Projecting Womanhood: Women on Film

Dancing Daughters "IT" movie poster

During the 1920s, the Hollywood film industry and the "movie star" emerged as a force in American culture. By the middle of the decade, at least 50 million people a week went to the movies - the equivalent of half the nation's population. In Fairfield, the Community Theater, which opened in 1922, was the place to go.

On screen, female characters in 1920s films embraced their physical freedom - rushing onto dance floors, jumping into swimming pools, or dashing down city streets. While their physical attractiveness was key to the movies' plots, their sex appeal was portrayed as wholesome: they might display partial nudity in lingerie or bath scenes, but kept sexuality within the traditional bounds of marriage.

Female stars served as role models for their fans, who imitated their favorite stars and looked to the movies to learn how about modern romance, with hopes of transforming themselves into modern women who would find husbands and happiness.

It (1927)


This silent romantic comedy, based on a novella by Elinor Glyn that was originally serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine, tells the story of a shop girl who sets her sights on the handsome, wealthy son of the department store's owner.  In these scenes, Clara Bow's character inventively transforms her workday dress into a stylish sleeveless outfit for a date at the Ritz. She introduces her upper-class date to the pleasures of Coney Island, but puts him in his place when he tries to kiss her

To view scenes from the film, follow these links!

Our Dancing Daughters (1928)


In the film that propelled her to stardom, Joan Crawford plays the exuberant Diana Medford, a society girl who is the life of the party but has strong moral principles, unlike the friend who woos her love interest away. Crawford performs the Charleston in a slip and a blouse, exemplifying the vitality and freedom that flappers sought. Her character announces, “I want to hold out my hands and catch [life]–like the sunlight.”