Girl 27

Girl 27

Excellent, if disturbing, documentary about Patricia Douglas, a 17-year-old movie extra in 1937 who was hired to "entertain" at a rowdy convention of MGM studio salesmen, and wound up being raped by one of them. She defied conventions of the day and actually stood up and carried out a lawsuit against MGM, but in those days, the studios ran Los Angeles politics, and her case was mysteriously dismissed and forgotten. Nearly 70 years later, pushy Vanity Fair writer David Stenn stumbled across Douglas's shocking story and was bewildered at why, among all the potent Hollywood scandals remembered today, this one was erased from public memory. So he set out to find out what happened and properly report it - and even discovered an elderly Douglas, living a secluded life in Las Vegas, in the process.

Girl 27 is more or less an account of the Vanity Fair story that Stenn wrote, and if it seems off-putting to some that Stenn, who directed the film, also narrates, frequently appears on camera, and even insinuates himself into the story, I found it a refreshingly journalistic approach to documentary filmmaking. Stenn's aware of the theory that you cannot observe something without the act of observation itself changing its behavior, and Girl 27 smartly reflects that. But in the end the story is less a chunk of tawdry Hollywood lore and more a saddening portrait of rape's long-term emotional effects. Saddest of all is that, 70 years on, MGM still wouldn't let Stenn use any of their own archival footage. Some people never want to own up to the past.