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A Midwife's Tale




“The story of the 1950s Tupperware empire is told with wit and authority in this …documentary from Laurie Kahn-Leavitt.”
Gerald Peary, The Boston Phoenix


“Ms. Kahn-Leavitt deftly balances nostalgia, humor, and appreciation without being saccharine or patronizing the women who cast off their traditional roles and made new lives for themselves.  Viewers who tune in will, like me, be in for a treat.”
Kate Flatley LaVoie, Wall Street Journal


“a compelling portrait of a peculiar American success story…TUPPERWARE! takes us on a fun, often funny ride through the optimism and opportunity of the 1950s.  You’ll wish the Super 8 footage would just keep on rolling.”
Joe Carter, TV Guide


“It is a tale of intrigue, invention, power, and money, which Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, writer, director and producer of the film, stumbled on by accident...It took two and a half years and more than 300 interviews to put all the pieces together.”
Carol Vogel, New York Times


“Behind every burping bowl, there’s a story.  But who knew Tupperware had such a rich history?…Until now, the Tupperware story was long forgotten, sealed as tight as one of the company’s trademark containers.”
Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


“There’s a…PBS special on the cultural phenomenon of Tupperware parties narrated by Kathy Bates…Tupperware is finally getting the credit it deserves for coming up with the party at home selling concept.  Post WWII, it was one of the only ways that women could make decent money on their own time.”
Charla Krupp on the Today Show


“TUPPERWARE.  So uncool, it’s cool (proof: Reese Witherspoon loves the stuff).  Narrated by Kathy Bates, this documentary charts Tupperware’s rise from small company to cultural phenomenon.”
In Style Magazine


“The hourlong program is a feast of kitschy archival footage and telling interviews with veteran “Tupperware ladies.”  It’s also a revealing glimpse into the 1950s.”
Renee Enna, Chicago Tribune


“The new documentary reveals much more than plastic trivia as it tears down stereotypes of women in the 1950s...(Brownie) Wise led troops of women on the path of entrepreneurship, training them to host Tupperware parties in living rooms across postwar America during a time when women had few economic choices.      
Aiden Fitzgerald, The Boston Sunday Herald


“(Kahn-Leavitt’s) cheerful yet nuanced documentary provides…a remarkably perceptive narrative on        emerging American businesswomen in 1950s America.  By becoming risk-taking entrepreneurs, they remade themselves and helped transform the commercial and social landscape around them.…(The film’s) tone is gracefully balanced and deftly edited.  What could have been an exercise in kitschy nostalgia is instead a nimble overview of a burgeoning feminism as experienced by two gifted but eccentric individuals.  There’s a provocative subtext that stays with you.
Russ Barker, South End News


"Rating: ***   Local filmmaker Laurie Kahn-Leavitt zips us back to the 1950s, when Massachusetts inventor Earl Tupper and go-getter Brownie Wise rallied a legion of housewives to sell the plastic containers that ruled the world....Through interviews with Tupperware ladies, amazing clips from company films and a heavy dose of vintage songs, Kahn-Leavitt evokes the country's postwar materialism and the opportunities Tupperware presented to thousands of working-class women."
Paul Sherman, The Improper Bostonian


“As seen in the loads of great-looking footage that Kahn-Leavitt has unearthed for TUPPERWARE!, the (home party) ritual is performed by a proselytizer who soft-sells nothing less than the American Dream.”
Josh Levin, The Washington DC CityPaper


“Director Laurie Kahn-Leavitt has assembled a dazzling parade of rare kitschy 1950s footage. The viewer gets a glimpse at Tupperware Ladies' home movies, Tupperware Jubilee footage, ads and television excerpts. This footage is interwoven with stories told by Tupperware ladies who witnessed the company's early years.”
Amy King, American Film Institute,  Silverdocs Festival


“A Trailblazer, Rediscovered.  In the chauvinistic 1950s, when most women didn’t work or were relegated to menial jobs, Brownie Wise built Tupperware into a multimillion-dollar business.  In TUPPERWARE!, a documentary that will appear on PBS this spring, Laurie Kahn-Leavitt assesses Wise’s marketing genius – and her shocking 1958 ouster.”
Nadine Heinz, Inc. Magazine


“Filmmakers have so delighted in debunking the idyllic myth of 1950s America that exposing the era’s seamier side has almost developed into its own genre…Now a new documentary, bereft of salaciousness but chock-full of drama, reveals the surprising truth behind a beloved 1950s trademark: Tupperware.”
Catherine Dupree, Harvard Magazine


“This astounding tale of grit, pluck and door-to-door determination blows the lid off the Tupperware myth, charting the stellar rise and tragic fall of marketing maven Brownie Wise.  Keeping it fresh since 1954, the Tupperware tale is anything but stale.”
Carleton Kirkham, Mill Valley Film Festival


“This is the engrossing and oddly inspirational story of the famous “burping” plastic kitchenware invented by Earl Silas Tupper.  But the heroine is Brownie Wise, a kind of Lucy Ricardo/June Cleaver role model who convinced women that they could get out of the house and earn an income.  The slim glamorous Wise – she has been called ‘the smiling siren of styrene’—became the corporate face of the Tupperware empire.  When her story takes an unexpected turn, it is surprisingly touching.”
C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle

“The documentary is hilarious…this is a must-see.”
Golden Isles Weekend Issue, Georgia


“Some of the real-life characters interviewed are so entertaining they could appear alongside the Costanzas on a Seinfeld episode.”
Jennifer Rose Marino, Savannah Morning News


“Tupperware!  So uncool, it’s cool.”
What’s Hot Now, InStyle Magazine


“Brownie Wise and the Tao of Tupperware: the bowls that burp make for a surprisingly riveting documentary.”
Catherine Dupree, Jungle Magazine


“The seven years when Tupper and Wise collaborated were an amazingly productive brand-building time; they represent an intriguing slice of 1950s American life.”
Kelly Alexander, Saveur Magazine


“Laurie Kahn-Leavitt has discovered a rich and colorful history, elevating the story of the bowls that burped into a documentary work of art.”
Linda Matchan, The Boston Globe


“TUPPERWARE! ranks as must-see TV.”
Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel


“An amusing look behind-the-scenes of a distinctive American consumer product success story, TUPPERWARE! mixes fun archival materials and contemporary interviews”
Dennis Harvey, Daily Variety


“Kahn-Leavitt is never condescending to her subject; even the strangest, silliest old footage comes across with dignity.  Tupperware – as strange as it sounds – changed lives, and this fine tribute is touching, inspiring, and not in the least plastic.”
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times





“I think you've packed a lot of very subtle and important information into a very lean format--the history is there, the impact that sales had on women, the life stories. The object is more at the center of the story as a kind of pivot around which things swing (or bounce)--very effective. And the story of Earl and Brownie comes through very clearly.....You've managed to get the "corporate line" in without allowing it to dominate the story. This is a darker film than "Midwives Tale"! and certainly has many rich veins I could use in a class on women's history, business history, consumerism, and popular culture……You've told a very complex story with efficiency and depth. It's already on my classroom list!!”
Angel Kwolek-Folland, University of Florida, Women’s Studies


“I think it's just about perfect.”
Nicole Biggart, University of California/Davis, Business


“This first-ever documentary of highly secretive Tupperware is a punchy, at times comical, and consistently well filmed story of the innovative methods, origins, and inherent contradictions of this extraordinarily successful enterprise.  The film can serve as a provocative teaching tool for a variety of topics – channel strategy, leadership, organizational fit, harnessing distributed intelligence, dynamics of social coercion and the evolution of resilient and remarkably agile organizational design.”
Richard Pascale, Oxford University
former faculty, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business


“You found just the right balance between celebration of the women (including Brownie Wise), critical assessment of the company and the fifties, and humour. It was such fun to see what you did with the interviews, home movies, music, etc.  Though the audience seemed to be a great mix of people, you drew everyone in.”
Carol Karlsen, University of Michigan/Ann Arbor, History

“I haven’t seen anything else that conveys so well what the 50s were like.  There are many many levels to this film.”
Joyce Antler, Brandeis University, History






The Connection/NPR
You can listen to the hour long show at the WBUR website.  Filmmaker Laurie Kahn-Leavitt was interviewed along with Tupperware pioneer Anna Tate.  They discussed the lives of women in the 1950s, the opportunities offered to Tupperware Ladies, and the rise and fall of Brownie Wise, the self-taught sales whiz who built the Tupperware empire.  The show is a call-in show, and the show is lively and interactive.

The Today Show


Boston Globe, Ideas Section
Filmmaker Laurie Kahn wrote a long feature article about Brownie Wise, the marketing genius who built an empire based upon women’s needs and women’s networks, and compared her life and cultural impact to that of Martha Stewart.


CNN Headline News
Producer/writer/director Laurie Kahn was interviewed on CNN Headline News just before the film was broadcast on PBS.


All Things Considered
Producer/writer/director Laurie Kahn spoke with ATC host Melissa Block just before the film was broadcast on PBS.




“DoHistory has a lot of implications as a model project for the teaching of history and many other liberal arts disciplines.”  
A history professor in Ohio


“The full-text transcriptions and original documents are invaluable aids to scholarship.”
A museum curator


“great site!”
A midwife in Texas


“As a former museum anthropologist and educator and volunteer, my mind is reeling with the possibilities.”
A woman in Canada




A Midwife’s Tale


Midwife's Tale Press Quotes


"This 'American Experience' special deals not with history writ large, but with the daily events in the last 27 years of one hardworking 18th and early 19th-century woman's life, chronicled by her in a series of notebooks, and brought to the world at large by an intrepid 20th century historian......[W]here else would we learn that, in his late 70s, Martha's husband, Ephraim, was committed to debtor's prison (where he spent 17 months) -- not because he failed to pay his own taxes, but because he was not assiduous enough in collecting them from others."
Barbara D. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal


"This Tale sheds light on the poorly documented world of women, giving traditional history new dimensions and color."
Time Out New York


"Best Historical Drama of 1997: local filmmakers Richard Rogers and Laurie Kahn-Leavitt's A Midwife's Tale, an inventive and experimental way to make the American past breathe life.  Spielberg really should have taken a look before trying to do Amistad."
Gerald Peary , The Boston Phoenix


"'I really liked the project, and when I met with [Director] Dick [Rogers] we really hit it off,' [Director of Photography, Steven] Poster says. 'To me, it was very exciting to do this small, 16 mm film.  I like having the opportunity to do good, quality films; it's real art.'  [Peter] Stein was equally enamored of the project.  'This is one of the films I'm most proud to have worked on,' he says.  'It's a project filled with integrity.
Rogers: 'For me, the whole issue was not to make a romantic vision, but something natural, with a respect for the existing light, which consisted mostly of firelight, a few candles, and whatever light came into the settings from outside.'”
Brooke Comber, American Cinematographer


"'A Midwife's Tale' is an intriguing study of efforts to reconstruct early American domestic life using diaries kept by a Maine woman from 1785 to 1812.  The journals were left by Martha Ballard, a midwife who was an ancestor of Clara Barton."
TV Guide


" Director Richard P. Rogers endows the film with a timeless, universal quality by the beauty of the lighting and photography and elegance of the sound design.  He and director of photography Peter Stein create images that seem transposed from paintings by Vermeer, Chardin, or Wyeth….
A Midwife's Tale is a film of almost tactile pleasure and keen intelligence -- a rare combination."
Betsy Sherman, The Boston Globe


"[S]talwart Kaiulani Lee, who plays Ballard brings compelling gravity to the sometimes harsh, sometimes mundane events, which touch on still-hot issues of race, class, religion, and gender."
Ken Eisner, Variety


"As a whole it is a conscientious, often moving effort to flesh out the woman from the diary's cryptic, sometimes puzzling words and to carry us back into an America that labored under pioneering rigors."
Walter Goodman, The New York Times


"The film is anchored by actress Kaiulani Lee's subtle underplaying of the stoic-seeming Ballard.  Lee is aided and abetted by Richard P. Rogers's skillful direction and a supporting ensemble cast that illuminates and enlivens a distant past."
Bruce McCabe, Boston Sunday Globe


"Kahn-Leavitt, a Watertown resident, has gotten fan mail and e-mail from all over the world and admits she didn't expect to change people's lives with this film."
Nicole Bishop, Cambridge Chronicle


"'I think Laurie (Kahn-Leavitt) has created for herself an extraordinary challenge....This is kind of Merchant-Ivory-plus.'"
Karen Everhart Bedford, Current


"This American Experience video is everything one could hope for in a historical film.  Laurie Kahn-Leavitt and Richard P. Rogers have put together a very classy production that does exactly what public history should do: it informs the public about how historians craft the stories of history at the same time as it informs us about life in a time and a place quite different from our own.  The production bears witness to what can be accomplished when a skilled historian is matched with equally skilled filmmakers, designers, and actors.
Alison Duncan Hirsch,The Public Historian

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