For the second film in our virtual film fest, we have a silent film from 1918!
What 80 Million Women Want
1913, directed by Willard Lewis
Watch the film here:
What 80 Million Women Want is definitely an interesting film. This one is not a documentary, but it does feature women’s suffrage activists Emmeline Pankhurst and Harriet Stanton Blatch playing themselves. Additionally, there is some footage from actual suffragist rallies sprinkled throughout the film as well. The story follows the fictional suffragette Mabel and her lawyer fiancé, Travers. When Travers gets caught up with corrupt Boss Kelly, and is accused of shooting the man, Mabel needs to use her wits to clear her sweetheart’s name.
The transfer of the film to digital is not the greatest, many actors look completely washed out for large chunks of the film and the letters written by Travers that are a key part of the plot are difficult to read. But the storyline is compelling and the main actors do a good job of expressing the action and emotion of the story without the convenience of dialogue. Some of the side characters do overact a bit, with exaggerated hand gestures and such, but they are on screen for such short periods of time it can be forgiven. The music fit the mood exactly as I expected from a film of the silent era. And I thought the production made good use of the newspapers and letters on screen for moving the plot along, it’s just a pity that they’re sometimes so difficult to read.
While this is not the best silent film I’ve seen, I still feel like it’s worthy of watching. It’s fascinating to see how suffrage was represented in film during those years right before women won the right to vote.