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Nell Shipman

Nell Shipman
Image: Nell Shipman with three members of her film crew
and her dogs 'Lady' and 'Tex', in Priest Lake, Idaho, in 1923
Photo by Lloyd Peters, published in Filmograph (1970, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 2)

Also known as: Helen Foster Barham
Countries: Canada / United States
Born: 1892
Died: 1970

Films directed by Nell Shipman

Quotes about Nell Shipman

"Certainly for [Nell] Shipman, in her films as well as in her own life, creative achievement, economic independence, social mobility, and sexual equality were central to the vision of contemporary womanhood that underlies all her narratives and portrayals of women and male-female relationships."
-- Kay Armatage (source)

"I would argue that with [Nell] Shipman's work the narrative trajectory culminating in the inevitable heterosexual coupling that closes the story is less compelling or memorable than the scenes of the solitary woman braving the wilderness."
-- Kay Armatage (source)

"In most of her films, Nell Shipman played the leading role, always of the heroic stamp. [...] Her Amazonian beauty, the easeful presence of her body (cross-hatched with equal parts of hysteria, display, strength, and bravery), her great sense of moral justice, and the instinctive connection with animals and nature: these are the signs of her essential femininity, and simultaneously the source of the heroism which allows her to resist conventional narrative inscriptions of the woman protagonist as victimized and rescued."
-- Kay Armatage (source)

"Nell Shipman, who has been producer, director, star, and writer, has now finished writing her memoirs. To be called The Silent Screen and My Talking Heart, her book focuses on a glamorous period of film history although she insists the book is not film history as such but purely a personal story whose background happens to be the silent picture era."
-- Filmograph (source)

"Despite the lip-service [Nell Shipman] paid, in her 1919 self-portrait 'Me' [published in Photoplay], to 'Feminism, Socialism, and other Isms', still I cannot see Nell Shipman as a filmmaker led by the conviction to support a cause. Shipman did not make films to put out statements or a message, but for the fun, for the fame, and to earn money. To the extent that she would assert that women 'had a right to do everything their hearts desired', this emanated from pragmatism and from her own experience, and it depended on the spirit of the times, the discourses of which Nell Shipman was an astute interpreter and appropriator."
-- Annette Förster (source)

"For Nell Shipman, the real magicians were not the directors but the cameramen. Her conception of directing, then, did not imply creative control, as one would have expected in the field of independent filmmaking. For her, the magic of film was created between camera and acting, and directing was an activity in the service of precisely that creativity and interaction. In my opinion, this conception of the relationships among direction, cinematography, and acting clarify three of Nell Shipman's choices that determined her future filmmaking practice: to continue working with Joe Walker behind the camera, to appoint the inexperienced but pragmatic Bert Van Tuyle as 'her' director or co-director, and, most significantly, never to claim the direction credit of her films for herself alone."
-- Annette Förster (source)

"The main problem [Nell] Shipman faced [while writing her autobiography] in the 1960s was that she, in contrast to such 'as told to' memoirs, was writing against film-historical oblivion. Until then, official film history had virtually ignored her presence and work in the American silent cinema. So how could she boast of her talent and merits without sounding merely pretentious and pathetic? In my opinion, Shipman chose understatement as one of her rhetorical strategies."
-- Annette Förster (source)

"Embedded within [Nell] Shipman's narrative [The Silent Screen & My Talking Heart] [...] are the movies that created her even as she was scripting and acting in them; she became 'the Girl from God's Country' due to casting and marketing pressures and an internalized identification with her screen image. Embedded within [Sharon] Pollock's play [Moving Pictures] are events and passages from Shipman's autobiography, but the Nell Shipman figure in the play is much more than the woman Shipman herself portrays because Pollock creates a multiple self-portrait of a woman artist looking back on her life to understand its meaning and value."
-- Sherrill Grace (source)

"The elements of the active heroine, closeness to nature and animals, and the inadequate male, were aspects manifest in [Nell] Shipman's own life. She did all her own stunts, some of them spectacular and dangerous. She yearned for the wild northwest of Canada and the United States whenever she was away from it. She owned her own zoo and championed animals all her life—Brownie the bear and Laddie the dog in her films were her own pets. In an extraordinary and ironic incident, she even saved Bert Van Tuyle's life when, delirious from gangrene in his foot, he tried to dog sled twenty miles from the movie quarters into town."
-- Janice Kaye (source)

"Nell [Shipman] was a true independent, creating an image of women vastly different from the usual onscreen delicate flower. She had tremendous creative control. She presented a view of nature and of women that was dismissed by the Hollywood powers. She ran an independent production company when the big studios were gaining power, and this was her downfall."
-- Linda Kupecek (source)

"If the plain story of Nell Shipman's life could ever be filmed, nobody would believe it. It would be called just a wild movie story—except, perhaps, by those who recalled the facts in the front page newspaper sensation of five years ago. It is incredible, this story of the young and beautiful film star who made fame and fortune—and decided to forsake Hollywood so that she could produce the films she wanted to do—herself, and with no interference. It is impossible to believe that the girl could really have gathered together a zoo of one hundred and thirty-five animals and gone off into the wilds of Northern Idaho, twenty miles from a road and fifty miles from a railroad; could have kept house for these animals and three or four men, mostly 'quitters'; could have passed through untold agony with the onset of winter, when her fiance and director became demented because of a frozen foot and she took him through a terrific battle with the elements back to civilization."
-- Lancaster Daily Eagle (Ohio) (source)

"[Nell Shipman] was perhaps one of the first feminist film writers insisting that her female characters be independent protagonists and not just women waiting to be saved by a handy man. She also insisted on authenticity in location, which meant she filmed many of her scenes outside the studio."
-- Denise Lowe (source)

"While Nell Shipman is working on a picture, there is never anything outside of the life of the picture that intrudes itself or is permitted to invade her thoughts, and during her rest period between pictures she devotes herself entirely to exercise, animal life and its study, reading and her writings. She has a novel little retreat up on a knowl back of her home, 'Holly Hill,' Los Angeles, overhung with wild walnut trees, and with a background of foothills studded with wild flowers and shrubbery the year round where she does most of her writing [...]."
-- Nashville Tennessean (source)

"I argue that Canada's cultural claiming of [Nell] Shipman is made possible by the nature of her original stardom, which embodied ideals of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Canadian nationalism. Her 'picture personality' as a wilderness heroine was reified during the tenure of her stardom from 1911 to 1924 and now is available through artifacts of stardom—posters, promotional materials, and the film images themselves—to be plucked out of their original contexts and repurposed to promote a cinematic cultural heritage for the country that claims authenticity as 'God's Country.' By focusing exclusively on Shipman's star image, however, Canada's cultural claims elide complex and contradictory aspects of Shipman's career and politics in order to assert an idealized cinematic national heritage."
-- Amy Shore (source)

"Miss [Nell] Shipman isn't a 'one woman' circus, but a writer, picture producer, director and picture star all in one. She is an out-of-doors girl. All of her pictures are the back-to-nature type, featuring $50,000 worth of animals and Miss Shipman trusting herself to the embraces of her big leading bear."
-- Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) (source)

"Woe to the small independent movie producer. That is the lesson which Miss Nell Shipman feels should be drawn from her three years' experience at Priest Lake in Northern Idaho. She is back East now writing a book about the movies and preparing scenarios which others will produce. Her attempt to make pictures of the great open spaces in Idaho is an admitted failure. It was even rather a tragic failure."
-- St. Louis Post-Dispatch (source)

"Nell Shipman has been immortalized in a jut of land called 'Shipman's Point' on upper Priest Lake in Idaho. The reason: the land served as location site for her filming in the teens of this century. Shipman was an early and formidable film figure as writer and star, corporate exec—the whole smear—before most of today's female wonder women were born."
-- Variety (source)

"Nell Shipman Productions Inc., with a paid in capital of $250,000, is a new producing concern formed on the coast, establishing Nell Shipman as the first woman producter, director and star in the industry. Associated with her are W.H. Clune and Bert Van Tuyle."
-- Variety (source)

For QUOTES about a specific film by Nell Shipman, please see:   Trail of the Arrow    Something New    The Girl from God's Country    A Bear, a Boy, and a Dog    The Grub-Stake    The Trail of the North Wind    Wolf's Brush   

Notes about Nell Shipman

(sources)

Bibliography for Nell Shipman

Section 1: Publications by Nell Shipman

Section 2: Publications about Nell Shipman

Books

Book Chapters

Brief Sections of Books

Journal Articles

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

Documentaries

Dissertations

Plays about Nell Shipman

Web Sites

Section 3: Publications about the Films of Nell Shipman

Trail of the Arrow (1920)

Brief Sections of Books

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

Something New (1920)

Brief Sections of Books

Journal Articles

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

The Girl from God's Country (1921)  (also known as: "Neeka of the Northlands")

Brief Sections of Books

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

A Bear, a Boy, and a Dog (1921)  (also known as: "Saturday Off")

Brief Sections of Books

The Grub-Stake (1922)  (also known as: "The Golden Yukon", "The Romance of Lost Valley")

Brief Sections of Books

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

The Trail of the North Wind (1923)

Brief Sections of Books

The Light on Lookout (1923)

Brief Sections of Books

Wolf's Brush (1924)

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

White Water (1924)

Brief Sections of Books

Archival Collections

These archival institutions have holdings related to Nell Shipman or her films:


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