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The largely overblown notion of silent-film actors whose voices doomed them in talkies has been firmly enshrined in Hollywood mythology (and at least one undisputed masterwork, Singin’ in the Rain). Some careers did end, but often these actors were casualties of fashion; their time had passed. Much less discussed is the fact that the early talkies also produced a number of stars who faded or disappeared as changes in Hollywood, many linked to the enforcement of the Production Code beginning in mid-1934, lessened the demand for their style and their movies.
Dames, Janes, Dolls, and
Fourteen actresses in total are included in this series—the others are Ann Harding, Leila Hyams, Genevieve Tobin, Marian Marsh, Madge Evans, Dolores Del Rio, and Helen Twelvetrees. Wherever possible, a concerted effort has been made to schedule films that not only show their talents, but also are either rarely screened, unavailable on home video, or have reputations unfairly diminished by years of terrible, murky copies. The aim of Dames, Janes, Dolls, and Canaries is to provide a picture of the wide range of actresses and their characters in this era, before Joseph Breen and the Hays Office, who spearheaded the Production Code, deliberately narrowed the view.
Film selections and program text by Farran Nehme.
Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, and Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, with Farran Nehme, independent curator.