Iron Jawed Angels
|Iron Jawed Angels|
|Directed by||Katja von Garnier|
|Edited by||Hans Funck|
|Distributed by||HBO Films|
Iron Jawed Angels is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Katja von Garnier. The film stars Hilary Swank as suffragist leader Alice Paul, Frances O'Connor as activist Lucy Burns, Julia Ormond as Inez Milholland, and Anjelica Huston as Carrie Chapman Catt. It received critical acclaim after the film premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
The film focuses on the American women's suffrage movement during the 1910s, and follows women's suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns as they use peaceful and effective nonviolent strategies, tactics, and dialogues to revolutionize the American feminist movement to grant women the right to vote. The film was released in the United States on February 15, 2004.
Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor) return from England where they met while participating in the Women's Social and Political Union started by radical suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and led by her daughter Christabel Pankhurst. The pair present a plan to the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to push directly in Washington for women's rights to vote nationally. They see that their ideas were much too forceful for the established leaders, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston), but are allowed to lead the NAWSA Congressional Committee in DC. They start by organizing the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.
While soliciting donations at an art gallery, Paul convinces labor lawyer Inez Milholland (Julia Ormond) to serve as a figurehead for the parade and meets a Washington newspaper political cartoonist, Ben Weissman (a fictional character, played by Patrick Dempsey), causing romantic fire to start. In a fictional scene, Paul tries to explain to Ida B. Wells why she wants African American women to march in the back of the parade in order to not anger southern Democrats in the movement, but Wells refuses, and joins a white group during the middle of the parade. (Wells did refuse to be segregated and marched with her state delegation but never met with Paul about it.) After disagreements over fundraising, Paul and Burns are pushed out of the NAWSA, and found the National Woman's Party (NWP) to support their approach. Alice Paul briefly explores a romantic relationship with Ben Weissman. He has a child (also a fictional character).
Further conflicts within the movement are portrayed as NAWSA leaders criticize NWP tactics, such as protesting against Wilson and picketing outside the White House in the Silent Sentinels action. Relations between the American government and the NWP protesters also intensify, as many women are arrested for their actions, charged with "obstructing traffic."
The arrested women are sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for 60-day terms. Despite abusive and terrorizing treatment Paul and other women undertake a hunger strike, during which paid guards force-feed them milk and raw eggs. The suffragists are blocked from seeing visitors or lawyers, until a U.S. Senator (the fictional Tom Leighton) manages to visit his wife Emily (also fictional), one of the imprisoned women. News of their treatment leaks to the media after she secretly passes a letter to him during the visit. Paul, Burns, and all of the other women are released.
Further pressure is put on Wilson as the NAWSA joins in the NWP call for a nineteenth amendment to the Constitution. Finally he accedes to the pressure, rather than be called out in the international press for fighting for democracy in Europe while denying its benefits to half of the U.S. population. Ratification follows in the states, reaching a climax when Harry T. Burn, a member of the Tennessee legislature, receives a telegram from his mother at the last minute and changes his vote, such that the amendment is ratified.
Origin of title
The film derives its title from Massachusetts Representative Joseph Walsh, who in 1917 opposed the creation of a committee to deal with women's suffrage. Walsh thought the creation of a committee would be yielding to "the nagging of iron-jawed angels" and referred to the Silent Sentinels as "bewildered, deluded creatures with short skirts and short hair."
- Hilary Swank as Alice Paul
- Frances O'Connor as Lucy Burns
- Molly Parker as Emily Leighton
- Laura Fraser as Doris Stevens
- Lois Smith as Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw
- Vera Farmiga as Ruza Wenclawska, aka Rose Winslow
- Brooke Smith as Mabel Vernon
- Patrick Dempsey as Ben Weissman
- Julia Ormond as Inez Milholland
- Adilah Barnes as Ida Wells-Barnett
- Anjelica Huston as Carrie Chapman Catt
- Margo Martindale as Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch
- Bob Gunton as Woodrow Wilson
- Vinny Genna as Fiorello La Guardia
- Joseph Adams as Senator Thomas "Tom" Leighton
- Brett Boseman as Ben Weissman's child
Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film a positive review, writing, "Iron Jawed Angels is an important history lesson told in a fresh, and blazing fashion." Scott Faundas of Variety gave the film a negative review, writing, "HBO's starry suffragette drama, Iron Jawed Angels, latches on to a worthy historical subject and then hopes noble intentions will be enough to carry the day. Alas, there's no such luck in this talky, melodramatic overview of the dawn of equal rights for women in America. Gussied up with a comically anachronistic use of period music on the soundtrack and flashy, MTV-style montage sequences, pic misguidedly strives – but ultimately fails – to belie its instincts as an assembly-line movie-of-the-week."
Robert Pardi of TV Guide gave a mixed review, "All the elements for a splendid film about the early days of the women's rights are in place, but director Katja von Garnier's use of distracting cinematic trickery and jarringly modern music meshes poorly with the period setting... Blessed with a flawless physical production, von Garnier distorts her epic tale with music that belongs on a Lilith Fair tour; it sometimes feels as though she and her writers conceived the fight for women's suffrage as a 1912 version of Sex and the City. Only when the anachronisms finally subside in the film's final third is the moving core is allowed to shine."
The film was nominated for five awards at 56th Primetime Emmy Awards, though none of which were won; three awards at the 62nd Golden Globe Awards, winning one; and two awards at the 9th Golden Satellite Awards, winning one. Anjelica Huston won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her performance in the film.
|2004||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special||Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz Marks, Kathleen Chopin||Nominated|
|Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie||Robbie Greenberg||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special||Caroline Harris, Eric Van Wagoner, Carl Curnutte III||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie||Anjelica Huston||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special||Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week||Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz Marks||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||90 Minute or Longer Category||Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes||Nominated|
|OFTA Television Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Anjelica Huston||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Brooke Smith||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Hilary Swank||Nominated|
|Best Motion Picture Made for Television||Iron Jawed Angels||Nominated|
|2005||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film||Anjelica Huston||Won|
|Best Miniseries or Television Film||Iron Jawed Angels||Nominated|
|Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film||Hilary Swank||Nominated|
|American Society of Cinematographers||Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series/Pilot (Basic or Pay)||Robbie Greenberg||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Hilary Swank||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film||Anjelica Huston||Won|
|Best Miniseries or Television Film||Iron Jawed Angels||Nominated|
|PEN Center USA West Literary Awards||Teleplay||Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes||Won|
|Costume Designers Guild Award||Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series||Caroline Harris||Nominated|
Use in education
Iron Jawed Angels contains historically accurate information. During WWI most suffragists agreed to unite with the rest of the country, support the war effort, and postpone their attempts to get the vote until after the war. However, a small group of militant suffragists led by Alice Paul refused to go along, and continued with peaceful demonstrations and the Silent Sentinels picketing at the White House. They held signs accusing "Kaiser Wilson" of hypocrisy for leading a war to preserve democracy in foreign lands while denying the vote to half the population at home. The federal government under President Woodrow Wilson jailed the suffragists on false charges, subjected them to a Night of Terror, and when the activists went on a hunger strike, prison officials force fed them.
The government's treatment of the suffragists led to criticism and protest, and the negative publicity played an important role in leading President Wilson to support a constitutional amendment that guaranteed U.S. women the vote. This episode in the Women's Suffrage Movement is an early example of the power of nonviolent direct action similar to that later strategized and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King, James Bevel, and others in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
There are a number of historical errors in the film, such as Paul's romantic interlude and the characterization of Carrie Chapman Catt. However, those errors in the film do not relate to the core storyline of the activist's protests, their mistreatment by the government, and the fact that when the mistreatment was exposed the public outcry helped the Suffrage Movement.  Iron Jawed Angels is on TeachWithMovies.org's list of the best films for teaching American History. 
- Suffragette (2015 film)
- "Interview with Paul Fischer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004". Film Monthly.
- "HOUSE MOVES FOR WOMAN SUFFRAGE; Adopts by 181 to 107 Rule to Create a Committee to Deal with the Subject. DEBATE A HEATED ONE Annoyance of President by Pickets at White House Denounced as "Outlawry."". The New York Times. September 25, 1917.
- Skipper, Elizabeth (November 1, 2004). "Review of Iron-Jawed Angels". DVD Verdict.
I also noticed Molly Parker as the supporting character of Emily Leighton, a Senator's wife. Parker's character – a fabricated figure, we learn from the commentary.
- DVD Verdict: In this movie, Alice is given a fledgling romance with political cartoonist Ben Weissman. According to the audio commentary, he is another completely fictional character, created to give Alice a (sort of) love interest.
- "Iron Jawed Angels: Characters". Iron Jawed Angels Media Smarts. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "DVD Verdict Review – Iron Jawed Angels". DVD Verdict. November 1, 2004. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Plex. February 17, 2004.
- "Review: 'Iron Jawed Angels'". Variety. January 22, 2004.
- "Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- See authorities collected in the Historical Accuracy Section of the Learning Guide to Iron Jawed Angels, TeachWithMovies.org
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