Fully Fifty-Fifty is dedicated to uncovering and celebrating the frenetic, fascinating – and feminist – world of the dawn of Hollywood.
Within five years the feminine influence will be fully fifty-fifty in Studio Land.
–Ladies Home Journal, 1920
We tend to think of Hollywood as the original boys’ club. Every few months there’s a new flurry of discussion about how we need to get more female voices in movies, how women should be paid as much as their male co-stars, and to what extent some innocent, hardworking Twitter egg’s life is ruined by having to witness stinky girls in his favourite franchise.
And it’s easy to imagine it was always so.
When we picture Old Hollywood, we tend to imagine some slimy middle-aged dude muttering around a huge cigar, “try that again with less clothes, honey,” as a starlet grits her teeth and tells herself that it’ll all be worth it someday – right?
But in fact, there was an old Old Hollywood. A hidden Hollywood. A forgotten Hollywood.
Before the studio system. Before the Code. Before even talkies.
And that’s what this series is all about.
Welcome to the Dark Ages of the movies.
At the turn of the twentieth century, women were a dominant force both in front of and behind the camera.
Female stars could expect top billing, had control over who directed and wrote for them and were paid as much — and often more — than their male counterparts. Behind the camera, women were writing, producing, directing and editing in numbers we can only dream of today.
While women around the world fought for the vote, in Hollywood the mayor of Universal City was director Lois Weber.
Whose biggest hit of 1916 was a movie exploring the topic of abortion.
The first star to sign a million-dollar contract was a woman. The first studio head was a woman. The first screenwriter to win more than one Oscar was a woman.
The fair sex is represented [in Hollywood] as in no other calling to which women have harkened in the early years of the twentieth century.
– Motion Picture Classic in 1915.