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Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood (2001)

Cast: Uma Thurman, Kathy Bates, Kevin Brownlow, more...
Director: Bridgett Terry
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Image Entertainment
Genre: Documentary, Biographies
Running Time: 118 min.
Languages: English
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Though there may have been an unofficial glass ceiling for most women in the motion picture industry of the 1920s and 1930s, for many years the most successful and highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood was a former actress named Frances Marion. Born in 1899, Marion entered the fledgling movie industry in the pre-WWI years. After a few nominal leading-lady roles, she turned to writing rather than appearing in films, her talents nurtured by another female film pioneer, superstar Mary Pickford. Thanks to Marion's example and influence, scores of other women flourished in the production end of the business as writers, editors, producers, and directors. But none did quite so well as Frances Marion, whose long and fruitful association with the mighty MGM studio (whose rise to prominence is attributed primarily to Marion's prolific output), culminating in two Academy Awards, for The Big House (1930) and The Champ (1931). Covering Marion's life and career until her death in 1973, the film also occasionally touches on her private life, notably her marriage to cowboy star Fred Thompson, which ended with his tragic and unexpected death at the tail end of the silent era. Uma Thurman narrates this 52-minute documentary, with Kathy Bates supplying the voice of Marion. Based on Cari Beauchamp's 1998 biography of the same name, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood first aired August 3, 2000, on the TCM cable service. The film has seen been released in an expanded version on VHS and DVD, bracketed together with a restored print of the 1917 Marion-scripted Mary Pickford vehicle Little Princess. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Girl Power in the early days of film by JGillespie July 25, 2003 - 2:49 PM PDT
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful
This is mandatory viewing for all fans of silent cinema. Women had a profound impact on early cinema, and this documentary demonstrates what a force these women were. I adore Mary Pickford's movies because she has such a wide range of personas. Now I can see that the complexity of her roles were also due to Frances Marion's inventive and iconoclastic screenplays. It's easy to assume that it took modern feminism to pave the way for actresses like Jodie Foster, but decades earlier women like Frances Marion and Mary Pickford ran their own careers and a significant part of the movie industry as well. In fact, there aren't any modern equivalents to Marion and Pickford, or the opportunities many women in their generation had in Hollywood. The short film that accompanies the documentary is a classic look at Mary Pickford playing a role that resembles many of her other characters: a spunky girl whose indomitable pluck and integrity steer her through trials and tribulations. This is a fascinating lesson in Hollywood and feminist history.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 8.30)
10 Votes
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