Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo - CONFERENZE, Women and the Silent Screen Conference

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"Opportunities for Women": British Film Publicists
Nathalie Morris

Last modified: 2010-02-22


Film publicity was an area of the industry in which women flourished. This is perhaps unsurprising. Women were prominent as writers for, or about, the cinema during the silent period, and the role of the film publicist can be seen as representing a convergence of the two strands of this activity. Like many other film-related jobs at the time (such as scenarist, script editor etc.) the work of the film publicist could develop from some of the roles and duties that were traditionally more open to women, for instance, secretarial tasks such as producing synopses and copy for supply to the trade, lay and fan press. Promotional work evolved into a fine art during the silent era and women played a significant role in this process. While large numbers worked behind the scenes and were generally uncredited, many others were well known and well respected. Some enterprising figures such as Leila Lewis/Stewart and Billie Bristow even set up their own publicity firms.

This paper explores the presence and the work of female film publicists in Britain during the silent period, considering the variety of permutations this role had (working freelance or promoting particular studios, individuals or venues, for example); the relationship between film publicity, audiences and consumer culture; and the various career paths and lasting influence of figures such as Lewis/Stewart, Bristow and Elsie Cohen.

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