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The Mystery of the Girl and the Gun

The first issue of Women & Film magazine contains many references to Jean-Luc Godard, an unsurprising fact given the director’s towering presence in US film culture of the early 1970s. It’s clear that the magazine’s editors and many of its writers were hugely preoccupied with his work and his ideas about cinema. Even before you get to the many articles that discuss his films and the reprint of his manifesto ‘What is to be done?’ inside issue one,  his work and his famous motto that all you need to make a movie is ‘a girl and gun’ is referenced on both its front and back cover. A still from his Les Carabiniers (1963) graces the front cover, and the magazine’s sometimes critical stance toward his work, and the violence that tends to accompany the formula of girl + gun, is prefigured by a literal tear across the image (a visual motif that continues in the opening editorial).

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In writing a critical history of the magazine, I spend a lot of time trying to map how certain concepts, terms and ideas have been conceived and mutated across time and page, so I was particularly grateful to find Roland-François Lack‘s article on the origin of the phase ‘a girl and a gun’, on his The Cine-Tourist blog. As he points out, although Godard made this phrase famous, it appears to have originally been pronounced by D.W. Griffiths, and Lack maps out the possible ways in which Godard might have picked this up. One mystery solved then. But another is still bugging me, and it’s this:

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This is the back cover of Women & Film no. 1. The image is reused by B. Ruby Rich as the cover of her book Chick Flicks. And I’ve used it many times to illustrate this blog and my research on Women & Film. But where does it come from? None of the magazine’s founders can remember how it came to be on the back cover. Given the little photo corners visible, I’m guessing it was an actual photograph owned by one of them. But who is the woman behind the clapper board?

Who is the girl with the gun?

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