Suzy Freeman-Greene review 'Beyond the Silver Screen: A history of women, filmmaking and film culture in Australia 1920–1990' by Mary Tomsic

Suzy Freeman-Greene review 'Beyond the Silver Screen: A history of women, filmmaking and film culture in Australia 1920–1990' by Mary Tomsic

Beyond the Silver Screen: A history of women, filmmaking and film culture in Australia 1920–1990

by Mary Tomsic

Melbourne University Publishing, $49.99 pb, 261 pp, 9780522871227

In 1971, Australian filmmaker Joan Long wrote the script for a film about gentrification in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. At a screening in London, it was introduced by director Peter Weir. When asked who the scriptwriter was, Weir replied that she was a housewife, according to a friend of Long’s. Around this time, director Gillian Armstrong applied for a job at the ABC, only to be told that they didn’t interview women for jobs in camera, sound, or editing; she was asked to send in details of her typing speed.

Such depressing anecdotes are two of many in Mary Tomsic’s Beyond the Silver Screen, a history of women in film from 1920 to 1990. It is interesting to read the book at this historical moment. These days men are smart enough to pay lip service, at least, to ideas of equal opportunity. Yet the allegations against Harvey Weinstein suggest that a powerful man in a bathrobe operated an unofficial casting couch for decades in the United States and that almost no man working in film had the guts to call him out.

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