The work of an early cinema actress

I’ve just stumbled across a Project Gutenberg ebook of Edith J. Morley’s Women Workers in Seven Professions (1914), produced for the Fabian’s Women’s Group. The Fabian Society was a socialist group committed to gradualist reform which helped form the Labour Party in 1900, and which of course continues to this day. Its Women’s Group was founded in 1908 and was active in producing reports and pamphlets on work and social conditions for women. Morley’s book looks at women’s work in teaching, medicine, nursing, health visitors and sanitary inspection, the civil service, clerks and secretaries, and the acting profession. The latter section is mostly about the stage, but it does include this intriguing snippet about the cinematograph work that the actress might occasionally find:

It is only possible for me to touch very lightly on employment by the cinematograph firms; but from the enquiries I have made, the usual payment seems to be roughly from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a day, the workers finding their own clothes: 10s. 6d. if the workers can ride and swim: 3s. a day for walking on, when light meals are provided. There is a form of application to be filled in, which demands the following particulars:-

Bust measurement.
Waist measurement.
Skirt length.
Line of work.
Ride horseback. Cycle. Swim.

The pictures take about ten days to prepare, and as a supplementary trade, undoubtedly this work is of value to the actress.

I think that the ability to cycle is something that has not been considered when researchers have looked at the work of women in early British film. Clearly a topic for further investigation. An ability to swim, however, we already know about. There’s a celebrated story of Will Barker selecting an Ophelia for his film of Hamlet (1908) purely because she was able to swim (see Robert Hamilton Ball’s Shakespeare on Silent Film, pp. 77-78).

William S. Hart: Star of the West

William S. Hart

There’s a film season started at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, on the films of the great star of the silent Western, William S. Hart, whose chilly vision of the West has been compared in recent times to that of Sam Peckinpah and Clint Eastwood. The season runs 21 April-6 May, and features Hell’s Hinges (1916), The Taking of Luke McVane (1915), The Captive God (1916), ‘Bad Buck’ of Santa Ynez (1915), The Bargain (1914, a new Library of Congress restoration), The Return of Draw Egan (1916), The Narrow Trail (1917), Branding Broadway (1918), Wagon Tracks (1919), The Toll Gate (1920), The Testing Block (1920), The Whistle (1921) and his masterpiece Tumbleweeds (1925), preceded by Hart’s spoken introduction to the 1939 re-issue.