<i>Plunder.</i> 1923. USA. Directed by George B. Seitz. Courtesy private collection

Women Daredevils of the Silent Era

Silent, with piano accompaniment by Ben Model.

Monday, October 21, 2013, 4:00 p.m.

Theater 1 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), T1

Includes the following films:

  • Demon of the Sky

    1917. USA. Written and directed by Grace Cunard, Francis Ford. Chapter 5 of the serial Purple Mask. With Cunard, Ford, Jean Hathway. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. 13 min.

  • The Girl Spy

    1909. USA. Directed by Sidney Olcott. Screenplay by Gene Gauntier. With Gauntier. Preserved print courtesy the Library and Archives of Canada. 15 min.

  • Ruth Roland, Kalem Girl

    1912. USA. Produced by the Kalem Company. Preserved print courtesy the BFI. 6 min.

  • Plunder [trailer]

    1923. USA. Directed by George B. Seitz. With Pearl White, Harry Semele, Karen Kreen. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. 4 min.

  • Escape on a Fast Freight

    1915. USA. Directed by Helen Holmes, Leo Maloney. Chapter 13 of the serial The Hazards of Helen. Screenplay by J. P. McGowan, Holmes. With Holmes, Maloney. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. 13 min.

  • The Brink of Eternity

    1922–23. USA. Directed by George Marshall. Chapter 6 of the serial The Haunted Valley. Screenplay by Frank Leon Smith. With Ruth Roland, Jack Daugherty. Preserved print courtesy the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 20 min.

Women Daredevils of the Silent Era: More than Pearl White

Pearl White was a wildly popular daredevil serial queen of the silent era, but she wasn’t the first. Gene Gauntier preceded her in 1909 with her Girl Spy series. Not only did White, Gauntier, and the other pioneering women in this program—Ruth Roland, Helen Holmes, and Grace Cunard—perform their own dangerous stunts, they also wrote, directed, and produced. Today we see in these “sensational melodrama” heroines the most liberated aspects of the New Woman, whose physical daring and intellectual prowess can still thrill audiences. Jane Gaines, a professor of film at Columbia University School of the Arts, and B. Ruby Rich, a critic and scholar, present two programs celebrating groundbreaking, multitalented women of silent cinema. These screenings mark the launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project, a collaborative compendium of essays, images, and archival material that will be published this year by Columbia University Libraries as an experiment in digital publishing.

In the Film exhibition To Save and Project: The 11th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation

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