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
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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.