In the days of the silents, filmmaking was still, as this NPR piece notes, a cottage industry, and the number of women who were important writers, directors, editors and producers was much larger than most of today’s moviegoers realize. Once movies became a big, lucrative industry, women were pushed out of most roles other than that of actress. It would be decades before women once more had the chance to tell the stories they want to tell in those prominent behind-the-camera positions.
Most of the films themselves are long gone, the film stock itself deteriorated or the reels lost to fire or other events, but thanks to collector Dwight Cleveland, we can get a glimpse of them in the lobby cards and scene cards–“static trailers,” as the exhibit curator calls them–on display through Oct. 9 at Poster House in New York. Cleveland noticed and then started concentrating on, the contributions of women to early cinema, and this exhibit gives a glimpse into a vanished world. If you happen to be in or live in the area, Experimental Marriage: Women in Early Hollywood looks like it would be well worth any movie-lover’s time.
The rest of us can read or give a listen to the story, first broadcast today (Aug. 29) on NPR.