An informative, lavishly illustrated but often dry historical who’s who of Hollywood’s female side.



Both on-screen divas and off-screen talent are celebrated in this encyclopedia of female luminaries in the movie industry.

Historian Tietjen and Bridges, founder of Denver’s Women+Film, group these brief biographical snippets chronologically by decade and year, an arrangement that highlights the historical waning and waxing of women’s presence and clout in movies. They document much participation by women behind the camera in the industry’s early decades, starting with Alice Guy-Blaché, director of The Cabbage Fairy in 1896. Women were also busy working cameras, writing scripts, acting, and running their own production companies. The reign of the studio system from the 1920s into the ’60s, they contend, set women back as men consolidated their dominance of creative and executive positions. In these decades, their entries are heavy on Golden Age actresses, from Greta Garbo and Hedy Lamarr to Marilyn Monroe, with just two female directors, Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino, getting steady studio work. But women held their own as screenwriters and film editors and kept a toehold in everything from animation to color film technology. The entries from the ’70s to the present tell a story of flourishing female creative control. Women like Sherry Lansing became studio chiefs; female producers prospered; women thrived in crafts, from costume and set design to sound mixing; and female auteurs staged a comeback, culminating in Kathryn Bigelow’s best director Oscar for 2010’s The Hurt Locker. (Perhaps the greater testament to their entrenchment in present-day Hollywood are the entries on female directors who helmed high-grossing schlock like Twilight and Kung Fu Panda 2.)

The volume is a useful reference source with a wealth of facts, including information on most of the female Oscar winners through the years. (Some mistakes slip in; the authors have both Viola Davis and Emma Stone winning the 2017 best actress Oscar.) The entries resurrect many unsung figures who demonstrate the unexpected breadth of women’s contributions, including cinematographer Brianne Murphy’s development of safety features for filming high-speed car chase scenes and Katharine Blodgett’s invention of nonreflective glass for cameras. The book is a visual feast with lots of color photographs from various sources. Unfortunately, with so many women to cover and so much space taken up by visuals, the entries are mainly very spare, with only a few lines to encapsulate lengthy careers. Readers therefore get little sense of the meat of these women’s lives and their experiences in Hollywood. The most intriguing entries are slightly longer ones that open a window onto their subjects’ thinking, be it screenwriter Elinor Glyn’s timeless lament over butchered scripts—“Even when, at last, after infinite struggle, a scene was shot which bore some resemblance to the original story, it was certain to be left out in the cutting room, or pared away to such an extent that all meaning which it might once have had was lost”—or stuntwoman Frances Miles’ valedictory on the action genre. (“I’ve done all the falls, fights and chases you could ever think of. When Westerns began to go sissy with banjos, guitars and quartets I branched out into features.”) On those occasions when readers hear these women’s own words, the book comes alive with color and insight.

An informative, lavishly illustrated but often dry historical who’s who of Hollywood’s female side.

Pub Date: April 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4930-3705-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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