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Examples of Women on the Business Side in Film History?


antoniacarlotta
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Hi all! I made this video about Universal founder Carl Laemmle's daughter Rosabelle! Though she grew up in the business and helped her dad in her teenage years to screen productions and make decisions, as she got older, she was expected to manage household duties more than anything else - and in my family it's said she may have resented that. 

I know Mary Pickford became something of a businesswoman, as well as Lucille Ball in the 50s. There were women behind-the-scenes in the early days like Lois Weber ... but are there other instances of women in early film taking on bigger roles as producers or in the actual business of studios?

I'm sure in some ways Rosabelle's family would have thought there was simply no need for her to go into the business since her life and finances were pretty set, but I'm just wondering if there were even other examples she could have followed had she wanted to.

(My video for reference, and for those who are interested ;))

 

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And speaking of "overlooked women" here Antonia...

Every time you post another of these interesting videos about your family's history around here, I begin thinking TCM has been overlooking YOU for either an occasional guest hosting spot or even a permanent one.

(...have they ever contacted you about this sort of thing?...if not, I say they should, and especially if as is often mentioned, they're looking to entice a younger demographic to their viewership)

 

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12 hours ago, antoniacarlotta said:

Hi all! I made this video about Universal founder Carl Laemmle's daughter Rosabelle! Though she grew up in the business and helped her dad in her teenage years to screen productions and make decisions, as she got older, she was expected to manage household duties more than anything else - and in my family it's said she may have resented that. 

I know Mary Pickford became something of a businesswoman, as well as Lucille Ball in the 50s. There were women behind-the-scenes in the early days like Lois Weber ... but are there other instances of women in early film taking on bigger roles as producers or in the actual business of studios?

I'm sure in some ways Rosabelle's family would have thought there was simply no need for her to go into the business since her life and finances were pretty set, but I'm just wondering if there were even other examples she could have followed had she wanted to.

(My video for reference, and for those who are interested ;))

 

Thanks for sharing this. My first thought was Sherry Lansing, who became an exec at Paramount. But that was later. However, I think with women like Pickford, Ball and Lansing the common factor is they established themsleves as actresses before ascending the ranks and gaining power behind-the-scenes. So perhaps if Rosabelle had starred in some motion pictures that would have given her added clout...? Though I'm sure she had skills in the home that were just as good and worth lauding.

As for women in early filmmaking, maybe Alice Guy-Blache is worth studying.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Guy-Blaché

She started in France but emigrated to America. Not only was she directing and casting short films, but she also co-founded The Solax Company, an early movie studio.

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Gail Patrick was an actress who eventually became executive producer of Perry Mason (as Gail Patrick Jackson) from 1957-1964. She was also president of the production company started with her third husband, Cornwell Jackson. She was quite the achiever for that era. 

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This thread reminds me of that one created by TopBill'd months ago where the question was 'career woman characters ...were they unfeminine'?

Question: in any such male dominated industry as Hollywood was at the time (and still is) ought we really have held male movie-makers in disgrace for not being imaginative enough [or probably even willing enough] to create such characters? Realistically speaking, do enclosed fraternal organizations ever think that way on their own?

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How about Kay Brown?

She became one of David Selznick's most trusted assistants, most famous for bringing Gone With the Wind to his attention.  In addition to GWTW she helped acquire the rights to Cimarron, Rebecca and Claudia.

After leaving Selznick she became a rather formidable agent, representing actors and writers.

(Does that lead to adding Sue Mengers to the list?)

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Lucille Ball along with her husband Desi Arnaz founded  Desilu Studio / Productions.

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When everyone else turned Gene Roddenberry down in producing Star Trek, she had the idea of what he envisioned.

Wouldn't for Lucy, Star Trek more likely not exist.

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Bonita Granville produced the Lassie TV series for a while.

The first woman to hold a major position at a studio was Sherry Lansing in the early 80s at Fox (she was the president). She was only there for about two years, but then she became the chairwoman at Paramount from 1992 to 2004, and led them to three best picture wins.

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3 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

Bonita Granville produced the Lassie TV series for a while.

The first woman to hold a major position at a studio was Sherry Lansing in the early 80s at Fox (she was the president). She was only there for about two years, but then she became the chairwoman at Paramount from 1992 to 2004, and led them to three best picture wins.

Yes I'd say she is the best example if we're looking at more recent ones. She had a remarkable career in Hollywood.

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On 4/10/2019 at 10:13 PM, Dargo said:

And speaking of "overlooked women" here Antonia...

Every time you post another of these interesting videos about your family's history around here, I begin thinking TCM has been overlooking YOU for either an occasional guest hosting spot or even a permanent one.

(...have they ever contacted you about this sort of thing?...if not, I say they should, and especially if as is often mentioned, they're looking to entice a younger demographic to their viewership)

 

Aw thank you! No, I've never been contacted, but obviously would be an amazing opportunity if one day they do. You can bet I'll be saying YES :) 

In response to other comments (apologies for the delay, I'm in Las Vegas at the moment) I'm both surprised and unsurprised it took until the 1980s for a woman to hold a major position at a studio. I can see the argument that if Rosabelle had been an actress perhaps she would have had more success later on the business side (as worked for Pickford and Ball,) but there's a part of me that thinks Rosabelle would have had to be an exception because of who her family was. That being said, it looks like she just never got the opportunity to pursue any of it in the end...

I just started reading about Sherry Lansing. I wonder what it was that allowed her to reach such heights in the industry? And at such a young age too! 

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On 4/11/2019 at 9:08 AM, HelenBaby2 said:

Gail Patrick was an actress who eventually became executive producer of Perry Mason (as Gail Patrick Jackson) from *1957-1964. She was also president of the production company started with her third husband, Cornwell Jackson. She was quite the achiever for that era. 

 Due to her success with Perry Mason, Gail Patrick was the first woman to have a high ranking position in the television academy:

 she served two terms as the vice president.

And she was also no run-of-the-mill Starlet, she had attended law school and had planned to be a lawyer herself.

Perry Mason Creator, Erle Stanley Gardner wanted to cast Gail as Della Street for the TV show. But Gail had retired from movies many years ago and had no intention of returning. So she actually was the person who found Barbara Hale for the role and convinced her to play it.

 

* Gail Patrick Jackson was the executive producer for the entire run of Perry Mason, the 60-minute TV show on CBS, from 1957 to 1966.

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On 4/11/2019 at 9:13 AM, Sgt_Markoff said:

Ida Lupino

Ida Lupino is known as one of the first female auteur directors in Golden Age Hollywood.

But not as many people realize that she was a prolific journeyman TV director in classic TV. She directed everything from The Untouchables to Gilligan's Island. She had to compete with men, who were Golden Age Hollywood directors and, who had bigger reputations in the business than she had.

Yet when you see her credits, you will realize that not only was she participating, but she was also working with the top performers in the top shows proving that she too had to be a top TV director.

 

 Some of her other credits are:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Twilight Zone

The Fugitive

Dr. Kildare

Have Gun Will Travel

The Donna Reed Show

The Virginian

Thriller

77 Sunset Strip

The Rifleman

Bewitched  &

Daniel Boone.

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9 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

Ida Lupino is known as one of the first female auteur directors in Golden Age Hollywood.

But not as many people realize that she was a prolific journeyman TV director in classic TV. She directed everything from The Untouchables to Gilligan's Island. She had to compete with men, who were Golden Age Hollywood directors and, who had bigger reputations in the business than she had.

Yet when you see her credits, you will realize that not only was she participating, but she was also working with the top performers in the top shows proving that she too had to be a top TV director.

 

 Some of her other credits are:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Twilight Zone

The Fugitive

Dr. Kildare

Have Gun Will Travel

The Donna Reed Show

The Virginian

Thriller

77 Sunset Strip

The Rifleman

Bewitched  &

Daniel Boone.

By 1970 she had stopped directing television. She returned to acting full-time which I assume was her first love. I watched her in an episode of Barnaby Jones recently, from the mid-70s, and she was fantastic (in more of a character role). It's interesting to see her direct herself, even though the episode technically has someone else directing it.

Women like Ida Lupino did it their own way.

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Frances Marion and Anita Loos both wrote a lot of screenplays in Hollywood.  Dorothy Arzner was a director.  Mae West wrote her own plays and later dialogue for her films. 

In line with Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore also co-founded her MTM Enterprises production company with then-husband Grant Tinker in the late 1960s. 

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1 hour ago, speedracer5 said:

In line with Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore also co-founded her MTM Enterprises production company with then-husband Grant Tinker in the late 1960s. 

In her autobiography Moore talks about MTM Enterprises. She and Grant Tinker sold it when they divorced in 1981.

In the mid-80s she was hired to do a TV movie or cable movie, something like that. And part of the financing had been put up by her old company. She said when she arrived on the set, she went directly to her dressing room and found a bouquet of flowers. She read the card and it said "best wishes for a successful film, MTM." I guess it was customary for the company to send flowers on the first day to the lead actresses of its productions. 

She thought it was a bit amusing that she had sent herself flowers and she didn't even know it. 

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On 4/11/2019 at 11:34 AM, RoyCronin said:

How about Kay Brown?

She became one of David Selznick's most trusted assistants, most famous for bringing Gone With the Wind to his attention.  In addition to GWTW she helped acquire the rights to Cimarron, Rebecca and Claudia.

After leaving Selznick she became a rather formidable agent, representing actors and writers.

(Does that lead to adding Sue Mengers to the list?)

This reminded me of the tremendous accomplishments and talent of Irene Mayer Selznick.

She was a brilliant woman who in Hollywood would be overshadowed by two giants: her father, the head of Metro, Louis B Mayer, and her husband, David O. Selznick, who had his own studio, Selznick International and who produced the most iconic Golden Age Hollywood  film, GWTW.

So it was left to Irene to get divorced, leave Hollywood and become one of the most influential post-war theatrical producers on Broadway.

Irene started at the top by producing Tennessee Williams' " A Streetcar Named Desire " and introducing a complete unknown to the world--a new actor, with an Innovative acting technique who became a legend, Marlon Brando.

Irene followed that up with two more popular plays: "Bell, Book and Candle" and "The Chalk Garden" :

Gladys Cooper starred in "The Chalk Garden" and Rex Harrison starred in " Bell, Book and Candle ".

 Irene did not produce the movie adaptations of these plays. However, obviously, they wouldn't exist on film had she not first presented them on Broadway.

Irene Mayer Selznick is an example of a woman who achieved business success in Show Business not by bucking Hollywood, but by circumnavigating Hollywood by way of Broadway. So that her achievements eventually had to be recognized by Hollywood. Another brilliant woman, Katharine Hepburn, did something similar with "The Philadelphia Story".

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