Although it is their male counterparts who get title billing, it was the women of "Mad Men" who took center stage at the Women in Film 2013 Crystal + Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills on June 12, which also marked the landmark occasion of WIF’s 40th anniversary.
Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Paré and Kiernan Shipka were honored with the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television, which since 1994 has been awarded to those whose creative works follow in the legendary footsteps of Lucille Ball. If Miss Blankenship had lived past Season 4, she might’ve been there too.
Moss, who has been nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award for her role as Peggy Olson (and earlier in the week won the Critics’ Choice for her part in The Sundance Channel’s “Top of the Lake”), said she was elected spokesperson of the group.
“The women are fully fleshed-out characters in stories filled with intrigue and romance," said Moss. "The show takes an unintentionally political stance by simply treating women like human beings.”
Hendricks was apparently off getting more clients for Sterling Cooper & Partners — actually, she was shooting another project and couldn’t be in attendance — but her castmates took turns reading the names from a voluminous list of female department heads, writers and producers whom creator Mathew Weiner has installed. They also gave a shout-out to AMC’s head honcho Charlie Collier and Lionsgate Television’s Kevin Beggs and Sandra Stern, all of whom were beaming with pride from their table in the packed International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.
Hosted by actress Jenna Elfman, the gala event honored Laura Linney with the prestigious Crystal Award for Excellence in Film and "The Bling Ring" director Sofia Coppola with the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, presented to her by Nancy Meyers.
They shared the spotlight with young actress Hailee Steinfeld, who received the MaxMara Face of the Future Award, and cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who took home the Kodak Vision Award.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the organization a procession of past honorees came to the stage, including Diahann Carroll, Cloris Leachman, Gale Anne Hurd, Debra Messing, Diane Warren, Holly Hunter and Martha Coolidge and a giant, multicolored cake was wheeled out at the end.
George Lucas was bestowed with Women in Film’s Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award, presented to him by Kathleen Kennedy, who has worked with Lucas since Steven Spielberg directed "Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), for which Lucas is credited with the story.
"He’s never seen women as sidekicks," she said. "George Lucas gave us a fast-talking, blaster-toting spitfire by the name of Princess Leia, who was as nuanced as any man. She was an inspiration, as was Marion Ravenwood. While his female characters are iconic, he has always advocated for women behind the camera. When he asked me to run Lucasfilm, it was exhilarating and terrifying."
Even as the night was one of celebration, the theme throughout was how women have yet to gain anything near employment equality in the entertainment industry. Stats like the fact that of the top 100 grossing films of the 2011-12 season, only 20% of them had a female producer and only 15% were directed by women were projected on large screens.
"There certainly is a wider diversity of roles available to women and careers don’t instantly end at 29 anymore," said Linney. “But the progress in every other area has been very slow. So there’s a long way to go, and not just in this industry, but in every industry."
"Women should control 50% of the world," Lucas said, after telling the crowd that he was schooled throughout his life about the power of women, first by his sisters and then by his daughters.
“We are the keepers of the planet’s storytelling," said WIF president Cathy Schulman. "It’s up to all of us to spin accurate pictures of our lives, our histories and our imaginations. Women need to hold gatekeeping positions on films and television because only gender equality can bring out nonbiased decision-making and thus nonbiased storytelling."