Holding My Own in No Man's Land: Women and Men and Film and Feminists

Molly Haskell, Author Oxford University Press, USA $25 (216p) ISBN 978-0-19-505309-8
The author of the film studies classic From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies collects a grab bag of pieces written over the last 20 years. They are occasionally interesting, but almost always superficial and, despite the subtitle, exhibit little unity of theme. Haskell isn't always intellectually rigorous, often lapsing into straight recounting of scenes or facts without much analysis. The initial section, ""Dames,"" provides profiles of several actresses, director Lina Wertmuller and two Howard Hawks heroines. Some of these pieces, such as the one on Meryl Streep that gushes ""Her talent is the stuff of legend,"" are merely admiring puff pieces, and the essay on Wertmuller seems self-serving and unnecessarily catty (when Wertmuller points to the author's boots as an example of a luxury, she wonders ""because I am a `rich capitalist bitch'? ...Or because I am going home to write what may be her only unfavorable review in New York?""). But Haskell also surprises with a successful reconsiderationof Doris Day, which points out that, despite her reputation as a sugar-sweet virgin, Day's characters were always employed in ""excellent positions."" Three literary essays are cogent, but they seem out-of-place and the remaining essays skip around from John Wayne to Truman Capote and make-up. Haskell ends with an essay on female comedians on television that reads like a laundry list of current stars and offers tired observations like ""There's a spectrum of women comedians, ranging from the Nice Girls (Ellen De Generes, Helen Hunt, Cybill Shepherd) to the Furies, with various forms of survivors in between."" (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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