Turner Classic Movies’ three-year programming commitment to women working in the film industry begins October 1 as writer Cari Beauchamp discusses the opening night movies on “Trailblazing Women: Behind the Scenes, Ahead of Their Times,” with host Illeana Douglas. During yesterday’s interview, Beauchamp shared some of her experiences that revealed the difficulties of women pursuing careers in the film industry, and will be hosting three of the nine evenings of films focusing on women directors in Hollywood every Tuesday and Thursday in October.
Beauchamp’s latest book, “My First Time in Hollywood,” chronicles the initial experiences of Hollywood’s first group of the moviemaking vanguard with stories, letters, and highlights of the careers of Mary Pickford, Hedda Hopper, Lillian Gish, Frances Marion, Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore, Myrna Loy, and many more.
Beauchamp is also the award-winning author of “Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and The Powerful Women of Early Hollywood,”and producer Linda Obst compares Beauchamp’s findings to treasures that have been “excavated” because of her in-depth skullduggery. She also has written “Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios” and “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years,” which reveals the experiences of a presidential father in Tinseltown. Beauchamp’s books have been selected for “Best of the Year” lists by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Amazon.
Thursday’s “Trailblazing Women” lineup on TCM includes a screening of several films directed by Alice Guy-Blache, and Beauchamp, who praises programming executive Charles Tabesh and his crew for their insight, is “excited by the films that have been chosen for screenings this October on TCM.” After films directed by Guy-Blache, TCM screens the documentary, “Without Lying Down” (2000), co-written by Beauchamp and featuring Jackie Cooper, Fay Kanin, Kevin Brownlow, and Leonard Maltin, whose third edition of his Classic Movie Guide has just been published.
Women directors and writers have long struggled with recognition for their efforts, according to Beauchamp. Director Martha Coolidge, “Material Girls” (2006) and “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (1999), once told Beauchamp that “I graduated from NYC Film School and never heard the names Frances Marion and Lois Weber.” During the premiere screening of the documentary at the Director’s Guild, Beauchamp reveals that “a woman writer in Hollywood that I didn’t know came up to me afterwards and thanked me and said,’ I’ll never feel alone again. I thought I was the only one.’ “
Dorothy Arzner, active as a director from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, often struggled against the all-male bastion of Hollywood filmmakers, and discouragement and frustration sometimes made female directors turn to other arenas for their myriad talents. Arzner left filmmaking in the 1940’s to become a teacher.
More recent female directors “are now directing television like Allison Anders and Lesli Linker Glatter.” Oscar nominations for women have also been difficult to come by, and films like “Children of a Lesser God” (1986) received a total of 5 nominations. “Everyone was nominated but the female director, Randi Haines,” Beauchamp stated. “It’s not the overt sexism that gets to me. It’s the constant walking of the tightrope. It’s that if women directors ask for opinions, they are considered weak. If they say, ‘this is how its going to be,’ they are considered a bitch.”
Women filmmakers in Hollywood won’t have to feel alone ever again since TCM has committed to a multi-year programming event highlighting “Trailblazing Women” all during the months of October through 2017.
Other featured co-hosts include director Allison Anders, director Julie Dash, director Amy Heckerling, director Connie Field, and producer and film executive Cathy Schulman.