Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, June 2022

Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back – Dr. Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, June 2022

 

This month in my monthly column for Script Magazine – which “celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us” — I turn the spotlight on playwright turned screenwriter Laura West Perelman. She wrote 6 films, many adapted from plays she had co-written with her husband, humorist S. J. Perelman. I learned more about her when I researched them both for my dissertation “Married: With Screenplay” which studied several married screenwriting couples from the early days of Hollywood.

What I learned that happened often with married couples is that many of the female screenwriters were lost to history as newspapers referred more often to their husbands as the authors of the works. Unless the woman was equal or more famous than her writing partner husband (such as was the case with Dorothy Parker, Ruth Gordon, and Frances Goodrich Hackett) the contribution of the wifely part of the partnership was ignored, even by later oral historians. So it’s nice to have a place to bring their names back into the conversation about their screenplays.

Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

Screenwriter Clara Beranger – From Silents to Talkies to Teaching – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, April 2022

Screenwriter Clara Beranger - From Silents to Talkies to Teaching - Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, April 2022

 

As with several silent film screenwriters, earlier careers in journalism and playwriting during the 1910s brought Clara Beranger to Hollywood. She would amass 85 credits between 1913 and 1934, bridging the worlds of silent and sound films.

Born Clara Strouse in Baltimore, Maryland on January 14, 1886, to a department store dynasty, she graduated in 1907 as a Phi Beta Kappa at Goucher College. She gained her professional surname when she married Albert Berwanger and kept it (except for the ‘w’) after their divorce. They had one child, a daughter named Frances, in 1909.

Read Screenwriter Clara Beranger – From Silents to Talkies to Teaching


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Hope Loring – Winging Her Way to the First Oscar Win – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, March 2022

Hope Loring - Winging Her Way to the First Oscar Win - Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, March 2022

Hope Loring co-wrote Wings (1927), the first film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Film at the inaugural ceremonies in 1927. The story of World War I fighter pilots involved in a love triangle starred Clara Bow and is the first on-screen appearance of a young Gary Cooper.

Born in Barcelona, Spain (or maybe Madrid) in 1894 Loring had moved to England at the age of 2 to live with an aunt after her parents died in a car accident. At the age of five, the aunt moved her to the United States where she studied dance and literature at various boarding schools. At 14 Loring sold her first short story to a magazine. She reported that she had come to Los Angeles by 1916 after stints as an extra in New York and drama critic in Florida.

Read Hope Loring – Winging Her Way to the First Oscar Win


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Elinor Glyn Recognized “It” Before Anyone Else -Because She Had “It” – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, February 2022

Script contributor Dr. Rosanne Welch celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us with this month's spotlight on author turned Hollywood screenwriter Elinor Glyn.

From Marilyn Monroe to Lady Gaga it seems one actress every generation is said to have “It” but few know that a female screenwriter of the silent era coined that still current phrase. Meet Elinor Glyn. Her life as a high society wife in England fed the novel-writing success that brought Glyn an invitation to Hollywood at the age of 56.

Through marriage, she had gained the glamour of being a member of the titled nobility. Yet she soon learned he had less funds than could support their lifestyle, so Glyn became a writer, publishing a book a year to keep her family’s finances afloat. Her ‘naughty’ novels – because they involved women involved in torrid affairs — became best sellers. That success caused the Hearst publishing company to sign Glyn to write articles and – recognizing the power of the film industry – Glyn included a clause for the motion picture rights.

Read Elinor Glyn Recognized “It” Before Anyone Else – Because She Had “It”


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Screenwriter Eve Unsell, Hitchcock’s Mentor Who Saved Universal’s European Operation — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, December 2021

Screenwriter Eve Unsell, Hitchcock’s Mentor Who Saved Universal’s European Operation -- Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, December 2021

 

Born in Chicago in 1888 (or thereabouts, different sites report different dates), writer-producer Eve Unsell grew up in Caldwell, Kansas. After earning her undergraduate degree and working as a journalist for the Kansas City Post, she attended graduate school at Boston’s Emerson College for a year. There she studied drama and literature before heading to New York. After reading one of her short stories, theatrical agent Beatrice deMille (mother of Cecil and William) hired to work as what was then called a play reader and constructionist. During her career, Unsell accumulated nearly 100 credits as a screenwriter while writing for notable stars including Mary Pickford, Lon Chaney, Clara Bow, Baby Peggy and Jack Benny.

Read Screenwriter Eve Unsell, Hitchcock’s Mentor Who Saved Universal’s European Operation


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Alice Burton Russell Micheaux: “Breaking Barriers on Two Fronts” — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, November 2021

Alice Burton Russell Micheaux: “Breaking Barriers on Two Fronts” -- Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, November 2021

 

Film history texts often neglect female screenwriters and completely omit the names of women of color such as Alice Burton Russell Micheaux, wife of filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Script contributor Dr. Rosanne Welch rightly so celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us with attainable insight about filmmaker Alice Burton Russell Micheaux.

Read Alice Burton Russell Micheaux: “Breaking Barriers on Two Fronts” — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, November 2021


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June Mathis: An Eye for Talent — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, October 2021

June Mathis: An Eye for Talent -- Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, October 2021

Though she wrote over 100 films in the Silent Era and was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, June Mathis appears in film history books (when she does) as a writer-producer with an eye for talent in that she gave both Buster Keaton and Rudolph Valentino their debuts on film.

She came to film from an early career as a child in vaudeville, despite suffering from undiagnosed heart issues. Born as June Hughes in 1887 in Leadville, Colorado there was no father listed and the child would later take Mathis, the last name of her stepfather, as her own.

Read June Mathis: An Eye for Talent — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, October 2021


Read about more women from early Hollywood


Contract or No Contract, Bess Meredyth Made Movie Magic — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, September 2021

Contract or No Contract, Bess Meredyth Made Movie Magic -- Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, September 2021

Bess Meredyth is one more name to add to that list of Silent Hollywood’s most prolific and respected screenwriters yet few textbooks mention her name – or her work as both a writer and producer in that period. In fact, when her son John Meredyth Lucas wrote a memoir of his own screenwriting career he never thought to interview her about her career. That’s how easy it can be to be forgotten and why it is so important to highlight these stories today.

Read Contract or No Contract, Bess Meredyth Made Movie Magic — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, September 2021


Read about more women from early Hollywood


Jeanie MacPherson – The Genius Behind DeMille — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, August 2021

 Jeanie MacPherson - The Genius Behind DeMille -- Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, August 2021

Script contributor Dr. Rosanne Welch shines a light on Jeanie MacPherson, a trailblazing screenwriter from the silent era who would eventually come to write a bulk of famed Hollywood mogul Cecil B. DeMille’s box office hits.

As with many other female Silent Era screenwriters Jeanie Macpherson began her career as an actress (appearing in over 147 films). Then she became a writer/director at Universal (writing 54 films) and eventually met Cecil B. DeMille, for whom she would write the bulk of his box office successes. In 1927, Macpherson became one of only three women, the other two being Mary Pickford and Bess Meredyth (more on her in a future column) who helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (along with thirty-three male screenwriters). She was also a suffragette – and a pilot in those early days of aviation when, like the new world of motion pictures, even the skies were open to female trailblazers.

Read Jeanie MacPherson – The Genius Behind DeMille — Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script magazine, August 2021


Read about more women from early Hollywood


24 Conclusion from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

24 Conclusion from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript:

…and then there were many many stories in this one particularly, very quickly, there were people in the room who wanted to shoot down your ideas. Again reading the room and I had an idea about dealing with teenage young men who were fathers and lived in gangs and they had to make a commitment to their real family not their gang family. I knew that someone else in the room would not want me to have the extra script that year because that’s a nice chunk of money he would rather have. So my joke is I followed my executive producer into the bathroom because she was a woman and so was I and then I pitched her while we were washing our hands. So that when we walked back in the room, she already liked the idea and for someone else to shoot it down would be to say she had a bad idea and therefore I got whatever. So reading the room has always been a very important lesson. As well as remembering the doctors have power. Whenever you think about side characters, think about making them ethnic because that’s really important and then these are just the things that I learned from the room. You have to do research. You have to think about your nightmares. You have to speak up. I teach my female students this all the time. Please speak up. Don’t wait for the boys to give you a moment because they won’t and then I learned a lot and then I will briefly just say teachers make great writers because they do and collaboration doesn’t just happen in tv right because these guys collaborated on those films we have to recognize that so collaboration and chaos makes good quality presentations. Thank you.

 

For more information on the Screenwriting Research Network, visit

Screenwriting Research Network Conference, Porto, Portugal, All Sessions


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