Melanie Bell

Academic, historian, writer.


Movie Workers


The first comprehensive history of women's labour in British film production, from the 1930s through to the 1980s.


Too often, the contributions of women are under-represented within existing historical accounts of film in the UK. Thousands of women employed in 'below-the-line' roles such as production assistants and negative cutters are barely acknowledged at all.


Using oral histories and trade union records this innovative study examines the history of women who worked in the British film industries in the years between 1933 and 1989.






The study had access to new statistical data on the recruitment of women to the film production workforce, and first-hand accounts from women themselves about their professional careers and working lives. This unique study finally provides a fuller picture of the significant contribution women have made to the making of British film.

An unnamed British negative cutterworking in the studio during the 1950s (Image courtesy of BECTU)

Costume Designer Beatrice ‘Bumble’ Dawson working with Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957.

"Eye-opening and disruptive, this counter-narrative (spliced together from oral histories, trade union records, and more) is a trove of trivia and untold truths. Highlighting the often-unseen but important accomplishments of women in film, this is a comprehensive, necessary addition to any cinephile’s collection." --Library Journal (starred review)


“Marshalling a rich array of evidence from trade union records, oral histories, and contemporaneous sources, Movie Workers uncovers the essential work that women have performed at all levels of the British film industry for decades” - Shelley Stamp, author of Lois Weber in Early Hollywood


"A revelatory study”. Christine Gledhill, coeditor of Doing Women's Film History: Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future


The study behind Movie Workers was particularly interested in 'below-the-line' roles such include continuity ‘girls’, production secretaries/assistants, negative cutters, editors, wardrobe assistants, make-up artists, researchers, librarians and many other roles.

Movie Workers:

The Women Who Made British Cinema

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Praise for Movie Workers