The late actress Dorothy Davenport launched her career early, making a name for herself at Universal Studios by the age of 17. She later turned to directing and producing films — although her name often appears in the credits as Mrs. Wallace Reid, even in the years after her husband passed away. At least one of those films, The Red Kimono, is now set for rerelease under her given name, nearly 100 years after its premiere, as part of the largest ever commercially released collection of films by female directors.
“Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers” is a massive undertaking by film distributor Kino Lorber to celebrate motion pictures made by female American directors between 1910 and 1929. That period marks the end of the silent film era, by which time many women had anchored themselves at the top of the studio system, sitting behind the camera with the authority to control what it recorded. Yet their films are not well known today — many exist only in poor condition or fragments; others were not regarded as good enough to be released on video.
Now, hopefully, they will be, thanks to a Kickstarter that Kino Lorber launched last month to celebrate this early generation of female filmmakers. (Previously, the studio successfully funded a collection of landmark films by African American directors.) Selected by Shelley Stamp, a professor at the University of California, the movies include productions helmed by Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blaché, Ida May Park, and Nell Shipman, among others.
The five-disc box set will feature 20 hours of material, with 35mm and 16mm films restored and transferred to HD footage as well interviews with film historians and archivists. Donations towards the campaign’s $44,000 goal will help Kino Lorber access archives around the world, including the Library of Congress, the George Eastman Museum, Archives Canada, New York Women in Film & Television, and the British Film Institute. Besides the costs of mastering, the raised funds will also cover the creation of musical scores, commissioned in a range of styles, that will give new voices these mostly silent motion pictures.
“By showcasing the ambitious, inventive films from the golden age of women directors, we can get a sense of what was lost by the marginalization of women to ‘support roles’ within the film industry,” Kino Lorber said in a statement. The studio’s campaign ends on November 18; as of press time, it is less than $5,000 away from its goal.
“Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers” is fundraising on Kickstarter through November 18.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.