WGSS librarian receives H.W. Wilson Foundation Research Award

Architecture and Art Library coordinator and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies librarian Catherine Essinger received the H. W. Wilson Foundation Research Award this month.

The award was given by the Art Libraries Society of North America and will fund and help Essinger complete her research “She-Gods, Gangsters and Gunslingers: Subversive Images of ‘The New Woman’ in the Early Films of Roger Corman.”

The title of her project was derived from Corman’s films, and the point of her research is to show that Corman was a feminist, Essinger said.

“(Corman) was very progressive,” Essinger said. “He has some very subversive imagery and themes in those early movies.”

Corman’s films were targeted to a teenage audience, and Essinger said the films were influential on them during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“In the 1950s, (Corman) was one of the early independent filmmakers who did not work within a studio system, which was very unusual at that time,” Essinger said.

Essinger will travel to California and visit a film archive to view two Corman films, “Oklahoma Woman” and “Naked Paradise.”

“The summaries I’ve read make me think they’ll be very interesting and help me make my argument,” Essinger said.

Corman was known as the “B-movie king,” who made 350 films. He also mentored and started the careers of several directors and actors, including Ron Howard, James Cameron, Robert DeNiro and Gale Anne Hurd, who was the first female producer working for him.

“While he rarely passed up a chance for onscreen gratuitous nudity (at least once the new ratings system allowed it), his universe was never a boys’ club, and his egalitarian, anti-authoritarian disposition makes a lot of Hollywood liberalism look puffed up and hypocritical,” journalist Anthony Oliver Scott wrote in The New York Times.

Essinger said Corman financed his movies on a low budget and set up contracts with theater chains— usually suburban chains — so they could work outside of the studios.

After each film was made, it made enough money for Corman to finance the next film.

Essinger  said Corman was able to control the content. He also worked with very few writers and chose stories he would give to the writers.

“Corman’s early work deserved to be better known, and I think it’s interesting to find areas of subversion in the 1950 period, and that’s a period in that we think is very regressive,” Essinger said.

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