Coffee and croissant in hand at sunrise, pearls, a beehive up-do topped-off with a sparkling tiara, over-sized sunglasses—the reflection of a woman in the glass of a jewelry store. A young girl sprawled out on a tree branch over-looking a party she’s not privy to, an off-duty princess taking a rogue scooter disruptively through a town. All of these simple moments are from films that star the iconic Audrey Hepburn. The percentage and likelihood that you have seen her image next to a cheesy inspirational quote or her face on a poster of a college age woman’s dorm room wall is absolutely certain, whether you have seen any film she is in or not. Maybe the quote was an actual quote she coined, maybe not. It is undebatable that Hepburn’s image, stardom, and influence has far outlived her life.
Time can permit legends to eclipse the reality of someone’s life, particularly in Hollywood. Some are unjustly lionized and some greatly disparaged but in the history of film few have been as mischaracterized as Marion Davies. She was a success on stage and screen but her long term relationship with a wealthy, married man and her portrayal in a film loosely based on his life is all that is remembered now. Born into a wealthy Brooklyn family, Marion started out as a model and then a chorus girl on Broadway. She was then featured in the “Ziegfeld Follies’ which was a hugely popular musical revue that launched many careers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. As she rose in fame as a stage comedienne, the new medium of the “flickers,” or silent film, beckoned.
In this day and age female screenwriters still face barriers within the film industry. In fact, a study conducted in 2017 found that women represented just 11 per cent of the writers on the United States’ top 250 films. They fared a little better in the world of Television, where they made up 33 per cent of television writers during the States’ 2016-17 season. One has to wonder what the great screenwriter Frances Marion would have to say about these figures. There's a high chance that you haven't heard of Marion, but her screenwriting attributes have had a long-lasting impact on cinema and helped shaped the language of storytelling on the big screen. She wrote the stories and scenarios for over three hundred films in a career that spans from early days of cinema and into the sound era. Her work earned her two Academy Awards for screenwriting.
Olive Thomas died at twenty-five years of age, thanks to the accidental ingestion of mercury bichloride. She had acted in approximately twenty films over four years, but sadly, her career ended as quickly as it had begun. While Thomas’ death essentially created the first Hollywood scandal ever, I feel that she should be remembered for her expressiveness and liveliness that she brought to her acting. Olive Thomas won the “Most Beautiful Girl in New York City” contest in 1914, launching her modelling career. She joined the Ziegfeld Follies shortly thereafter and remained with the Follies until 1916. That year, she signed with the International Film Company, and her acting debut was in an episode of “Beatrice Fairfax,” called “Playball.”
Greta Garbo started her career in Swedish cinema (her first notable role being the 1924 film “The Saga of Gösta Berling”), which brought her to the attention of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio, leading her to her first Hollywood role in “Torrent” (1926). From here on followed a suite of successful silent films and Garbo’s conquest of international acclaim began.
There are few actresses who give full-on, metaphorical balls-to-the-wall performances. Betty Gilpin is one of those people. She gives immensely high-caliber performances every time she is on screen. So, with the release of “The Hunt” (2020) fast approaching it is time we take a moment to appreciate the underappreciated Betty Gilpin. Gilpin has been working long before her turn as actress-turned-wrestler on Netflix’s “GLOW.” But it has been her Emmy-nominated performance as Debbie Eagan and wrestling alter-ego Liberty Belle that has shone a light on her innate talent.
You may not know her name, but I am damn certain that you would recognise her face and more importantly her hairstyle. The 'Lulu' Bob haircut worn by Louise Brooks is a representation of the Jazz age in all of its glory and revolutionary awe. For a few brief years, Brooks was one of the most well known and one of the highest-paid actresses in the world. At the height of her career, she made a bold decision to leave La La Land, in order to star in two of the silent era's most famous films, "Pandora's Box" (1929) and "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929). However, when she returned to America her career had virtually ended and by 1938 she had turned her back on Hollywood. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, Brooks lived in extreme economical hardship before being 'rediscovered' by James Card, who encouraged her to write down her memoirs as well as essays that reflected on the silent era.
Cathy Yan is a new and exciting director that more people should be aware of. She has a track record of making interesting films with a diverse cast and crew. I cannot wait to see what the future brings for Yan, I know I will be there opening weekend for any films with her name in the credits.
In her life, she witnessed the Jazz Age, two World Wars and the Civil Rights Movement to which she devoted so much of her formidable energy. Lena Horne was fierce in her self-respect when it was not socially recognized that people of colour should receive any at all. Ahead of her time, she lived her life on her terms even when it could prove dangerous to do so.
Born into a performing family, Lena was raised mostly by her grandparents until she dropped out of high school to be a dancer at the Cotton Club, the famous jazz night club in Harlem, New York. From there she just kept working on her career, eventually touring with various big bands around the country. This was not as glamorous as it sounds since African Americans were denied access to most restaurants and hotels in the 1930’s. Lena would see first-hand the hardships endured on the road by her fellow musicians due to prejudice and segregation.