Amoeblog

From the women's picture to the chick flick

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 31, 2009 05:52pm | Post a Comment
30 Helens

I wrongly assumed that it would be easy to fire off a blog briefly summarizing the history of women’s pictures. When I began, I quickly realized that it is a genre that’s simplistically treated as synonymous with both weepies/tearjerkers and their near opposite, the rom-com; it quickly proved to be more than I bargained for, which is why it’s showing up on this, the last day of Women’s History Month. The history of the genre occupies an interesting position, little discussed and yet obviously affecting and responding to the Hollywood narrative, the larger global film market, and broader history. Anyway, it proved to be a bit too much so, here's the fast & furious driveby account of a genre that deserves more.


First of all, tear-inducing films are by no means all women's pictures, which is why someone coined the annoying term “guy cry” for young male-targeted stories/films about dying dogs (e.g. My Dog Skip, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, &c). For adult males, sentimental melodramas (usually tempered by the macho backdrop of war, the wild west or sports (e.g. Bang the Drum Slowly, Brian’s Song, Knute Rockne) allow men the opportunity to cry with less shame. But, whereas men generally try to resist crying, telling themselves in the heat of a battle scene as the hero lies dying in his buddy's arms, "It's only a movie. It's only a movie. You will not cry!"; women, it is assumed, seek out movies with the hope that they will have "good cry." I have no doubt that this is part of why women’s pictures have rarely been afforded serious critical examination and were only lauded, for the most part, near the beginning of film history.

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Women of the Western

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2009 06:48pm | Post a Comment
 

Ever since the dawn of film theory, film critics have loved to talk about the Western; probaby because its engagement with formula and its psychological subtext are so obvious, so close to the surface, that it's like kicking gravel and striking oil. For example, the genre bears a similarity to tales of knights errant, who similarly were bound by codes of honor and used strength and wit to defeat malevolence, &c &c &c... Part of what makes the Western attractive for film theorists is the way it shifts and evolves too -- spiraling off subgenres like Curry Westerns, Northerns, Oesterns, Red Westerns ands Spaghetti Westerns -- and engages other genres like samurai films and noir. But whereas a little bit of research turns up several scholarly works addressing women's place in the Western, I haven't been able to find any that focus on female-centric Westerns, nor been able to uncover a clever or cutesy name for the subgenre. When I started this blog, I thought I'd come up with a tiny handful, but was quickly surprised at how many Westerns feature females in roles of central importance.

   
Real women of the west. washing clothes (left), famous madame Chicago Joe (center), bandit Belle Starr (right)

To be sure, the Wild West was, in fact, a male-dominated place. Of course, there were women too who, just like their male counterparts, were probably more likely to run a ranch or work in town than to find work as gunslingers, bandits and bounty hunters... although there were those too. The National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame has, since its founding, sought to better document the contributions of women in the west. Although women in Westerns generally seem to symbolize civilization/the east, making cowboys uneasy with their use of risque talk and their attempts to transport urban conventions to an untamed land, in real life, that role would've been impractical and probably abandoned pretty quickly. When there's work to be done, propriety and traditional societal constructions would just get in the way. In fact, in Wyoming, for example, women gained the right to vote in 1869, over 40 years before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. The photographs of Evelyn Cameron depict no-nonsense women who have little in common with the dippy, ditzy cowgirls of Gil Elvgren's art or Hollywood cowgirls. Of course, I'm not suggesting that Hollywood is in the business of portraying reality, but it's interesting to look at the decisions they make when constructing mythology.

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26 women's history fictional films

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 10, 2009 11:06pm | Post a Comment
Aelita Queen of Mars  Diary of a Lost Girl
 

   

     

   

   

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The Death of Old Time Radio

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 30, 2008 12:25am | Post a Comment

THE END OF THE GOLDEN AGE

On this day (September 30) in 1962 CBS radio broadcast the final episodes of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and the Golden Age of Radio came to a close. 

old time radio party 

RADIO'S BEGINNINGS 

Radio Drama (also frequently referred to as Old Time Radio or OTR) really began in the 1920s. Before that, there was audio theater which consisted of plays performed for radio broadcast. It wasn't until August 3, 1922 at the Schenectady, New York station WGY that the in-house actors, The WGY Players, broadcast a performance that augmented the drama with music and sound effects, creating a vivid aural tapestry. The result was a worldwide explosion in what was an instantly popular new art form. Within months there were radio dramas being produced across the USA, as well as in Canada, Ceylon, France, Germany, India, Japanand the UK.

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Walter Tetley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 4, 2008 11:56am | Post a Comment
Walter Tetley, who died today back in 1975, was a renowned child impersonator from radio's golden age. He featured regularly on the Great Gildersleeve and the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show --two programs unlikely to result in even a flicker of recognition from anyone younger than 60, but very popular in their day. He also appeared on Fibber McGee and Molly, The Jell-O Program starring Jack Benny, The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope, Suspense, The Burns & Allen Show and other radio programs.

               

The details of Walter's personal life are obscure and mostly drawn from one biography (For Corn's Sake), which was primarily based on his thorough scrapbooks. Walter was born Walter Tetzlaff June 2, 1915 in New York City. His career began as an actual child --appearing on The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air in the 1930s. By the 1940s he was the most prolific child actor on the radio. His tone and cadence are immediately recognizable and helped to define the mid-20th century stereotype of a young boy. Although radio requires the listener to imagine the appearance of the players, Walter Tetley's characters, with their mixture of adult cynicism and smart-alecky childspeak invariably conjure up (in my mind, at least) images of overall-wearing, slingshot-toting, bath-hating, cowlick-sporting lil' brats.

 

When the popularity of TV began to overtake radio, Tetley still found work by doing voiceover work, most recognizably as the Nerdy Sherman on the Mr. Peabody cartoons. He was 44 years old at the time.  He also recorded a children's record for Capitol and commercials for Sunsweet Prunes. 

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