If there’s a specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. —Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow was the fourth woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ then 82-year history, and the first to take the statue home. The movie she won for — 2008’s The Hurt Locker — will air Tuesday, Nov. 10 as part of TCM’s Women Make Film, a 14-week series designed to reframe cinema’s history with an emphasis on gender inclusion. An aspect of the industry that has been present since 1896 but excised from the collective memory.
“Women helped found the movie industry,” Barbara Bridges, founder of Denver Film’s Women+Film Festival, says. “They were the early filmmakers. They owned their studios. They developed many of the filmmaking techniques.”
But when the historians sat down to pen the history of movies, women were left out and their names were left off. In recent years, the name Alice Guy-Blaché has bubbled back into the conversation, but 20, 30, 40 years ago, forget it.
“She was the first to use film to tell stories,” Bridges says, “[and] she was doing all kinds of experimenting with filmmaking.”
Same for 1,200-plus talents featured in Bridges and Jill S. Tietjen’s book, Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies — a “horizontal approach” to film history through archival photographs and direct quotations. For those following TCM’s series, there’s plenty from Lois Weber, Dorothy Arzner, Ida Lupino, Ava DuVernay and Barbara Streisand — whose Yentl will air Nov. 18 on TCM.
There’s a lot Bridges and Tietjen convey with their book, chief among them: There is no one way to or through Hollywood.
“So many of these women didn’t have the conventional path that they could follow,” Tietjen says.
So, as Tietjen points out, they do it all: Write, produce and direct. Sometimes, like Lupino, they act. Sometimes, like Streisand, they sing.
“Because that’s what it takes,” Tietjen continues.
And while that’s true today, Tietjen notes that technological advancements have granted access to filmmakers. As DuVernay says in the book, “I’m grateful that I live at a time when access to cameras and distribution platforms and ways to reach audiences outside of the normal Hollywood infrastructure are possible for me, a black person, a woman, than ever before.”
DuVernay was also nominated for an Oscar, by the way, in 2017 for 13th. And if you go to the book’s companion website, hollywoodherstory.com, you’ll find two categories relating to the Oscars: nominees and winners sorted by chronology and by category.
“When you look at it by date, you can see how more and more women over the years have been nominated,” Bridges says. “And when you look at it by category, you can see the categories where women really have been able to thrive … and you can see the categories where they have struggled.”
Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies can be found in bookstores and online. TCM’s Women Make Film continues Tuesday, Nov. 10.