08 Mar Local Ladies of the Silver Screen: Women’s History Month 2023
By Tori Rumschlag, Public Services Librarian
Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the many achievements of women and the impact they have made in our world. Hamilton East Public Library is highlighting the ones that took Hollywood by storm with “The Women Who Built Hollywood,” a presentation by Dr. Annette Bochenek, film historian and Hollywood expert. This program will be presented virtually, along with screenings at Noblesville and Fishers, on March 15th from 6 – 7 PM (registration required).
While the Hollywood Walk of Fame is just over 2,000 miles away from Hamilton County, Indiana, many of the stars you will find there are Indiana-born. We’ll highlight Louise Fazenda, Anne Baxter, and Carole Lombard – locally-born women with extraordinary talents and big-screen dreams.
Louise Fazenda (1895-1962) was born in West Lafayette, Indiana and had strong family ties in the area until her death. She had an enormous impact on early movies, acting in almost 300 movies, mostly silent films. She was a character actor and comedienne with a diverse range of roles. Louise could play anything from a fussy old maid to a country bumpkin with gusto.
Her slapstick comedy influenced silent film ‘King of Comedy’ Mark Sennett, and she worked with the biggest comedic actors of her time. Louise was flexible and beloved enough to transition to the ‘talkies,’ or films with sound, at the advent of audio. Her eccentric acting was still popular in knockabout comedies.
She also dabbled in vaudeville and lived out her post-acting life as a philanthropist and art collector. She earned her Walk of Fame star in 1958 for her contributions to comedy films, and at her death in 1962, she was remembered in the Lafayette Journal & Courier newspaper.
Anne Baxter (1923-1985) was born in Michigan City, Indiana. Interestingly, her maternal grandfather was famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Anne started acting locally at the age of five, but she didn’t decide to become an actress until the ripe old age of ten.
She won numerous awards, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Her best-known roles are Sophie in The Razor’s Edge (1946) and Nefertiti in The Ten Commandments (1956), but she has many other notable film and television credits. She also authored a critically well-received book titled Intermission (1976), recounting her relationship with her second husband.
She was honored with a Walk of Fame star in 1960 based on her wide-ranging roles and consistent strength of performances. From ingenue to wealthy aristocrat, Anne proved that her acting abilities knew no limits.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Carole Lombard (1908-1942) made her screen debut at age twelve in A Perfect Crime (1921). She is best known for her high-energy performances in comedies like Love Before Breakfast (1936), My Man Godfrey (1936), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), and To Be or Not to Be (1942).
Her eccentric personality perfectly suited screwball comedies, though she also appeared in some dramas. Her legacy is not only that of an iconic actress but also an independent female star, something unique to her time. She was one of the first freelance actors in the studio era, a keen contract negotiator, and strategic businesswoman.
She died tragically young at 33-years-old in a plane crash, while traveling from her home state of Indiana back to California. She had spent the previous days at a war bond rally, where she raised more than $2 million dollars in bonds – which would be over $40 million dollars today.
Her impressive reputation as a pioneer of screwball comedies earned her lasting glory on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
A dozen local ladies have graced the big and small screen and had a star placed in their honor. These exceptional names include Beulah Bondi, Louise Dresser, Irene Dunne, Jean Hagen, Florence Henderson, Janet Jackson, Marilyn Miller, Alice Terry, and Lurene Tuttle. If you’re interested in learning more about these women, you can visit their IMDb pages to see biographies, film credits, and photos.
There are also some incredible library guides about women in film, including filmmakers and screenwriters. Some of my personal favorites include:
- Film Studies – Women in Film (University of Denver)
- Women in American Film and Television Production (UCLA)
- Game Changers: Women in Film (Franklin & Marshall University)
All of these resources include book recommendations, pictures from the library’s archives, and other website and article links.
In our library, you can find these items and more on women in cinema and television:
Also, check out our Women’s History Month displays all through the month of March, including the Women of the Silver Screen display at Noblesville. You’ll find all these books and more – audiobooks, biographies of cinema’s greats, and – of course! – classic films.
The Women Who Built Hollywood
Don’t miss out on our event “The Women Who Built Hollywood,” starring Dr. Annette Bochenek, on March 15th! This event, part of Dr. Bochenek’s “Hometowns to Hollywood” series, promises interesting information and great fun. Can’t wait to see you there (or virtually!)
Women’s History Month Booklists
Women in STEM & Academia
Women in Arts & Entertainment
Women in Sports
General Women’s History