“After all, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in heels…” this quote is truly a perfect way to sum up the empowered women all throughout this story. It’s also where the title itself comes from! Backwards and in Heels is written by film reporter, critic and fellow film geek, Alicia Malone. A woman I’m very grateful to say I’ve met and has lent a hand in helping me down this crazy path of wanting to work/be a part of this industry. She’s truly an inspiration and all of her passion in regards to this subject have helped me to become very passionate about it as well.
This. Book. Is. Truly. Amazing.
It’s filled with many inspiring stories about (and from) women starting from the very beginning of cinema up until now. I loved reading every bit of it. I really wanted to talk about a few of my favorite portions from it. Again, the whole thing is amazing and worth the read! These were just a few of my favorite parts. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Alice Guy Blaché – A woman I had never heard of up until I read this book. Which is very unfortunate because she was SUPER COOL. Born in Paris in 1873, Alice became one of the first directors in cinema history. She borrowed a camera from the Lumiére Brothers at an exhibition of theirs and filmed a short film called “The Cabbage Fairy”. It’s known now as one of the first movies in history to include a story. She went on to direct every film that came out of The Gaumont Film Company and later started her own film company called Solax Studios. (buy Alicia’s book to read more on this woman’s story…as I refuse to spoil anymore about her!)
Mary Pickford – One of the savviest business women in the industry. Mary was a hard-core negotiator when it came to her salary and more often than not ended up with a pay rate twice as large then what she was originally offered. She wasn’t afraid to ward off weird advances from male colleagues, including from her directors, and was an all-around badass. Not to mention, she assisted in setting up the United Artists Corporation with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks AND helped to set up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. GO MARY, GO.
Dorothy Arzner – Ever heard of the boom microphone? Yeah? She invented it. She took a fishing rod, attached a microphone to it, and dangled it above the heads of her actors. BOOM (no pun intended). Dorothy was a woman who worked her way from typist to screenwriter to editor to director. She was also the first woman to be invited into the Directors Guild of America. Many of her films focused on women and their relationships and had strong feminist vibes. She gave Hollywood a different perspective in the 1930’s and helped to open doors for female directors later on.
Ava DuVernay – You thought I’d write a whole post WITHOUT including Ava? FUNNY. Here’s a fact for all of you: over the past decade, out of 1,114 directors who worked on films, only 6 have been women of color. Ava being one of them. Depressing fact. Before she took up directing, she was a publicist. While working for many directors, she noticed the lack of inclusion in regards to people of color trying to finance and distribute their films. In 2010 she took to starting the African-American Film Releasing Movement (AFFRM) to help with film distribution. She’s had multiple other accomplishments after this moment in time, including becoming the first black female director to receive a Golden Globe nomination and have a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and she continues to have them today. (I wrote an entire article about her that you guys can delve into also!)
JJ Abrams & Paul Feig – From Star Wars to Ghostbusters, these two men have proved one very important thing: representation matters. Say what you want about each of these films, but when you see the overall reaction of little girls dressing up as Rey or the ladies from the Ghostbusters reboot, you know that each film hit its mark. Both of these guys make sure in their movies, and JJ with his company Bad Robot, that there’s equal playing fields for everyone. It doesn’t matter your gender or race, there’s a strong sense in wanting to even the playing field and both of these men are very aware of the inequality in Hollywood. Which made me love them even more.
This book is incredibly smart and insightful. Every page offers something fun and interesting to learn! You can order the book on Amazon. It's VERY worth it!