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

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“The Feminine Touch”: Elsie Codd and Transnational Film Journalism
Clare Watson

Last modified: 2010-03-01


The flow between nations of films, prominent production personnel and stars during the silent era has been well documented. This paper explores the transnational dimension of film journalism and publicity work in the 1920s, taking as its focus the case study of less well-known British writer, Elsie Codd. Current research is revealing that women were significant to the field of film journalism and publicity, and during the 1920s, a number of British female writers travelled abroad for their work. For example, Kathleen Hayden wrote for the magazine Picture Show before travelling to America to act as its foreign correspondent. Likewise, Codd started out as a film journalist in the teens, writing articles for some of the major trade papers and fan magazines, such as the Kinematograph Weekly and Pictures and the Picturegoer. Towards the end of the decade, her writings became more international in outlook, when she was engaged as Charles Chaplin’s publicist for Britain, and in 1919 travelled to the US where she continued her work based at the Chaplin studio. Codd’s international career is of significance. The years she spent in America coincided with Chaplin’s First National period, a time of immense creativity for the star, during which his status amongst formative critics soared. Codd’s articles are an important source amongst this early criticism about Chaplin; her writings about his working method reinforced a notion of Chaplin as "artist" and are re-printed at length in Louis Delluc’s book Charlot (1922), the first ‘serious’ study devoted to the star. Later in the 1920s, Codd returned to Britain where the Anglo-American aspect of her career continued through her management of the publicity for the Famous Players-Lasky studio in Islington, London. During this period, her writings developed female-gendered and behind-the-scenes themes apparent in her earlier articles (such as features on female American stars, fashion, extra work) into more focused investigations into the role of women practitioners in the film industry, most notably in a series of articles entitled "The Feminine Touch."

This paper broadly investigates women’s roles as film journalists and publicists in Britain, and is particularly concerned with the sometimes international scope of this work, the ways in which practitioners such as Codd mediated the foreign/Hollywood experience for a primarily British readership, and how such work negotiated the role of women working in the film industry.



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