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A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930–1960 Paperback – May 15, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 542 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 1st edition (May 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819562912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819562913
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When film experts talk about the "woman's picture," a Hollywood genre that flourished in the '30s, '40s, and '50s, they often squabble over whether these films were liberating or constraining. Jeanine Basinger argues that they were both at the same time. She maintains that they freed their female protagonists to break social bonds while also punishing any women who seemed too free and feisty. This lively and exceedingly thorough book covers every major aspect of this fascinating film genre, including the roles female stars were expected to play, the fabulous clothes they wore, the social behaviors they were condemned to adopt, the ways they responded to and were treated by men, and the ideals of femininity Hollywood producers tried to impress upon their audiences. --Raphael Shargel

From Publishers Weekly

Full of sharp and entertaining insights, this exhaustive study analyzes dozens of "women's films"-- The Man I Love , My Reputation , Women's Prison , etc.--which presented the contradiction of covert liberation and overt support for women's traditional roles. Basinger, chair of the Film Studies Program at Wesleyan Univeristy, mostly avoids citing interviews and fan magazines, relying instead on her own perceptions. She offers clever epigrams--the constrained choices of the woman's world are a "Board Game of Life"--as she explores issues including men, marriage, motherhood and fashion. The film Jezebel , the author suggests, deserved a subtitle: "How Society Forces Bette Davis to Conform by Making Her Change Her Dress." Basinger's gimlet eye generates several schema, from the basic rules of film behavior to the four kinds of mothers. And while observations like one that finds similarities between women in prisons and in department stores are amusing, they also hit home. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Douglass (sandy@insanestars.com) on April 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Jeanine Basinger is to be congratulated for shedding light on a too-little studied aspect of Hollywood history. She puts the movies and the stars she discusses in the context of how movie-going women perceived them at the time. In doing so, she concentrates not on the "greatest" stars, but rather on secondary figures like Kay Francis, Ann Dvorak, and Loretta Young, women who had (sometimes surprisingly) immense popular appeal while they were making movies but whose careers either faded, made the transition to character rather than leading-lady status, or moved to television. She reminds us that the "woman's picture" was far more than the drama of suffering and renunciation (like "Now, Voyager", "Back Street", or "Autumn Leaves") we most commonly think of today. She broadens her definition to include virtually any film that either focused on a woman as its central character or concerned itself with traditionally "women's" concerns.
What she makes clear is that, despite the pronounced limitations of the world view of the woman's picture, it represented a varied and vigorous film culture in which (as she writes) "on the screen ... the woman will decide. She is important. She matters. She is the Center of the Universe."
"A Woman's View" is that rare thing -- a scholarly examination of mostly obscure figures and works that is at the same time an excellent and entertaining read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book articulates for me why I have always loved this genre of film. The author highlights the work of many fine actresses of the period whose work is overlooked in many film books. Although the ideas they espoused may be dated, the desire of women to see the concerns of their private lives played out on screen still exists. I believe that the next century may bring a resurgurce of this type of film.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tee on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most enjoyable "film studies" I have ever come across, essentially about "soap opera" 'women's pictures' of the 1930's and 1940's but expanding into the 1920's and 1950's a bit and touching on other types of films and the great women stars from this time period. From Kay Francis (who is the cover girl and Basinger's main muse for this tome) to Rita Hayworth, this is a wonderful book for any one obssessed with films from the era, it's like finding a new best friend to talk about these classic films. Basinger writes informatively yet in plain academic-free language making the book a pleasuer to read - and she knows when to crack wise and when to be serious, no mean feat. It's a skill a lot of "movie historians" don't have.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By chintz22 on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you love movies you must read Ms. Basinger's marvelous study of "women's pictures" which encompasses the stars that acted in them, the directors that guided them, the writers that gave them life and the studios that distributed them. Hollywood history, women's history, art history all rolled into one readable and thought provoking volume. This one is right up there with Louise Brooks by Barry Paris as one of the best books on film and those who created it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Madeline Giangrosso on December 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A Woman's View, by Jeanne Basinger, was rightfully the most interesting history based book I have ever read. Although it can be lengthy at times, it touches on subjects in which I had barely any knowledge of, and shows how it was reflecting the time period of the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. Seeing as though this was about women right after the women's rights movement in the 20's, this book shows how Hollywood used female movie stars to incorporate the countries opinions on them. With that, I thought the introduction chapter on the genre of these types of movies was absolutely spectacular. It really made me have so much respect for women during these time periods. They had such class and such morals, which, sad to say, is starting to slowly fade away, or can at least be argued that it is.

A few of the sections of this book that I thought was the most interesting, were the ones about twin women in movies and the fashion and glamour of women. Before reading this book, I never really thought into the idea that being a woman in Hollywood, and acting a certain role represented something as a whole. These actresses were not just playing the part of their assigned character; they were representing women as a whole. With their fashion, their speech, and their actions, I found it truly inspiring to know that they were stepping out of their comfort zone and taking risks with the roles that they chose to act out.

One chapter, entitled Duality, included how Hollywood used twins in their movies to represent one specific point in these movies. This chapter, being one of the more detailed ones, showed how twins portrayed particularly two things: the good and the bad.
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