Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Midday Movies celebrate Women's History Month

Mae West, seen here in "I'm No Angel," not only starred in a string of hit movies but also wrote many of the scripts as well as the songs. (1933)
Mae West, seen here in "I'm No Angel," not only starred in a string of hit movies but also wrote many of the scripts as well as the songs. (1933)

March is Women’s History Month so Midday Movies is celebrating women in film from trailblazers like Mae West to first-time directors like Chloe Domont.

Mae West: When she was bad, she was better

I feel that Mae West does not always get the attention and appreciation she deserves. Because she worked in comedy and she presented an almost cartoonish figure of buxom sexuality, she is sometimes not included with other more "respectable" trailblazers like Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino. But, in many ways, Mae West would still be a trailblazer today because America remains conservative and prudish when it comes to sex, and uncomfortable with women who refuse to fit into a convenient box.


West never directed her films, but she was in complete control of her brand and her career. She also wrote her own dialogue, as well as the suggestive songs she sang, and often the entire scripts.

"I Wonder Where My Easy Riders Gone" Mae West

She made her film debut at 40 in 1932 with a bit part for which she wrote her own memorable lines, and a year later she was the star of "She Done Him Wrong" and "I’m No Angel." Films that rescued Paramount from bankruptcy.

Fortunately, her screen debut came in pre-code Hollywood, before censorship came into play. She played women that defied social morays in a way that still feels uncommon today. She was independent, sexually liberated, never needed a man, but could always put one to good use. She was sexy but willing to poke fun at her own image.

In 1927, prior to Hollywood, she was arrested for writing and performing in a play called "Sex" in which she played a sex worker — she always loved the fringes of society. She was charged with obscenity and behavior designed to "corrupt the morals of youth." West could have paid a fine and been let off, but she chose jail time to reap the publicity. While incarcerated, she supposedly dined with the warden and had her silky lingerie smuggled in.

Celebrating women directors


Once again, Yazdi Pithavala joins me for Midday Movies to share some suggestions.

Pithavala chose Nicole Holofcener as his "trailblazing woman in film" for her great, compassionate writing and female centric films, such as "Walking and Talking," "Lovely and Amazing," and most recently "You Hurt My Feelings."

His pick for favorite director was Mira Nair, an Indian director with a background in documentary who had a hit with her first feature, "Salaam Bombay," and quickly found success in Hollywood with films such as "Mississippi Masala" and "Monsoon Wedding."

For best new woman director, Pithavala chose Chloe Domont for her debut feature "Fair Play." In the film, Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich play a couple who are in a relationship that they have to hide at a cutthroat hedge fund company.

My pick for favorite director was Kathryn Bigelow because as an action junkie I know the genre is very testosterone driven and I love how she has just muscled into it, proving that women can be just as good as men at directing action. I love how she has resisted fitting a stereotype dictated by both men and women. My favorite of hers, because it mixes horror, action, romance and vampires, is "Near Dark."

Love Lies Bleeding | Official Trailer HD | A24

And my pick for a new film by a woman director is "Love Lies Bleeding" from Rose Glass. I loved Glass’ debut feature "Saint Maud." It was a spectacular debut with an ending that was insanely good. "Love Lies Bleeding" is not quite as good, but I love that she is still pushing the envelope in terms of style and narrative. This time she tackles a lesbian love story set against a backdrop of murder and bodybuilding. Kristin Stewart runs a gym where she spots Jackie, played by Katy O’Brian, a drifter on her way to a Vegas body building contest. It's neo-noir with a healthy dose of surrealism.

"Love Lies Bleeding" is currently in cinemas and "Fair Play" is streaming on Netflix. So celebrate Women's History Month with a film from any of these amazing women.