Beauty pageants in general, and the Miss America Pageant in particular, have long held the interest and imagination of the American public. Yet none of the films and videos that have covered these topics to date have explored the Miss America Pageant in a comprehensive way, cataloging the full breadth of historical material that we intend to utilize. No other film or television program explores the institution of the 80–year old Miss America Pageant in the context of American social and cultural history, or uses the Pageant as a distinct and memorable lens through which to view complex issues of the 20th century.

Most of the existing films on the pageant world, especially in the wake of Jon–Benet Ramsey’s death, have been “behind-the-scenes” exposés of pageant commerce and the exploitation of children. While this is an important issue and certainly part of the culture which also includes the Miss America Pageant, there is a great variance among the thousands of pageants held in the U.S. each year.

Our focus is not on the pageant world or the contemporary issue of pageant culture; it is instead a historically-based examination of the oldest, longest running, best-known and most influential pageant in American history, and of how this institution has reflected the nation’s history throughout the past century.

Existing Films and Tapes

The most important archive of material from the Miss America Pageant is held by the Miss America Organization itself. We have been given unrestricted access to these rich archives, without editorial or other limitation. This extensive collection includes footage from the earliest pageants in the 1920s, the first Movietone News coverage in 1938, clips of the first live television broadcast in 1954 and television coverage for every year since 1957. It also holds footage, still photographs, artifacts, and newspaper clippings from the pageant’s entire 80-year history. 

Films and Television Programs on the Miss America Pageant

And The Winner Is: The Miss America System of Judging. Video distributed by the Miss America Organization to its judges at the local, state, and national levels.

Miss America Beyond the Crown. Dir. Dan Funk. NBC Productions, Inc., in association with Blanki and Bodi Productions, Inc., 1994.

Miss America: Their Untold Stories. Dir. Dan Funk. NBC Productions, Inc., in association with Blanki and Bodi Productions, Inc., 1993.

Miss America Organization. Miss America Organization, 1998.

Not Just a Pretty Face: Some of the Remarkable Women Who Won the Title “Miss America.” Presented by Jean Snedegar, produced by Sally Thompson. BBC Radio. 2 October 1997.

Up Against the Wall, Miss America (6 minutes). Camera News, Inc., 1968.

Films and Television Programs on Beauty Pageants

Beauty Pageants: Bright Lights and Big Business. Dir. Andrea Black. HTV Productions/Arts and Entertainment Network, 1994.

Dream Girls: A Children’s Beauty Pageant. Dir. Jerret Engle. Discovery Channel, 1999.

Miss… or Myth? Dirs. Geoffrey Dunn and Mark Schwartz. Gold Mountain Productions/Cinema Guild, 1986.

Miss Nude America. Dir. James P. Blake. Eroica Enterprises, 1976.

Painted Babies. Dir. Jane Treays. BBC Worldwide Programs, series “Under the Sun,” 1996.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (17 minutes). Camera News, Inc., 1967.

The Youngest Beauty Queens.20/20. ABC News. 25 July, 1985.

Films on Related Topics (Atlantic City, the beauty industry, women’s fashions)

Atlantic City. Dir. Ray McCarey. Republic Pictures Corporation. 1944.

Beauty and the Beach: On Women, Bathing Suits, and the 20th Century. Dir. John Prowse. CineFocus Canada, Inc., 1997.

Boardwalk Ballyhoo: The Magic of Atlantic City. Dir. Vicki Gold Levi. Atlantic City Historical Museum, 1993.

Killing Us Softly. Dir. Jean Kilbourne. Cambridge Documentary Films, 1979.

Smile Pretty. Dir. Carol Cassidy. Independent Television Service (San Francisco).

The Mirror Lied. Dir. Jennifer Haskin-O’Reggio. Produced at USC School of Cinema and Television, 1999.