Featured facts about Cinema's First Nasty Women

April 3, 2023
Rowdy Ann - One of Cinema's First Nasty Women - black and white still of a woman on a horse wearing a checked shirt and cowboy hat

Check out these fun facts before Cinema’s First Nasty Women: Silent Cinema Shorts with Live Music Featuring Dreamland Faces in-person and livestream Apr 4 and on-demand through Apr 9.


Cinema’s First Nasty Women. Photo courtesy of Kino Lober.

What Is a “Nasty Woman?”

“To be a #NastyWoman means refusing to be silenced while embracing the messiness of gender and engaging as an energetic participant in feminist political life,” according to Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak, and Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi. The trio co-curated the four-disc DVD/Blu ray set titled Cinema’s First Nasty Women from which this selection of films is drawn. 

A young person looking to their right with wide eyes sticking their tongue out. They are holding balloons and have bows in their hair.

Cinema’s First Nasty Women. Photo courtesy of Kino Lober.

Spotlight on Lost History

The names of many of the actresses in this collection are unknown to this day, including the real name of French spitfire Léontine, who starred in more than 20 episodes of her own comic film series from 1910-1912. 

A person is crouching on a raised surface laughing. There is a running sink to their right and the floor appears to be flooded. Behind the person is a white and black patterned wall.

Cinema’s First Nasty Women. Photo courtesy of Kino Lober.

Revenge … and Laughter are Contagious

Viewers may be surprised to witness the female rebellion and hilarity of Cinema’s First Nasty Women, considering these films debuted between 1898 and 1920. As The New York Times  points out in Rewriting Women Back Into Film History, “Laughter can be subversive, of course, and one of the great satisfactions of these films is watching so many women laugh—often guffawing, not tittering—through one predicament after another.”

Sepia-toned image of women scowling wearing a cowboy hat.

Scene from Night Rider from the collection: Cinema’s First Nasty Women. Photo courtesy of Kino Lober.

Speakeasy Siren

Most Westerns are generally masculine-dominated. Flipping expectations, entertainer and entrepreneur Texas Guinan starred in silent Westerns, even holding her bridegroom at gunpoint in the film The Night Rider! In addition to her film career, she became legendary during Prohibition as “The Queen of the Nightclubs,” and for her catchphrase, “Hello, sucker!” (Silent London).

Andy McCormick at the piano and Maren Majowicz on the accordion

Andy McCormick and Maren Majowicz of Dreamland Faces.

Dreamy Collabs

The founders of Dreamland Faces, Karen Majewicz and Andy McCormick, perform and write music together, having composed “dozens of scores for silent films” (Star Tribune). To add sass to these silent cinema shorts, the duo enlisted Ryan Billig, providing percussion “clanks, creaks, thuds and dings,” Elaine Evans with varied wind, string, and electronic improvisation, Philip Potyondy supplying lyric cornet and other brass, Christa Rübsam Schneider on cello and violin, and Molly Raben’s dynamic colorings on Northop’s own Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 pipe organ.