Movie Workers: The Women Who Made British Cinema

Univ. of Illinois. Jun. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780252043871. $110; pap. ISBN 9780252085864. $28. FILM
The movie director is often held up as the sole auteur of a film, but Bell (film and media, Univ. of Leeds; Femininity in Frame: Women and 1950s British Popular Cinema) upends that narrative, training the spotlight on positions that were traditionally filled by women in the British film industry and that have gone unacknowledged. Organized by decade, from the 1930s to the 1980s, the book offers firsthand accounts of the challenges and achievements of wardrobe assistants, foley artists, negative cutters, editors, set designers, and others without whom the movies we love would not have been possible. Bell pulls the curtain back on the major roles of women in the evolution of pre- and post-film production and makes a compelling case that creativity isn’t a solo endeavor, as she sheds light on the resourcefulness, adaptability, and emotional labor of women in the film industry. Eye-opening and disruptive, this counter-narrative (spliced together from oral histories, trade union records, and more) is a trove of trivia and untold truths.
VERDICT Highlighting the often-unseen but important accomplishments of women in film, this is a comprehensive, necessary addition to any cinephile’s collection.
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