14 Joan Harrison From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

14 Joan Harrison From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

Many thanks to Janice Law of the American Women Writers National Museum who invited me to give a short talk on The Women of Early TV.

I enjoyed sharing the names and careers of women like Peg Lynch, Gertrude Berg, Selma Diamond, and D.C. Fontana to the members who gathered on Zoom last Wednesday morning. There are so many more I could have talked about whose names don’t appear in mainstream books about the history of television so we have to learn who they are and carry those names forward ourselves.  It’s one of the missions of the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting – and has been one of my missions all my life.

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Transcript:

Joan Harrison is a woman few people know about today because this man, Alfred Hitchcock, overshadowed all the writers of all his movies. We call them Hitchcock films but I find that very very disingenuous because in fact they were written by other people. Often this woman, Joan Harrison. She wrote, in fact, the only movie that Hitchcock ever won an Oscar for — Rebecca. She’s the woman who found the story, adapted it, wrote the script was on the set for all the production of it. She was originally his secretary. She began as the secretary and there were many people who never forgave that title however she wrote many other films. She began to produce films and we’re talking about early in the 40s, 50s. She’s going to move into the 1960s as the producer of the Alfred Hitchcock’s Presents program. So she’ll do TV production, executive producing, long before that ever existed for most people and very recently a friend of mine — I met her online doing other work — Christina Lane –she’s a professor out of the College of Florida. She wrote Phantom Lady. Of course, that’s the name of a film but also it’s the story of Joan Harrison’s life. So it’s the first full biography of a female producer of that time period that takes her work very seriously but notice how the subtitle still has to be “The forgotten woman behind Hitchcock.” That’s the name that we recognize. That’s the name people relate to. So her career has always been overshadowed by the fact that she worked for Hitchcock. There’s another book about writing with Hitchcock by I believe his name is Michael Shane, I’d have to double-check but he wrote several Hitchcock films and he wrote a book about writing with Hitchcock. About what it was like to work with him and as much as we call them Hitchcock films and I’m very against that auteur theory because I think the writer is the person who brings you your theme — that’s what they’re considered. So we have to remember the people behind the directing. They were the writers and this is a beautiful picture of her as a producer looking at a piece of edited film and making some choices. So she did the full gamut of work in these early days of television.

Many thanks to Janice Law of the American Women Writers National Museum who invited me to give a short talk on The Women of Early TV.

I enjoyed sharing the names and careers of women like Peg Lynch, Gertrude Berg, Selma Diamond, and D.C. Fontana to the members who gathered on Zoom last Wednesday morning. There are so many more I could have talked about whose names don’t appear in mainstream books about the history of television so we have to learn who they are and carry those names forward ourselves. It’s one of the missions of the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting – and has been one of my missions all my life.

Watch this entire presentation

 

Women pioneers who created, produced, or shepherded many of America’s most wildly popular, early television programs will be profiled by Dr. Rosanne Welch.

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