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

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Alexander Khanzhonkov and his Queens of the Screen
Michele Leigh Torre

Last modified: 2010-05-28


While there is much scholarship that has been done of late on Pre-revolutionary Russian cinema, almost all of it has centered primarily on the male dominated industry, particularly the work of men like directors Evgenii Bauer and Yakov Protazanov, actor Ivan Mozhukhin and studio head Iosif Ermoliev.  Taking a cue from recent scholarship on the variety of women’s roles in the cinema (see Bean and Negra, 2002) and building on the work of academics such as historian Denise Youngblood and film scholar Yuri Tsivian, this paper will explore the practices and policies of Alexander Khanzhonkov and the Khanzhonkov Studio. In particular I am interested in teasing out the studio’s potentially progressive policies in Russia towards female employment, hiring women write scenarios, edit, direct and of course act.

Among other things, Khanzhonkov was known for depending on the opinion of his first wife, writer, Antonina Khonzhonkova.  Khanzhonkov and his wife, also frequently worked together as a writing team on scripts and for the studio’s various publications. I will delineate the role she played in the decision making process for the studio.

The Khanzhonkov studio was also remarkable for many of the actresses he chose to hire: Vera Kholodnaia and Vera Karalli, among others. I will also address is the correlation between the Khanzhonkov studio’s use of genre and the types of roles typically given to women. I will pay particular attention to the actresses cast in these roles , outlining how they were hired, how much they were paid as well as how the studio chose to market their films.  Additionally, many of his actresses played multiple roles within the company, starting out as actresses and then writing, editing and directing.

Much work has yet to be done in the area of industrial practice in Russia and the role women played in its development.  This case study will serve as a basis for further exploration in the historiography of female industrial practice in Russian cinema.

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