Anita Loos: An Introduction with Dr. Rosanne Welch, Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting and the Retroformat Silent Film Society [Video]

Anita Loos: An Introduction with Dr. Rosanne Welch, Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting and the Retroformat Silent Film Society [Video]

During each of our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting we take our MFA candidates on field trips around Los Angeles and this January that included the screening of a silent movie – “The Social Secretary” – hosted at the Historic Women’s Club of Hollywood with a full audience. Many attendees had never watched a film shown from a projector, much less a silent film on such a large screen with live piano accompaniment. The MFA co-sponsored the event with the , a group dedicated to promoting education and enthusiasm about the art of silent film.

I was happy to be asked to deliver this introduction to the work of screenwriter and novelist Anita Loos whose work bridged the worlds of silents – where she was instrumental in creating the swashbuckling character for Douglas Fairbanks – to talkies and screenplays to novels to Broadway plays. Her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes remains a classic, never having gone out of print, and it led to several film versions including the famous one starring Marilyn Monroe. Her book for Gigi helped give the play a successful transition to the well-known film that showcased Leslie Caron.

If you don’t know much about this prolific woman writer, check out my introduction and then go watch some of her films, many of which are on YouTube. Yet the experience of seeing it on the big screen became one of this Workshop’s most appreciated events.

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Transcript:

…Rosanne Welch. [Applause]

Hello everybody. I am Dr. Rosanne Welch. I run the Stevens College MFA and TV and Screenwriting where we study film with a female gaze.

So we study Anita Loos and so I’m gonna –– we’re here for an hour and a half lecture right?

Very quickly, I just want to make sure people who are here know what we’re talking about. First of all, what we do in our program is we teach the history of screenwriting because in most places they teach you the history of film and that tends to be the history of directors which becomes the history of Great Men. While we love men, women founded Hollywood and need to be remembered.

So I was really pleased when Tom said I have the Anita Loos print and I was like, oh yeah Anita Loos. We study her. We love her and it would be lovely to see it with real live accompaniment. 

[Applause]

I’m gonna say a very quick things about Anita. I want people who don’t know her to know these things. First of all, we have to remember her as the first person to put wit in her title cards and today when someone writes a television or film script, in their action lines they use that technique. They use their own voice. They say funny things. They don’t just say the door opens right? They are still doing something essentially we learn from Anita. So I think that is a reason that she should stay with us. I think it’s also important to remember her as a star maker. She’s the reason you know who Douglas Fairbanks is. He was just the stumblebum actor until she made him a swashbuckler and then he became the Douglas Fairbanks –– the founder of the Academy right? She also –– I’m sure many of you can think about Carol Channing and Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Talk about a character that lived forever in that actress. So I think that’s brilliant for Anita. She was also known for her diligent work ethic. The woman got up at five o’clock and wrote until two or three in the afternoon and then dealt with business ––  that and she would tell people she didn’t work very hard. It wasn’t very hard at all. Think about that. So I think that’s really beautiful. I think it’s important to think about all the literary friends she had. She was friends with Theodore Dreiser , and H.L. Mencken –  these are major names of their day. Interestingly enough her name is still a little more famous than theirs are. So there’s something about her work. Though people made fun of films and film writing clearly she survived where some of their stuff isn’t read that much anymore and also she was a brilliant friend to other women in the business and we know that that’s how everyone who moves up in the world by taking the next person below you and bringing them up right? So she was friends with the young Ruth Gordon. Y’all don’t remember when she was young but she was and Anita was someone who helped her move forward in the business. She was best friends with Helen Hayes who many people remember. So the idea that she understood that sisterhood was the way to help everybody. So those are the reasons that I still admire Anita. I always say that I met her when I was six years old – not the person but in her memoirs and so if you haven’t read A Memoir of hers you should because they’re funny and witty and teach us a lot about this time period and also we’ve written about her in this book which we will have for sale afterward. There you go. I’ll teach Tom how to sell. Which was written by the first inaugural students in our program about seven years ago and there’s a chapter on 25 different famous female screenwriters of that period. So if you’re interested we’ll have some more of those and we’ll talk afterward and we have three of the original authors of chapters right here with me tonight. So with that, I hope that everybody adores if you haven’t met Anita Loos before you will listen to her voice today and laugh. Have a great night.

[Applause]

 

Most Hitchcock Films are Harrison Films – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, January 2023

Most Hitchcock Films are Harrison Films – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, January 2023

The main problem with the auteur theory that allows phrases like “Hitchcock film” to seep into our conversations is that it dismisses the work of the screenwriter who comes up with the theme, the plot, and the characters – or if they are adapting a novel, which themes, which plot lines and which characters they choose to include, combine or leave behind. The auteur theory is a false idea that grants all the credit for a film to one person despite our understanding that film is a collaborative medium. The films written and later produced by Joan Harrison prove this fallacy quite well. 

Read Most Hitchcock Films are Harrison Films


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

The new classics: 10 of the best feminist films you need to watch in your lifetime

The new classics: 10 of the best feminist films you need to watch in your lifetime

Recently, I was quite happy when sent this link to a RUSSH website and their article The new classics: 10 of the best feminist films you need to watch in your lifetime.

Why? Because among the 10 they chose are 3 that Peg and I cover in the new book American Women’s History on Film (On the Basis of Sex, Hidden Figures, Confirmation):

Check out the rest in American Women’s History on Film:

Remember, you don’t have to buy the book to read it – you can request that your local library buy a copy that can then be shared with many, many others!

A Woman’s Life – and a Story – Meant for the Movie – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, December 2022

A Woman’s Life – and a Story - Meant for the Movie  – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, December 2022
Script contributor Dr. Rosanne Welch celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us with this month’s spotlight on prolific screenwriter and author Lorna Moon. Between her start as a Scottish author to her time as a Hollywood screenwriter Lorna Moon lived a life meant for the movies, yet no one has tackled her bio-pic yet.

Read A Woman’s Life – and a Story – Meant for the Movie


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

New Book Available: American Women’s History on Film – Hollywood History Series #2 – Dr. Rosanne Welch and Dr. Peg Lamphier

It never grows old… today the 2nd book in the Hollywood History series that I co-wrote with my dear friend and colleague, Peg Lamphier, arrived on my doorstep. American Women’s History on Film covers 10 films that focus on some area of women’s history, usually through the eyes of a bio-pic since that is mostly the way women’s history is told.

New Book Available: American Women’s History on Film - Hollywood History Series #2

American Women’s History on Film is part of the Hollywood History series from ABC-Clio that included our earlier title The Civil War on Film. What’s been most fun about being part of this project has been the perfect way it split between my and Peg’s specialties. She is a Civil War historian, and my specialty is Screenwriting Studies — together we are both women’s history professors – so each book focused on an area in which one of us had perfect expertise.

Hollywood History Civil War On Film cover

As well, we learned from earlier books that we had to be very specific about the cover art we wanted on each of these books – that it should have a female presence on the Civil War book (since the assumption was they’d choose some photo of male soldiers on a battlefield) so for that book, they gave us a photo including Sally Field playing Mary Todd Lincoln beside Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln. For the current book, we were even more specific and requested women of color – and they gave us this lovely photo from Hidden Figures.

Having it All: Phoebe Ephron Gave Birth to Several Classic Films and 4 Female Screenwriters – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, November 2022

Having it All: Phoebe Ephron Gave Birth to Several Classic Films and 4 Female Screenwriters – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, November 2022

In 1914 Phoebe Wolkind was born in New York City. She graduated from Hunter College and worked as a counselor at a summer camp where she met Henry Ephron, a stage manager for famous playwriting team George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. They married in 1934 and shortly thereafter they began writing together after encouragement from Kaufman and Hart.

Yet, it was not until after the birth of their first daughter, Nora, in 1942 that something they wrote, Three’s a Family, found financial backers for a Broadway production. Notably, it began their habit of using personal family experience in their stories. Three’s a Family ran for over a year. Rather than adapting their own play, RKO Studios hired Phoebe and Henry to adapt The Richest Girl in the World, a play by Norman Krasna, turning it into the film Bride by Mistake. With that assignment, they moved to Los Angeles full time and on to a contract at Warner Brothers Studios, where they became adept at adapting plays and writing screenplays based on stories created by other writers, including Reginald Denham’s Wallflower (1948), a second Norman Krasna play, John Loves Mary (1949), and Look for the Silver Lining (1949).

Read Having it All: Phoebe Ephron Gave Birth to Several Classic Films and 4 Female Screenwriters


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

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

 

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

 

Dr. Rosanne Welch at the beach in Stazzo, Italy via Instagram [Photography]

Dr. Rosanne Welch at the beach in Stazzo, Italy via Instagram [Photography]

The accidental pose reminds me of the Venus de Milo.

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31 Conclusion from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

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

31 Conclusion from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

Writing of your own work and the rewriting of other people is a very important part of your job and I think this quote sticks with me from “Rosa” and I don’t know if Mallory Blackman wrote it or if Chibnall wrote it but “Tiny things can change the world” which is that lovely moment at the end of Rosa. So it’s not just a story about history in the United States because now there is this meteor named after her right? So the idea of the bigness of all of this right and they were all part of the same planet which really goes back to “Star Trek” again and we should all come together. I think that’s so truly a part of Doctor Who that he caught he captured in that line. I just love that moment. I think it’s so beautiful and I think amazing the way that stories we see on television affect our lives and help us make choices and ideas and think about who we are. So that to me is the biggest job that he did. Again he had to cast this room full of these people and I think he did a good job of all of those. So I really think he did a good job. I know we’re not all completely always happy with him but I think he made a promise and he came through on it and to me that’s pretty successful. When you’re handed a franchise that’s 50 years old and what new thing are you going to come up and do with it. So that’s my story on Chris Chibnall. Thank you all for coming.

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Watch this entire presentation