Academic, historian, writer.
Melanie Bell is Professor of Film History at the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds (UK). She has been working in film archives for over twenty years, at the British Film Institute, the National
Library of Scotland and, most recently, the Harry Ransom Centre in Austin, Texas. Her research focuses on women’s employment and representation in Britain’s film studios (at Gaumont-British, Rank, Pinewood, Shepperton and others), and the history and practice of editing, costume design, foley sound and documentary film-making.
With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, she led a project to recover and celebrate ‘forgotten’ women in Britain’s film and television studios. The project commissioned a number of interviews with notable women including the award-winning editor Ann V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962), leading make-up artist Linda de Vetta (The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976) and the model-maker Joy Cuff (2001, A Space Odyssey, 1968). You can listen to these interviews on the Learning on Screen digital resource https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/womenswork/
Bell has written or edited four books (see Publications on this site) about women and British film including a star study of the actor and activist Julie Christie (2016). Her most recent monograph Movie Workers: The Women Who Made British Cinema is a revisionist history of the often-unseen but significant achievements of women in film production, from the ‘paint and trace’ girls in the animation studios to the script secretaries who directed behind-the-scenes. It reveals how women of colour had to work outside mainstream film production to get their voices heard, and shows how these histories continue to shape women’s opportunities today. Movie Workers is an excellent resource for anyone interested in women’s labour history or the workings of Britain’s film studios. It combines meticulous research and in-depth case studies with accessible prose to create an essential contribution to film history.
Copyright © 2021 Melanie Bell