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Red Velvet Seat: Women’s Writing on the First Fifty Years of Cinema

This hefty anthology is a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in film, history or women’s studies. Substantial at 872 pages, it covers the years 1895 to 1950. The relationship between women and film is complex and fascinating, which explains the length of Red Velvet Seat, and the relationship has gone mostly unexplored, which suggests the book’s importance. Scholars, in particular, will be excited to see so many insightful texts gathered into one volume. Appropriate for curious readers at home—also appropriate as a college textbook, Red Velvet Seat offers something for every taste.

In addition to the body of texts it provides, numerous illustrations are also presented. The illustrations depict movie-related art as well as photographs of the women discussed within the text. Insightful contextualizing introductions are provided for each of the sections. The text cover all aspects of women and film: women as viewers, women as film-makers, women as actors, women as critics, theory, the movie theater as a social scene. Reccurring themes include power and class. Many of the texts ponder film as an artform and speculate about its future. The scope is comprehensive to say the least.

The text includes essays, excerpts from diaries and journals, and excerpts from longer works. The selections are well-chosen and lucid. Many provide a rich sense of the time period during which they were written. Virginia Wolff, Emily Post, and Colette are among the important figures represented.

With a general index and an index of film titles, with biographies and notes, Red Velvet Seat is well put together and will be remarkably useful to film studies scholars as well as more casual film-loving readers.

Written by: Laura-Marie Taylor, February 22nd 2007

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