Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the University Press of Mississippi:
Winnie Lightner (1899–1971) was the first great female
comedian of the talkies. Blessed with a superb singing voice and a gift for
making wisecracks and rubber faces, she rose to stardom in vaudeville and on
Broadway. Then, at the dawn of the sound era, she became the first person in
motion picture history to have her spoken words censored.
In "Winnie Lightner: Tomboy of the Talkies" (University
Press of Mississippi, Hollywood Legends Series), David L. Lightner documents
how Winnie’s hilarious performance in the 1929 musical comedy Gold Diggers of
Broadway made her an overnight sensation. She went on to star in seven other
Warner Bros. features. In the best of them, she was the comic epitome of a
strident feminist, dominating men and gleefully spurning conventional gender
norms and moral values, which earned her the nickname of tomboy of the talkies.
When the Great Depression rendered moviegoers hostile
toward feminism, Warner Bros. crafted a new image of Lightner as glamorous and
sexy and assigned her contradictory roles in which she was empowered in the
workplace but submissive to her male partner at home. Because the new image did
not score at the box office, Lightner’s stardom ended. In four final movies, she
played supporting roles as the loudmouthed roommate and best friend of actress
Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, and Mona Barrie.
Following her retirement in 1934, Lightner faded into
obscurity. Many of her films were mutilated or even lost entirely. David Lightner
has beautifully captured Winnie's early years in vaudeville, her elevation to
revues, and her capturing of the very essence of talking pictures just as they
Tomboy of the Talkies is the first and only biography of
Winnie Lightner and finally gives HER the recognition she deserves as a notable
figure in film history, in women’s history, and in the history of show business.
This book is an evocative and fascinating read that will speak to fans of
DAVID L. LIGHTNER is professor emeritus of history at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Slavery and the Commerce Power: How the Struggle against
the Interstate Slave Trade Led to the Civil War; Asylum, Prison, and Poorhouse:
The Writings and Reform Work of Dorothea Dix in Illinois; and Labor on the
Illinois Central Railroad, 1852-1900: The Evolution of an Industrial
Environment. He became interested in Winnie Lightner because of their shared
surname but is not related to her.