Looking At the Stars: Celebrating Women’s History

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
Mae West

Welcome to March and a new series on Classic Movie Hub, “Looking At the Stars.” Every month we’ll be celebrating a star or two – or perhaps three – in short subject posts with a theme in common. Each entry will celebrate history, art or culture. Some notations will be serious and others whimsical. They will all take on a movie twist, of course, and (we hope) they will also be entertaining. For our inaugural entry we honor women’s history.

Following more than a century of women fighting for equal rights and fairness, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to officially name the month of March one during which the contributions of women across all facets of society and from all nations will be celebrated. (Women’s History Month).

Classic Movie Hub dedicates this entry to three actors who doubled as film pioneers by changing the course of motion pictures with hard work, perseverance and talent.

Pearl White (March 4, 1889 – August 4, 1938)

More than six decades before Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley saved the world from a terrifying alien, Pearl White’s Pauline was defying the forces of evil on a regular basis in Pathe’s popular serials. The first of the 20 chapters in The Perils of Pauline serial premiered on March 23, 1914, making its star a giant hit with audiences. Although Pauline was supposed to be a classic damsel in distress, she refused to give up and always became the hero in her stories. At any given moment Pauline would be hanging off a cliff, trying to evade being killed by a huge boulder, running from a burning house or fighting off all kinds of evil doers, usually in great numbers. She was a wonder. Pauline’s life was often in serious and immediate danger, yet she managed to survive at every turn by sheer grit and guts. The perilous situations Pauline escaped from make even Indiana Jones look like an amateur. It was Pearl White’s athleticism, bravery and star power that made this serial, and the subsequent ones she starred in, as entertaining as they still are today. Here’s to the one who was known as the “Peerless Fearless Girl.”

Pearl White c. 1915


Mae West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980)

“Mae West controlled her own destiny. She created an archetype of a freewheeling sexually liberated women, in the 1920’s and 1930’s! She made her first film at 40, discovered Cary Grant along the way. She wrote on nine of the 13 films she acted in, yet she is not included when we talk about the pantheon of great auteur comedians? She should be included alongside Chaplin and Buster Keaton.” – Illeana Douglas

Mae West

Visit the Mae West Movie Quotes page.


Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 – October 26, 1952)

“On a February afternoon in 1940, Hattie McDaniel — then one of the biggest African-American movie stars in the world — marched into the Culver City offices of producer David O. Selznick and placed a stack of Gone With the Wind reviews on his desk.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Hattie McDaniel, as Mammy, comes closest with a bid for top position as a trouper. It is she who contributes the most moving scene in the film…” – VarietyDecember 19, 1939

“Best of all, perhaps, next to Miss Leigh, is Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy, who must be personally absolved of responsibility for that most “unfittin'” scene in which she scolds Scarlett from an upstairs window. She played even that one right, however wrong it was.” – The New York Times, December 20, 1939

David O. Selznick submitted Hattie McDaniel’s name for Academy Award consideration and she became the first African-American actor to win the Academy Award because everyone agreed that her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind is the film’s heart. McDaniel accepted her Oscar statuette on February 29, 1940 at the ceremony held at the Coconut Grave in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, an establishment she was not allowed to enter because of her skin color.

Hattie McDaniel accepting her Academy Award on February 29, 1940

Visit the Hattie McDaniel Movie Quotes page.


More Women’s Film-related topics…

“Actresses” database

Movies about Career Women or Nurses and Secretaries

Femme Fatales and Outlaws

Strong Women in Forbidden Hollywood

Women in the Home

As Wives and Mothers and Daughters and Sisters


Until next month,

–Aurora Bugallo for Classic Movie Hub

Aurora Bugallo is a classic film-obsessed blogger, and co-founder and co-host of the Classic Movies and More Youtube show. You can read more of Aurora’s articles at Once Upon a Screen, or you can follow her on Twitter at @CitizenScreen.

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2 Responses to Looking At the Stars: Celebrating Women’s History

  1. David Hollingsworth says:

    Pearl White set the course for women in action films; Mae West defined feminine sexuality, and the great Hattie McDaniel paved the way for African Americans in film. Great post!

  2. Pingback: A Big Thank You from CMH: The 2nd Annual “Give a Gift, Get a Gift” Promotion | Classic Movie Hub Blog

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