21 The 2018 Version…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

21 The 2018 Version...from

Transcript:

So the idea lagged for a while and then all of a sudden the Lady Gaga version comes up, which I’m sure most of you have seen. Let’s see — similarities. She’s not a rock star so much as she’s a pop star and that’s because we have the dancers behind her and we’re sort of working in a different world. He more or less though is a rock idol because it’s cooler for boys to do rock than pop right? We giggle at Justin Bieber. We think rock stars are hot. So he maintains the rock business but here’s a change that Bradley Cooper — who’s one of the writers on the movie definitely made — his dude is not jealous of her. He is supportive and happy. His problem is that he’s an addict and he can’t break his addiction. It has nothing to do — he’s an addict before he meets her. Her popularity does nothing has no change to that. So I think that’s an important difference and we’re going to talk about why that difference happens. Same thing they’re going to write a song together –a beautiful song. Again that’s a very sexy thing for them to do. At the Grammy Awards, he’s going to embarrass her but not out of anger that she’s getting attention and I’ve got a little slide I’m gonna show you on that. We’re gonna use the “one more look at you” line, so Dorothy Parker is still hanging out not only in the plot but in these lines. This time her guy — and they call him Jackson Maine because Norman is boring and so is John by the time we get to 2019. What we do is — he doesn’t cheat on her. In the other ones the woman finds the guy cheating because he finds another young girl that you know will make him feel better because his wife is better than he is. He does not do that. Bradley Cooper did not want his character to do that. Like Kris Kristofferson, though, he will commit suicide essentially on screen. We’re gonna know what he’s doing and it’s not off — lose his body and nobody has to see him. She’s gonna see his body when they find him and in the more modern world, if you want to call it that, she is just Ally like Cher is Cher right and Beyonce is Beyonce. She is Ally. So at the end of the movie, she can’t change her name but she does in fact introduce herself as Ally Maine. So she establishes that last name repetition from the previous versions.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

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07 Madeline Pugh From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

07 Madeline Pugh 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:

Madeline Pugh is not a woman who is forgotten in the books because she wrote for, of course, the most iconic woman on television, Lucille Ball and Madeleine Pugh was at the very beginning of Lucille Ball’s television career and stayed with her all the way through each of the three major shows she was ever a star of. You’ll notice here very tiny on her chair. It said Madeline Pugh Girl Writer. Imagine that. She is not a girl at this stage in her career. She is a grown woman who has a good history behind her of writing radio programs and then moving into this world. She co-wrote with this gentleman Bob Carroll whom she never married. They were just writing partners which was marvelous. She had her own personal life. She, in fact, married a man who had three children and eventually left Hollywood for a while and then decided she missed it and they as a whole family moved back and she continued. so Madeline Pugh is a huge, huge person in the history of television. She’s one of the few who might show up in a book because if you talk about The Lucille Ball Show you must talk about Madeline. One of the things madeleine did was as they wrote gags or the particular physical comedy that they would expect Lucy to do, Madeline would perform those tricks first. She would have to see if they were safe and they were doable and in fact, were they really funny when you saw them finished. So she was both sort of a side performer and of course a writer on the show. So I think Madeline Pugh is someone you should never forget as well as of course Lucille Ball.1

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.

Get your copy today!

20 A 3rd Remake?…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

20 A 3rd Remake?...from

Transcript:

Here’s something that fascinates me. I remember reading this in the trades and how cool it would have been when they thought about the third remake. This is obviously some 15 years ago now. It was a natural for Whitney Houston. You want a famous female singer. You want this story and she had just done The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner which had her be a famous singer right and she has as you know — falls in love with her bodyguard, in this case, etc etc — which also became a Broadway musical believe it or not and I’m gonna do a little tangent because I love to talk about writing. Why in the heck is Dolly Parton in my picture? She wrote a song called I Will Always Love You in the 50s when she quit her partnership with a male country singer. When they did the bodyguard, they needed a song that would be the song where Whitney Houston’s character kind of declared that she loved Kevin Costner. He’s a country music fan. He said to her you know I know this song that Dolly Parton wrote like 20 years ago. Could you reuse it and she liked it. Whitney Houston said yeah and they went to Dolly Parton because they have to get rights to it because she wrote the song and they were like you know Dolly once Whitney sings this, this will be in history Whitney Houston’s song and Dolly, being a very smart businesswoman, said yes but the writer gets all royalties for the song and I am perfectly happy for Whitney to own the performance. So it was a pretty brilliant move on her part and I’m sure that you’ve all heard that song as a Whitney Houston song. So that came out of The Bodyguard. They were thinking about getting Denzel to be the actor slash rockstar slash whatever they would need him to be in this version or they were thinking about Eddie Murphy. Sadly Whitney Houston died so this version was never able to be made and I think that’s a big loss because if we’re gonna remake a movie you know let’s do new and different things and she would have been brilliant. It would have been great. It didn’t happen.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



05 The Missing Women Part 2 From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

05 The Missing Women Part 2 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.

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

Transcript:

However, those two ladies were so important to the creation of Rose Marie — this character on the beloved Dick Van Dyke Show. This is one of the most important characters really in television history and many many female tv writers today will tell you that they knew this job was possible because they saw her do it on the fictional Dick Van Dyke Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show was a fictionalization of the staff writing for Sid Caesar right? Carl Reiner’s character is meant to be a personification of that. So these are the typical gentlemen who worked for him and she is a representation of Lucille and Selma Diamond sort of wrapped together. A woman who never got married right? Couldn’t find a guy. This is a very stereotypical vision of a career gal as they would say back in the day but she inspired many many women all the way up through Tina Fey and I think it’s always important to think about the power of television. One of my favorite stories has nothing to do with tv writers but to do with a Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who says she learned that she could be a lawyer someday by watching Perry Mason as a child. She learned that lawyers existed and that it was a job that required college and so she did well in school so that she could move forward and look she’s on the Supreme Court today. So television has a lot of power and the visuals women see on television are very very important to the ideas. You have to see it so that you can be it right? So Rose Marie stands for a lot of things — a representation of the women who truly did come before her and an inspiration to the women who came after.

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.

Get your copy today!

19 Up Close and Personal from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

19 Up Close and Personal rom

Transcript:

Just briefly I wanted to cover the fact that so 20 years later, Joan and John are going to write “Up Close and Personal.” It’s about an ambitious female news reporter, her seasoned older male news reporter, who’s at his peak but he’s Robert Redford so he’s not failing but he’s about to fail. He’s hit the best of his career. They fall in love. They fight. Spoiler — he dies not over trying to help her but like his world is over and it’s time for him to go and then she goes on with that. It’s the same freaking basis but I wouldn’t say that it’s a remake of A Star is Born right? There’s not enough in there that makes it the same.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



05 The Missing Women From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

05 The Missing Women 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, Gerturde 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.

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

Transcript:

…and here’s the problem. See all these men that we’re seeing in the pictures. All these men are who are remembered for writing for Sid Caesar. You’ve got Carl Reiner. You’ve got Woody Allen. You’ve got Larry Gelbart, who’s going to go on to do M*A*SH for us. These men are icons of comedy. When they came together to be recognized both Lucille and Selma had passed away. So when it was time to take this photograph, this is what people will remember about the writers of these classic iconic early comedies. They will not remember that women were on board for those things. The other sad thing to realize is this is still the visual of what a writing staff looks like on a late-night comedy show. When Stephen Colbert’s show won the Emmy a few years ago, there’s one female writer among the 13 male writers on that show. It is an issue that is still with us today in television. So we have to think about it, but sadly because this is such a great photograph, people will forget way down here it says not pictured the two ladies who didn’t happen to be able to be there that day.

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, Gerturde 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.

Get your copy today!

18 What’s Different?…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video

18 What's Different?...from

Transcript:

So what’s different in this one? In a nutshell right? We’re going to go back to — she’s ambitious but she’s a rock star. He’s a rock idol. We’re still he’s jealous. It’s hard not to be jealous. We’re going to add the component that they write a song together. That is one of the sexiest things you can watch human beings do. Come up with love words that you put to music and sing to each other and then kiss in the middle of singing. It’s friggin gorgeous. It’s a sex scene without everybody getting naked right and this is what we can do in 1976. It stimulates sex. We’re not going to the Academy Awards. We’re going to the Grammy Awards because that’s what we do in rock and roll. We’re still going to keep the line — so Dorothy Parker is still giving us …”one more look at you.” This is a huge deal. This time it was decided that it was — I don’t like the word cowardly — but it was weak to walk off into the ocean. It was far cooler and more dude-like, more testosterone-driven, to for him to get into this brilliantly beautiful expensive car and crash up and it’s just a deeply sad scene, and then, of course, she gets called and she comes to the site and she’s actually touching the dead body, right? She’s like don’t want to leave him and her manager has to pull her off of him and all that stuff. So we’ve changed a few things but we’ve not changed the trajectory of the story and again that’s what an arbitrator would look at right? An arbitrator would say, no the plot points are still. There the decoration is what has changed. So pretty big deal.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



From The Journal Of Screenwriting V6 Issue 2: Changing the way we think about character change in episodic television series by Radha O’Meara

Highlighting the articles in the past editions of the Journal of Screenwriting, of which I am the Book Reviews Editor. Hopefully, these abstracts will entice you to did a little deeper into the history and future of screenwriting. — Rosanne


Changing the way we think about character change in episodic television series by Radha O’Meara
 
Regular characters in episodic television series do not change, develop or transform. At least this is the way these characters are commonly understood. In television series, the plot focuses on episodic adventures, and the core cast of characters are seen as fairly rigid actants that facilitate those adventures. These apparently static characters of television series are generally understood in contrast to characters in television serials, who do transform over the course of episodes, seasons and years. This view can be found readily in popular discourse as well as writing manuals and scholarly treatises. But there is more to character change in television series. We can also see how characters in television series do change in different ways, displayed chiefly through character action and plot structure. Three kinds of character change on-screen are identified in this article: experiencing significant life events; expressing intense emotions, and displaying contrasting behaviours. Textual analysis of popular crime dramas and sitcoms demonstrates how characters in television series do change continually.

From The Journal Of Screenwriting V6 Issue 2: Changing the way we think about character change in episodic television series by Radha O’Meara


Journal of Screenwriting Cover

The Journal of Screenwriting is an international double-blind peer-reviewed journal that is published three times a year. The journal highlights current academic and professional thinking about the screenplay and intends to promote, stimulate and bring together current research and contemporary debates around the screenplay whilst encouraging groundbreaking research in an international arena. The journal is discursive, critical, rigorous and engages with issues in a dynamic and developing field, linking academic theory to screenwriting practice. 

Get your copy and subscription to the Journal of Screenwriting Today!


 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

04 Selma Diamond From Women in Early TV for the American Women Writers National Museum [Video]

04 Selma Diamond 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, Gerturde 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.

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

Transcript:

Next, we want to see Selma Diamond. Selma Diamond was an early writer on Your Show of Shows. Look at these names that she is with — Mel Tolkin, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, and Selma Diamond right? She was such a fascinating woman but many people only know her from her part on Night Court which was a show in the late 80s. She stepped into that character. She actually passed away in the course of the show and was replaced by Marsha Warfield. So most people only know her from her acting career but in fact, she was a writer many years earlier. She had some comedy albums that were very very well respected and I happen to know right now her great-nephew is working on a documentary to tell the story of her career because sadly what happens to her and this woman, Lucy Kallen — Lucille Kallen, excuse me. She was also a writer on these early Sid Caesar shows right? So you can see her in this picture. She’s right there doing the work with everybody. She’s part of it everywhere you go except when we start to think about memorializing the people who worked on these shows. Now you have to think about how brilliant Lucille Kallen was. When tv went away from her right when it started to be something that they weren’t really giving her jobs in she began to write murder mysteries. The Tanglewood Murder. That whole CB Greenfield line is her. So she was already in the world of let’s have a continuing series. If I can’t do it on tv, I’ll do it in book form. So this is a woman who wrote all her career and I also happen to love this quote by her — a man’s home is his castle and his wife is the janitor. This is the kind of wit. She’s very much a Dorothy Parker type of person.

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, Gerturde 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.

Get your copy today!

Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture – Fall 2021

What a lovely Christmas gift.

I was more than honored a couple of months ago when Leslie Kreiner Wilson (Associate Professor of Creative Writing & Film at Pepperdine University) asked to interview me for the special segment of the Journal of American Popular Culture called “Conversations with Scholars of American Popular Culture.

It was published this week in the Fall 2021 issue. 

Leslie and I found we share such similar interests in the ways women and their work is recorded in history that we could have stayed on the phone for hours – as it is we traversed topics ranging from how we both teach Anita Loos and other female screenwriters of Early Hollywood; how I found feminist messages in The Monkees thanks to the writing of Treva Silverman; how working on encyclopedias allowed me to curate which women were remembered; how Wally Funk, who learned to fly in the aviation program as a student at Stephens College became one of the Mercury 13 and finally made it into space on a SpaceX flight last year. 

It all boiled down to the fact that we both have dedicated our careers to writing about powerful women.  It’s nice to find kindred spirits in academia (all nods to author Lucy Maude Montgomery for teaching me the phrase ‘kindred spirits” when I read Anne of Green Gables – another story about an empowered young woman that deserves more attention).

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Americana double eagle 1900

Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture - Fall 2021Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture - Fall 2021

Featured Guest:
Rosanne Welch

Rosanne Welch is the Executive Director of the MFA in TV and Screenwriting Program at Stephens College where she teaches the History of Screenwriting as well as Writing the One-Hour Drama. She has written for such television shows as Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, Touched by an Angel, ABC/Nightline – as well as publishing novels.

Her critical studies books include Why the Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television, and American Pop Culture (McFarland, 2016) and The Civil War on Film (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2020). In addition to publishing many chapters and journal articles, she has written or edited several essay collections and encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space (ABC-CLIO, 1998); Women in American History (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2017); When Women Wrote Hollywood (McFarland, 2018); and Technical Innovation in American History (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2019).

Dr. Welch sits on the Editorial Board for the Writers Guild Written By magazine and the California History Journal. She also serves as the Book Reviews editor for the Journal of Screenwriting where last year she co-edited (with Rose Ferrell) a Special Issue on Women in Screenwriting (11.3). Dr. Welch holds a Ph.D. in twentieth century American history with a focus on film from Claremont Graduate University.

We talked to her about her teaching, research, and writing, which consistently empowers women.


When you were writing Touched by an Angel, were you conscious of writing a strong female-centered show? Was that discussed in the writers’ room?

Oh yes, I always felt the show was really Cagney & Lacey without guns. I’m Sicilian-American, so I’m loud and assertive. People thought I would write for Roma Downey’s sweet, quiet character, but soon realized my personality was better suited for Della Reese. I wrote her dialogue.

The series was about two women trying to change people’s lives for the better. When they resisted the change, God was mentioned, and then they changed. We were empowering women to empower others.

What attracted you to directing the MFA program at Stephens College and teaching the History of Screenwriting?

The history of film is usually taught as the history of directors, which is the history of great white men. Why don’t we equally teach women and men’s contribution to the industry? I want students to know how important women were and are to the movies and television. Stephens is a woman’s college, but the graduate program is co-ed, so we get a lot of cool feminist guys who want to know the full truth, too.

I want them to know about Anita Loos and Gentleman Prefer Blondes – haven’t we heard enough about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby? I teach the fact that Nora Ephron got an Oscar nomination [with Alice Arlen] for a serious drama they never heard of – Silkwood. They only know her for her funny stuff. When I teach Rocky, I want them to learn about Norma Rae, written by a woman – Harriet Frank Jr. and her husband, Irving Ravetch. How can they not know about Norma Rae? How can they not know all the unrecognized contributions of women in this industry?

I liked how Fosse/Verdon showed how important Gwen was to his career. Most of my students never even heard of Gwen Verdon. I made them watch the show. You know, her daughter was a producer. I think that’s why it was so good. She was saying, “Now mom gets her due.”

I teach the women in the beginning of film, then I do the men, Trumbo, all that, then I return to the women screenwriters emerging in the late seventies and early eighties. But they need to know Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond, the only women in Sid Caesar’s famous writers’ room for Your Show of Shows in the 1950s. And writers like Suzanne De Passe – she co-wrote Lady Sings the Blues in the 1970s and was nominated for an Oscar, but is rarely included in most film history courses.

Your first book was Why the Monkees Matter. It might surprise readers to know you have a chapter on feminism, gender, and sexuality in relation to the show.

The Monkees was my favorite show when I was a kid. I went back and re-watched all the episodes as a pop culture-cultural studies professor and realized there were a lot of feminist messages that I hadn’t caught when I was little.

I focus on Treva Silverman who was a prominent television writer in the sixties and seventies with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, The Monkees, He & She, and Room 222. She won two Emmys in 1974. Most people don’t know there was a woman in the writers’ room. A woman in the room makes a huge difference.

For example, every single girl who dated one of the main characters on the show had a job. Not one was a bubble head or waiting to get married, so someone else could take care of her. They had jobs – in record stores, television studios, reporting the news. That was an interesting message to send in 1966. Every time we met a girl, she was defined by her job first.

In the first episode that aired, Princess Bettina of Harmonica turns down the cute boy because she has “responsibilities for the welfare of [her] people.” They even flip the trope in the episode of the girl getting kidnapped and the boys having to save her. Here, The Monkees get kidnapped, and Princess Bettina has to save them. When they meet the Julie Newmar character in another episode, she’s working on a Ph.D., and they learn “the fastest way to a woman’s heart is through her mind.”

At the end of the book, I make the point that if you were to girl in 1966, you learned that if you wanted to date a Monkee you should be a woman of value. That was an interesting feminist thought – that you should think about your purpose in the world and be led by it.

You have published several encyclopedias. What is it about that form that excites you?

Choice. I get to choose who is included. When ABC-CLIO put me on Technical Innovation in American History, there were no women. They also didn’t included innovations that have made women’s lives easier such as dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. Having a say in who or what is included makes a difference in how we teach and understand history. We, as women writers, have the ability to be our own gatekeepers.

For Women in American History, I was able to include people like Cyndi Lauper who others might dismiss as a silly pop star, but she was the first woman in history to win a Tony for writing the lyrics and music without a male partner. Her Broadway musical Kinky Boots got thirteen nominations. I like having a say in who’s going to be remembered and why.

You collected essays written by your students for When Women Write the Movies and the publisher asked you to write a chapter as well. You did. Tell us why you chose to focus on Ruth Gordon.

A lot of people attribute the feminism of the Spencer-Tracey films to Katherine Hepburn, but I contend that Ruth Gordon deserves the credit. She co-wrote those films with her husband Garson Kanin who was a cool guy, and they were Oscar-nominated for Pat and Mike and Adam’s Rib.

George Cukor gets the credit for the film because he directed it. However, Ruth’s voice comes through in the feminist message of Hepburn’s character. Gordon essentially invented the popular culture image as a feminist that Hepburn enjoyed – more from the power of the characters Ruth wrote than the events of Hepburn’s actual life.

Gordon is more famous as an actress – she won an Oscar for Rosemary’s Baby and starred in Harold and Maude, which has become a cult classic – but she was an accomplished writer and hard worker – working and writing plays and films all the way until her death.

In 2020, you published The Civil War on Film with Peg A. Lamphier. What was the most interesting thing you learned in writing and researching the book?

Right up front, we asked the publishers to make sure there was a female in the photo chosen for the front cover, and they listened. Sally Field as Mrs. Lincoln appears on the cover along with Daniel Day Lewis. Yes! Usually, Civil War studies only feature the men – and usually men in uniform glorying war which was not the message of our book at all.

You know, Glory is the film that historians and scholars point to as the best, most accurate Civil War movie ever made, so I was surprised that they didn’t include the fact that Harriet Tubman was a spy at that point and could have been included in that story – a young woman running around doing things – not the old lady in the rocker – the one image we have of her.

Written by boys. Produced by boys. Reminds us why it’s important to have a woman in the room. I’m writing a chapter right now about the women who created A Star Is Born. When Dorothy Parker wrote it – and Joan Didion remade it for Barbara Streisand – I could see the female gaze, but the last version by Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, and Eric Roth focused on the man’s point of view. It didn’t work creatively. Frankly, it became more like A Star Is Dying.

What’s the most interesting story from your first encyclopedia Women and Aviation in Space?

The Powder Puff Derbies are interesting – women flying in races all across the country from Cleveland to Los Angeles. You know, they said Amelia Earhart was not the best flyer – others were better than she was, but she had a publicist for a husband.

Women were tested as Mercury 13 astronauts, and they did very well – better than the men in some cases – but the program was quickly cancelled.

But the most interesting story is the WASPS. Over a thousand women were flying in World War II – the Women Airforce Service Pilots – civilian volunteers flying all the military planes. They delivered the new ones to bases, worked as test pilots, hoped to join the military, but that program was cancelled after two years.

It would be many years before women got their due. One of the original Mercury pilots Wally Funk just went up in the Blue Origin launch at the age of 82. She said she can’t wait to go up again. Happily enough, she learned aviation as a student at Stephens College in the run up to World War II.

I have so much respect for these women because they love one thing so much they don’t want to do anything else. It’s passion. I feel that as a writer. I must write. It’s my passion.

What’s next? What are you writing now?

I’m editing the ABC-CLIO Women Making History Series, a set of biographies with primary documents (so we can let these women speak for themselves). We’re working on Ida B. Wells, Sally Ride, Delores Huerta, and Wilma Mankiller now. We’ve recently published books on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Helen Keller.

I’m also writing a chapter for Palgrave – “Women Screenwriters in Early Silent Film” and one for Bloomsbury on A Star is Born. The next book I’m finishing is similar to the Civil War one – this one on Women’s History on Film – a collection of films about moments in women’s history.

And in a completely other vein, though still connected to celebrating empowered women, I just published a chapter in Doctor Who New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whittaker Era which details the work of screenwriter/showrunner Christopher Chibnall in creating the first female incarnation of this fifty year old sci-fi icon.

So you enjoy writing about powerful women.

Clearly, women who make things happen fascinate me. In fact, last year I published a novel about Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man who united Italy in 1860, and in the research I discovered his Brazillian-born wife, Anita, joined his band of soldiers and fought side by side for that dream. I enjoyed bringing her story to the forefront of his oft-told (at least in Italy) tale.

Interestingly enough, Anita Garibaldi brought me back to American History when she crossed paths with journalist and Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller, who was the first correspondent sent to Italy to cover the fight for unification. The two women worked together as nurses for fallen soldiers. Imagine what they talked about as they created their cross-cultural friendship.

So even when writing about an international couple, I found my way back to an icon of American popular culture.

Fall 2021
Leslie Kreiner Wilson, Interviewer and Editor