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Women in Film

“There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.”

    - Goldie Hawn

Despite this bleakly comic assessment, women have been at the heart of film culture, both behind and in front of the camera, since the beginnings of cinema. Discover our in-depth content on the diverse roles women have played in the history of film-making.



Women Filmmakers
Image: Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans

Women Filmmakers

Discover the multi-faceted history of women filmmakers: Alison McMahan's acclaimed study traces the career of the early film pioneer Alice Guy Blaché, who made her first film in 1896, and went on to direct, produce or supervise over 600 silent films. In the 1930s, actor-turned-filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl directed two epic, innovative documentaries, Triumph of the Will (1934) and Olympia (1938), but she remains a controversial figure due to her closeness to the Nazi regime. Read more about Riefenstahl's life and legacy in Riefenstahl Screened. Women's role in great national cinemas has often been overlooked or under-represented. Hilary Neroni's Feminist Film Theory and Cléo From 5 to 7 explores the classic film by the French director Agnès Varda, and Cinema and the Second Sex, edited by Carrie Tarr and Brigitte Rollet, provides a guide to the diversity of women's filmmaking in France in the 1980s and 1990s, addressing work by directors including Coline Serreau, Diane Kurys and Claire Denis.

Stars on Screen
Image: Courtesy Everett Collection / Mary Evans

Stars on Screen

The silver screen and its attendant mass media industries opened up possibilities for a new kind of celebrity, and female actors created some of the most compelling star personae. Susan Hayward's Simone Signoret: The Star as Cultural Icon explores the career of this iconic French actress, and Ellis Cashmore's Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption suggests that Taylor was the first star of the age of global celebrity.

Representations
Image: The Ronald Grant Archive

Representations

Discover the diverse forms of women on screen, from the femme fatale to the action heroine to the devouring monster. In Alien Woman, Ximena Gallardo and Jason Smith consider how Lt. Ellen Ripley in the Alien quartet rewrote the rules for both the action heroine and women in science fiction. Carolyn Cocca's award-winning Superwomen explores the history of the female superhero, from Wonder Woman by way of the women of Star Wars and X-Men to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lars von Trier's Women examines how the Danish director's female characters have been both celebrated for their power and agency and criticised for their masochistic suffering.