Movie Queen, Belfast, shot in 1935 is an extraordinary example of itinerant filmmaking by a woman director. There were over fifteen Movie Queen films made in the 1930s, all shot by women. Margaret Cram (1913-2007) made at least six films called Movie Queen, traveling from town to town on behalf of the Amateur Theater Guild in Boston. She was from Brattleboro, Vermont, and graduated from Western Reserve in Cleveland. Through the 1930s she made films and staged live shows in New England, before moving to New York, transitioning to another career through the Women’s National Exposition of Arts and Industries.
The Movie Queen, Belfast was created to be shown at the Colonial Theater in Belfast. It contains footage of the town and its inhabitants, of a Movie Queen and her escort, and of the coastal steamship that connected the town with Boston until its last trip that same year.
The importance of The Movie Queen, Belfast relates to the ephemeral nature of itinerant filmmaking. The history of filmmaking includes women who made their living directing works in contexts that are just beginning to be understood. The significance of The Movie Queen, Belfast and its importance for women’s motion picture production history is enhanced by the survival of this body of itinerant films for comparison—and by the documentary evidence recently discovered in the Marion Angeline Howlett Papers in the Harvard Theater Collection, Harvard University. Howlett, like Cram, worked for the Amateur Theatre Guild. While Cram left no papers and is identified only by local newspaper stories and oral histories in the towns where she filmed, Howlett kept production documents including a 16 page “Movie Queen Daily Procedure” and “Film Data for Movie Queen Directors,” instructing directors to order film stock from E.M.F in Cambridge, Mass., and process it at Agfa Laboratories in New York.