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Women with powerful jobs in the movies-- is it feminine?

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Is it okay for Ruth Chatterton to run a large automobile company in FEMALE (1933)..?

Is it okay for Polly Bergen to run the country in KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT (1964)?

What about Judith Anderson running a whole town in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946)? After her death, her niece Martha (Barbara Stanwyck) ends up running the factory in Iverstown.

Sylvia Sidney runs for congress, and wins, with help from political strategist George Raft in MR. ACE (1946). But can he really fall in love with someone who wants to be one of the boys?

A year later Loretta Young becomes a congresswoman in THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (1947).

Madeleine Carroll is the head of a huge department store in HONEYMOON IN BALI (1939).

Rosalind Russell is a tough ad exec in TAKE A LETTER DARLING (1942). She has practically no time for romance.

Myrna Loy is a magazine editor in THIRD FINGER LEFT HAND (1940). Ginger Rogers also runs a fashion magazine in LADY IN THE DARK (1944).

Katharine Hepburn earns a living as a pro athlete in PAT AND MIKE (1952).

Joan Crawford runs a trucking business in THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE (1942). They all kiss up to her because she is signing their paychecks.

Speaking of trucks, Patsy Kelly and two girlfriends inherit a rig in DANGER! WOMEN AT WORK (1943). Then they hit the road to make a living.

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Well, of course TB, your question in this thread of yours would NATURALLY tie into that OTHER one you started the other day about "coffee drinking/being masculine".

And so, because I can't for the life of me recall what form or shape of conveyance, be it mug or cup or whatever, that any of the ladies in your above list of movies used in order to drink their coffee while running their companies, I feel I can not give you an informed opinion about this subject matter at this time.

(...sorry)

;)

 

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I don't know the answer to the question of their femininity. Maybe its another one of those paradigms popular around here wherein the viewer is left to decide for themselves just how much something is or not. :huh:

But it was at the least...unrealistic. In that such things didn't happen very often. Working women still complain of the 'glass ceiling' even today, as we all well know. There's some modern industries today where the discrepancy is really glaring.

All of this, made the perspective ye recently aired regarding 'congresswomen' all the more confusing --to me anyway. The USA was a man's world in the Golden Age of Hollywood and is still today, a man's world. How can one call a writer or a painter or composer "to account for not depicting a utopian ideal" we profess to uphold today, but which wasn't implemented in their timeperiod nor in ours either?

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Of course, a number of these films you mention end up with the female giving up all this work "nonsense" for her man. So, I would say at the time it was generally considered not "okay". 

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Sayyyyy......

What WAS the name of that '30's movie in which a woman's husband was near death and the doctor blamed his poor condition on his wife's being a "career gehl" ? And went on to postulate how "career girls" are ruining society and making their marriages ruinous and all that rot?

Sepiatone

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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Of course, a number of these films you mention end up with the female giving up all this work "nonsense" for her man. So, I would say at the time it was generally considered not "okay". 

Yes, they were forced to surrender what they had accomplished in the business world at the end of the story. Everything had to be sacrificed for a life at home. If they didn't do that, then they would never have love.

They would end up lonely and embittered, or worse-- they'd end up dead like Martha Ivers did.

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If you chat with numbers of random single marriage-eligible women today the more outspoken ones will usually tell you that they aren't very pleased with the work their forebears did for the cause of gender opportunity in the American workplace.

I only mention it because it surprised me to hear that fine cause discredited; and also because I hear the same gripe so often-repeated.

Basically today's females have this to say: many women do not wish to completely abandon the idea of motherhood; its a very powerful urge. So the impetus in the early 70s which boosted the notion that women can be breadwinners...now hurts them more than it helps them. Why? Because too much of traditional gender duties are effaced.

When a girl today meets a man and they plan their marriage and life together, its a 'given' that the woman will have a career at the same time she raises children. Two incomes are expected; (its almost required thanks to the price of homes these days). But as far as the female is concerned this amounts to having two jobs while the man only has one. The girls are now doing double the effort and they resent it. The brunt of taking care of the kids falls to her no matter how obliging and willing the man is to 'pitch in'.

(Again: I don't know why we're chatting about this kind of thing, on a movie website)

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5 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

(Again: I don't know why we're chatting about this kind of thing, on a movie website)

Well, these issues (career and motherhood) are depicted in many classic films.

If a woman is shown as not wanting to embrace motherhood, she is usually portrayed as selfish and more masculine than her female counterparts.

Katharine Hepburn's character would rather play tennis or golf than raise kids in PAT AND MIKE.

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^^True. I myself merely hesitate to draw far-reaching conclusions from this kind of thing.

What might we say for example, about cinematic women characters in more servile workplace roles? Or cinematic women characters who trod some middle ground...or cinematic women characters who organized, or cinematic women characters who maintained their femininity, or cinematic women characters who took advantage of their sexuality...lots of angles.

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14 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

^^True. I myself merely hesitate to draw far-reaching conclusions from this kind of thing.

What might we say for example, about cinematic women characters in more servile workplace roles? Or cinematic women characters who trod some middle ground...or cinematic women characters who organized, or cinematic women characters who maintained their femininity, or cinematic women characters who took advantage of their sexuality...lots of angles.

Many of those women were mothers, almost peripherally. But what kind of mothers were they?

If they were Stella Dallas, they had to face facts and give the child up. 

If they were willing and able to reform, then they gave up their old ways and settled into a life of contentment and domesticity.

The only real job they were supposed to have (or want) was WIFE AND MOTHER.

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The only real job they were supposed to have (or want) was WIFE AND MOTHER.

This is another argument based on 'carefully-selected examples' I think. We cant go down the road yet again of saying that Hollywood (although conservative) was filled with conspiratorial forces deliberately trying to shape the American consciousness.  America itself was more conservative than Hollywood ever was; voluntarily conservative. It wasn't anyone's fault.

 

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

This is another argument based on 'carefully-selected examples' I think. We cant go down the road yet again of saying that Hollywood (although conservative) was filled with conspiratorial forces deliberately trying to shape the American consciousness.  America itself was more conservative than Hollywood ever was; voluntarily conservative. It wasn't anyone's fault.

I don't think Hollywood was trying to shape the American consciousness. I think conservative forces in America were trying to shape the way Hollywood product reflect its values. Some might say that was a good thing. Good or bad, it was a situation that determined how gender roles played out on screen and the kinds of stories that could be told in those years.

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After starting this thread, I re-watched a British film called THE LAMP STILL BURNS (1943). In the story a woman (played by Rosamund John) works as a junior architect in a large firm started by her late father. She meets a man (Stewart Granger) on a project around the time the war begins, and they begin to fall for each other.

One fateful day she witnesses an accident outside her place of employment. She goes with the victim in the ambulance and is so impressed by the way the nurse handles the patient's care at the hospital, she decides that is what she'd like to do too. She wants to become a nurse. Soon she quits her job as an architect and enters a nursing program. Nurses at the time are required to be single, so this means her relationship with Granger's character must remain platonic.

The rest of the film is about the training she receives and the great difficulties under which nurses labor in 1943. She continues to interact with the man, when he is injured during a bombing and convalesces at the hospital where she is being trained.

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What makes this film a bit ironic is that while the female protagonist gives up a job in a man's world, she is lauded for taking another job outside the home. One that seems to conform to society's ideas of what a woman might do if she still opts to have a career. Because this is a wartime morale booster, the diligent work the women do in this story as members of the nursing profession are greatly validated. 

One wonders if this kind of movie would have been made if the war was not occurring. Would she still be seen as heroic if she chose to be a nurse instead of a wife and mother? At the end of the film, it is mentioned that conditions might change so nurses can also be married and have children.

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15 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

"Look. I don't wanna play b***ch-boss, but..."

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Is this the type of woman a man would take home to meet his mother?

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TB sez:

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Is this the type of woman a man would take home to meet his mother?

Rather a strange question, wouldn't you say? This flick wasn't made under the studio era. If you're saying that any depiction of any American businesswoman in any American movie is always drawn in a way to subtly imply that such women were less-than-feminine...and going well past the point where you have anyone to accuse of being responsible for such a wild-eyed conspiracy (even if conspiracy it indeed was)... then ...you're saying that this 'skew' happens unconsciously and accidentally, perhaps down at the level of story and adaptation and novel and stageplay? Or, you're saying that even our most intelligent filmmakers are invariably overlooking something important every time they depict the US workplace (no matter where they get the movie's source material)?

Whatever you're saying here, its an nigh-impossible argument to clinch. You can't do it with a handful of examples.

But let's imagine that you could somehow track down every single American film that ever showed a businesswoman. Let's say you ran a statistical analysis (as far-fetched as that sounds, since film is so subjective). Still, what could you then conclude? Hollywood wasn't a secret CIA mind-control operation.

Why is it so hard to accept that other timeperiods possessed strongly-held societal ideas that differ fantastically from those we enjoy today?

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On 12/2/2018 at 8:11 AM, Sepiatone said:

Sayyyyy......

What WAS the name of that '30's movie in which a woman's husband was near death and the doctor blamed his poor condition on his wife's being a "career gehl" ? And went on to postulate how "career girls" are ruining society and making their marriages ruinous and all that rot?

Sepiatone

Reminds me of the line in Marty where the aunt says something pejorative about Marty's new girl having gone to college, about college girls being "One steppa from the streets, one steppa from the streets." Those college girls go on to careers and I guess ruin society.

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7 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

TB sez:

Rather a strange question, wouldn't you say? This flick wasn't made under the studio era. If you're saying that any depiction of any American businesswoman in any American movie is always drawn in a way to subtly imply that such women were less-than-feminine...and going well past the point where you have anyone to accuse of being responsible for such a wild-eyed conspiracy (even if conspiracy it indeed was)... then ...you're saying that this 'skew' happens unconsciously and accidentally, perhaps down at the level of story and adaptation and novel and stageplay? Or, you're saying that even our most intelligent filmmakers are invariably overlooking something important every time they depict the US workplace (no matter where they get the movie's source material)?

Whatever you're saying here, its an nigh-impossible argument to clinch. You can't do it with a handful of examples.

But let's imagine that you could somehow track down every single American film that ever showed a businesswoman. Let's say you ran a statistical analysis (as far-fetched as that sounds, since film is so subjective). Still, what could you then conclude? Hollywood wasn't a secret CIA mind-control operation.

Why is it so hard to accept that other timeperiods possessed strongly-held societal ideas that differ fantastically from those we enjoy today?

Not sure why you think I am making an argument of any kind? I'm just pointing to a variety of examples, ways in which women are depicted in movies where they work outside the home.

I really don't think this is limited to any one time period. I'm sure there are people today who hold societal views similar to ones held by people in the 1940s and 1950s. No one era owns an idea about anything.

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On 12/2/2018 at 8:38 AM, TopBilled said:

Katharine Hepburn's character would rather play tennis or golf than raise kids in PAT AND MIKE.

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This character always reminds me of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

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On 12/1/2018 at 10:59 PM, Sgt_Markoff said:

I don't know the answer to the question of their femininity. Maybe its another one of those paradigms popular around here wherein the viewer is left to decide for themselves just how much something is or not. :huh:

But it was at the least...unrealistic. In that such things didn't happen very often. Working women still complain of the 'glass ceiling' even today, as we all well know. There's some modern industries today where the discrepancy is really glaring.

All of this, made the perspective ye recently aired regarding 'congresswomen' all the more confusing --to me anyway. The USA was a man's world in the Golden Age of Hollywood and is still today, a man's world. How can one call a writer or a painter or composer "to account for not depicting a utopian ideal" we profess to uphold today, but which wasn't implemented in their timeperiod nor in ours either?

Clearly it was unrealistic during the 30s - 50s to show women leading major companies.   So why did Hollywood push this theme more often then it occurred in the actual business world?   

These type of films, as well as the actresses that starred in them,  did well with audiences.   (especially with 'younger' women,  I assume).      So while 'the USA was a man's world',   studio bosses knew there was gold to be found in pushing strong independent women and associated themes.  

Actresses like Davis,  Stanwyck etc...  were at the same level as the major male stars and in most cases dominated the films they were in.   Yea,  sometimes they played a more traditional female role but most of the time they were in charge of their destiny.      

 

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6 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Clearly it was unrealistic during the 30s - 50s to show women leading major companies.   So why did Hollywood push this theme more often then it occurred in the actual business world?   

These type of films, as well as the actresses that starred in them,  did well with audiences.   (especially with 'younger' women,  I assume).      So while 'the USA was a man's world',   studio bosses knew there was gold to be found in pushing strong independent women and associated themes.  

Actresses like Davis,  Stanwyck etc...  were at the same level as the major male stars and in most cases dominated the films they were in.   Yea,  sometimes they played a more traditional female role but most of the time they were in charge of their density.     

Your last paragraph is interesting. I wonder if these actresses were earning as much as the Gables, Flynns and Coopers. Davis and Stanwyck were certainly well paid during this era, but I would suspect they were still earning less than their male counterparts at these studios.

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20 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

...Actresses like Davis,  Stanwyck etc...  were at the same level as the major male stars and in most cases dominated the films they were in.   Yea,  sometimes they played a more traditional female role but most of the time they were in charge of their density.     

 

Say, and speakin' of Stanwyck here...

In the movie There's Always Tomorrow (1955), and where Babs plays a successful business owner who comes back into Fred MacMurray's life after many many years, it's made pretty darn clear in THIS film that Fred still thinks Babs has retained HER "femininity" pretty darn well after all those years, anyway.

(...one final note here...those snotty teenage kids of Fred's in this thing...I always wanna smack 'em upside their heads...I suppose I COULD have done that back in '55 and gotten away with it, but now days probably not so much, huh) LOL

 

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19 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Say, and speakin' of Stanwyck here...

In the movie There's Always Tomorrow (1955), and where Babs plays a successful business owner who comes back into Fred MacMurray's life after many many years, it's made pretty darn clear in THIS film that Fred still thinks Babs has retained HER "femininity" pretty darn well after all those years, anyway.

But the point of the story was that Barbara Stanwyck's character was not Joan Bennett's character. She had chosen a career outside the home over one inside the home. So Bennett has to win in the end. Stanwyck was really playing a middle aged variation on her old corporate climbing character from BABY FACE. This was Miss Baby Face twenty years later, without a husband and family of her own, stuck in hell because of her "success" in a man's world.

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13 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Say, and speakin' of Stanwyck here...

In the movie There's Always Tomorrow (1955), and where Babs plays a successful business owner who comes back into Fred MacMurray's life after many many years, it's made pretty darn clear in THIS film that Fred still thinks Babs has retained HER "femininity" pretty darn well after all those years, anyway.

(...one final note here...those kids of Fred's in this thing...I always wanna smack 'em upside their heads...I suppose I COULD have done that back in '55, but now days probably not so much, huh)

 

Yea,  the MacMurray character felt Babs had retained her "femininity" regardless of the fact she was a successful business owner (and he was right!).     But yea,  I don't view strong women as lacking femininity,  even nasty wicked women characters like Davis in The Little Foxes. 

TCM has had similar discussions related to the femme fatale in noir films;  E.g. is such a women a feminist?  They are strong and they take charge by using their femininity.   Much can be found on the web related to this.

 

 

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