Amid a changing audience during World War II, women writer-producers Virginia Van Upp and Joan Harrison gained greater creative executive roles writing and producing films in the Hollywood film industry’s labor force and contributed to shifting screen gender images and sexual polemics in ‘musical’ jazz films noir Gilda and Phantom Lady. “Hollywood Bows to the Ladies,” the New York Times heralded in January 1945 as Van Upp became production executive at Columbia, producing and supervising Gilda, scripted by Jo Eisinger and Marion Parsonnet based on E.A. Ellington’s story, where Rita Hayworth sang “Put the Blame on Mame” in a jazz club. Van Upp’s production of Gilda (1944–1946), Harrison’s Phantom Lady (1943–1944, adapting a William Irish novel [a pseudonym for Cornell Woolrich]), Leigh Brackett’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1944–1946), and Catherine Turney’s scripting of James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce (1945) illustrate how women made strides writing and producing jazz films noir in wartime Hollywood. In writing/producing films noir, screen images of transgressive femme fatales coincided with a wartime female labor force inside the film industry and audience. The strides women gained behind-the-scenes in Hollywood during the war set the stage for women filmmakers in the postwar era—e.g., Ida Lupino, star of The Man I Love (1945–1947, with Turney adapting Maritta Wolff’s novel Night Shift), had uncredited off-screen creative involvement initiating production of a Margaret Gruen story, Dark Love, retitled Road House (1948), and later moved into directing films. I will examine how women (e.g., Van Upp, Harrison, and Lupino) gained greater creative and executive roles in writing and producing films noir (e.g., Gilda and Phantom Lady) in the Hollywood film industry’s changing labor force and contributed to shifting screen gender images and sexual polemics amid a changing audience during and after the war.
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