Host: When you look at all of the histories and biographies that you learned about of women screenwriters are there a couple in particular that you wish more people knew? Maybe these are some of the ones you’ve mentioned already, but are there a couple that you just want to sort of shout from the rooftops? This is a classic. This is a person who should be on the marquee.
Rosanne: Oh, yeah. Well, obviously I did mention Frances Marion. She wrote a series of westerns for her husband, Fred Thomson, who was a western star, right? He was right up there rivaling William S. Hart moving into the talkie world. The problem is he died young and when he died she lost her interest in writing westerns because, of course, it was too reminiscent of him. They were right up there with Pickford and Fairbanks except they were a writer/actor team. So I think that Frances Marion is someone who people have to look more into. I love Jeannie MacPherson and she wrote several westerns. Always about a woman going out west and having experiences and surviving the West. Which is really a western story. A lone person – doesn’t have to be a boy or a girl – a long person challenges themselves and succeeds. So I think she is a really big name.
The Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting is building a relationship with the Autry Museum of the American West since both organizations are devoted to bringing out more diverse and untold stories. Last year we were able to take our cohort of graduating MFA candidates to the museum’s theatre for a showing of Michael Wilson’s Salt of the Earth and we had plans to present a film of our choice this year – but of course the pandemic changed all that. Instead, Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis asked me if I would sit for an interview about female screenwriters in the western genre and so “When Women Wrote Westerns” came to be a part of their “What Is a Western? Interview Series”.
I had a great time discussing so many wonderful women writers – from Jeanne MacPherson to D.C. Fontana to Edna Ferber to Emily Andras. If you love westerns I suggest you watch Josh’s other interviews covering everything from the work of Native Americans in Western movies to films in the western-horror hybrid. —
What this entire presentation
As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Rosanne Welch about the women screenwriters of Hollywood and their contributions to the Western genre.