In honor of International Women’s Day – The Most Influential Women in Front of and Behind the Camera.
“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the stay down.” – Mary Pickford
March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a day when everyone comes together and shows their admiration, affection, and gratitude towards women’s contributions in economic, cultural and political development.
DMG Entertainment salutes some of Hollywood’s top women leaders who have made outstanding contributions in front of and behind the camera. Get ready to witness excellence, as these women prove you can do anything you set your mind to.
The list of people having achieved one name status is short – Gandhi, Elvis, Madonna, Cher – but only the first one holds as much influence as Oprah. Considered the wealthiest self-made woman in America, she is an Academy Award nominated actress, talk show host, CEO, producer, philanthropist, author and creator of ‘the journey’ and ‘living your best self’ phenomenons. Oprah Gail Winfrey is the quintessential example of a woman’s potential. Born into an impoverished family in rural Mississippi, Oprah could only rely on sheer talent and innate determination to overcome immense adversity. Despite numerous life obstacles, she stormed into entertainment and forever changed the industry. She not only launched the widely popular OPRAH WINFREY SHOW, but also starred in several blockbusters, such as THE COLOR PURPLE (1985), NATIVE SON (1986) and THE BUTLER (2013). If that wasn’t enough, she decided to create her own television network OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) to push her original content. Oprah plans on executive producing several films in the future, such as GREENLEAF, QUEEN SUGAR, and a Richard Pryor biopic.
Regarded as equally powerful whether behind or in front of the camera, Angelina Jolie Pitt was born a star. As the daughter of actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, Angelina took advantage of her access to Hollywood. As a philanthropist, Academy Award winning actress and filmmaker, Jolie’s successful performances in such films as GIRL, INTERRUPTED (1999), LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001), MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005) and CHANGELING (2008) made her an internationally recognized celebrity. Jolie utilized her vast acting experience and A-list status to get involved with the filmmaking process, producing films such as TRUDELL (2005), A PLACE IN TIME (2007), IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (2011) and DIFRET (2014). Jolie plans to continue her success as a filmmaker in the upcoming films FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER (2016) and THE BREADWINNER (2017).
Actress, singer, screenwriter and comedienne Mae West started her career as a vaudeville performer in 1907 at the tender age of 14. Her success on stage launched her into Hollywood in the 1930s, acting in her first feature film NIGHT AFTER NIGHT in 1932. West fell in love with the silver screen and audiences fell in love with her curvaceous sexuality and innuendo-laden dialogue, continuing her acting career in such films as SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), I’M NO ANGEL (1933) and GOIN’ TO TOWN (1935). West was also a screenwriter, penning THE RUBY RING (1921), LOOSE WOMEN (1933) and CLEAN BEDS (1936). West snatched the nation’s attention by capitalizing on controversy and openly challenging the Hayes Code with her sassy jokes and double-entendre. In contrast to the pay gap in today’s Hollywood, West was America’s second highest-paid person in 1935; and was ranked 15 on AFI’s list of greatest female actresses of classic American cinema. According to West, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
The Canadian-American Mary Pickford was an Academy Award winning actress, producer, writer, director and studio founder. She was best known as “America’s Sweetheart”, but actually redefined a woman’s role in the early 1900’s film industry. Pickford started her career in theatre, until director D.W Griffith screen-tested the actress for a role. Although Pickford didn’t get the part, Griffith saw her potential. Griffith later used her for bit-parts, paying her double the salary of the other minor role actors. Pickford had a keen sense of performance and business, allowing her to quickly rise through the industry. Pickford captured America’s heart in such films as TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY (1914), THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1917), DADDY LONG LEGS (1919) and COQUETTE (1929). Pickford would later team up with Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks to launch a new kind of studio, United Artists. The “Queen of the Movies” continued to make her mark by also becoming one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. To this day, many consider Pickford as one of the most influential women in the film industry ever.
Although actress, screenwriter, producer and director Lois Weber became one of the most important figures of the silent film era, she started her life as a child prodigy for piano. After a piano recital accident, she left music and focused her career on acting. Although Weber went on to act in nearly 100 films, she found her true passion in directing. Weber directed at least 135 confirmed films, although some historians believe she actually directed as many as 400 films. Weber’s films include A HEROINE OF ’76 (1911), THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1914), THE BLOT (1921) and WHITE HEAT (1934). Weber’s directing excellence is often compared to D.W Griffith, as she not only became the first woman to make a full-length film, but also invented the use of split-screen in film. Weber’s contributions to cinema earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the film industry’s admiration.
Carole Penny Marshall, a Golden Globe nominated actress, producer and director, started her career in a shampoo television commercial. Marshall graduated to playing bit roles in television shows, such as THE ODD COUPLE (1971-1975), PAUL SAND IN FRIENDS AND LOVERS (1974) and HAPPY DAYS (1974-1984) until she won the lead role in LAVERNE & SHIRLEY (1976-1983). Marshall received three Golden Globes nominations for her performance as the Pepsi & milk loving Laverne. Marshall later used her talent onscreen to shine behind the camera, directing films such as JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH (1986), A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992), RENAISSANCE MAN (1994) and RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS (2001). Although Marshall directed several memorable films, her biggest directing achievement is BIG (1988). Although dozens of male directors turned down the film, Marshall saw BIG’s potential and capitalized on it. BIG became a blockbuster and comedic classic, making Marshall the first woman to direct a $100 million box office grossing film. Penny Marshall’s success in front and behind the camera earned her a Women of Vision Award from the Women in Film and Video committee in 2013.
Although Reese Witherspoon is primarily known as an onscreen queen, staring in films such as CRUEL INTENTIONS (1999), LEGALLY BLONDE (2001) and WALK THE LINE (2005), her efforts behind the screen are equally impressive. In response to Hollywood’s neglect towards older women, Witherspoon not only decided to develop her own film projects but also helped develop other women’s projects as well. Witherspoon has produced LEGALLY BLONDE 2 (2003), PENELOPE (2006), WILD (2014), GONE GIRL (2014) and HOT PURSUIT (2015). To this day, Witherspoon continues to fight for women’s rights in the film industry.
Although Sherry Lansing’s acting career was short-lived, her career in the film industry is monumental. Lansing acted in two films, LOVING (1970) and RIO LOBO (1970), before trying a different career path. Lansing took a job at MGM as a script reader, and the rest was history. Lansing quickly rose through the ranks until she became the CEO of Paramount Pictures, making her the first woman to head a Hollywood studio. During her tenure, Lansing oversaw development of such films as FORREST GUMP (1994), BRAVEHEART (1995), CLUELESS (1995) and TITANIC (199&). Her dedication to the film industry has earned her dozens of awards, including an Honorary Doctorate from the AFI, Milestone Award from the Producers Guild of America, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Pioneer of the Year award from the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers.
Happy International Women’s Day to all!
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