In the director’s statement included with Lipstick & Dynamite‘s press notes, Ruth Leitman talks about how her interviews with flamboyant figures like Moolah and The Great Mae Young gave her a “window from which to view some of the greatest feminist practice of the World War II generation.” This is a window Leitman refuses to share with her audience, because while the subjects of Lipstick & Dynamite are all strong women, the non-stop swirl of anecdotes from which the film is assembled lacks sociological resonance. The dozen or so grand dames of female wrestling Leitman interviews throughout the film all talk about how they entered the sport, the men (bad and good) that shaped their careers, their catty professional feuds, and their sometimes personal resentments, but never does Leitman explore the feminist impact their actions may have had on the world around them or what any of their gripes may have to say about them as thoroughly modern women. Considering the quasi-subversive opening and the awesome archive footage of a female wrestler beating up a man in the ring while wearing a housedress and stilettos, it’s amazing that Leitman forgets to answer her own thesis; only once, when a queeny fan of female wrestling extols the sport’s appeal as a mode of melodramatic storytelling, do things get critical, but even then the insights are fleeting. Letiman’s pool of interviews is crowded and she succeeds only in hurrying through the lives of her subjects, namely that of Ida May Martinez, whose close-lipped allusions to her legacy of abuse and recollection of having treated one of the first AIDS cases in the country after she became a nurse are the film’s most riveting moments. In the end, Lipstick & Dynamite is but a goodhearted puff piece unable to deliver on the promise of its loaded title.
- Koch Lorber Films
- 83 min
- Ruth Leitman
- Penny Banner, Lillian Ellison, Gladys Gillem, Judy Grable, Ida May Martinez, Ella Waldek, Mae Young
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: