Arena: Screen Goddesses

Arena: Screen Goddesses



“There just aren’t any faces like that any more,” lamented Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd — a movie made as long ago as 1950. Of course, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were yet to enjoy their heyday, but the point still stands. From saintly Lillian Gish to sassy Mae West, exotic Marlene Dietrich to enigmatic Greta Garbo, via tough cookies Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and viperish Barbara Stanwyck, Hollywood produced a pantheon of divine women, whose “immortality” is only confirmed by the passage of time.

If you’re a film buff, none of the clips will be a surprise, and I could have done with detail on the luminous cinematography, but this glorious doc will have you reaching for DVDs. (Why no major film season, BBC4?) Music from Vertigo and narration by Downton’s Elizabeth McGovern will also keep you hypnotised.


Documentary focusing on the female stars of the Hollywood studio era, from its beginnings around 1910 through to its collapse in the early 1960s. Screen icons chronologically recalled include Theda Bara, Lillian Gish, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Elizabeth McGovern
Director David Thompson
Producer David Thompson
Series Editor Anthony Wall
Arts Documentary