Cover image for The first female stars : women of the silent era
The first female stars : women of the silent era
Menefee, David W., 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2004.
Physical Description:
xii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
1. Theda Bara -- 2. Beverly Bayne -- 3. Sarah Bernhardt -- 4. Carol Dempster -- 5. Pauline Frederick -- 6. Gene Gauntier -- 7. Janet Gaynor -- 8. Dorothy Gish -- 9. Mae Marsh -- 10. Mae Murray -- 11. Alla Nazimova -- 12. Constance Talmadge -- 13. Norma Talmadge -- 14. Laurette Taylor -- 15. Pearl White.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1998.2 .M454 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era rediscovers the fascinating lives and pioneering achievements of 15 women who dared to venture into early motion pictures, an industry dominated by men, and who not only succeeded but became the focal points of the industry. Each star earned a position at the height of her profession, and though many are largely forgotten today, made a lasting and significant contribution to early cinema. In this entertaining and informative volume, author David Menefee reveals these women and their signature roles, drawing on many original sources to show us how such actresses as Theda Bara, Sarah Bernhardt, Dorothy Gish, and Norma Talmadge were received in their time, and the many ways in which their influence remains important today.

Each profile contains a biographical treatment, an analysis of key films from her career, a discussion of the actress's influence on the medium, and selected filmography. Each also includes two photographs, most often one of the actress herself and a still from a film.

Author Notes

David W. Menefee is a contributing writer for The Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With each passing year, their glory fades just a little bit more, but in their heyday they were the most glamorous women the world then knew. They could--indeed, had to-- move an audience to tears with just a gesture, make them laugh with the flick of an eye. Theda Bara, Sarah Bernhardt: these names are legends of Hollywood history; but there were other, equally talented yet lesser known actresses whose contributions to the movie industry have gone largely unheralded--names such as Mae Marsh and Gene Gauntier. Some went from stage to screen; others started out in silent films only to have their careers ended by the talkies. In an era when women were fighting for the right to vote, these women were among the most powerful in their field, breaking new ground as directors, producers, and screenwriters. With obvious affection and through painstaking research, Menefee brings back to life the women who truly were pioneers of the movie industry. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2004 Booklist

Choice Review

Menefee (journalist and film historian) places the great female stars of the American silent cinema on well-deserved pedestals and worships them with loving tributes and deep affection. For each of the 15 stars he presents, he offers brief biographical sketches, selected filmographies, and film reviews from primary source materials like Moving Picture World and Photoplay. The stars range from the campy vamp Theda Bara and the immortal stage actress Sarah Bernhardt to the talented Talmadge sisters, Constance and Norma. Glaring in their absence are two of the era's stellar performers, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. One of the best chapters showcases the visionary contributions of Gene Gauntier, pioneering screen personality of From the Manger to the Cross (1912). Although the overview is uneven and meanders in places, this book does celebrate some neglected and forgotten film personalities, women who established the foundation for building the pantheon of goddess celebrities. Classic black-and-white photographs decorate the walls of this adoring gallery of female stars. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Large film collections; all levels. T. Lindvall Duke University School of Divinity

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
Theda Barap. 1
Beverly Baynep. 9
Sarah Bernhardtp. 25
Carol Dempsterp. 41
Pauline Frederickp. 59
Gene Gauntierp. 71
Janet Gaynorp. 83
Dorothy Gishp. 95
Mae Marshp. 113
Mae Murrayp. 127
Alla Nazimovap. 139
Constance Talmadgep. 151
Norma Talmadgep. 165
Laurette Taylorp. 179
Pearl Whitep. 193
Appendix Production Credits, Casts, and Synopsis of Featured Filmsp. 203
Bibliographyp. 217
Indexp. 223