Throughout the course of film history, women have been influential both on and off the screen. Nonetheless, there are many impactful women whose names we do not hear and recognize as often as we should. Filmmaking has captured the interest of women since the early days of the industry, leading women to use cameras, write screenplays, win awards, invent film technologies, and constantly work to revolutionize film as a medium.
Alicia Malone’s Backward and in Heels: The Past, Present and Future of Women Working in Film celebrates the history of women in film, spotlighting the impact of individual women discussed in the book. The book highlights the stories of film pioneers, struggles in the studio system, revolutionary moments, and modern influences.
In addition to paying homage to women in early cinema, the book also includes stories about movie stars and contemporary activists. Malone includes chapters about Alice Guy Blache, Mary Pickford, Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Mae West, Hattie McDaniel, Anna May Wong, Hedy Lamarr, Olivia de Havilland, Ida Lupino, Rita Hayworth, Dorothy Dandridge, Marylyn Monroe, and many more–all of whom pique my interest as a classic film fan. As for more modern examples, there are also chapters about Meryl Streep, Ava DuVernay, Olivia Spencer, and mother-daughter icons Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
Malone’s book is a fine compilation of histories about some of cinema’s most groundbreaking women, offering a thoughtful, well-research history about each of them.