Cast of Women

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 5.57.19 PMThank you to KUOW radio for introducing me to a film from 1939 that starred only women. Predictably titled The Women, it was based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce and adapted for the screen by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin. There were 130 speaking roles and, although the women talk a lot about men, there is not a single man shown in the movie. Even the pets and family portraits in the movie are female. Was this a first, at least in the commercial film business?

The list of women in the movie’s cast is breathtaking. Even if you are not a movie buff, you might recognize many of the names:

Norma Shearer

Joan Crawford

Rosalind Russell

Paulette Goddard

Joan Fontaine

Lucile Watson

Mary Boland

Virginia Grey

Marjorie Main

Phyllis Povah

Florence Nash

Ruth Hussey

Virginia Weidler

Butterfly McQueen

Hedda Hopper

The film made over $2 million (a tidy sum in 1939) but its production costs exceeded its gross. Did the content of the film keep it out of the popular annals of film history? That might not be the case. The film was directed by George Cukor, which would get a film historian’s attention. However, in 1939, it competed with a few other good (make that great) films. They included Gone with the Wind (which grossed ten times The Women). Other films grossing more that year were: The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Babes in Arms, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, and Ninotchka.

Megan Ellison – Movie Producer

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 6.35.21 PM          Megan Ellison was the first woman producer to receive two Best Picture nominations in one year, but that was not enough to earn her a place on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. Only twenty-eight years old, Megan Ellison is the founder of Annapurna Pictures, a production company whose stated goal is to “produce sophisticated high-quality films that might otherwise be deemed risky by contemporary Hollywood studios.”

In an industry where, among the top 250 grossing domestic films, only 16% of directors and other executives, writers, editors and cinematographers are women, Megan Ellison is a standout. She provides what has been called a “Silicon Valley” approach to filmmaking. Her films draw in prominent directors and screenwriters but are original, even daring projects. While the major studios prefer to finance and promote blockbusters, she supports riskier ideas with sophisticated plots. Among her earlier projects were the Coen Brothers’ True Grit and Kathryn Bieglow’s Zero Dark Thirty.

Both of the films she produced in 2013 were nominated for multiple academy awards. Her, which is described as a science fiction romantic comedy drama film, was nominated for three Golden Globe nominations and five Academy Award nominations. Spike Jonze, the director won for best original screenplay in both contests. At the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Her shared the best picture award with Gravity.

In the same year American Hustle won three Golden Globe Awards, three BAFTA Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, the picture did not win in any category but received widespread critical acclaim.

The plots of these two movies demonstrate the unusual topics that intrigue Megan Ellison. In Her Joaquin Phoenix had a relationship with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johnsson), an intelligent computer operating system. In American Hustle, two con artists set up a sting operation on corrupt politicians, similar to the FBI’s ABSCAM operation several decades earlier.

Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is deserving of its name. Annapurna is the name of a section of the Himalayas in Nepal and Ellison has taken her work to the heights of the movie world, in spite of her willingness to take risks and produce projects other spurn. Annapurna is also the name of a Hindu goddess who provides food and nourishment. Ellison is certainly a goddess and protector, nourishing projects that might have withered away without her patronage.

LEARN MORE:

Her filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2691892/

About her style and background: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/03/megan-ellison-27-producer-zero-dark-thirty