22 January 2006

Grace Cunard is not a ship

90 years ago she was one of the biggest stars in film. what makes the Ohio-born actress important today is that Cunard was a pioneer among women directors   having helmd 11 movies between 1914 & 1921. she also had a hand in writing nearly 100 films.

yesterday I took advantage of a tour of prints restored by Women's Film Preservation Fund. one of the 4 on the program was the 1917 short "Unmasked" which Cunard co-directd   co-wrote & co-starrd with Francis Ford. it isn't long nor particularly brilliant but fun to watch. it's a great example of filmmaking before the advent of soundstages. studios then were al fresco   no roof & only make-believe walls. so we see indoor scenes in which everything not naild down is being whippd by wind.

less than a decade after directing her final film Cunard was playing maids. later she'd have bits in "Bride of Frankenstein" & "The Mummy's Tomb" before retiring in 1946. she died 21 years later. but via the glory that is cinema there she was yesterday bigger than ever on a movie screen.

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