From ‘Greatest Girl Reporter’ to ‘Mother Confessor of Hollywood’ Adela Rogers St. Johns Wrote Herself into the History of the 20th Century – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, October 2022

Each month I celebrate the female screenwriters who came before us in an article in Script Magazine. This month’s spotlight comes from one of the first Hollywood memoirs I ever read from my small library in Bedford, Ohio – that of Adela Rogers St. Johns. They called her the Mother Confessor of Hollywood since so many stars of the 30s, 40s, and 50s came to her to help them out of a scandal (or two). A journalist who covered the film industry, she was first known as ‘The World’s Greatest Girl Reporter’ and then became ‘Mother Confessor of Hollywood’. Along the way, she garnered 38 writing or story by credits with the 1991 Final Verdict teleplay based on her memoir of sitting in courtrooms watching her famous father, trial lawyer Earl Rogers.

From 'Greatest Girl Reporter' to ‘Mother Confessor of Hollywood’ Adela Rogers St. Johns Wrote Herself into the History of the 20th Century – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, October 2022

After meeting Jane Murfin in last month’s column and hearing about her contribution to What Price Hollywood? (1932), it is time to meet that film’s co-writer: Adela Rogers St. Johns. Along with Murfin, she earned the Best Writing, Original Story nomination at that year’s Academy Award ceremony. Yet her true fame came in two titles that spanned her career as a journalist who covered the film industry. She began as ‘The World’s Greatest Girl Reporter’ and became ‘Mother Confessor of Hollywood’. Along the way, she garnered 38 writing or story by credits with the 1991 Final Verdict teleplay based on her memoir.

Read From ‘Greatest Girl Reporter’ to ‘Mother Confessor of Hollywood’ Adela Rogers St. Johns Wrote Herself into the History of the 20th Century


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

16 The Forgotten Screenwriter from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

16 The Forgotten Screenwriter from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

Transcript:

Rosanne: So it’s, to me, something I’m still battling. Even teaching students, they’ll come to my classes and I ask them to name their top five movies and then who directed them and then who wrote them and they can always name the five directors and unless it’s a writer/director, they don’t remember who wrote the movie and I have to tease them because they’re coming to become writers and they haven’t focused on the work of other writers. We should know the body of work of screenwriters as well as we know the body of work of writers like Hemingway or Faulkner. We should be able to say – and we do that with like Nora Ephron right? We’re pretty good with that but very few. Nancy Myers, we can kind of kind of know that. Again if you study silent films you know what an Anita Loos film. You know a Francis Marion film. The more you see their work the more you recognize it. So for me, we have to start focusing. The other thing that makes me crazy – that I must change someday – is both IMDb and Wikipedia, when you get the little Google Quick version when you do a search. They give you the movie name and the director. The writer is not in the Google search. You have to go to the page to get it. I’m like oh come on. Add one more line.

Host: I’m glad we’re giving you this platform to put this slogan and maybe you can make a poster or something but no it’s an important part of the history and such a crucial part of every film.

 

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. — RMW Rosanne Signature for Web


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.

Find more information at the Autry Museum of the American West

03 Jeanne Macpherson & Suso Cecchi d’Amico From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

03 Jeanne Macpherson & Suso Cecchi d'Amico From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

Transcript:

So she wrote just a little bit in this piece that was published all about her theories of screenwriting. Many other women of the day had written in this and what’s interesting is Emilio Cecci came to the states to study how Hollywood did film so he could bring that to Cine Citta and make some money in Italy and he had a daughter named Suso Cecchi d’Amico and she became the core screenwriter in the world of Italian Neo-Realism. She remembered in many interviews that she had read this booklet, as she described it, and that what she kept in mind were these things that Jeanne had said about screenwriting – the three elements: The crucial moment. The beginning of new and the end of the first one. Seems pretty basic but these people were thinking how do we make movies work and so this was new ideas to them. So it’s a woman taking information from another woman mentoring her into how she will run her career in an entirely different country. Which also I think is lovely to fit into in Claus’s theme and she remembered that for many years she was interviewed and there were oral histories done of her and she always kept going back to this one thing she’d read from Jeanne Macpherson which I think is beautiful.

Watch this entire presentation

At the recent Screenwriting Research Network conference in Vienna, I gave this talk titled “From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S.”

In the talk, I trace the ways a manual about screenwriting by silent film writer Jeanne Macpherson influenced Suso Cecchi d’Amici who began to utilize Macpherson’s ideas and became the queen of Italian neorealism screenwriting in Europe. Then those Italian neo-realist screenwriters in turn inspired the Los Angeles School of Black Independent Film Makers (the L.A. School). In turn, such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima, and Julie Dash and their ideas fueled Spike Lee. Finally, when he became the first Black man to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (where Suso had once served) his choice of films influenced yet another generation of screenwriters.

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

15 We Quote Dialogue, Not Camera Moves from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

15 We Quote Dialogue, Not Camera Moves from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

Transcript:

I kind of pick on Hitchcock because it’s Joan Harrison who wrote several of his films and got an Oscar nomination for “Rebecca” right, but you don’t think about Joan Harrison movies. You think about Hitchcock movies right and so that to me is really unfair and there’s also this concept that in the world of Hollywood, directors are so masculine – since mostly men did that– and the writers are like the girls of the town right? They’re the female part of the team. The heart versus the brawn and that’s really stupid because artists – male or female – are more sensitive that’s why they’re artists. That doesn’t mean they should be considered any less in the hierarchy of the creation of this story. For me, they should always be considered more because when you quote movies you’re quoting dialogue. Those are your favorite lines and the writer is the one who did that.

 

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. — RMW Rosanne Signature for Web


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.

Find more information at the Autry Museum of the American West

02 Who was Jeanne Macpherson? From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

02 Who was JeanneMacpherson? From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

Transcript:

So we’ll start back with Jeanne McPherson. This is Jeannie McPherson and yes that’s a picture of her with Cecil B Demille. So this is mostly where you see her photographs in the world. She was also an aviator and several years ago at a conference, I saw a marvelous presentation on how women are always there at the beginning of a new thing like the Wild West and women aviators in America and all over the world were doing flying until it became a job that made money and then suddenly women couldn’t be hired to fly anymore and you had to have had experience in the military, where they hadn’t allowed women to fly. So suddenly you couldn’t be a pilot anymore and certainly couldn’t be an astronaut until they broke that rule. So same thing happened in early Hollywood. All these women are working like crazy and then suddenly it becomes the system and they’re all slowly petered out. Often it was because the movie Moguls offered them new contracts – after 20 years of working as screenwriters and being their own directors and casting – they were offered contracts as Junior writers to work with men who would teach them how to do it and to that they said: “I’m going home and writing my own novel.” So they and they didn’t know that by doing that they pulled themselves out of the history and therefore we’re archaeologically discovering all of them.

Watch this entire presentation

At the recent Screenwriting Research Network conference in Vienna, I gave this talk titled “From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S.”

In the talk, I trace the ways a manual about screenwriting by silent film writer Jeanne Macpherson influenced Suso Cecchi d’Amici who began to utilize Macpherson’s ideas and became the queen of Italian neorealism screenwriting in Europe. Then those Italian neo-realist screenwriters in turn inspired the Los Angeles School of Black Independent Film Makers (the L.A. School). In turn, such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima, and Julie Dash and their ideas fueled Spike Lee. Finally, when he became the first Black man to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (where Suso had once served) his choice of films influenced yet another generation of screenwriters.

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

14 More On Writer Vs. Director from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

14 More On Writer Vs. Director from What Is a Western? Interview Series: When Women Wrote Westerns from the Autry Museum of the American West [Video]

Transcript:

There is a classic Robert Riskin story. He’s the guy who wrote all the Frank Capra movies and it’s and anecdotal – the idea that one day he got so mad about the “Capra Touch.” They handed in 200 blank pages and he said ‘Go ahead. Put your touch on that.” Because you can’t direct nothing, right? So there’s a lot of reasons why in the Forties-ish we start getting these celebrity directors and the problem with teaching directors as the heads of their movies is that, largely, they were men. So we’re teaching the great, male history of the world again when many of those stories were written by women.

 

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. — RMW Rosanne Signature for Web


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.

Find more information at the Autry Museum of the American West

01 Introduction From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

01 Introduction From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. [Video]

Transcript:

…The woman I’m going to start with is Jeannie McPherson who is also a famous silent film screenwriter of that period. As famous as Marion was in her own day. Forgotten much in the history books because she wrote for Cecil B. Demille. She wrote all the films that he made that made money. She was also one of his three mistresses and so textbooks tell you she was his mistress and they forget the part where she wrote the movies that made him money. Yes. So I love Jeannie and I borrowed this title from this play which I love “Vanyan and Sonya and Masha and Spike.” It just seemed to suit me perfectly but I wanted to credit the author. I did not make up the title. I’m Rosanne Welch. I am working with Stephens College which is in Missouri but we run our MFA programs in Los Angeles. So it confuses everybody because I live in LA. I don’t live in Missouri. Our theme of our program is Write, Reach and Represent which of course suits everything that everyone’s been talking about today. I’m very excited about that. My background is that I came from being a television screenwriter and wrote on all these shows and then came into Academia and was like how are people learning how to do this because not everybody’s very good at it and then I’ve written on these various Books. Thank you for mentioning “When Women Wrote Hollywood” which has chapters on Jeannie and many of these other women we can talk about. I also am the book review editor for “The Journal Of Screenwriting” so if you want to review a book – you have a book that needs reviewing – let me know because we always need more reviews all right. So that’s a good thing and we’re here doing Global Screenwriting.

Watch this entire presentation

At the recent Screenwriting Research Network conference in Vienna, I gave this talk titled “From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S.”

In the talk, I trace the ways a manual about screenwriting by silent film writer Jeanne Macpherson influenced Suso Cecchi d’Amici who began to utilize Macpherson’s ideas and became the queen of Italian neorealism screenwriting in Europe. Then those Italian neo-realist screenwriters in turn inspired the Los Angeles School of Black Independent Film Makers (the L.A. School). In turn, such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima, and Julie Dash and their ideas fueled Spike Lee. Finally, when he became the first Black man to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (where Suso had once served) his choice of films influenced yet another generation of screenwriters.

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

At the recent Screenwriting Research Network conference in Vienna, I gave this talk titled “From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S.”

In the talk, I trace the ways a manual about screenwriting by silent film writer Jeanne Macpherson influenced Suso Cecchi d’Amici who began to utilize Macpherson’s ideas and became the queen of Italian neorealism screenwriting in Europe. Then those Italian neo-realist screenwriters in turn inspired the Los Angeles School of Black Independent Film Makers (the L.A. School). In turn, such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima, and Julie Dash and their ideas fueled Spike Lee. Finally, when he became the first Black man to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (where Suso had once served) his choice of films influenced yet another generation of screenwriters.

From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike:  How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S. (Complete)

The ‘Strongheart’ of Screenwriter Jane Murfin – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, September 2022

The 'Strongheart' of Screenwriter Jane Murfin – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, September 2022

Before there was the Lady Gaga remake of A Star is Born there was the 1937 original A Star is Born, written by Dorothy Parker (see Column #3 in this series). Before that, there was What Price Hollywood? (1932), written by Jane Murfin (and Adela Rogers St. Johns) which earned a Best Writing, Original Story nomination for the two female screenwriters at that year’s Academy Award ceremony.

Few Hollywood history books ever reference the name Jane Murfin even though she wrote and co-wrote and directed over 60 produced films in a career spanning over three decades and was a founding member of the Screenwriter’s Guild. She was one of the most prolific writers of the 1920s and ’30s.

Read The ‘Strongheart’ of Screenwriter Jane Murfin


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

24 Conclusion from Why Torchwood Still Matters (2021) with Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video]

I recently presented a talk on Torchwood (Why Torchwood Still Matters) where I highlighted a few ways in which the show (airing from 2006 to 2011) came up with progressive and innovative ideas that are being used by other franchises today. 

I always enjoy attending the SD (San Diego) WhoCon because the audiences are so well-informed on the Whoniverse and Whovians love Captain Jack and the crew that made this spinoff program so engaging.

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

24 Conclusion from Why Torchwood Still Matters (2021) with Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video]

Transcript:

…because my argument with my friend that started all of this was that at the end of “Children of Earth” when Jack has to sacrifice his grandson, for all the good work that Russell has done with female characters my argument was, why wasn’t that his son? Because by making it his grandson – if you remember – the mother was outside the room banging on the door. So he usurped his daughter’s power as the parent of her own child and killed him as opposed to – if it was his son – I mean you shouldn’t kill your kid – you know what I am saying – that was like this one degree of separation and that made her character useless and unempowered and I don’t know why that occurred to him at all. So that was my argument and that’s actually what my article is about – why that didn’t work dramatically for me in that it dealt with that female character but it started the whole thing and caused me to be very interested in Torchwood.

Watch this entire presentation