Eleanor Perry, who left before the changes and upheavals in the film business started, would have been heartened by the current state of affairs. Probably would have given a gaze of irony at the revelations of the Me Too movement, would have smiled at the increasing presence of Women Directors and Writers coming into prominence. Still would have shaken her head in dismay over the inequality on pay – but would have felt optimistic that at least things were going in the right direction – after all these years.
Perry, sitting down for this 1974 interview with Film critic and historian Arthur Knight pulls no punches over what was considered (in 1974) the sad state of affairs with regards to how Women were portrayed in film at the time – how the Film Industry was very much the boys club and how Feminism was still struggling with stereotypes, only a few years after its initial appearance.
I had forgotten that it was Eleanor Perry who made her screen writing debut with the iconic David & Lisa – a film that, watching as an 11 year-old when it first came out, missed much of the subtleties I would only get later, but still struck by how powerful the story was and how, coming into what would eventually become my teenage years, completely related to the “outsider” aspect of the film and the isolation that seemed to be happening to a lot of people, not just me.
But Perry was responsible for a lot of groundbreaking films throughout the 1960s and 70s – and it was her adamance at breaking through the glass ceiling that made it possible for many women in later years to pick up the torch.
Since Perry died in 1981 there have been changes – still far from perfect, but realizing that if it weren’t for pioneering women like Eleanor Perry, film may have stayed entrenched in the archaic and stereotypic norms that were so prevalent in film from decades earlier.
If you’re film student, especially if you’re a young woman, this is essential listening.
Here is that interview, part of the In Conversation Radio series in 1974.