By Michelle Graff
“Radium Girls” stars Joey King (Hulu’s “The Act,” FX’s “Fargo”) and Abby Quinn (2019’s “Little Women,” Netflix’s “Black Mirror”) as dial-painters Bessie and Jo Cavallo. It will be in theaters and available to stream Friday.
New York—The story of the women who were sickened painting watch and clock dials with radioactive glow-in-the-dark paint in the early 20th century is being retold in a feature film.

Directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler, “Radium Girls” opens Friday in select theaters and also can be screened virtually.

Set in 1925, the movie stars Joey King and Abby Quinn as Bessie and Jo Cavallo, composite characters inspired in part by three real-life sisters who worked in the dial-painting factory in Orange, New Jersey: Quinta Maggia McDonald, Albina Maggia Larice and Amelia “Mollie” Maggia, who was the first dial-painter to die when she passed in September 1922.

Bessie, an aspiring actress, and Jo, who wants to be an archeologist, are employees of the fictional American Radium Factory whose dreams are derailed when Jo falls ill.

The cause, they eventually figure out, is radium, a finding American Radium vehemently denies despite having research to the contrary.

The Cavallo sisters, along with other dial painters who have fallen ill, take the company to court on behalf of Jo and the other women who have become sickened by ingesting radium.

The release of “Radium Girls” brings the story of the real-life dial-painters—whose courageous actions laid the groundwork for worker protections in the United States—to the big screen, though it has been told in documentary and book form before.

“Radium City,” directed by Carole Langer, came out in 1987, and in 2017, London-based author Kate Moore published a nonfiction book about the women who labored in dial-painting factories in both New Jersey and Ottawa, Illinois.

National Jeweler did a Q&A with Moore earlier this year in which she detailed her writing and research process for “The Radium Girls” and discussed parallels to the current situation in which many essential workers find themselves due to COVID-19.

VIDEO: The Trailer for ‘Radium Girls’

“Radium Girls” the movie was produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher and Emily McEvoy, with Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner among the executive producers.

Mohler and Brittany Shaw wrote the screenplay.

To see where it’s playing near you or to pre-order a virtual ticket, visit

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