Nearly two years ago I had the pleasure of being invited to join a panel at the then upcoming SCMS (Society of Cinema and Media Studies) conference set for Seattle. As you know that was canceled due to Covid with the hopes of reconvening in Colorado in 2021. That became a virtual conference but our group decided to reapply our panel and we four were able to ‘meet’ on Zoom on Sunday and present: Writing Between the Lines: Feminist Strategies for Historical Absences, Cliché, and the Unreliable Narrator.
Here you can watch a clip from my part of the presentation,
“When Men Forget Women: The Many Ways Male Screenwriters Fail to Mention their Female Colleagues in Oral Histories”
To be fair, it does happen to male screenwriters sometimes. Nunally Johnson is the one who adapted ‘The Grapes of Wrath” and John Ford, who directed actually wrote in a book that he said, “You know people are credit this particular shot with my genius but you wrote it down in the scripts.” Right? And Nunally was like, ‘I don’t know who’s going get the attribution but I know I wrote it and that’s all that matters.” So, he didn’t particularly care but his name disappears so badly that obituary writers are terribly unreliable narrators. When Nunally Johnson’s wife died – she was the actress Dorris Bowden who played Rose O’Sharon in The Grapes of Wrath – they called it John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath and they said that she left acting after she married that film’s screenwriter. They took his name out of his wife’s obituary. Who’s more important in her death? Her husband or the guy who directed a movie she did fifty years ago? Clearly think about that and she herself was very proud of how John Steinbeck had talked about Nunally Johnson’s writing because he was so brilliant. So to erase him out of her obituary is ridiculous.
Watch this entire presentation