Women’s History Month

March marks women’s history month and International Women’s Day on the 8th, plus Mother’s Day in the UK this year on the 27th. Here’s a select playlist of Audiovisual Cultures episodes highlighting women’s history with topics including stardom, violence, activism, abortion rights and suffrage. Please comment with your further listening or reading suggestions on women’s history.


Audiovisual Cultures episode 96 – Fading Fame with Pam Munter automated transcript

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this is audiovisual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and media join me your host paula blair and the researchers practitioners and enthusiasts i meet along the way see our website at and other links in the show notes for more information for now enjoy the show hello thank you for tuning in to another episode of audiovisual cultures we’re taking a virtual trip to hollywood today with my very special guest pam munter who is a former actor a musician an author and a film his story and we do love those on this show we’ll mainly be talking to pam about her latest book of short stories and plays fading fame women of a certain age in hollywood published this year in 2021 with adelaide picks before that though i’d really love to give a very warm welcome to pam it’s so wonderful to have you on the show hi pam hi paulus thank you for having me this is quite a pleasure to be speaking to another film historian that’s a rare treat for me awesome that’s great i’m hoping we can get into some proper nerdy business if i film uh especially early film in hollywood um and i can learn a few things from me as well before we talk about your book as well just wanted to ask how are you doing where bites are you joining us from i live in palm desert california which is about two hours east of los angeles it’s in the desert it’s really interesting when you think back to early early cinema and read about basically what a desert california was you know the whole of it before hollywood was built out of that arid landscape we’re catching up with that a little bit later on with your work would you be happy to tell us a bit more about yourself and your work and your interests sure i had the good fortune i think to be born and raised in los angeles which is a stone’s throw from hollywood uh my parents they weren’t into the business at all nor were any of the neighbors they were pretty solid traditional blue collar kind of folks but my mother took me to a film when i was five years old believe it or not and i remember the movie even and i was hooked i thought you know that’s the kind of life i want to know more about i wanted to be in it i mean it was so different from my everyday life with housewives gossiping about their husbands and drinking coffee and that’s maybe crazy i just couldn’t imagine a life like that so i kept going to movies even as a kid i spent my babysitting money going to movies and where i grew up even though my parents weren’t in the business a lot of people were i went to school with some famous kids in my high school for instance there was ryan o’neal and sandra d and nancy sinatra and a lot of the kids of celebrities sitting next to me in my english class was a mousekateer if you remember those and so fame just didn’t seem that far away to me you know it seemed like a doable thing but back in those days paula there was no mass media telling us what these people really like that we saw on the screen the hollywood was controlled by five major studios and five white men who were lord master of their domain and the only thing we knew about these stars that we adored came from the publicity departments of those studios who funneled the information to movie magazines that was it that was all we had you know there was no cable tv there was no not even any uh national enquirer you know or any uh newspapers that would tell the truth because all of that was controlled by the studios who were very wealthy and usually pillars of their communities but you know i never quite bought that i always wondered even as a kid could all these people be so freaking happy all the time i didn’t understand you know we saw pictures of women and men hugging and there were no gay people of course they were invented later on

they were moving or they were vacationing or they were on the set and they’re all immaculately dressed and i just was so fascinated with that world well i realized very young that even though i loved it and i wanted to be a movie star as all kids did at that age i knew that probably wasn’t really likely so i went into other fields i actually became a clinical psychologist and practiced for a quarter of a century and saw a lot of celebrities in therapy which is interesting and fun for me but i always kept writing about the business it was something that fascinated me i wrote i don’t know maybe two dozen articles very lengthy articles on not so famous movie stars for some of the magazines like classic images and films of the golden age and the ones that told the truth this is after the era of the five studios and i love doing that because i was afraid that people like i don’t know joan blondell or celeste home or joan davis would be forgotten so i took a lot of time out of my life to do that so i was writing nonfiction that was my life i read it i wrote it i loved it never read fiction never liked fiction it was not very politically correct to say since i just produced a book of fiction but that’s the truth i had left the practice we closed it down because of managed care it was just so intrusive it was very hard to feel ethical about doing lengthy psychotherapy when there was so much intrusion into the process from the outside and i went into an mfa program in performing arts creative writing and performing arts and i wrote a autobiography a memoir called as long as i want to be and i was fine i got through with that and then the head of the department said you know you need a second field i thought oh i’m in real trouble now because this is the only one i know he said why don’t you try fiction oh man wow that’s like saying why don’t you fly to mars tomorrow morning you know i just didn’t know how to do it how to go about doing it but then i thought you know i have an awful lot of information about hollywood history in my head to serve no functional purpose at all to anyone what happens if i take some of those stories fictionalize them and in some cases make them anonymous some of the stories in the book fading fame aren’t about a specific movie star but about a collection of people thought maybe i could get away with that you know maybe we could call that fiction because it was now the stories i tell there’s one in particular about joan davis who was a vaudeville performer i don’t know if you’re familiar with that name her history was amazing really she was in radio she had her own shows on radio she was did films for years she had a hit television program called i married joan in the 50s and then there was nothing they canceled their show what happened to joan davis what happens to women who get too old for the studios for the public no they’re no longer desirable even female comediennes like joan davis apparently had a shelf life that ran out so i wondered i wondered a lot i had written some place years ago that she had had an affair with another comedian named eddie cantor who’s also very famous more famous than she actually vaudeville movies all that kind of state a lot of stage work television i thought i’m gonna make a story out of that i mean i don’t know if it’s true i don’t know how long it went on but coincidentally both joan davis and eddie cantor had had homes just a few miles from where i live well as a former researcher i couldn’t help myself i had to drive over there and take a look which i did in joan davis’s house they were working on it i don’t know what they were doing but obviously she didn’t live there anymore she was long dead as was cancer but there were open doors and i thought ah should i go in and look around you know it helped my story maybe if i knew exactly what the setting was and i stopped myself come on come on this isn’t a research piece this is fiction back off but i discovered that even though they had long ended their affair if they ever had one they only lived a mile and a half apart in the palm springs area so what a great story this could be so that was the kind of way i fictionalized real stories for fading fame and there were a couple of others like that where i took the a nub just a little nugget of the reality and turned it into something i thought i could use that’s brilliant to hear yes i wanted to thank you as well for so generously sharing the text of your book with me i really enjoyed the short stories i didn’t manage to get to the place but i really enjoyed all of the stories and that one was really poignant in particular and i was wanting to ask you about to what extent you was anything from historical documentation and how true even is that in the first place um and then how much of it was imagined you know and played with that sort of thing so that’s really interesting to hear that stuff was in my head you know i i didn’t have to do the research i knew that joan davis had been an alcoholic which he is in my story also because of biographies written by other actors who worked with her and talked about her difficulty functioning sometimes because of alcohol in fact a lot of the women in these stories drank too much it was one way of coping i suppose with the loss of their fame you know the people who were in that era of show business had nothing else many of them started very young in mary pickford’s case she was on stage at six supporting her entire family on the vaudeville stage not much education which is true of all of these women none of them were well educated or college graduates few of them were high school graduates for that matter and they didn’t go through the normal developmental stages so their lives were filled with dare i say fame or the acquisition of it and when that was gone it’s like their identity had just been stripped away there was not much left and as you say it’s poignant to see people who were so talented uh mary pickford is a great example of that and she was the first female executive in hollywood she ran her own studio big star in the 20s she was called america’s sweetheart married douglas fairbanks and they were this dashing couple all over the papers and that’s also in my story because anybody who knows hollywood history knows mary pickford i didn’t really have explained who she was but a lot of her success was due to her screenwriter francis marion uh and they became good friends now i have them doing francis marion wanting a little more from mary than friendship but clearly fictionalized i hope i think i don’t know who knows this stuff but mary pickford had such a sad ending she ran the silent films ran out and she ran out i mean there was not much left she had gone through her entire career even up to the age of 40 playing young girls with curly wrinkly hair and at 40 you know you just can’t get away with that too much anymore and the public didn’t want to see her as the actor she had become as mary pickford so she kind of faded away the interesting part was that francis marion went straight up from there she won two academy awards for screenwriting the first woman i think to win two academy awards for writing film and mary who’s really the sad part to me is not just dissolving in alcohol which is sad enough but the fact that she lived in this mansion in hollywood from the early 1920s through two husbands and ended up living there still as she died you know you think about movie stars norma desmond you know the famous fictional character in sunset boulevard and she wasn’t too far from that it was a hard story to write but i thought it was a story that needed to be told even fictionalized because that’s what happens to women who get too old they get thrown away yes i had thought about that comparison with sunset was in my mind quite a bit when i was reading some of those earlier stories and how that’s depicted and i mean it’s made into a film noir and surrounded by you and murder and everything it’s glammed up a bit but there’s so much about what happened and and who didn’t make it when the talkies came in really sad yeah it is sad when technology comes in like that a lot of people get left behind actually with most of the men who got left behind the women get uh jettisoned because their age mostly you know the film moguls want someone they can imagine having sex with and once they got into their late 20s no sorry you know next they didn’t want the ones that actually they had signed the contracts i recently watched bombshell i don’t know if you’ve seen that film but that’s a very contemporary example of that very sort of thing happening at fox news based on a real story it’s very prescient so although your stories are set in the past they’re set in another century depressingly now it’s a very prescient issue is that idea of women needing to be stuck at a certain age and having value only because of what they look like and it doesn’t matter how talented they are or how committed they are how hard they work or any of it yes it’s still very much with us i particularly enjoyed the stories jerry’s interview and the curtain never falls i think because as well as those stories that look at perhaps the more negative impact of all of this context those two stories they have a bit of a lift in them and the characters that are depicted geraldine leonard and maggie bose they get to be quite heroic in their own ways so i was wondering you know if you had any thoughts on that because there are more positive ending stories in the book as well but also are there any any other favorites of yours or any other highlights you’d like to mention well the curtain river falls came out of a single line i heard i don’t know if you’re familiar with rosemary she’s gone now but she was probably best known for a television show called dick van dyke show she was one of the main characters in that but she had a long and illustrious career again on stage nightclubs and stuff like that she had there was a documentary about her just before she died and the interviewer said you know how are you doing and i don’t know she says you know at night when i’m in bed i go over my act i thought ah how poignant is that here’s a woman 80 something at that point and she’s still thinking she’s going to get back to it so there’s a story there’s got to be a story in that and everything that came out of maggie beau’s story came from that one line in the documentary so you never know when uh inspiration is going to strike actually my favorite story i think is the one that’s called dinner with daddy and it’s the story of irene selznick irene mayer selznick who was the younger daughter of elbie mayer the kingpin of mgm really one of the founders of mgm as in metro golden mayor and i have her in the story coming back to the family mansion in bel air which i have actually seen and uh it’s been years since she’d been there she doesn’t know why she’s there it’s a family dinner and daddy’s being daddy and ordering people around and there’s a butler and there’s a younger sister or older sister actually who is on her constantly and all like most of us when we go home as adults some of the old patterns come back so easily in spite of ourselves and we see that in dinner with daddy there’s a lot of history and dinner with daddy that i threw in sort of incidentally i have irene challenging her father on why he would invite charlie chaplin to dinner with a high school girl well it’s again a fact that charlie liked young girls i don’t know if he ever had dinner it’ll be mayor’s house i don’t know if they were friends i don’t know if they work together but it was an irresistible tidbit i also threw in uh in the story about mary pickford a tidbit about peg entwistle who is a sort of a footnote to history she uh was a young actress who is probably best known for killing herself by jumping off the hollywood sign which is very sad i bet i have her at the dinner party with mary pickford and francis maria so any story where i can insert real history even as a parenthetical aside it’s just more fun for me and i think that’s why i like the selznick dinner with daddy story and that’s one that ends happily too incidentally i mean she one of the reasons the family is there is that they’re announcing their divorce and irene helps her mother learn to cope with what she knows will be an awful ending in the family again i don’t know if that happened i do know that irene sort of made her bones as a producer on broadway in the streetcar named desire in 1949 she completely changed careers which one of the things that makes this such a positive story i think she wasn’t a victim like some of the others sort of feels like they were she made the best of a bad situation married to an awful person david selznick who was obsessive-compulsive and a womanizer she had the good sense to leave so some of the stories as you say are positive i don’t know that whether they end well or not affects how i feel about them some of them are harder to write than others everything that mattered was very hard to write because it’s about a real person who actually did kill herself by whom i knew so that made it a little tougher to write in many cases i had met these people in different settings i had met doris day for instance a couple of times i was a huge fan of tourist day i consider myself the world’s expert on doris day so i couldn’t not put a story about her in the book even though it’s it’s kind of dark comedy more than positive or negative and she just never learns her lesson and never did accidentally right up to the end she always put her life in disreputable men’s hands it was a fun book to write really and and as you suggest all the stories are quite different we have young women in their 40s who have been shipped out because of age and we have older women like ethel barrymore who’s probably the oldest subject who is on set with frank sinatra doing a film in which she kind of it’s not a walk-on but it’s a character part it’s not what she has been used to doing and that was hard to write because i knew that she struggled in her later years and i knew she was in that movie because i had seen it it was one of my favorite films i knew the lines and everything was embarrassing and i just had to include her in it somehow so all these stories are a part of me really and they involve people that i felt some some emotional connection with in jerry’s interview to you mentioned she’s in sort of a nursing home sort of a last stage of life dementia process and i knew an actress like that i kind of watched her go through all those difficult stages and she had people around her which gary didn’t have she didn’t have family at least in this story but i thought it was an important story to tell because all the memories you know when you get older like that come flooding back not necessarily in sequence you know she’s an unreliable narrator we don’t know if these things are true she talks about a murderer you know we don’t know if this actually happened the plays are a little different you say you hadn’t hadn’t read those they are also a little bit about real people but they’re lighter there are dark comedies intended to be kind of oh my god did she say that kind of situation same theme though it’s you know the post-metoo era what happens to women after they pay their dues what do they do themselves and how do they cope with that and what are they willing to do to get it back and one of the stories we see one of the women in the plays janet drake private eye we see two women who are fighting over the same role and they’re both older you know they’ve played it once one of them played it on television one of them played it in on the radio which tells you their age and there’s a movie now being made with this character and both of these women want that part well what are they gonna do to get it it was a fun thing to write because i sort of knew those people in a way i hope you’ll enjoy reading the plays when you get to yeah i’m looking forward to it yes just thinking about drawing out more on some of those things that you’ve mentioned as well that idea of competitiveness just runs right through the whole thing that how so many of these actresses and writers and musicians performers in general they were pitted against each other and pitted against other people and new things coming in all the time and and just how much that eats away at them and there’s a lack of really developing deeper relationships that i hope has changed to an extent these days um it seems that actors are more or at least they will maybe continue to perform solidarity and collaboration but i don’t know i feel like some of that’s more genuine these days and so that’s part of the pathos i think of so many of those stories is that they’re underpinned by that competitiveness yeah i think that what has changed today for the better has been the strength of women’s networking you know they didn’t do that then they were at the mercy of men sadly there are still no women at the head of studios they’re still all white men but more at the secondary and tertiary levels of authority and they have helped other women i think rise you know it wasn’t until the 70s that another woman ran a major studio after mary pickford in the 20s took him 50 years to do it which is pretty amazing and discouraging but sadly that was not to last that was a short-lived era we had sherry lansing at 20th century fox and i think she was a ceo at paramount for a couple of years we had don steele at columbia and amy pascal and stacey schneider at universal but i don’t think there are i think a couple of them are dead but i don’t think any of them are in power anymore again the competitiveness at that level was uh every bit as vicious if not more so than competing for a part against a younger actress it’s a tough life you’re never quite good enough yeah it’s that idea of even if you’re more than good enough you just don’t look the way somebody might want you to look or you’re not prepared to do something that a producer wants you to do in private i mean hopefully the landscape’s changing because you mentioned as well earlier that of course these were all white men highly privileged people at the tops of these studios and today we maybe don’t have studios but there are certainly maybe independent production companies so somebody like aveda renee can have her own production company and you know in a way we’ve come so far but it’s been such a difficult fight for somebody like that to you not only have the gender barrier but the racial one as well so hopefully that landscape is changing maybe not fast enough but i don’t know there is a legacy to what these women suffered as you depict well we still have netflix and amazon you know to control the uh cinematic universe as you say there are smaller independents but then there’s people like harvey weinstein who ran them one of those smaller independents who’s notoriously predatory of course we know that he’s in jail which is a good thing and and many of his cohorts have had to resign their positions there’s a group of men at cbs who had to resign because of sexual harassment even feminist ellen degeneres had to explain to her fans why producers were harassing women on the set and fired them or they quit i’m not sure what happened actually so you’re right it still goes on i think that women banding together to help one another climb to wherever as they want to go is probably the best antidote for the sexism in the industry and talent is wonderful but as we know it’s not enough yeah very true

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i was wondering as well pam who do you expect to be the reader for this book and do you have hopes for it it would be great if your book could be part of that landscape of change yes i would hope so i’ve been a feminist since i was about eight and tried to get girls into little league that wasn’t possible back then uh so i’m hoping that it will ring that bell loudly that this is what we do to women and what we’ve always done to women in this business and we need to rethink that because it’s not worth it you know people shelf life it shouldn’t be a matter of shelf life it should be a matter what they can contribute and for how long my publicist was telling me that a lot of the people who are reviewing it are women so i would guess that’s the natural audience i mean the subtitle is women of a certain age in hollywood but i think anyone who is curious about how things were you don’t have to be a film historian to be curious about how a harvey weinstein could happen and be such an ogre for so many years you know how did he get away with that you know the casting couch goes all the way back and it was a normal accepted event if a woman wanted to be up on that screen she had to lie down on the couch first that was just unfortunately a given i don’t know that that’s true anymore i don’t think it is certainly there are those predators out there but it’s not as widespread as it once was and i think anybody who cares about that issue will be curious about these stories at least i hope so it was fun to write because of the feminist background i’ll say that because i was a clinical psychologist for so many years i felt that i could get inside their heads and give the reader some idea about how women think about these things how they process that kind of oppressiveness and disappointment and uh edging process itself you know as we know some of them did pretty well with that i think the strength to my writing is always the internal dialogue it’s not so much what happens it’s how the the woman processes the information and that was extremely fun to write because i think i know more about that probably than anything having been in practice so many years yes i think there are a lot of the characters who tend to almost build themselves back up again by tearing down another woman there’s quite a lot of that and that’s part of the system that’s part of the culture you know you have to really put it in that context and remember that this is conditioning that everybody’s going through that’s right part of that competitive nature the adversarial nature of the business i think continues i i don’t think that’ll change there’s so few slots for stardom and so many people will want to get there and not just women of course but women i think are subjected to a different kind of criteria than men are men can age gracefully carry grant i think is the greatest clark gable the old stars i mean they they acted until they died in their old age and there aren’t many women like that you think of who they might angela lansbury is a favorite of mine and she’s what 93 or something 94 now and it’s acting up until last year i don’t know if she’s still working that i mean there are women who can do it but that’s because she’s so powerful she has produced her own television series has the money and the backing to pretty much do what she wants there aren’t many performers who have reached that pinnacle that she has yes i think they start to get thin in the ground in the uk we’ve got people like judy dench who’s in her 80s now um i think helen mirren would probably be in that category i think she’s in her 70s you know so i think in a way it’s loosened up a bit it has changed but you have to build a lot of power to have that level of control yeah and you can count them on one hand or maybe two if you’re lucky yeah i think there’s still so much discussion of what these women see stars what they do with their bodies what they are socially permitted to do and expected to do and often being hauled over the coals for doing something they’re expected to do that they get criticized for not doing and what are they meant to do you know because i think there’s instances of or there are mentions of facelifts and geoplastic surgery and that sort of thing quite a bit in the book and these are just necessities that especially hollywood stars have had to meet but yet even today the headlines are very derogatory towards people who do anything cosmetic with their bodies there’s still say pressure on people you when when somebody’s had a baby for example to get that weight back off as soon as possible and it feels quite glacial any change in mindsets there i agree i agree in fact there are pictures in the press of mostly women who’ve had bad plastic surgery we don’t see that but men are having it too you know they are under the same pressure that women are to appear to be younger how sad that is i mean the people you’ve mentioned and i’ve mentioned even katherine hepburn who worked almost to the end was old and grizzled and beautiful you know it’s a different standard perhaps that we need to evolve to where the aging process is a thing of beauty not something to be shunned and plastic surgerized out of existence that’s it yeah i mean there’s so much talk now about body positivity and loving your body as it is but yeah there’s still so much tension with you need to be this sheep and that size and hide your wrinkles and dye your grey hairs and all of this stuff i just want people to be able to breathe yes it’s a silly example maybe but i’ve been watching um star trek voyager and there’s the character of seven of nine and played by jerry ryan and she’s squeezed into these corsets and she’s made as tiny as possible and you in these skin tight outfits and i just look at her and i think gosh that’s really painful looking and yet all these teenage boys 20 odd years ago were getting very excited over you know and it’s very strange to me but the whole barbie doll thing you know when i was a kid you could put your fingers around your waist easily you know with one hand the thumb and forefinger and what are we telling girls if that’s the standard to which they have to adhere you know it’s unrealistic and not very healthy i might add be part of the conversation with av cultures pod on twitter instagram and facebook pam was there anything else you’d like to tell us about some of your other work as well while we’re chatting and you know because you’ve mentioned your psychology background and your autobiography as well and you know is there anything else you’d like to point out that might be interesting for listeners to think about too well i think as a writer i’ve pushed myself beyond my comfortable limits writing fiction and writing plays for that matter and i would suggest to people that they do the same thing that they make the best use of themselves they can to use themselves up so to speak to access all their skills and develop some they didn’t know they had to sounds corny but to live life as fully as possible because it’s a it’s a carpe diem world you know we don’t know how long we have and why not take advantage of what you do have and make the most of it whether it’s helping other people or you know writing books like i do in essays i have essays up the wazoo and on my website by the way you know why not it’s part of making life meaningful and you know if you don’t do it who will that’s great yes because i was going to ask you as well if you had any movie advice or just anything you’ve learned over the years as you say you were um you’ve met so many and spent time with so many of these types of celebrity before and i mean if there was somebody who’s maybe aspiring to or is just starting out in the entertainment industry as well as um those really important messages you’ve just said you is there any advice you would give to anyone in that position well i think what we’ve learned from at least the stories in fading fame is the importance of getting an education when i was a kid i thought that walking down sunset boulevard or going to the brown derby would mean i would be discovered you know and some talent agent would come up to me and say you’re the one i want for my next movie well there’s still some of that fantasy i think going on among young actors that if they put themselves in certain settings they will be discovered well if that is ever going to happen you need to get grounded in education first and i mean standard education honor doesn’t mean actors studio education i mean a good liberal arts education so you have a sense of how the world is not just your little world or the world of show business but all of it and it will also stand you in good stead when the fame starts to fade if you’re ever fortunate enough to be famous it’ll give you something more to it than just seeing your name in a marquee and sadly the women in my book fading fame that’s all they wanted and pretty much all they got for the most part wasn’t enough it’s our responsibility to fill our life responsibly i think those are really accent points that puts me in mind again of so many of the characters in the stories they don’t understand their own downfall quite a lot of the time because as you say there’s not that basic education they don’t understand the maths around the money that is disappearing on they don’t understand what because they don’t have basic legal understanding either and again it calls to mind for me the um character of geraldine leonard who has the humility to go and get a job in a typing pool when her work dries up i mean i love that about her i love that she just didn’t care she just i need a job i could do that and she had had that education to be able to do that you know i really loved that part in the story we had her feet on the ground and a lot of these women sadly did not she was a good example of that she knew what she had to do and she went and answered fan mail for an actor who was more famous than she would ever be again as you say humility it’s really nice to see him somebody who’s almost famous she wasn’t quite famous but almost famous yeah and we so often forget about actors who play the smaller characters or supporting characters it was so lovely as well to just have it i really i think that was my favorite story i just i just raced through it because i just loved her so much you know i just wanted to give her a cuddle or something i really admired her you know that she’d been a supporting actor to a much bigger actor and was doing a lot of work in westerns and then tv westerns i was that a bit of a reference to rawhide oh no it was probably before wrong i didn’t okay it was uh i think probably early 50s is where i i had her having her career at small studios i think if she’d been on rawhide she would have been more famous real she didn’t have that happen to her i liked her too i liked her a lot as i was writing her and you know sad that her mental faculties were declining and as you say i wanted part of me wanted to go and say it’s okay it’s okay this is gonna happen to you and you’ll be all right everybody cares about you and you know just a lovely person i think yeah i think she was awesome and because it was sad in a way the dimension how that affects her but her attitude was just so lovely and positive that he just thought oh she’s awesome she’s just so awesome and she doesn’t know how awesome she is it’s great i really fell in love with her she seemed to accept any you know whether it was famous or having to get a job or losing her faculties or having mismatched shoes or whatever it was nothing seemed to bother her very much it’s admirable i think i wish i were selling flat absolutely yes it felt like life goes it’s a really lovely example actually that she wasn’t bothered that she just i think i will shoot him oh well yes oh god i’m glad you like that one yeah i did actually it was one of the last ones i wrote i felt i needed to have something lag ethel you know where the person is clearly coming to the end ethel was not declining mentally but she was declining physically but jerry had uh some issues with dementia as you say and it didn’t diminish her enjoyment of her life though as you say it was uh inspiring that she could look back and still wonder what happened in certain instances and and still miss the man she loved and was with just good memories that she had which is wonderful i would hope that we would all have good memories in our 80s yeah or be a total hero like maggie yes yes indeed pam is there anything else you’d like to chat about today anything we haven’t got to that you really want to say well i could tell you how it all started really the writing thing oh yeah it’s weird it was strange when i was a little girl there was a republic studios and monogram studios which are bmc studios and best sold their entire film load to television stations which were having trouble filling the content and so they would show old movies all the time and one time i saw a movie and i was just captivated by the people in the film there were teenagers and i was just a kid i was probably eight nine maybe and then i saw a couple of weeks later there was another film with the same cast on tv and every time after that i saw it was in tv guide was what we used to those days i would somehow get sick you know i would get a headache or i just couldn’t bring myself to go to school i would come up with some faux illness so i could stay home and watch these movies and there were a whole bunch of them and i couldn’t figure out who they were and how many there were and when i got older and started to do this writing about people i’ve looked up the cast which you could do more easily at that point you know years later decades later and i found that the star of the these movies was freddie stewart and it’s probably the only thing he ever did were these eight movies starring quote the teenagers two words uh and it had the same cast june pricer was in it i wanted to write about him and i wanted to write about them because it was unfinished business from my childhood who were they well the only person left alive was noel neal who was best known as the original lois lane of superman fame and she was still alive she was in her 70s i think by the time we met and i spent a lot of time with actually we became friends a lot of time asking about these movies well they were all shot in two weeks this wasn’t rocket science this wasn’t metro golden mayor if you know what i mean they get the thing and they if they made a mistake they just keep going they just roll right over the mistake and i think it was that that got me interested in knowing more about these people from my own childhood that i saw on television and in movies that transfixed me for some reason freddie stewart had a glorious a conscious soprano voice he sounded male certainly but it was very high and clarion and in fact one of the songs he sang penthouse serenade was one of the songs i did on stage in new york when i was performing because it was like an ode to him you know he had made such a difference in my life in so many ways i met his daughter and he was long dead by the time i was writing but it’s little things in life you can grab onto like that and value and uh you can change your life because you’ve just had so many experiences weird part of being alive it’s supposed to be interesting yeah yeah make it interesting yeah you’ve been so generous with your time and your stories and everything and um it’s been so interesting to hear about that process of doing the historical research and carrying it with you for such a long time and then doing something creative with it that’s a really interesting approach and hopefully it will attract people who maybe aren’t too bothered about reading history or biographies or anything but might go for those you know if they’re framed as stories and you know they’re pretty quick to read as well you know you can sit down and read one um and not that long an amount of time and you know it’s very digestible and they stay with you i think they’re you know they’re visually i think quite striking too so it’s been really great to hear just about that creative process but also just the background that you’re coming from and the you know the psychology of these people and what they what they were negotiating with in their own minds as well as in the outside world i can’t thank you enough for taking so much time oh thank you for having me let me put in a plug for fading fame it’s available on also as an e-book as well as a paperback so if your listeners are interested in knowing more about some of these stories they can find it at the end of their keyboard brilliant and i will be sure to put those links for the book and for your website in our show notes wherever people are finding this as well so you’ve no excuse but to go and check them out oh great pam hunter it’s been just such pleasure i’ve really really enjoyed spending this time with you and thank you so much for your generosity with your time and ideas and taking so much out of your morning well thank you paul it’s a pleasure to be with you thank you for having me

this is a cozy people production with me paula blair the music is common ground by airton used under a 3.0 non-commercial creative commons license and is available at if you’ve enjoyed this episode please give us a good reading subscribe and recommend audiovisual cultures to your friend all of our contact details socials information ways to listen and our mailing list sign up can be found on our website linked in the show notes thank you so much for listening and supporting take care and i’ll catch you next time


Audiovisual Cultures episode 49 – Reframing Vivien Leigh with Dr Lisa Stead automated transcript

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this is audio-visual cultures the podcast exploring different aspects of cultural production I’m Paula Blair and in this episode and Rochelle and I are delighted to be joined by dr. Lisa stead during her trip to Newcastle to present research from her reframing Vivian Leigh project hello and thanks to our members at forward slash a V cultures if you’re listening and you want to support you can also donate to libera PACOM /pe a Blair or PayPal dot me /pe a Blair where money received reimburses me for costs and cars and making the podcast I’ll be back at the end with more details on how you can support and get in touch for an I do enjoy listening to Lisa and I kind of sit between English and film and that University of my research sits between those students you’ve been doing some really exciting research but Vivian Lee for the past few years we’d like to tell us a benefit so my research before that was it was actually about women’s writing in the interwar period so it’s not an immediate connection to Vivian Leigh but what I’ve done before it’s been more about cinema going and how women write about going to movies and process what it means to go to the movies in that period and how it forms ways of thinking through identity etc so I’ve always been slightly more interested in film culture rather than film texts a big part of that has been working with archival material and film ephemera University of Exeter there’s a museum on site I don’t if you have a bin yeah the build up with cinema museum which is this fantastic collection of pre cinema early cinema film culture ephemera so has everything except actual movies magazines cigarette cards toys games scrapbooks letters etc so I’ve always been connected to that collection as a teacher and a researcher they happen to have quite a lot of stuff about Vivian Lee amongst many of their other stars they also happen to have Vivian E stuff specifically because she had a Southwest Connection which not many people know about because they think of her as this big Hollywood global star so what do you think of Venini you tend to think of Blanche DuBois you think of Scarlett O’Hara you probably think less about Topsham or Devon but it so happens that before she became a star before she was a professional actress she was born in India and then she came over to live in the UK and then she spent some time in Devon with relatives in the late 1920s and when she was there she met a man called Lee Holman at the time she was called Vivian Hartley and she met a man called Lee Holman who was a London barrister who had his Devon connection and the myth goes that she spotted him out riding I think at riding it’s very kind of Austin and said oh that’s the man I want to marry and he happens to look like lovely Howard into the great connection forward to her so anyway she married this man Lee Holman and in the early 1930s they lived in London but they kept a very strong connection to Devon which is his home and where his family were from so his sister Dorothy Ullman founded a museum in Topsham which this little mystery village town in South Devon she got on very well with Vivian Lee and she also kind of followed her career as a fan throughout her life and as a consequence materials from the Viennese career when she became an actress she became a local star have ended up in this little Museum in Topsham and they’ve also ended up in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Ram which is the main museum minister because to option is so someone couldn’t hold all of the materials that they had so what you find is in RAM and int option museum and the book Douglas in my museum you have these bits and pieces these traces that connect back to this global style that come through that family connection before she was Vivian Lea before she was connected to Laura I basically got asked to speak at some memorial event so that maybe you need to represent the bill Douglas Museum probably sort of 2010 ish and that sparked my interest and it’s been on the backburner since then and then in the last years it’s just become a kind of central focus and yeah one of my colleagues said to me you should pretty much look about that okay so now it’s become a book that even isn’t about Vivien Leigh so I’m working on a book about her archives Laurel and she’s sort of the case study for thinking through stardom and star labor and the creative work of performance on the stage in the screen through archival traces of materials and she’s the central case study so there’s a book but I’m writing at the moment this journal next year with Oxford University Press and then connected to that there’s an HRC project and that is very much about the local museums and thinking about how those materials have been curated how you can tell regional stories through global stars wow I’ve been following you quite a lot you the project has been tweeting knots of shadows from their clothes and things have been as it past dies for a family yes yeah it’s kind of a common dress history project in the hallways which is not what I expected there’s a research assistant working on a project called Becky Ray’s fantastic she has a lot of experience and knowledge of working with textile history and we’ve been working with curators at topsail museum and ran and looking at their holdings because most of what they have dress materials so what’s really interesting about that is they were donated through Vivian E’s daughter to her Aunt Dorothy Holman and then they ended up a prominent option Topsham museum has a nightdress for the set of Gone with the Wind mm-hmm that Vivien Leigh was allowed to keep apparently she could pick one or two items and that’s the item that she chose interestingly of all the dresses although I assume that but he wouldn’t have let her had the green cone I imagine they would let that happen so that’s it Topsham and then it ran they have a couple of evening dresses and there was to have a broad tail dress so I didn’t know what broad tail was until very recently and I wish I didn’t know what broad tail is really it’s made from the skins of unborn Lambs oh my god it’s a really particular very expensive you’d have to have this custom-made for you kind of textile and they have this black broad tail dress actually they were given to Dorothy at Topsham and then they were then passed on to RAM in the mid 70s and there are some great letters from Suzanne the daughter viennese daughter saying I have this problem I can’t store these materials anymore would you be interested in them Museum so you have this broad tail dress that’s kind of decadent wonderful revolting movies in textile history that was Vivien Leigh’s dress and then you have two other dresses that were Vivian leaves that Suzanne then altered so they are hers but the silhouette is very different so physically those two women were incredibly different they’re doing is very very miniscule very petite Suzanne had a very different kind of silhouette so you’ve got these really fascinating objects that have sort of two spectral women having inhabited them and then they end up in this regional space and they pass through Dorothy home and the collector the curators and carry all these different histories of different women using these dresses living in these dresses connections to the star in a severely and then the more normal quote-unquote life of her daughter Suzanne who didn’t move in those circles and then they end up here and ran so when you’re holding them in your hands you’re sort of holding Suzanne’s stories in these stories but also the stories about the women who decided these had value kept them collected them preserved them sometimes in the face of policies of curation in those institutions that didn’t really place the same value on these materials because dress history women’s history is not as interesting or a serious as some of the other items that those institutions hold so the more I look into it there’s a kind of fascinating lines of women preserving these materials deciding they have certain kinds of values thinking about the stories and passing those stories down so an awful lot of what these centers hold all those textile materials I mean that tactility of the materials fascinating as well because when you’re thinking about anything to do with film history it’s usually things you can’t necessarily touch in the same way yeah or things that you look at but that embodiment you know of a garment there’s something you know that like it’s a living breathing human person you saw occupy that space within that thing oh yeah absolutely I can discuss all details about that stains on them oh yeah look for little sweat marks of makeup marks it’s those things that are more for me personally I found those things absolutely fascinating that there lived in material people have different reactions to them so this is sort of more the kind of fan reaction and I don’t mean this dismissively is to be overruled by it being something that she has touched and then if you talk to one of the curators the way they look at it is fascinating because they can just see spilling forth from it all the stories about Couture the designers who they would have liaised with which furrier in London they might have interacted with to have this made and then I look at it and I think you know I’m interested in how does that connect those human stories about passing the tools on what does that tell you about stardom in film history so I love how when you have a dress on display you have all these different you know Donnie Darko where they have to spin it makes me think of a sphere is coming out of these dresses leading all these different directions that are more or less interesting to different people but I find those really tapped ideas as fascinating of marks things the impression of someone having been in this in some ways it’s different kind of feeling to a signature or a letter those are the kinds of collector items with story I remember a time back in the previous millennium you might have been the year 2000 I think probably something like 1999 when a Chaplin costume was loaned temporarily to what was then the bill Douglas Center yes in a museum I’d love to get changed at all in that renaming its don’t cave it was a little bit sad because nobody thought to get a mannequin ah to put the costume on so it was just kind of laying down inside a display cabinet and was also a bit of local press and the curator at the time so I’ll tell you what is I’ll model it right I think it was has to hate in those characters like this century at the time but quite quickly realized that chaplains a tiny guy yeah and also that she probably had better not even try and force any old worn garments anti-social model in the sense of draping it across the floor so there’s a lot of logistical problems with just exhibiting these material objects and this does seem to be one of the lovable oddities about because cinema museum is it’s almost committed to not preserving copies of films even copies of scraps of films it’s almost minted in not doing that because the stuff that gets thrown away around the edges yeah things like the particular boxes of sweets that are sold in cinemas and aren’t sold somewhere else for example facts or value for preservation and that’s hardly specific to the Builder Center but it is rare you’ve wondered in the cinema Museum in Lambeth as well that’s kind of let’s keep this thing which is a dispenser from the toilet impulse so this is why I am extremely happy that I’ve managed to get Lisa okay because it’s a little bit like the thing we do every year at the British silent film festival symposium for just once I’ve managed to be in the same room as somebody else you’ve abused this kind of historical material and I must confess that I lived in to option for a year and never went to the museum in spite of the fact that it having one item a lot more but it was we’ve got this dress yeah was its main marketing method was we’ve got this I never thought I wonder how so I’m from their course since have gone yeah so it’s good to finally yeah I know it’s interesting a few other things are saying now about displaying items that’s an interesting choice it’s just very positive when we were trying it so we’ve been making 3d models of these dresses so with the idea that you can get closer to them when you things you are not allowed to touch how can you get closer and see some of those details so we’re creating these 3d models that allow you to go extremely close and look underneath in a row and when we were doing that we had to mount them and her dresses only fit one child mannequins because she was so small so you can’t use the standard mannequins for it I’m relatively new to working with textiles I just didn’t realize how much goes into thinking through the logistics of doing that so when you think about putting it on I can hear the Conservatives from Erasmus dreaming about the idea of doing that because you have to think carefully about weight about how you hang it about whether you pin something about trying to give the impression of the way it was born without distorting it and passing I’m completely obsessed with the kind of debris of cinema as a lived thing I find it fascinating when we teach with those collections because you get out things like fan magazines or something I’ve written a lot about but you also get out things like ticket stubs or we hold things in that museum like false eyelashes at the stars when the 40s or the 50s or just those real random junk and students have really different reactions to it either they find it fascinating or it completely turns them on there’s nothing there and it’s a real effort to try and find a way into it and then every now and then you get someone who has that same kind of reaction to it where they just love it and they’re fascinated but it’s challenging stuff to work with because it’s charmingly mundane and then trying to think about how to analyze it at other story about it can be if it’s challenging because it requires all these different skills it’s like how do I place this why what does this tell me about anything about the history I think you and I may have at the same impulse behind our phd’s because uh phd’s if I remember correctly are based on the same type of resource maybe not exactly the same resource yeah and I’ve been there my PhD was based on reading all of the British film phone magazines in the Beau Douglas Center from the 1910s and that you some few years later did something very similar with 1920s yes my PhD which my first book is built on that if some of it’s that kind of material and then it’s a lot of middle ground literature and all the kind of novelizations that they hold so yeah this is twenties mainly twenties 30s so yeah reading everything and this may be the safer of the of doing research in the bill Douglas Center because this is ephemera yeah novelizations and fan magazines but the list it’s ephemeral weathers are clear somebody making a statement and it was an actual literary content but you can particular a nurse I mean you in school of English and film yes I wasn’t that at the time was it still back to discord English at the time that’s a good question I think it was English in film at the time then it has changed a few times it’s the kind of analysis where you forgot literary colleagues they may because it’s analyst yeah what you’re looking at isn’t prose poetry yeah plays conventionally defined but it’s not actually another medium it’s just a very odd sort of prose which is produced in the literature which is about another medium when I was doing my PhD I have an odd mixture of oh yeah of course that’s definitely falls under what we study and wouldn’t earth are you doing that particularly given the cultural statuses these kinds of print works yeah if anyone has any conceits about literary merit which you sometimes come across these days people going on it’s gotta have this much merit to be worthy of study then straight off what this it is off the bottom of that list is yeah oh yeah absolutely I think I thought massively appeals to me why I didn’t want to write about cinema going in literature with you know quotes around it in the way that we’re talking about you write a little bit about say wolf for example but I didn’t want to look at modernist writing from that period I mean that’s been addressed brilliantly and by other writers but I really wanted to look at the stuff the everyday life stuff and take that seriously and yeah you do I think I’ve come up against its resistance for that sometimes you’re in a position now where you can go to our students this is why you should never get to the headspace where you might regard this is unworthy of study yeah yeah one of the reasons I was so into using fan magazines to ask what the impact of cinema and modernism might have been was because nobody seemed to care about what the average person thought about cinema and asking about questions they were like oh what does the vision wolf think about so now which is hardly going to be a typical view it’s how they’re gonna represent how people thought about it it’s good to know that there’s it is to how much paper country yeah champion be definitely lowbrow forms of prose that are useful assist Oracle documents what we could do is just say just tell us what you’re going to tell us in the lecture that’s wrong twice I saw half in some way is the talk done giving later is particularly about tops and museum and it’s about the story of that night dress so it’s partly about trying to find out how it came to be there and then in the story of trying to find out how it came to be there it actually became a story about women’s volunteer work and curatorial work in these kinds of particular spaces local museums what I’ll be talking about a little bit is about a kind of network of women that I suppose goes from Lee herself to Suzanne to dorothy Holman to when we called and McMenamin who was a steward at torture museum who found the dress so there’s this kind of myth about finding the dress in a carrier bag in a drawer and then through to Rachel Nichols who currently runs torture museum but it’s run almost entirely by volunteers so a lot of the research that’s been done around it it’s been my people whose interest is primarily Topsham and then it’s Vivian Lee framed through that local interest so you get a really interesting take on what a star is or what a star means in this context where she’s not quite as important as local history family history and that particular way of thinking about it so it’s a really interesting different take on who Vivian Leigh is or was or what she means or why she matters and a lot what the museum does is that interplay between something that’s so mundane offset against something that’s so iconic and glamorous and from over there and from Hollywood history versus st. V’s bag and they draw the whole this dress from the set of Gone with the Wind so the story is that Anne found this in a cupboard somewhere and took it out I wasn’t sure what it was and then cross-referenced a few books on Gone with the Wind and thought that’s that might dress and then found out a bit more about its history and did it quite a lot research around it and then from there they decided to Center those collections and they had a Vivian Lee room where they had various items like that the Gone with the Wind dress which is the kind of centerpiece and they also have a dress I think for the premiere of which the third it’s wonderfully ornate it’s a real steam CO you can imagine it premiere just getting all the attention they have a travel dress a very ugly travel just from the 50s that they wore and then other things like I think as a cigarette case there’s a perfume bottle their house piece of fabric Accenture and a few bottle still for no but Becky who’s the research assistants where’s you can smell things on the fabrics still some of the fabric when you unfold it but the more you unfold it the less that’s better they have a fascinating range of the two so they ended up having this dedicated room but then over time that’s no longer there so it kind of comes and goes in in importance and there are different policies about what they should have shouldn’t Center it’s been fascinating going back through their own archives in the Attic of the strands so it’s this house along the s3 and it used to be a family house and their home and family and then I think drive the Alma to go over it and I think maybe 39 turned into a museum in the late sixties it’s just this beautiful house and you go in as a kitchen it has a sailboat in the loft and it’s all about fishermen and work on the estuary and it has rooms that are period rooms kept as they were and then it has some bits and pieces of Vivien Leigh just kind of scattered around it in a bedroom here in there which is interesting of Anna period where there’s more attention to her so her archive the VNA was open from 2013 and there have been lots of events celebrating some terries of but there is a lot of interest in her there are two movies coming out about her in the next couple years I think that my daughter is supposed to play her which if you ask me is great casting mm-hmm with cat-like faces I think she’s a great master I was gonna ask you if there was a connection with the Turing exhibition about her from a few years ago yes it Keith he’s the theatre performance curator at the V&A is the kind of mainly person he was responsible for bringing that archive working with it and then bring it out to the public so he’s done some amazing public engagement stuff with it they’ve been lectures at the V&A there’s been that touring exhibition I don’t if you saw it I saw it when I was here in the line art gallery in New Castle yeah there’s some beautiful stuff from Cleopatra there’s a lot of stuff we’re working on gone with the wind I think that told all over it was I start in York when I saw it a while ago he’s done a few other things with it I think there are some stereoscopic slides in that collection so she was a pretty keen photographer and I’m not sure if this actually happened but I know that he had plans just told that particular bit and make more of that so it’s just ongoing there’s stuff about her all the time Lucy Bolton at Queen Mary’s and some amazing half combination of scholarly and working with the fans there’s this fan organization could be Vivien Leigh Circle which actually started in somewhat of officially in the 70s but it was started by three women who were super fans of immunity and he’s the wait at the stage door for her so primarily theatre fans and met her and talked to her a few times and actually corresponding with her Violetta’s quite often so they have a wonderful collection of letters between these women and Vivien Leigh and then when she died they had a memorial event fair and they started a little urbanization called of eating circle and it kind of faded out in the 70s and then was picked up again in the 2010s in the wake of the V&A archive I think and they do really wonderful events actually to celebrate everything that it had connected to us so a couple of some of the go yeah some events in London where they had in the actus Church in the centre of London I can’t remember the name of the church but they had a memorial service and then readings from these fans and it was amazing then they had an event at Queen Mary where they had an exhibition of fan material so Lucy Bachman has some fantastic work on it there’s a lot of stuff going on around her so it’s an interesting moment I find it would interesting why people are still interest in her she’s not she’s quite different to Monroe say well would you have burn those DUHS it’s still kind of indoor I think I look there’s a lot been publicized about her mental health issues do you think maybe that’s part of the interest in her I think so I think that’s a big hook so I’ve been interviewing quite a lot of fans and people that range from my age people in their 30s to there’s people in in their teens up to the 80s and that does seem to be one of the big things that people ask people why she matters of why they care they tend to say things like she had a real grace about her which I find really interesting because I kind of think of her as chaotic and beers and Jessica but there’s a lot of emphasis upon kind of grace and glamour glamour makes a lot of sense particularly in the 50s and 60s that later period of her life and then a lot of people tend to say I made a connection because of the mental health thing and either for a personal reason were sympathetic reason and that does seem to be really a big hook and I think right now that’s a key reason why she’s interesting to people and I think her portrayal of Blanche DuBois is the pinnacle because I think even if you’ve never even seen gone with the wind or you can never been aware of anything else she’s done there’s just something about that version of streetcar named desire yeah and that pairing with Marlon Brando because it’s so violent and yet it’s so compelling and it’s very difficult to reconcile the relationship between those cuz they’re too explosive characters anyway yeah but in that film there’s just something about them there’s something animalistic and yet she embodies all of those contradictions you know she’s graceful and yet she’s all over the place she’s sexy but frigid you know she’s all of these things and he can’t help himself and then so you’ve got this rape apologist and maroon hen and there’s just so much meat to get into you’re right it’s still just so prescient I think because we’re still having discussions around those problems even though I wonder if that’s what it is as well yeah I think as well if you think about the way people understand Vivien Leigh quote-unquote and the characters that she played people like to conflate inevitably like to conflate the two so a role like that because of the breakdown and the end Blanche DuBois is kind of mental state people love to read lead into it through it lying about the part of the appeal of it it’s really interesting about with Brandon Lee against each other we’ve got method versus this very classical model and I think that’s what makes it work so brilliantly that you have these two different styles that are clashing against each other I’m not clashing but that works so brilliantly for Blanche and that works so brilliantly for Stanley and seeing them together is so fascinating it must be red fur because she was the movie cast is the American cast – Jessica Tandy as the only person who wasn’t on that original cats probably really helped in making her feel like a complete outsider yeah there are some great stuff in them her up over the VNA about that production that allows you a bit of access to working practice in preparation for that role so she’d be performing it on the stage with Olivier London in the late 40s and then in moving it to the screen they obviously have to make a number of changes not least to do with censorship but there’s a series of letters between Kazan and Lee in the early 50s talking about that adaptation and they discuss how we’re gonna get around censors are we gonna include flashbacks are we gonna do this I’m gonna do that some of them are type that as some of them are notes from telephone conversations and what’s really fascinating about them is they’re an interesting way to give agency back what to sort of think about agency and the history of that role where it’s not the case that you just have because I’m directing and this is how it is and she just translates the performance from the stage that’s coached by Olivier you know a lot of the talk about that role is there she was always coached by Olivier a lot of the discussion of that relationship keeps tripping agency from her but what you find in those letters is this very kind of extremely articulate about film adaptation about what wouldn’t work at a micro level with individual lines and then thinking about the structure of the play and how it will translate just very clear opinions about how that’s gonna work and very clear opinions about how she should look and how she should be costumed how that’s gonna work against her glamorous star image so she talks about wanting to look right and not good and she thinks very carefully if you have a wig it’s gonna work and how questions are gonna work so she’s giving an awful lot of attention to the construction of that performance and the play overall so those archive materials are interesting way to sort of write her back into that adaptation history where if you just look at the publicity her voice in those interviews or first-person articles that she writes sort of absent herself from that it’s all just about the parties that were happening in Hollywood at the time and the direction that you get and very little about her kind of active role so the archival story adds an interesting thread to our working practice while I’m the kind of final finished film piece so there’s a bit of a reclaiming of her authorship in a way I think so yeah definitely yeah and because I know other people the production deferring to her as well so you can also see in the archival record times where she’s dismissed when she’s talked over but you see the impact of her views her opinions her decisions that end up in the film and you can kind of trace some of those decision-making processes it doesn’t raise the question of why in the marketing for the film she self portrayed as having basically been a puppet our patriarchal pressures that strong was her agent parent persuaded her to play a kind of long game what’s the deciding factor fact why you decide to be publicly so yeah different it’s so self-deprecating I definitely don’t want to overplay that so in this isn’t some material in fan magazines that’s the way that was presented but you were also find in the press her pushing back very strongly against readings of the play that lunches a prostitute and morally devoid and how very passionately speaking about her interpretation of the rock so it’s not always like that but I think that this is I’m talking about that from time magazine material that the emphasis is slightly more upon a kind of glamour and the intimate insight into what it’s like to be in Hollywood than it is to work yeah so it pushes that aside more and I wonder you know how much did she actually write about how much is it edited or just yeah

there’s often in these these articles where it’s often a female interviewer sitting down with the female stars after this lengthy preamble about the journey and entering the inner sanctum of this star and describing them physically laughing this company yeah yeah but seemed to be covertly this everything I’m about to tell you is completely made up this like normal myth you know it’s the setting the scene for it was a dark and stormy not yeah and of course we’re also talking about fan magazines that for some reason had decided to almost exclusively target whoa no this may be something to do with the advertisers that were paying for advertising space in these magazines being advertisers that decided that all people who went to see films were women and therefore all buyers of these magazines therefore that means the the editors of the magazine are going what everything we write has to basically just be a way of easing the entire process about our advertisers yeah advertising to our readers and that will definitely influence what an interviewer asks oh yeah one’s raising their members yeah when they speak to a star if they even did yeah that’s the thing isn’t it if they even do yeah yeah how much really now about your first book it’s got a very cheeky title doesn’t it after pictures yeah is that an allusion to the title of something earlier because there’s that iris Barney book isn’t it yeah there is which is called let’s go yeah let’s go to the pictures so of it actually it’s from a line and Winifred Holtby one of your hope he’s not will stop writing where there’s a character in that who’s just at the end of her tether looking after all we useless men in her life and I think she she downs tools and her son says where you going – she says after the pictures but who is also an echo of the RX very bit which is kind of defensive the value of cinema going all the different ways in which it’s useful all meaningful and should be defended against dismissed as being lowbrow and dangerous and nasty so yeah it’s a combination of those two things with you what’s the subtitle I could never I think it’s woman’s writing on cinema going into war Britain was it it had a way more bland title and then the reader the final reader suggested changing it to something and then that line is an echo from something that this talked about is your impression of the nineteen twenties that this is a point by which in popular perception the whole institution has been thoroughly feminized as encoded female women do the institution itself is more of suitable as a home for women at least women performers if not oddly women behind the camera and it belongs in the larger field of leisure practices but you to be good to what women yeah that’s primarily the way that I approached it already in that text particularly because that’s a really useful tool for cultural commentators to condemn it and to dismiss it or speak negatively about it because if you associate it with being entirely feminine and feminized then you can attack it straightforwardly but then what you find in a lot of women’s writing is they’re kind of reclaiming that as a positive thing and seeing it is that dual awareness of something that is ridiculous or explosive or commercialized can also have value if it gives you a template to figure out questions about identity questions about everyday life and to pick and choose parts of that culture that help you make meaning basically so what do you find in a lot of the novels and literature that I’m looking at our people staging interactions or conversations or events in cinemas or talking about cinema growing characters and working through the place of the pizza palace or the flea pit in everyday life or somewhere that either is it kind of useful metaphor for working through something in the story or becomes quite an important public private space for different kinds of women to be a way to indulge in something that’s just about them to compare their lives against what they’re seeing on the screen to think through those questions of sort of British womanhood in modernity at that period usually against an American template because in law the content on screen or in the fan magazines is American more than is British so it was interesting for me looking about the vantage point of British women consuming this not entirely bowl of culture coming in from the outside and then sort of picking and discarding what they want to engage with is the big story here that there’s a lot of women writing about cinema who aren’t modernist yes at some time before these well-known statements by Virginia Woolf and Dorothea Richardson appear in the late 1920s yes this earlier stuff is conventionally disregarded definitely I mean there’s and there’s a lot of stuff alongside those writers in in of late 1920s and early 30s that’s doing not more interesting stuff but different stuff so someone like Winifred Holtby for example cinema is this constant element to fiction writing and to her journalistic writing where she’s always using it as a way to work through middle-class identity and regional experiences and what it is to be kind of northern and so this is that non London centric way of thinking about film culture that is not the Film Society or is not a kind of highbrow reflection on its artistic properties it’s more about like what does actually mean for people and how is it used so you find that in a lot of middlebrow literature there’s already kind of rich vein of thinking yeah we’re gonna read oh it’s here so it’s part of everyday life now so so really key part of how we talk to our readers about their lives and how we process that and then you know it’s present in all kinds of lowbrow one-off cheap reading matter that a place like the Bulldog assume our museum holds in abundance where those kind of cinema going stories are just everywhere a lot of those stories are about aspiring stars so in Cinderella stories there’s an awful lot of that but they’re always they’re not as straightforward as that they’re not always just you know little Jenny Smith wanted to be a star and she made it they always have a kind of edge of cynicism and kind of like grittiness that’s very appealing there’s always this sense of knowing better which I think it appeals to readers in it and the kind of smart way well it’s like it’s okay to indulge in this and we know that is sort of nonsense and sort of noir and I really like that voice that runs through these fictions so it’s quite different you know wolf thinking about yeah like it is an untapped medium that could be something greater it’s a different way of thinking about what is a sense of when it was that the general consensus arose that this was a female appropriate institution because it’s in place by the early 20s isn’t it yeah even further yeah and when you get them back to the prospect that it may have been white at the time that the refere cinemas were built that people were already seen this is a feminized it wasn’t that happened just a couple of years after their first generation of cinemas yeah so do you have a sense of a year when that first I don’t know I don’t think I can pinpoint it to a year but I think like you say it goes in hand with shipped in legitimizing Cinemark culture I think I think in the push towards it being a trying to attract middle-class audiences that’s the shift that pushes it towards being more feminized rather than kind of mixed gender working-class audience so I think and that’s the first world war thing isn’t it yeah yeah yeah yes yes it is so if you look at I mean you know this from having read all of the early families if you look at this stuff from I mean like nineteen eleven is maybe when the first British papers are and then the early early stuff from sort of eleven to fourteen sixteen isn’t especially tailored that way but then you get on to about I’m trying to think back to the millions of things that they were like in a rolodex I made a hundred I don’t know like sixteen seventeen on where to get it starts to take the shape that solidified from about nineteen eighteen that is that more feminized package where it seems more explicitly tailored towards women I think a big part of it is the inclusion of fiction in those papers and that their story magazines more in their earlier incarnation and the kind of stories seem to be addressing a female reader and they seem they often have every woman characters you can put yourself into those shoes yeah if you think about the fan magazine side it is slightly earlier than like 1920 or there’s maybe one real tippet of evidence that it started in German or formed just before the First World War and it’s that the pictures magazine set up a thing called the picture goes League and they even created little membership badges which had little fans on them I mean that in itself yeah was like one-year-old in this country while this way you know new stuff but there’s this one remark from mid 1913 when someone in the magazine says the picture goers League is not in any way connected with the women’s suffrage movement and it just came out of nowhere and I found no follow up to it or an explanation of why anyone would accuse them of that but the most obvious explanation is the picture goes league is almost entirely yeah and that might be just one of those first few signs that this the home institutions managed to orientate itself such that women are now perhaps not in the overwhelming majority but just in an evident majorities yeah that 60 percent of cinema goers and then it’s got something to do with leisure time as well and how much people were quit of course you know at the time if you live by selling your labor women work as much as men so perhaps but about having one at a time thing only applies when the whole institution goes middle-class yeah do you think that continue to uncover these kinds of things even and I’m asking very naively cuz I’m a more contemporary person yeah and the more we uncover by women in film and women in film culture more generally in earlier years there’s more evidence that women were always a big part of everything and just got pushed out more and more it’s the 20th century moved on and know we’re having to fight to get space back and some production from solar going everything again if that along the right lines or yeah yeah I think so I mean you know there’s a big push in feminist film historiography to do that work of writing back in there’s that amazing project women from the Pioneers project that’s trying to sort of create a database a new archive of all those like lost forgotten figures by not just focusing on actresses and put that back in I think it’s Jane Gaines that writes about that Jules forgetting in film history where you have they’re forgetting in historical record all of these women that contributed then you have a kind of forgetting in feminist criticism that I’m reading the text and theorizing the text at the expense of thinking about the historical presence of women behind the camera and then in your standard history textbooks you end up with your little box also women it’s there but I was not the story so there’s so much amazing work happening right now in early film globally to put women back into restore women to the historical record and to complicate that process as you were doing it right so it’s just as easy as going right now we have you know always blank headshots are not filled with these faces of women what next so I think it’s very fascinating trying to connect back to the contemporary moment yeah you know me too and all those shifts and changes that have or haven’t happened I guess what fascinates me about from history from my perspective these are those missing stories and pieces of when you shift focus to think about women’s contribution and that at the moment in some ways what I’m doing is more typical because it is a star but by thinking it through the archival side what I’m trying to do is not just think about star image and not just read some text but to connect Lea as a case study to all these other versions of women’s labor and then with the material on history cultures of cinema again it’s looking differently it like the other piece it’s not just women making movies it’s consuming film and film culture and telling those stories thinking about the relationship between two more modalities so yeah would you like to plug any social medias yeah but Vivien Leigh project has a twitter handle which is reframing VL that’s reframing VL so you can follow us on Twitter we are gonna have our own series of podcasts in the near future so we’re working on this right now there’s gonna be a symposium and an exhibition event on the 8th and the 9th of February next year and that’s at the University of Exeter so the CFP is closed but it will be open to registration soon it’s a free event so that’s on stardom in the archive more broadly and it’ll be on Saturday the 8th and then on Sunday the 9th we were having public exhibition where all of the outputs from this Viviani project will be on display we have some talks from curators were some 3d models that you can play around with yeah you can check us out on Twitter and that I’ll lead you through two pretty great submissions I think we got Michael Williams with a Hampton we’ve got Angie spice is gonna come what Glen’s be Charlotte cross doing pellon Cary Grant in the Bristol connection yeah James Chapman – I never imagined the panel Manley Williams is gonna come talk about Dinah doors pouches and listen to about graveyards star great guys isn’t archived yeah there’s some pretty interesting stuff oh nice it’s gonna be do it I think I’m also reminded you know he said that getting into fashion history yeah yeah if he ever I’m not so meeting is the right word but have you ever just been in this in the same room as parachurch Gibson no she’s one of these people who just she’s actually as a person she’s about that but she was so many clothes she looks like this blast button right right and she works at the London College of Fashion and she’s a film historian man and she did that to film studies yes yeah and so she’s specializes in fashion in film I just thought yeah I’ve never met her because it wasn’t about the something was really important when we do any teaching your students is to go I wanna give you an example of stuff you have to go and find it yeah yeah yeah when you do any research I have recently under find out what that name of that caller is where the caller lies flat against your top its kind of Puritan Erica is quite big and wide and it’s do nothing up here it’s a nice flat but what the girl it’s called a drop collar oh wow and you know when you’re a kid you have those horses where you become the horse you get inside your shoulders like nurses I had to look find out what that it’s called for a thing recent thing about series any film it’s called a step in the horse he’s a great uncle we’ve all been going yeah now I need to go and find out about how this materials manufactured I remember it was Chris Brooks’s memorial after he died in there I think was the early noughties it was done in an Cathedral but it wasn’t a religious service and a bishop it’s a bishop it was a friend of Chris’s and he said look I just wanted to point out that Chris he showed me something amazing which is they once said to me if you want to explain the stained-glass window you have to understand maybe your mathematics if you want to understand medieval mathematics you have to understand medieval cosmology and if you understand medieval music so the general rule is if you want to understand anything you have to know everything and the best wicked most of us can do is we can find out a few scraps it’s the other thing else to make it just about doable to provide an explanation of something so I think you’re going with that impulse of a few scraps yeah yeah and then I think when you’re a student as well even when you’re when you’re a PG RPG T trying to have a healthy level of fear about what you don’t know and then but use that as a motivator to keep digging is that getting that balance right it’s quite difficult isn’t it either just go I cannot possibly engage with all this stuff all you think oh it’s so exciting I get to learn about all this stuff but then you have to cut yourself off at the right point so I think you get better at knowing I’ve seen the gaps and then being excited about the gaps rather than terrified about the gaps and it’s almost gonna tell you that you have a gap unexpected to us and a gap yeah I still find out now you know you almost pushing and pulling between finding that exciting and planning right now we need to be engendering in our students I think yeah thank you so much soon you’ve been listening to audio-visual cultures with me Paula Blair and Rochelle and Lisa Stead’s this episode was recorded and edited by Paula Blair and the music is common grind by air tone licensed under creative commons attribution 3.0 and available for download from ccmixter org if you liked the show and find its content useful and interesting please help cover production and distribution costs by donating to paypal taught me /pe a Blair & libera PACOM /pe a Blair episodes are released every other Wednesday please read share and subscribe on your chosen listening platform as this helps others find the show for more information visit audio-visual culture at and follow av cultures on Twitter and Facebook thanks so much for listening and catch you next time