Recommended Reading

"An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films 1895-1930"

by Denise Lowe (The Haworth Press, 2005, 623 pages)

Have you ever watched a silent movie and, seeing a star for the first time, wanted to know more about him or her? The Internet Movie Database gives a filmography, but, usually, finding any biographical information, particularly on the more obscure stars, is rather difficult. That's why silent film buffs, historians and researchers will be grateful for the Denise Lowe's latest effort, "An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Woman in Early American Films 1895-1930." Lowe notes in her introduction, "As a feminist and a popular culture historian, I felt I had to give these early actors a chance to be remembered. The women I wrote about were all popular during their era -- sometimes this popularity was brief, but it always influenced the public and the industry." This book is a tribute to the influence and memory of the women of that early era. It is only in recent years that some of the female innovators and pioneers such as Alice Guy Blache, France Marion or Lois Weber are being recognized. It seems until now, Mary Pickford is the only one who has received her just due. Lowe's book is a large volume (over 600) pages, but it could have been two or three times as long. She gives appropriate credit to each entry, usually a page to a page and half with film or writing credits. All the stars you've heard of are there: Mary Astor, Vilma Bankym Theda Bara, Corinne Griffith, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mae Murray, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, the Talmadges, etc. But there are also some you may not have heard of such as Carol Holloway, Gloria Hope, Mae Hotely, Vivienne Osborne, Lucille Ricksen, Ruth Royce, and others. Lowe doesn't neglect those women who weilded great influence behind the scenes, too, such as Dorothy Arzner, Marguerite Bertsch, Adele Buffington, Sonya Levien, Ida May Park, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Lois Weber and more. There are also entries on a few significant films such as "The Birth of a Nation," "The Perils of Pauline," "An Unseen Enemy," and more. Other entries of interest include "Black actors," "Black Maria," "Suffrage Films," "WAMPAS Baby Stars," and others. It's one of those books that you think you're going to flip through to see who's there, and you find yourself reading one entry after another. Lowe's research is obvious. Each entry is well written - not just a stale quoting of facts - but interesting tidbits, intriguing trivia and insightful comments. It's not just a great resource book; it's a great read from beginning to end. The appendices make this addition to your library even more valuable listing the longest careers of silent actors, the WAMPAS Baby Stars for each year (1922-1929), the women of the silent period whose foot- and hand-prints appear in the Forecourt of the Stars at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, 'Female Pioneers in the Film Industry (1895-1927),' and the women who appear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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