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Regarding Women + Classic Film


TopBilled
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This is certainly a 'general' discussion. I wanted to ask forum posters what they think would be positive ways to continue looking at the roles women played during the classic Hollywood era-- both on screen and off-camera.

 

For instance, I would like to see TCM present some series about:

 

- women directors like Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner...has this been done before?

- women screenwriters-- there are quite a few that are overlooked; this would make for a great month-long series

- the role of female characters in classic war films

 

Any thoughts?

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>Didn't TCM kind of touch on the third one already?

 

I don't know. That's why I am asking. I have not watched TCM since it began broadcasting.

 

And I have a feeling that when Molly Haskell was co-hosting the Essentials, the focus was more on female archetypes in movies (based on the characters leading women played).

 

A lot has been written about women in melodramas and film noir (where they run the extreme from homey to vamp), but I do not think as much has been noted about women in war films. I really like June Allyson's work in BATTLE CIRCUS. It's not her best film or Bogart's best film, but I think we get a good glimpse of women playing an active role in wartime affairs.

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I believe TCM did do a tribute to nurses that featured their role in studio era movies. The role of a nurse is typically as a strong female character that holds her own, gets a difficult job done etc... (Battle Circus is a good example, and I believe part of the basis for the TV show Mash).

 

I like your idea but it could go haywire also. Take the series Molly just had. Yea, the women started out strong but ended up being weak and silly. My wife didn't really like this of course but she did understand the nature of the times these movies were made.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for the feedback. Your wife sounds like a fellow feminist. She probably would not like KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT, where Polly Bergen steps down from the highest office in the land to have a baby. The message seems to be, let the men run our nation, and let the women stay barefoot and pregnant.

 

Regarding Allyson and BATTLE CIRCUS, she does happen to play a nurse in that film. But I do not think women's roles in war films have to be relegated just to the nursing profession, which is not exclusively female by the way. There are women doctors in some war films; and there are women soldiers, too-- think Joan of Arc.

 

A series like this could also focus on military wives and prostitutes. There are a lot of possibilities for exploration.

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Thanks for the question. Let me clarify. I did not watch TCM back in 1994 when it first started broadcasting. I came to the party late. But I think you can tell from my various 7,000-plus posts that during the last few years, I have watched TCM every day. And I do mean every day.

 

:)

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Another film I wanted to mention here is PIN UP GIRL. This was broadcast recently on Fox Movie Channel. There is a very interesting final musical number where Betty Grable and the gals are dressed in blue military uniforms, carrying rifles around.

 

Was it a fantasy that women were strutting around like they were taking an active role in gunning down the enemy? Or was it seriously suggesting that the women should also be allowed to serve on the front lines? Yet because it is presented in this genre, with all the Technicolor trimmings, it might be more easily shrugged off than if we had actually seen ladies with rifles in a war film during a combat sequence.

 

Edited by: TopBilled on Jun 18, 2013 11:50 AM

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>I do not know if it is a fantasy that women of the era were strutting around to act like they were taking an active role in gunning down the enemy. Or if it was suggesting that the women should also be allowed to serve on the front lines. It could be interpreted either way

 

I think the ladies were supposed to look cute in those snappy uniforms, like Deborah Kerr at the end of Vacation from Marriage (1945). She looked much better in the Wren uniform than she did at the beginning of the film. She was very strong at the end of that film, and the scenes of her delivering the message by boat while under enemy fire were very dramatic.

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I had reworded my earlier post for clarity when you were composing your reply. So what you have quoted from me was changed slightly.

 

I think the finale in PIN UP GIRL was meant to be a cutesy, patriotic tribute. But what the filmmakers may not consciously realize when they put this scene in the movie is that it does convey several mixed messages about the role of women in war.

 

When 20th Century Fox gives Betty Grable a rifle, we are no longer getting the idea that she and her girlfriends are harmless fragile little dolls with sexy legs. They have power now.

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>When 20th Century Fox gives Betty Grable a rifle, we are no longer getting the idea that she and her girlfriends are harmless fragile little dolls with sexy legs. They have power now.

 

No, not in 1944. And those were wooden stage rifles, not real rifles. I don't think the girls would have worn skirts on the battlefield. Those costumes were for men to ogle at. They were used for the same reason in "Operation Petticoat". We men liked to look at the bulging upper jacket pockets.

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I cannot think of studio era movies where there were women solders or even doctors in major roles, but like you said I assume there are some. But I would hope we could agree that nurses would be the primary feminists profession associated with strong women roles in studio era movies (and not just in war movies).

 

As for military wives and prostitutes I cannot think of studio era movies where these roles would support a feminists theme. So I would say there are some possibilities for exploration. But I'm sure you know of more studio era movies that would fit the bill than I do.

 

 

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Yes, there have been studio era movies with some women teachers like Teacher's Pet with Doris Day and Clark Gable but I still believe there are a lot more movies that feature women as nurses than teachers (or any other women's profession). Thus I don't see how that fact changes the point I was making.

 

 

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>And those were wooden stage rifles, not real rifles. I don't think the girls would have worn skirts on the battlefield.

 

Interesting comment, Fred. Even though the rifles were props (like most guns in movies are props), they still symbolize something real.

 

These women were not nurses. They were active members in our armed services in 1952, posing for a picture with President Truman. And they are wearing skirts.

 

1women.png

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}

> women directors like Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner...has this been done before?

 

Ida Lupino was the Star of the Month in June 2007 and they dedicated one evening to movies which she directed. That was before my time here and I know of no other dedications or tributes to female directors.

 

> women screenwriters-- there are quite a few that are overlooked; this would make for a great month-long series

 

I believe this would be difficult as there were so very many. How could you narrow it down to a dozen movies?

 

> the role of female characters in classic war films

 

I am sure this is not what you mean because it is not a Hollywood movie with a Hollywood ending but Izolda Izvitskaya portrays a strong and dedicated soldier in: *The Forty-First* (1956). It can be watched on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/jMmwgEwsPd8

Subtitles are available by using the Closed Captioning option and choosing Translate: English. It is far from perfect translation but it keeps to the spirit of the story.

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Cry Havoc from 1943 was about combat nurses in the Phillipines after Pearl Harbor. It has virtually no scenes with male actors sans( ;) ) a brief Robert Mitchum scene. It starred Margaret Sullavan and Fay Bainter et al.

 

3QiH0.zRLM9UpBc8M13MGw.jpg

 

 

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SansFin,

 

Thanks for your very thorough response.

 

Regarding women screenwriters, I think the more famous ones would have to be selected. Sort of like what Eddie Muller is doing with the pulp and noir writers. Maybe one week each could be devoted to: Frances Marion (some of her best screenplays were the basis for movies that are in the Turner Library); Anita Loos; Lillian Hellman; and Dorothy Parker. Maybe even someone more modern like Nora Ephron could be featured, if there were 5 Fridays in a month.

 

As for the directors, Arzner would definitely have to be featured. A large percentage of her early films were pre-codes at Paramount, which may be tough for TCM to obtain-- but worth trying!

 

Later today I am going to post a list of films that I think would be best for a Women in War series. Check back!

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This is a dumb question, but: Is *Marion Parsonnet* a woman? (Marion with an "o" was a man's name back in the day, viz. John Wayne's real name. Also Parsonnet used the name "Richard Stroup" at least once.) In any case, Parsonnet scripted many movies, including *Gilda, Cover Girl, The Thirteenth Chair,* and many others.

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>These women were not nurses. They were active members in our armed services in 1952, posing for a picture with President Truman. And they are wearing skirts.

 

Those are dress uniforms for ceremonial purposes. They weren't expecting any enemy attacks on the white house lawn. Women nurses and other female military people wore

pants on the battlefield and while flying..

 

main.jpg

 

tumblr_m5o04guFfm1rtp5duo1_400.jpg

 

0801_010501.jpg

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