This Woman's Work: Producer Harriet Parsons

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Part of the UCLA Film & Television Archive series This Woman's Work: How Gender Shaped Cinema Behind the Scenes. Register at cinema.ucla.edu to attend this in-theater screening.

In-person: Karina Longworth, writer, producer, and narrator of the podcast You Must Remember This 

In the 1940s, the vast majority of filmmakers working in Hollywood were men. This overwhelming statistic was upset by a handful of women who were able to break through as directors (Dorothy Arzner, active 1927–1943), screenwriters, and producers. Along with Virginia Van Upp at Columbia and Joan Harrison at Universal, Harriet Parsons (1906–1983), the only daughter of famed gossip columnist Louella Parsons, was one of the very few women able to make her mark in the industry as a feature film producer during this decade.

Parsons got her start at Columbia creating newsreel-like “documentary” shorts in the 1930s, and, after years being denied on-screen credit for her labor, moved to Republic Pictures in 1940, where she produced their Meet the Stars series, for which she finally received both on-screen and behind-the-scenes recognition. Her uphill battle continued throughout her foray into features at RKO, where both The Enchanted Cottage (John Cromwell, 1945) and I Remember Mama (George Stevens, 1948) were nearly taken away from her by various men in charge. She would stay with RKO to produce a total of six feature films before the gender-based roadblocks that stood in her way became too much to bear; she gave up producing altogether in the mid-1950s, went back to ghostwriting her mother's column, and moved in with her longtime partner Evelyn Farney, who she adopted as her daughter when both were in middle age as a cover for their lesbian relationship.

To highlight two milestones in her career, the Archive will screen "Chinese Garden Festival," the first episode of Meet the Stars, alongside her landmark first feature as sole producer, The Enchanted Cottage, both on 35mm from the Archive's collection.

To celebrate Parons's life and career, this evening’s screening is introduced by Karina Longworth, writer, producer, and narrator of the podcast You Must Remember This. Their season “Gossip Girls: Hedda Hopper & Louella Parsons” premiered July 1, 2021 and dedicates Episode 5, titled “The Queer, Female Film Producer You’ve Never Heard Of,” to Harriet Parsons’s life and career."