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USING THE COLLECTIONS
MOVING IMAGE SECTION EXTERNAL SITES
|The Studio Era: Women Behind the Camera
As positions in the film industry became specialized and codified during the studio era, unions were formed, creative decisions were made by production heads, and the women who had flourished behind the camera were shut out of positions of power and prestige. Women remained in lesser capacities, for example as editors, but the ranks of women directors and producers were decimated. The days when a secretary could become a director overnight disappeared forever.
Dorothy Arzner (1900-1979), Ida Lupino (1918-1995), and Virginia Van Upp (1902-1970) were among the handful of women in Hollywood who directed or produced during the decades of the thirties, forties, and fifties.
A few American women filmmakers worked outside the Hollywood system.
Women professionals from various fields used film in their work. The Margaret Mead Collection consists largely of field footage taken on expeditions in Bali and Papua New Guinea from 1936 to 1965 in which noted anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) participated. The collection also contains field footage in which Mead was not a participant, including work by Jane Belo, Zora Neale Hurston, and Maya Deren; footage of Mead and her family; footage of Mead lecturing; classroom films taken by Mead's students at Columbia University; and documentaries related to anthropology, some of which included Mead's participation.
The Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) material in the Mead Collection consists of several rolls of film footage. The earliest footage is material shot by Hurston in Florida in 1928 and 1929. There is also ethnographic footage filmed in South Carolina from a project headed by Jane Belo. Although Hurston did not act as cinematographer, she served as on-site project director and at times appears in the footage. There are also a few reels of Haitian footage shot by Maya Deren. These materials can be used in conjunction with the Margaret Mead Papers in the Manuscript Division.
Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (1905-2002) was a photographer, documentary filmmaker, community activist, broadcast journalist, and wife of a career diplomat. The Mrs. Jefferson Patterson Collection of some 200 items comprises films made by Patterson, home movies, and miscellaneous works relating to the Patterson family. After serving as a volunteer courier for the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) in Appalachian Kentucky in 1928, Patterson made a documentary promoting the work of the service. The Forgotten Frontier (1930, FAA 5886-5890) addresses the problems of the people of Appalachia and highlights the self-reliant women of the nursing service. She went on to make the documentaries The Ruins of Zimbabwe, Rhodesia (1932, VBJ 4851) and A School for Natives, South Africa (1932, VBJ 6149). Patterson's Chichen-Itza, the Ancient Mayan Mecca of Yucatan (1930, VBJ 4850) is the first professional film of that archaeological site and She Goes to Vassar (1931) [catalog record] depicts a student's arrival on campus. A collection-level record can be found in the Library's online catalog and item-level records are in MAVIS. Associated materials can be found in the Manuscript, Prints and Photographs, and Recorded Sound Reading Rooms.[Top]
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