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The representation of women in early Hollywood Cinema.

Introduction to film studies personal presentation.
by

Jade Kennedy

on 29 November 2012

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Transcript of The representation of women in early Hollywood Cinema.

The representation of women in early Hollywood Cinema (1940s to 1960s). Introduction to Film Studies personal presentation. Representation of women The Male Gaze- Women represented as sex objects, an illusion of man's desires. Silent, virginal view- Virginal characters used to seduce men. 1950s Women's fashion When the 1950s hit the whole of women's fashioned changed. Fragile femininity was introduced to create the ideal women's figure. This meant corsets, stiletto heels and rather skimpy dresses that outlined every curve. “The cult of the glamorous female star the physical beauty of whose body parts provides the sexual satisfaction” - lola young The Male Gaze Laura Mulvey and Annette Kuhn. The main argument of the Male Gaze is women being seen in cinema as a representation of man's desires. How they act, look and even their costume were all designed for visual perfection. Two main female stars of the 1950s that enhanced this is Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.
Both remembered as leading sex symbols throughout history. Why is this? Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe Both these two glamorous stars had a massive influence over men not only in their films but also in reality. They were seen as the ideal women; sexy, strong and beautiful.
The two key films to explore are the Revolt of Mamie Stover and Gentlemen prefer blondes. The Revolt of Mamie Stover The main focus is the character Mamie Stover (Jane Russell) who runs away to Honolulu to become a star, instead she becomes the main attraction in a club. A sexual object that gets paid to fulfill man's desires acquiring the nickname 'Flaming Mamie'. Russell is highly sexualised through her acting, fashion and her greed for fame/money. Although this is a romantic drama, Stover ends up alone with no fame at all.
So how does this relate? Russell's character is seen at her strongest when she is the attraction, when men fall at her feet. Without either her lover or the men from the club she has no power at all.So only when she is the objectification of man's desires that she has any character, or if anything any importance to life. Who owns the Male Gaze? “The sexualisation and objectification of women is not simply for the purposes of eroticism; from a psychoanalytic point of view, it is designed to annihilate the threat that women (as castrated and possessing a sinister genital organ) poses”- Kaplan Women are seen as a threat, they have sexual power over men. So a way of controlling this aspect in films is for men to present women as just a sex object. They denounce women as real characters or even human beings in some cases. Who owns this, women plays up to the role, they feel stronger with this stereotype. We can see this in Gentlemen prefer blondes. Gentlemen prefer blondes Marilyn Monroe plays this stereotypical character of a gold-digger- beautiful and perceived as unintelligent “I can be smart when it's important.”
She uses her beauty to have power over men so that she is comfortable in life. Marrying more for wealth than for love
“Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?” Lorelei Lee. http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0045810/ “Where the women to be looked at and desired is 'white'”- pg118 Bell Hooks.
Argues against Mulvey enhancing that not all women are represented by the male gaze, black women are not seen at all as men's ultimate desire. The argument of the Male Gaze Silent, Virginal representation Women being presented as virgins to seduce men but also for comedy value Some has argued that throughout history women has the stereotype of the housewife, not only this but the traditional view of women being a virgin until their wedding night. Some films highlight this key and use it to identify some women. Especially a way of women seducing and controlling men.
•“Negatively the archetype is reinforced by the focus on virginity, even frigidity”. Janice Welsch Doris Day is a key actress that is well-known for this concept in a lot of her films. Doris Day Key films- Doris Day That touch of mink Baby doll That Touch of Mink Day’s character in a Touch of mink reflects this virginal woman in a comedy form. They play with the heightened sexual male (Cary Grant) - a stereotypical play boy, falling in love with an innocent women.

Taking her away to a romantic destination he feels is a certainty for sex, but instead Day’s character gets too nervous and ends up getting ill. Two big comedy moments in the film are when Cathy Timberlake (Day) who wants to save for her marriage reacts to the pressure of sexual attraction. Critics gave Day a title of "The World's Oldest Virgin", becoming a legend as the prime and proper, innocent actress. She played this role well in a lot of her films- Touch of Mink and Pillow Talk as key films.

Her dress sense enhanced this too, sticking to the ‘girl next door’ look. Longer dresses, tightly fitted but not really provocative, almost the ideal look of a housewife figure. Can this be a sexual attraction for men? Pillow Talk Pillow talk is one of the most famous comedy films of that era.

•Brad Allen (Hudson) a play boy song writer and Jan Morrow (Day) a single, prim and proper house designer who ends up falling in love.

Day again plays this innocent woman who Allen falls for after his long chain of seducing women. Baby Doll Baby Doll became the most public controversy in years because of its sexual undertones through virginity. Caroll Baker played Baby Doll even became a sex symbol because of the famous image of Baker lying in a crib, sucking her thumb.



Elia Kazan (director) was famous for the films themes of sexual repression, seduction and heightened sexual overtones. Each scene was based on the innocence of a child i.e swing, hide and seek and even nap time, changed to be used as a sexual game. "Just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited..." Time Magazine Conclusion What we have learned…. The key concepts on how women are represented in the 1940s to 60s- Male Gaze- sexual objects Virgin, innocent women- to seduce men and for comedy value
Men has a massive influence on how women are perceived, many think this is a negative outlook for women but it gives them strong, sexually powerful characters that they use against the power of men. Banner, L. (2012). Marilyn Monroe: proto-feminist? From The Observer website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jul/21/marilyn-monroe-feminist-psychoanalysis-lois-bannerMcDonald, T.J. (2007). Romantic Comedy, boy meets girl meets genre. London: Wallflower Press.
Cook, P., & Dodd, P.(Eds.). (1993). Women and film, A sight and sound reader. London: Scarlet Press
Cook, P. (2007). The Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute.
Durgnat, R. (1969). The crazy mirror Hollywood comedy and the American image. New York: Dell publishing Co, Inc.
Etherington-Wright, C., & Doughty, R. (2011). Understanding film theory. :Palgrave Macmillan.
Gordon, M. (1959). Pillow Talk [motion picture]. USA: Arwin Productions, Universal-International.
Haskin, B. (1949). Too late for tears [motion picture]. USA: Hunt Stromberg Productions.
Hawks, H. (1953). Gentlemen prefer blondes [motion picture]. USA: 20th Century Fox film institution.
Kay, K., Peary, G (Eds.). (1977). Women and the Cinema, A critical Anthology. New York: E.P. Dutton.
Kaplan, E.A. (1983). Women and Film, Both sides of the Camera. New York and London: Methuen & Co.
Kaplan, E.A. (1980). Women in film noir. London: British film institute.
Kazan, E. (1956). Baby Doll [motion picture]. USA: Newtown Productions.
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