The days of “lady journalists”
April 20, 2011
Oh, to live in the time when women wore white gloves and hats and men drank scotch in dark, cigar-smoke-filled rooms. Back when reporters were seen as romantic muckrakers who would do anything to get a story.
What’s that you say? Those days never really existed? Well they do in my mind and in the mind of many others thanks to Hollywood.
Through the wonder of Netflix, I have been watching a lot of movies that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, including several that fall under the category “classic.” For some reason, in this one-woman sample, I’m finding a lot of movies about reporters and newspapers back in the heyday of local news.
In the last week, I have watched “The Philadelphia Story,” “His Girl Friday,” and a modern take on the reporter story, “Morning Glory.”
One thing all of these movies have in common is a strong female journalist character. I was surprised to find these women in movies from the ’40s and ’50s.
In “His Girl Friday,” the hard hitting reporter Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell, is the only woman in a room full of classic male City Hall reporters. She’s leaving the profession to get married until she gets sucked in to one last story.
For those of you who haven’t seen the classic 1940 story “His Girl Friday,” you can actually watch the whole thing here on Hulu.
In “The Philadelphia Story,” also from 1940, Liz Imbrie, a staff photographer for Spy Magazine is forced to pretend to be married to a reporter, played by Jimmy Stewart, in order to get the story. In the end, her independence and feisty spirit almost cost her her happiness (seen here as getting the guy).
It’s interesting (and possibly a reflection of the fact that every movie needs conflict and romance) that in each of these movies the women are forced to choose between work as a journalist and happy home lives. This is something you expect to see in movies made in the 1940s, but is it something we still need to see in 2010?
In “Morning Glory,” Rachel McAdams plays a morning television show producer who is chained to her desk (or blackberry), at the expense of her social life. Ultimately, the movie is about finding balance and a sense of humor in your work and life, but it is interesting to me that she finds her strength at work while leaving her love life largely up to the man.
These three portrayals of journalism show the romanticism that many people still hold for the profession today, even though polls show journalists to be only slightly more popular than lawyers and politicians. Journalism has always been a fast-paced, conflict-ridden profession. And that makes for good entertainment, then and now.