The Leatrice Joy Bob: The Clinging Vine and Gender’s Cutting Edge

Schmertz, Johanna (2013) The Leatrice Joy Bob: The Clinging Vine and Gender’s Cutting Edge. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsacta/3825. In: Researching Women in Silent Cinema: New Findings and Perspectives. A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria ; Tralli, Lucia. Bologna: Dipartimento delle Arti - DAR, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, pp. 402-413. ISBN 9788898010103. In: Women and Screen Cultures, (1). A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria. ISSN 2283-6462.
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Zelda Sears’ 1924 Broadway play The Clinging Vine mocked male stereotypes of women. In the play, businesswoman heroine Antoinette (A.B.) is both chagrined and amused to find she has become a man magnet after she adopts an ultra-feminine “clinging vine” persona in order to test its effects. But when the play was adapted for film in 1926, with actress Leatrice Joy playing the lead role in a very short haircut, “Antoinette” disappears into her initials (A.B.), and her pre-transformation character appears masculine in both dress and demeanor. The character’s masculinity is accentuated by the silent film medium, as there is no female voice emerging from A.B. to counter her masculine impression. The result that in the film version, A.B.’s feminine transformation reads more like drag queen than clinging vine—a performative, hyper-feminine camouflage of a naturalized masculinity. Archival research into Joy’s career, coupled with interview transcripts and notes from Kevin Brownlow’s Hollywood series and discussions with Joy’s daughter, Leatrice Joy Gilbert Fountain, sheds light on the movie’s transformations and their consequences, both for Joy and for gender. The film version of The Clinging Vine movie reflects a historical moment that was surprisingly open to playful interpretations of gender. Such explorations were cut short with the coming of sound, as the attachment of actors’ voices to their bodies enabled a firmer anchoring of sex to gender.

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Schmertz, Johanna
Deposit date
28 Sep 2013 15:06
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13 Mar 2015 14:49

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