Where did the female directors go? Never mind that pioneer directors Alice Guy-Blaché and Lois Weber were towering figures of cinema’s first two decades. By 1920, each found it harder and harder to get projects off the ground. Just about the time that American women earned the right to vote, these two directors found it increasingly difficult to find financing. Given recent studio consolidations, executives wanted filmmakers they could control, not those accustomed to calling the shots.
Although in the early 1920s, many screenwriters from the previous decade — including Lenore Coffee, Anita Loos, Frances Marion, Bess Meredyth, Jeanie MacPherson, and Jane Murfin — continued to thrive and flourish, that was not the case for their sisters behind the camera. As counter intuitive as this may seem, more women won Oscars for their screenplays in the 1930s (three) than in the 1980s (zero). For the most part, women behind the camera disappeared.
The ‘What Happened to the Women Directors in Hollywood?’ five-part Truthdig series by Carrie Rickey is published in partnership with Women and Hollywood. The series considers the historic accomplishments of women behind the camera, how they got marginalized, and how they are fighting for equal employment. Specifically, this series asks, why do females make up between 33 and 50 percent of film-school graduates but account for only seven percent of working directors? What happened to the women directors in Hollywood? More on Women And Hollywood.
Carrie Rickey has been a film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice, and an art critic at Artforum and Art in America. Rickey has taught at various institutions, including School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania.