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Women in Cinema:

 
 
TomNice
 
Reply Sun 24 Apr, 2016 08:35 am
Looking back at all of the movies I have seen during my lifetime (I am 69 years of age) I feel that male characters are generally made to seem more important than female characters. I recently looked at the 89 Best Picture Oscar winners as listed by IMDb. In that list, along with the name of the Best Picture, are the actors in the pictures listed in what appears to be the importance of their characters to the story. Out of the 89 movies in only 15 cases was a female actor named first. I then went through the list and based on my knowledge of the movie found 4 more where a male actor was named first, but I felt that in that movie a female actor was more important. So my estimate is that of the 89 total Best Pictures only 19 (21%) involved a female character as being the most important. My list of the 19 pictures where I felt the most important character was female are as follows:

Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank (2004)
Chicago, Renee Zellweger (2002)
Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow (1998)
The Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster (1990)
Out of Africa, Meryl Streep (1985)
Terms of Endearment, Shirley MacLaine (1983)
Ordinary People, Mary Tyler Moore (1980)*
Annie Hall, Diane Keaton (1977)*
The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews (1965)
My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn (1964)
West Side Story, Natalie Wood (1961)
Gigi, Leslie Caron (1958)
All About Eve, Bette Davis (1950)
Mrs. Miniver, Greer Garson (1942)
Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh (1939)*
You Can’t Take it with you, Jean Arthur (1938)
It Happened One Night, Claudette Colbert (1934)*
The Broadway Melody, Bessie Love (1929)
Wings, Clara Bow (1927)

* Indicate those pictures where a male actor was named first.
Note that the last movie on this list was more than ten years ago.

To add to that, IMDb statistics show that for every 10 actresses they have listed they have listed 17 actors. Now, it maybe that the average actress makes more movies than the average actor, but I don’t believe that is the case. I’m wondering if anyone believes differently. Does anyone believe that female characters and male characters are made to seem equally important overall in movies?

Tom,
 
panzade
 
  2  
Reply Sun 24 Apr, 2016 12:58 pm
An interesting topic. Hollywood has always been male-centric; from the days of the moguls to the last couple of decades of male directors.
Women comprise only 7% of the directors on the top 250 movies and are not getting the same opportunities in entry level positions. Positions that lead to directing jobs.
I'd be interested in your take on the most female friendly male directors.
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2016 06:00 am
To All, I don’t believe that people act like computers or robots and while people can be rational and logical I don’t believe that happens all of the time. One only has to enter data into a computer once. Entering the same data a second time will not make any difference. But, I don’t see people being like that. Receiving the same or similar information repeatedly will have a greater impact on a person as opposed to just receiving it once. Further it is my opinion that the information given to a person does not have to be overt and logical, it could be impressions of an idea. It is possible that more subliminal information or impressions could have a greater effect than the overt and logical. Lastly, human behavior is not solely determined by conscious, rational and logical thoughts, emotions, which could be subconscious also, play important roles.

Earlier I wrote “I feel that I feel that male characters are generally made to seem more important than female characters.” We, as the audience, primarily get to see the hopes, dreams, successes, disappointments, fears, happiness, anger and so forth of the most important characters and if the most important characters are male then we tend not to see those feeling and emotions as much for the female characters. So, women and girls in movies tend to be less full blown and more likely to be one dimensional characters than are men or boys. Also, in many cases important characters are those “who tend to get things done,” so it seems to me that there are many more male characters in movies who get things done as compared to female characters. However, I feel it is important to have a female character seen as being important by being the main character even if she isn’t the one that get things done for that will show that women are important and worthy and are not just companions for men. Taking all that I wrote here into consideration I believe that the much greater number of movies where the male characters are more important influences, perhaps subliminally, the ways people in general behave and feel about women and even the way women behavior and feel about themselves.

Tom,
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2016 06:02 am
Panzade, I agree with you about Hollywood being male-centric, although it is my understanding that there were relatively more women in important positions in films prior to the days of the moguls. For example Alice Guy who was a French director between 1896 and 1920. Thanks for the information on women directors. As to the most female friendly male directors offhand I do not know, however, I do plan to discuss some films I feel are “female friendly” so you may judge from that. I feel that one if not the most female friendly movie companies is Disney. Some may be surprised at that, but I plan to explain myself in the future.

Tom,
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2016 07:48 am
@TomNice,
Welcome to A2k
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2016 07:55 am
@panzade,
Panzade, thank you for the welcome. Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  2  
Reply Tue 26 Apr, 2016 05:33 am
To All, The following are two films I have recently seen.

First is “Suffragette” (2015) with Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts. The film presents the story of number of characters, mostly women involved with the movement for women suffrage in England during the early 20th Century, but its focus is on Maud Watts a young woman whose personality is shown to develop during the course of the story. I feel it is important to show this type of development in women and thus show a female character to be multi-dimensional. “Suffragette” was directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan. This movie is also important in that it points out that less than one hundred years ago women in the United Kingdom could not vote. It is also the case that at the time the movie was set the United States Constitution did not guarantee women the vote. Just think, the US Constitution was ratified 227 years ago, yet it has only been 97 years that it guaranteed female suffrage. This movie also shows that women could accomplish major changes.

Here is a quote from the movie spoken by Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts:

“Dear Inspector Steed. I thought about your offer, and I have to say no. You see, I am a suffragette after all. You told me no one listens to girls like me. Well I can't have that anymore. All my life, I've been respectful, done what men told me. I know better now. I'm worth no more, no less than you.”

The Second movie is “Brooklyn” (2015) staring Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey. This film, as with “Suffragette” follows a young woman, Eilis, who grows during the story. While the story centers on Eilis a large number of other women are depicted. Watching the film I remember being struck by how many women there were. I am not used to seeing that. Out of the 15 actors listed in the IMDb’s “cast overview, first billed” 12 are women. Again a woman is the most important character.

Surprisingly to me the film “Brooklyn” is based on a novel written by a man, Colm Toibin. I should note that I have a soft spot in my heart for Brooklyn the borough since I was born there.

Tom,
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  3  
Reply Tue 26 Apr, 2016 06:43 am
@TomNice,
Quote:
Does anyone believe that female characters and male characters are made to seem equally important overall in movies?

It's the studio system. In the past decades? Definitely not. Now with the given insurgence of female driven books, television series, and movie franchises? That's balancing out towards equality but not necessarily there. Just ask Jennifer Lawrence and other major female actors whose paycheck doesn't evoke equality in that department with their male counterparts.

But your assessment is a tad wrong. Gender of characters has nothing to do with order of actor's names in a cast list. These two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Sometimes, the list is chronological (names of the actor/character are listed by the appearance of the actors from beginning of the movie onwards). More often than not, it's how the actor bargains with the studio. They might get top billing if they accept a lesser paycheck, etc....

Movies are subjective. In an ensemble cast? I might consider one character more important than you. Sometimes, an actor will proverbially steal the movie with an unexpected performance. The cast listing (usually I suppose) isn't going to change after the movie is done post theatrical release.

Sometimes actors who are unlisted in the credits (cameos and the like) will have their names added to the list. There are too many other factors other then the ranking of the character's importance in determining where the actor's name will find its way into the cast list.

By actor I mean gender neutral (covering both actor and actress). I'm lazy that way.
TomNice
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 04:32 am
@tsarstepan,
Tsarstepan, thank you for your comment. By writing “Definitely not” I take it that you agree with my belief that female characters and male characters are not made to seem equally important. And by the rest of that first paragraph I feel you believe that women and girls are generally made to seem less important than men and boys. I am correct or did I misread you. This I feel is the most important idea to me, that female characters are make to appear less important than male ones.

As to whether the actor’s names are listed in importance of the characters they play, I did write that it appears to me to be that case. I was not sure. I did go through and found movies where I felt that the female character was more important, but that a man was named first. I also did not base my claim simply on the IMDb list. I used by life experience and the IMDb statistics of female compared to male actors. You make a good point about movies where both the female and male characters are equally important. But, again I feel that the most important thing is whether in general, in the majority of cases and on average female characters are made to appear less important than male characters.

Again thank you for your comment.

Tom,
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 05:19 am
As I wrote above I believe that there are relatively few films in which female characters are the most important, but there are some. Over time I have found myself enjoying films about female characters more and more and becoming more interested in them. One of my favorite such films is “Stage Door” (1937). Not only are the main characters female, but most of the cast is female. Prominent female actors in the movie include Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller. Another actress in the film is Constance Collier who first performed on stage in 1884 in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and then continued on to a successful career both on the stage and in the movies. Her first movie was “The Tongues of Men” (1916) and her last was “Whirlpool” (1949). Other actresses of note in “Stage Door” are Gail Patrick playing Linda Shaw and Andrea Leeds as Kay Hamilton.

This is an important film not only because it is a fine example of women in leading roles (there were actually a number of leading female roles in it), but it is also a fine example of women interacting with other women. The diverse characters in the story show a caring for each other even though not all of them are on the best of terms. In particular the interaction between the characters played by Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers show this conflict of emotions very well. But, all of the actresses are very good in their portrayals. I would recommend this film, not only because of what I have written above, but also because it is an entertaining and a poignant story with fine acting.

Tom,
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 05:28 am
I wouldn't pretend to have the knowledge of film that you seem to possess. However, i wondered if you have ever seen Spitfire, a 1934 film starring Katharine Hepburn in the lead role, with Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy. You might find it an interesting addition to your catalog of films starring women.

Spitfire at IMDB.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 05:33 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

I wouldn't pretend to have the knowledge of film that you seem to possess. However, i wondered if you have ever seen Spitfire, a 1934 film starring Katharine Hepburn in the lead role, with Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy. You might find it an interesting addition to your catalog of films starring women.

Spitfire at IMDB.


I wonder if what you noticed was because the film was likely produced before the Motion Picture Production Code AKA the Hays Code.
Quote:
Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code (usually labeled, albeit inaccurately, as the "Hays Code") censorship guidelines in 1934.

That with the Motion Picture Production Code, there was a major cultural shift in the studio system. Women got the short straw in the studio formula.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 05:43 am
@tsarstepan,
I wouldn't know Hays from Gabby--but that is an interesting take. One critic i saw on the teevee made a point of how Hepburn was coached to speak English as people in the Tennessee Valley did in those days. To that extent, a lot of 1930s filums are cultural artifacts.
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 09:10 am
@Setanta,
Setanta, thank you for your comment and for the compliment, I have not seen "Spitfire," so I’m glad you mentioned it. It is an interesting addition to my catalog. I would like it if others were to write about films that have women or girls in dominant roles. As to older films being “cultural artifacts” I agree and I’m particularly interested in the fashions.

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Apr, 2016 09:11 am
@tsarstepan,
Tsarstepan, I agree that there was a cultural shift with the Hays Code, but I’m not sure how it particularly affected women. Thanks for your comment.

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2016 05:41 am
Here are three films with women in the leading roles from the “silent era.”

The first is the 1922 film “The Toll of the Sea” staring Anna May Wong. Despite being only seventeen at the time of the premiere of the film, Anna May had already been in six films. She continued to act after this starring role and perhaps had her greatest success, both on the stage and on the screen, while in Europe. In 1930 she stared, as Hai-tang in three versions of the same film, the first in German, the second in English and the third in French as she was able to speak all three languages as well as Chinese. In addition to being a film with a female leading character, “The Toll of the Sea” is historical as being one of the first “two color Technicolor” movies.

Next is the 1928 film “La passion de Jeanne d’Arc” (“The Passion of Joan of Arc”), staring Maria Falconetti (born 1892). Maria Falconetti was only in three films, the earlier two in 1917, but was a successful stage star. This film is a good example of why I consider some films without spoken dialog (“silent films”) not to be films that lack something, but an art form in their own right.

Third is the film “The Wind” also 1928, starring Lillian Gish (born 1893). This is a different kind of Western, shown from a woman’s point of view. The story behind the film is from a novel by Dorothy Scarborough and the scenario is by Frances Marion.

I am interested in any suggestions as to films with females in the leading role(s).

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  2  
Reply Fri 29 Apr, 2016 05:54 am
Next are three early full-length Disney movies:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released in 1937. The main character, Snow White, was voiced by the then 21 year old Adriana Caselotti. Some may be surprised that I would pick this film, after all while the leading character is female she is not strong and not in charge. Things basically happen to her. Further she takes a conventional female role as a housekeeper and cook for the seven dwarfs and is someone who wishes for the one she loves to find her. But, what is most important to me is that the story is about her, her fears and her joys. She is important and the center of our attention. I feel is important that females are seen that way. Also even though the Queen, Snow White’s, stepmother is evil we still see her as an important person and we are told her feelings even if they are vanity and hatred.

That Snow White is not that strong or in charge is more understandable considering she may only be 14 years old (the ages of the Disney Princesses can be found on the internet, but I don’t know what the source of that information is). In a translation of the Grimm Brothers story she is only 7.

Released in 1950 is the animated feature film “Cinderella” with the title character being voiced by the 21 year old Ilene Woods. As with Snow White, Cinderella is portrayed working at the traditional female roles of taking care of the home and generally being a maid. She also dreams of her wishes coming true. But again it is the female character Cinderella, who is important, whose wishes and dreams we are told of and whose disappointments and happiness are what the story is about. But, Cinderella does act to bring about her dreams if only by going to the ball and by striving to have the slipper tried on her. Cinderella is suppose to be 19 years old. Further, important to the story, more important than the prince, are Cinderella’s stepmother and two stepsisters. They also have feelings and aspirations even if they do not try to achieve them in the nicest ways.

One year later was the release of the animated film “Alice in Wonderland.” Here we have something different, a 7 years old girl who is adventurous, curious, assertive and determined and her role is of an adventurer, even if sometimes she becomes scared and regrets what she has done, but that is only for a short time. As is the case for Snow White and Cinderella in their films, Alice is the most important character in hers. Alice was voiced by the then 13 year old Kathryn Beaumont.

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Apr, 2016 07:04 am
Fitting for this thread is the 1995 film “Now and Then” with four important female characters played by eight actresses – four when young and four when older. The young/old characters are:

Roberta played by Christina Ricci/Rosie O’Donnell;
Teeny played by Thora Birch/Melanie Griffith;
Samantha played by Gaby Hoffmann/Demi Moore; and
Chrissy played by Ashleigh Aston Moore/Rita Wilson.

This film presents what I feel is a realist portrayal of four friends, girls/women who care about each other, but sometimes have differences, which is what life is about. It was written by I. Marlene King and directed by Leslie Linka Glatter.

Thinking about Christina Ricci I am reminded of the TV show “Pan Am” which sadly only ran for one season. While there were male characters I feel the show was mostly about the four stewardesses, their different personalities and how they related to each other.

While some may feel that the main character of the 1992 movie “A League of their Own” is a man, Jimmy Dugan played by Tom Hanks, it is primarily a story of the interaction of a group of women. Tom Hanks is listed first in IMDb’s list of “cast overview, first billed only,” but the next 14 characters are female and include Geena Davie as Dottie Hinson, Madonna as Mae Mordabito and Rosie O’Donnell as Doris Murphy. It has been a while since I have seen this film. I remember enjoying it and in some ways it reminded me of “Stage Door” (1937), which I have written about earlier.

Here is a picture, from 1944, of an all female team, the “Rockford Peaches” that played in the “All-American Girls Professional Baseball League:”
http://iannucciholocausthistory.weebly.com/uploads/2/3/5/8/23584874/51634.jpg?642
And here is a similar picture of the cast from the movie “A League of their Own”:
http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/leagueoftheirown/alotowncastbig.jpg

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 May, 2016 06:29 am
The play “The Tempest” (c. 1610 to 1611) may have been the last play Shakespeare wrote without collaboration. In that work all of the characters, except for one, Miranda, are male or of unknown gender. However Director Julie Taymor in her 2010 movie version of the “The Tempest” replaced Prospero by Prospera who is played by Helen Mirren. Now Propera/Prospero is by all means the dormant character of the story and by having Helen Mirren play this role this dominant character became a woman. This makes me think of other movies where the gender of the main characters could be changed. What about a Black Jane Bond or a remake of “Duck Soup” with the “Marx Sisters?” We could have Harpa chasing scanty clad boys. Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet as did other women. But, could there be a female Hamlet who is not only played by a woman, but is played as a woman? What about “Juliet and Romeo” or a female Phantom or a woman playing the Atticus Finch character or a woman peeping out of a “Rear Window” or climbing down the faces on Mount Rushmore? Does Kong have to be male? I could go on and on.

Tom,
0 Replies
 
TomNice
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 May, 2016 10:12 am
The best picture winner for 1957 was the movie “Around the World in Eighty Days” which was from the 1873 Jules Verne book of the same name. Now that is pretty cool despite the fact that the movie was mainly about men, but what about a movie about the book “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days” written in 1890? Well what would be so great about that? First the book “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days” is about a real trip and the person who wrote the book and went around the world in 72 days by herself was a woman named Nellie Bly. While I think that the book “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days” could make an interesting movie it appears than an even more exciting movie, about Nellie Bly, came out last year.

Nellie Bly was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 5, 1864. At 16 years of age she became a reporter and eventually worked for the “New York World” and it was for this paper that she investigated the Women’s Lunatic Asylum by getting herself admitted. What so excited me is that I just found out that her book “Ten Days in a Mad-House” had recently been made into a movie. It seems that this film has already made its way through the theaters and I am sorry I missed it. Nellie Bly was an adventurous woman living at a time when most women were restricted in what they could do and in some cases even go, yet she was a reporter, entered a lunatic asylum to investigate it and traveled around the world by herself. From viewing the trailer it seems not only does this film present this courageous woman in her successful attempts to help the helpless and forgotten, but that it also presents the story of the women who were the helpless and forgotten.

“Ten Days in a Mad-House” stars Caroline Barry as Nellie Bly. Of the 15 names listed in IMDb’s “cast overview, first billed only” 11 are women. A picture of Caroline Barry used to advertise the movie looks very much like a black and white photograph of Nellie Bly. The following link goes to the IMDb information page for the movie, as well as to a video of the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3453052/

If anyone knows more about this movie let me know. I would very much like to see it. There is a made for TV movie from 1981 called “The Adventures of Nellie Bly.” It starred Linda Purl.

I am still interested in any suggestions as to films with females in the leading role(s).

Tom,
 

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