us in this contemporary moment of feminist reckoning.
In this third installment of The Global Screen, Joe Cruz discusses diasporic and nationalistic contestations emerging in Puerto Rico’s guerrilla cinema. In a way, films belonging to this movement articulate a somewhat transgressive view of Puerto Rico’s national identity. Although the century-old colonial rule continues to draw criticism, no longer is the island territory’s rural past romanticized. Instead, new cinematic discourses concerned with exploring Puerto Ricans’ national identity through the lens of current en masse migration to North American metropolis seem to be taking shape.
In May, LA-based filmmakers, Brett and Drew Pierce, completed filming their third indie horror film, Hag, shot on location in rural northwestern Michigan. The Pierce brothers became aficionados of the genre early on under the influence of their father, Bart, a special effects artist on the 1981 cult classic horror film, The Evil Dead. Rebecca Reynolds draws on conversations with the family in this exploration of Brett’s and Drew’s influences, strategies, and creative talents.
As virtual reality develops into a viable technology for immersive storytelling, today’s filmmakers are witnessing the birth of a new, perhaps more inclusive, form of cinema. Reporting on VR from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Rebecca M. Alvin, explores how the doors are open for a much more diverse group of creators and a wider range of stories to tell.
In this second installment of The Global Screen, Thomas Britt writes about the work of Jonas Cuarón. In some ways, Cuarón’s Desierto (2015) can be seen as a timely political film, involving border disputes, contested spaces, and dispossession. The film’s heroes and villain feel alienated from their right relationship to the land. In this article, Britt considers the influence of action and horror genres on the film, specifically the ways in which 1970s genre films and Australian “Outback horror” provide a comparable narrative framework that Cuarón deftly updates in his film about violence and lines in the sand.
Mike Sullivan describes the years-long process filmmakers Jessica Barnthouse and Stacy Buchanan undertook in making their first feature documentary, Something Wicked This Way Comes. The film featured at this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival. A revised version of the doc, titled The Man in the Mask, will be showing at festivals later this year.