Mary Lawton Metcalfe

Ellis, Patrick

Mary Lawton Metcalfe began writing for The Moving Picture News, a New York City-based trade journal, in 1911. This was, according to available materials, her first foray into film writing, although she had served as an advice columnist in a regional publication—“the Dorothy Dix of the Staten Island World” (MacDonald 1911, 7). At first glance, Metcalfe’s essays appear to be atypically strident advocacy pieces for the moral reform of cinema, and for the use of moving pictures in education: “This is a bomb I am going to throw right into educational circles,” she threatened—the bomb of moving pictures (“A Practical Plan” 6). In a May 1912 article, she proposed that every university, public library, Sunday school, and church have a motion picture projector, and this at a time when such proposals were unorthodox (28). Reading her essays and non-film-related writing more closely, it becomes clear that Metcalfe’s advocacy was premised upon an interlocking, sui generis theory of film. Cumulatively, she called for an entirely new, curative cinema, one that would encourage moviegoers to develop the right thoughts by which they could be physically improved: she called for a cinema that doubled as a medicine.


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Academic Units
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019