The Women of Old Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard (1950)

When the tintypes first galloped westward in the 1910s, what was it like to be a woman working in the film industry? A special event at Conway Hall, part of the Looking In Looking Out festival of film and philosophy, hopes to find out. The evening will take a look at the earliest days of Hollywood, the era of Lois Weber, Frances Marion, June Mathis Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand and Clara Bow.

We’ll be asking questions such as: how much did women contribute to the formation of the cinema as we now know it? Were there more opportunities for women in the then-new industry or did broader social ideas about women’s roles hold them back? Do the films that women made during this period represent a specifically female or even feminist point of view? Have women been written out of cinema history? But we’ll also be celebrating the many fantastic achievements by women both well-known and obscure in silent-era Hollywood.

The LILO event will comprise, first, a panel discussion chaired by Bidisha and featuring Kira Cochrane, Jenny Hammerton and Muriel Zagha as well as um, me. This will be followed by a screening of Billy Wilder’s sublime Sunset Boulevard (1950), with its unforgettable lead performance by Gloria Swanson as the embittered silent film star Norma Desmond.

6.30pm Bidisha leads a high-kicking whirl through Hollywood history and a celebration of the brilliant women who co-founded Hollywood, with film experts, critics, Old Hollywood fans and film lovers Jenny HammertonMuriel ZaghaPamela Hutchinson and Kira Cochrane.

8pm Sunset Boulevard (1950) Gloria Swanson’s career-defining performance in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s Oscar-winning tragic tale of a star in decline. As much a reflection on the idea of Hollywood itself, as it is on love and loss.

So please, come one, come all – this should be fun. The Women of Old Hollywood event takes place at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London on Tuesday 3 July 2012. Doors open at 6pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available here. You can read more on the Conway Hall website, or on Facebook. There’s a Twitter feed too. And if you want more, here’s a very smart feature from the clever chaps at Real|Reel Journal introducing the festival.

4 thoughts on “The Women of Old Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard (1950)”

  1. I’m sure you’re familiar with the work of Alice Guy-Blaché. I’m not an authority on Mrs. Guy-Blaché nor the topic, but I have read, Alice Guy Blach: Lost Visionary of the Cinema, by Alison McMahan. The author addresses women in early film and more specifically Mrs. Guy-Blaché.

    It sounds like a fascinating event. Too bad there isn’t a Concord any longer. Good luck!

  2. I have a nice 16mm print of “sunset Boulevard “ but a mental illness prevents me from running it along with the other thirty or so classic Hollywood features I have

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