Movie Mavens: US Newspaper Women Take on the Movies, 1914–1923

Univ. of Illinois. (Women & Film History International). Oct. 2021. 272p. ed. by Richard Abel. ISBN 9780252043970. $110; pap. ISBN 9780252086045. $28. FILM
In this anthology of primary sources from the Silent Era of cinema, editor Abel (international cinema and media studies, Univ. of Michigan; Menus for Movie Land) posits that women writers had a significant role in the promotion of early motion pictures; as proof, he has collected this generous helping of articles, reviews, gossip, and insider information. Owing to the limited availability today of early 20th-century American newspapers, Abel’s work isn’t comprehensive, but he has nevertheless found many early texts on films and filmmaking from writers such as Janet Flanner, Louella O. Parsons, Mae Tinée, Gertrude Price, and Kitty Kelly. Their often-breathless prose was firmly in and of its time, reflecting early audiences’ wonder at the phenomenon of moving pictures. In several instances, Abel includes multiple reviews of the same film. Throughout, he clearly establishes that women are and have always been a vital part of all facets of the film industry. The book discusses the directors Lois Weber and Alice Guy Blanché and the scriptwriter Nell Shipman, among others.
VERDICT With a scholar’s knack for detail, Abel provides context for this crucial period of cinema history. An illuminating combination of scholarship and nostalgia.
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