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Miss America
A film by Lisa Ades, Executive Produced by Lola Van Wagenen & Jeanne Houck
2002, 96 minutes, Color/BW, DVD
Order No. W151149

Tracking the country’s oldest beauty contest—from its inception in 1921 as a local seaside pageant to its heyday as one of the country’s most popular events—MISS AMERICA paints a vivid picture of an institution that has come to reveal much about a changing nation. The pageant is about commercialism and sexual politics, about big business and small towns. But beyond the symbolism lies a human story—at once moving, inspiring, infuriating, funny, and poignant.

Combining rare archival footage, with a host of intimate interviews with distinguished commentators including Gloria Steinem, Margaret Cho, Isaac Mizrahi, former contestants and behind–the–scenes footage and photographs, the film reveals why some women took part in the fledgling event and why others briefly rejected it - how the pageant became a battle ground and a barometer for the changing position of women in society.


  • Sundance Film Festival
  • South by Southwest Film Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Festival
  • Sheffield Doc/Fest

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    "American Experience’ takes the crown with producer Lisa Ades’ masterful ‘Miss America’… Brilliantly anecdotal and pungently opinionated."
    TV Guide

    "Superb…effortlessly mines perspective, poignancy and cultural significance for an exercise that has embodied the essence of kitsch and tacky…"
    The Hollywood Reporter

    "... this critical but balanced American Experience documentary acknowledges the pageant’s status as a national institution." --
    People Magazine

    “Refreshingly evenhanded, ‘Miss America’ tackles the pageant’s intersection with race, sex and women’s liberation—among other things—without sinking into gratuitous pageant-bashing. "
    Associated Press

    "’Miss America’ [is] a film that may be the definitive documentary of the pageant."
    San Jose Mercury News

    “Documentarian Lisa Ades… has created a striking history of the pageant… it will delight and inform. There is never a dull visual moment in ‘ Miss America’."
    Los Angeles Daily News

    “Filmmaker Lisa Ades has managed to capture 80 years of social and cultural history; laced it up with trenchant commentary from historians, critics and Gloria Steinem herself…"
    Toronto Star

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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

Deep discounts are available when you purchase multiple films. More details.

© Women Make Movies, 2005
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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us