Female Performance in Modern Hollywood

Winter Quarter, 2022

Tuesdays, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

A. Female Performance in Modern Hollywood

Nick Davis, Associate Professor of English and Gender & Sexuality Studies

NOTE: Pre-screening the suggested films is optional, but doing so will greatly enhance the lecture experience. The list of clips shown during class will include and often exceed the films listed below, evoking each actress’s body of work. As of this printing, these films are available to stream through various services, but please bear in mind that titles constantly cycle in and out of every streaming service’s library. Should any movie become inaccessible between now and the lecture in question, Prof. Davis will offer a new suggestion at least one week in advance. All films should also be available on DVD for purchase or at local libraries for checkout. Particularly in the U.S., films became a subject for “serious” criticism by enshrining directors as their principal artists. This shift in movie culture unfolded at a midcentury moment when, even more than now, men held a near-exclusive dominion on filmmaking as a career. Women achieved their greatest cinematic renown as performers, but even the most powerful were often viewed as “muses” for directors or as glamorous icons who helped sell tabloids and tickets. Times, studio structures, and gender politics changed markedly, yet these stereotypes persist. Even film scholars pay little attention to actresses’ creative labors, formative contributions to their projects, and pivotal influences on the past and present of U.S. cinema—and, by extension, of U.S. life. This course resists those legacies by analyzing the work of over a dozen female stars of post-1950 Hollywood film, many of them equally prominent on TV or in the theater. Lectures will illuminate key dimensions of each woman’s signature artistry and frame in historical terms her unique contributions to how screen narratives evolved over time, in dialogue with changes in the moviemaking industry.

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