d. 8 October 1939, Goring (Henley Registration district), Oxfordshire.
aka Leila Stewart
Publicist. Founder and Vice-President of the Stoll Picture Theatre Club (1918), Stoll Picture Theatre, Kingsway, Holborn, London.
Married Alexander Stewart (b. 1892, d. 1953) (aka the photographer Sasha) in 1919.
|Leila Lewis delivered a lecture on ‘Opportunities for Women in the Film Business’ to the Women’s Freedom League in June 1920. She suggested that the cinema industry could offer roles for women as ‘producers’ (directors), art directors, make up artists, scenario writers, producers, and censors. [Kinematograph Weekly, 17 June 1920, p. 35]’The most important thing [is] the position of the casting director. Not for the star parts but for the small parts which [are] usually chosen by men. It would be very much safer, to say the least, if it were in the hands of women. With beautiful women applying to a man all day long for a day’s crowd work, it is natural that he should be inclined to give the work to a woman who is inclined to become his particular friend rather than the woman best able to do the work”.”It ought not to be a question of sex when anybody [is] selected for work, but a question of ability to do the work. The ideal [is] that men and women should pull together as pals, the sex question being put more and more in the background; and good team work [can] be accomplished by a combination of women’s intuition and man’s common sense. What [is] so deplorable [is] the monopoly held by men in many of the big jobs in the film industry”[Lewis’s lecture paraphrased by the Kinematograph Weekly, 17 June 1920, p. 135]
Lewis’s talk aroused some controversy, partly because Lewis was seen to be casting aspersions on the integrity of film producers, but also because some commentators resented her encouragement of working women and felt that it was ‘far more important to find channels for the services of those who have served their country only to return to find their places usurped by the fair sex’ (The Bioscope, 3 June 1920, p. 7).
After a stint on Fleet Street, Lewis entered the film industry in 1916, working as a publicity manager for Bolton’s Mutual Films. She joined the Stoll Picture Theatre, Kingsway, London, as publicity and press agent and while there set up the Stoll Picture Theatre Club. The Club was an early film appreciation society of sorts, and its events included guest lectures by members of the trade (writers, producers, actors, composers) and visits to film studios.
In the spring of 1920, Lewis left the Stoll Picture Theatre (her position was later taken up by Kathleen Mason). She joined British & Colonial as Head of Publicity before moving to George Clarke Productions as Publicity Manager. She travelled to America with George Clarke to negotiate the US rights for his films [Kinematograph Weekly, 3rd February 1921, p. 68; and p. 85]. In April 1921 she became Allied Artists’ Chief of Publicity [Kinematograph Yearbook 1922, p. 17].
As a ‘Publicity Consultant’, Lewis set up an office at 9 Hart Street, Bloomsbury (now Bloomsbury Way) in the early 1920s. She was also a committee member of the Film Press Club, formed in 1920 and was associated with the Daily Graphic around this time [Stoll’s Editorial News, 3 June 1920, p. 4]. Leila continued to work in film publicity throughout the 1920s and 1930s – as well as Allied Artists she also worked for W& F film distributors (dates not yet discovered). In 1928 Lewis is credited as Publicity Manager of Warner Brothers (presumably in the UK) [‘Putting Over a Story’, Bioscope British Film Number, December 1928, p. 223], during the 1930s she worked for General Film Distributors. She remained there until her early death at the end of the decade.
In his autobiography, director Adrian Brunel recalls that ’round about 1924, Leila and Alex Stewart invited me to dine at their flat in Hart Street in order to meet Michael Balcon and his lovely wife, Aileen. Mick Balcon was a coming producer and Leila, who was always plotting to help people, thought that we might be useful to each other’ (Nice Work, p. 108). (NM)
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Kinematograph Yearbook 1939, p.339 (Whos’ What’ section). Entry provided by Leila reads:
‘Entered the film business in 1916, after editorials, advertising and agency experience in Fleet Street, as publicity manager Bolton’s Mutual Films, then became publicity and Press agent Stoll Picture Theatre. Inaugurated Stoll Picture Theatre Club. Publicity Manager Allied Artists. W. and F. and Warner Brothers Pictures. Casting Director Gaumont-British and Gainsborough Productions. Afterwards publicity manager, Gaumont-British Distributors, Ltd., now publicity manager General Film Distributors Ltd.
Address:- 7, Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, S.W.
Phone: Whitehall 9332.’
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