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REEL WOMEN: Pioneers of the Cinema, 1896 to the Present by Ally Acker (Continuum: $34.95; 374 pp.).

June 30, 1991|Sonja Bolle

"Unsung, the noblest deeds will die," Ally Acker quotes Pindar at the opening of her book. In "Reel Women," she sings the noble deeds of women who contributed to the development of film, and sings loudly to bring them justice. Acker observes that while a 1968 "Dictionary of Filmmakers" lists Melies as the first director of "story films," it identifies Alice Guy Blache as "originally, Leon Gaumont's secretary . . . . She made her first film, 'La fee aux choux' (1896), some months before Melies did, thus becoming the first woman director in the world." Although there's not a page without some politically correct pronouncement ("Sherry Lansing's 'Black Rain' cannot be credited as a great advancement in culturally projected images of women"), this hybrid reference/history book is full of good detail that makes for entertaining browsing (novelist, screenwriter and producer Maya Angelou was the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco). And it makes clear, as the title suggests, that women's "pioneering" days in the film world are far from over.

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