Cleo Madison, Actress and Director

The Power of Fascination
R: Cleo Madison. B: Charles Saxby. D: Cleo Madison, Jack Holt, Thomas Chatterton, Carrie Fowler, Jack Francis, Jack Wells. P: Rex Film Corp. USA 1915
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“It is clear from the published record of Universal Motion Picture Manufacturing Company credits from 1912–1929 that, beginning in 1915, the company employed increasing numbers of women as directors, and by the end of 1919 it had credited no fewer than eleven women with directing at least one hundred and seventy titles (Braff 2002). Before 1915, Universal credited Grace Cunard, Jeanie Macpherson, and Lois Weber as director. After 1915, it credited Cunard, Madison, Weber, Ruth Ann Baldwin, Eugenie Magnus Ingleton, Bess Meredyth, Ida May Park, Ruth Stonehouse, Lule Warrenton, and Elsie Jane Wilson. By 1920, however, none of these women directed for Universal, which promoted men to take their places. Most never directed again.”
Mark Garrett Cooper
Women Film Pioneers Project

Madison (1883 – 1964) began her career on the stage. By 1910, she had begun performing as part of a theatre troupe known as the Santa Barbara Stock Company in California. In 1913, she was contracted by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company to begin appearing in feature films. Madison established a name for herself as an actress with performances in films such as The Trey o’ Hearts (1914). She is also considered a pioneering female director with a number of shorts and two feature films, A Soul Enslaved (1916) and Her Bitter Cup (1916), to her credit. (…) Madison’s performances were based on an acting style she developed during her time as a vaudeville performer, relying on large gestures and melodramatic facial expressions. She did not avoid physical exertion in pursuit of convincing portrayal, as demonstrated in The Trey of Hearts (1914) in which her character endured a number of physical challenges such as being in a car crash, being shot at, and escaping a forest fire. Her characters often defied stereotypical roles of women in film and encompassed heroines, free-thinkers, villains, temptresses, and adventurers. Madison’s acting style employed her total commitment and passion to each role, and her performances were often acclaimed as such.”
Everthing Explained Today

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