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Girls Will Be Boys

Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934

Laura Horak (author)

ISBN: 9780813574820

Publication Date: Feb 2016

Format: Paperback

Also available as: Hardback  

Examines a rich history of gender-bending film roles, enabling readers to appreciate the wide array of masculinities that these actresses performed - from sentimental boyhood to rugged virility to gentlemanly refinement. Taking us on a guided tour through a treasure-trove of vintage images, Girls Will Be Boys helps us view the histories of gender, sexuality, and film through fresh eyes.
US$29.95

In stock: ships within 24hrs

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  • Customer Reviews
Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn all made lasting impressions with the cinematic cross-dressing they performed onscreen. What few modern viewers realize, however, is that these seemingly daring performances of the 1930s actually came at the tail end of a long wave of gender-bending films that included more than 400 movies featuring women dressed as men.

Laura Horak spent a decade scouring film archives worldwide, looking at American films made between 1908 and 1934, and what she discovered could revolutionize our understanding of gender roles in the early twentieth century. Questioning the assumption that cross-dressing women were automatically viewed as transgressive, she finds that these figures were popularly regarded as wholesome and regularly appeared onscreen in the 1910s, thus lending greater respectability to the fledgling film industry. Horak also explores how and why this perception of cross-dressed women began to change in the 1920s and early 1930s, examining how cinema played a pivotal part in the representation of lesbian identity.

Girls Will Be Boys excavates a rich history of gender-bending film roles, enabling readers to appreciate the wide array of masculinities that these actresses performed–from sentimental boyhood to rugged virility to gentlemanly refinement. Taking us on a guided tour through a treasure-trove of vintage images, Girls Will Be Boys helps us view the histories of gender, sexuality, and film through fresh eyes.

Reviews

"Fascinating and timely ... As the lesbian subject is being normalised in Hollywood and far beyond, this study of cross-dressing's early filmic transition from heterosexual ideal to queer deviance is particularly valuable." – Times Higher Education

"This fascinating and well-written treatise is a laudable addition to film scholarship and a must-purchase for academic collections with concentrations in film or women's and gender studies." – Library Journal, starred review

"Drawing on the early archives of American cinema, Horak questions the assumption that cross-dressing actresses were inherently transgressive ... and provides a new lens through which to view gender, sexuality and film." – Autostraddle "15 Queer/Feminist Books To Read In Early 2016"

"It is thoroughly researched, well argued, insightful and readable. Anyone interested in LGBT history, film studies, or the early 20th century will appreciate this recommended book." – Huffington Post

"Laura Horak's first monograph is refreshing and invigorating." – Film Quarterly

"Horak has produced a meticulously researched, astutely argued, and highly readable text … her use of archival materials is impeccable and her filmic and historical analyses clearly display a nuanced understanding of her topic." – Publishers Weekly

"Horak's exhaustive research turns up many incredible moments in the history of gender shake-ups in the movies. Girls Will Be Boys is a hugely satisfying read, one of those rare books that offer distinct value to scholars while simultaneously being an entertaining read." – Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

"With this fascinatingly detailed and thorough study of cross-dressed women in pre-code cinema, Horak puts the light on a seldom studied practice." - The French Journal of Media Studies
Illustrations 40 photographs
Page Num 256
Dimensions 229 x 152
Pub Date 28 Feb 2016
Publisher Rutgers University Press
Subject/s Film: styles & genres   Lesbian studies  
Laura Horak is an assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She is also the coeditor of an award-winning book, Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space.

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