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The Face That Launched a Thousand LawsuitsThe American Women Who Forged a Right to Privacy$
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Jessica Lake

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300214222

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300214222.001.0001

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Privacy, the Celluloid City, and the Cinematic Eye

Privacy, the Celluloid City, and the Cinematic Eye

(p.117) 4 Privacy, the Celluloid City, and the Cinematic Eye
The Face That Launched a Thousand Lawsuits

Jessica Lake

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on the cinematic camera’s recordings of women in urban public space. It examines claims to a right to privacy in relation to early nonfiction film in the form of cinema advertising, newsreels and documentaries. The cases discussed are significant for their contribution to the development of privacy law, and to the study of early film history. They offer insights into the discomfort experienced by those caught unknowingly in a motion picture during this period. The plaintiffs (all women) tell vividly of their shock and distress at becoming the object of a mass gaze, with their movements and mannerisms looming larger than life on the big screen. These women fought for restrictions on the practices of early filmmaking, but the cases also reveal the limits of the doctrine of privacy when used in this context. Courts tended to frame the issue in terms of the gendered public/private dichotomy (so entrenched within the law), usually privileging the masculine “public interest” in nonfiction filmmaking (for news, documentary or ethnographic purposes) over a woman’s individual right to privacy.

Keywords:   Cinema, Newsreel, Documentary, Advertising, City, Dichotomy, Gaze, Public, Privacy, Women

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