The Women Who Changed the Game
When you think of prominent people in film, who comes to mind? You’re probably thinking of names like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, or Tim Burton. Maybe even faces like Leonardo Dicaprio or Tom Hanks. The list of influential individuals in Hollywood is a mile long. But, in celebration of women’s history month, we’re breaking down some of the most iconic women in film. If you didn’t know them before, take notes, because these women have laid the groundwork for film as we know it today.
Not only was Lois Weber the first American female director to direct a full-length feature film with The Merchant of Venice in 1914, but she was also one of the first directors to experiment with sound design following the silent film era of the early 19th Century.
Most of us know Lucille Ball as one of the most famous actresses in modern history with her iconic role in I Love Lucy. But, did you know that she was also the first woman to run a major television studio? She co-founded Desilu Productions in 1962, which went on to produce some of the most recognizable series of all time including The Untouchables, Star Trek, and I Love Lucy.
Arzner gained notoriety as the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America. Her career was also remarkable given that from 1927 to 1943, she was the only female director working in Hollywood.
The actress turned director, Penny Marshall, is best known for her work directing the 1988 film, Big, which earned Tom Hanks his first nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Actor (you know what they say, behind every great man is a great woman). With the wildly successful film, Penny Marshall became the first woman to direct a film grossing over $100M in box offices.
Lansing is the former CEO and chair of Paramount Pictures, and was the first woman to head a Hollywood movie studio when she was named President of Production at 20th Century Fox. In 1996, she also became the first female executive to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Waithe is a trailblazer not only for women, but also for members of the POC and LGBTQ communities. In 2017, she was recognized with a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for The Master of None, making her the first African American woman to receive the award.
Bigelow is the powerhouse director behind the hit war drama, The Hurt Locker, which earned her the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, and she became the first female director to earn an Academy Award for Best Director. But it doesn’t stop there. She’s also a renowned screenwriter and producer, making her one of Hollywood’s greatest of all time.
All of these women left an unforgettable mark on the film industry and are successful in their own right. As we reflect back, we can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to those who were brave enough to conquer a traditionally male-dominated field and change the game for the better. Which of these female trailblazers inspires you the most?