When Women Wrote Hollywood – 18 in a series – June Mathis

To highlight the wonderful yet largely forgotten work of a collection of female screenwriters from the early years of Hollywood (and as a companion to the book, When Women Wrote Hollywood) we will be posting quick bits about the many films they wrote along with links to further information and clips from their works which are still accessible online. Take a few moments once or twice a week to become familiar with their names and their stories. I think you’ll be surprised at how much bold material these writers tackled at the birth of this new medium. — Rosanne Welch


When Women Wrote Hollywood – 18 in a series – June Mathis

When Women Wrote Hollywood - 18 in a series - June Mathis

June Mathis (January 30, 1887 – July 26, 1927) was an American screenwriter. Mathis was the first female executive for Metro/MGM and at only 35, she was the highest paid executive in Hollywood.[1] In 1926 she was voted the third most influential woman in Hollywood, behind Mary Pickford and Norma Talmadge.[2] Mathis is best remembered for discovering Rudolph Valentino and writing such films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and Blood and Sand (1922).

Mathis was determined to become a screenwriter and, accompanied with her mother, she moved to New York City, where she studied writing and went to the movies in the evenings.[6] She entered a screenwriting competition; but despite not winning, her entry was so impressive it did bring job offers. Her first script, House of Tears, would be directed by Edwin Carewe in 1915 and led to a contract in 1918 with Metro studios, later to be merged into MGM. As one of the first screenwriters to include details such as stage directions and physical settings in her work, Mathis saw scenarios as a way to make movies into more of an art form. Much of the standard screenwriting styles can be attributed to her. Mathis later credited her success to a strong concentration on plot and theme: “No story that did not possess a theme has ever really lived…. Occasionally one may make money and perhaps be popular for a time. But in the end it dies.”[6]

By 1919 Mathis and her mother had moved to Hollywood. After only a year of screenwriting, she had advanced to the head of Metro’s scenario department.[7] She was one of the first heads of any film department and the only female executive at Metro.[8]

During her early years, she had a close association with silent star Alla Nazimova. Their films together can be said to be marked by over-sentimentality; what little praise these films received was due to Nazimova’s acting rather the conventional romantic stories.[6] Wikipedia 

Watch a movie by June Mathis

More about June Mathis


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† Available from the LA Public Library

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