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Without Lying Down

Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood

Cari Beauchamp

Publication Year: 1998

Cari Beauchamp masterfully combines biography with social and cultural history to examine the lives of Frances Marion and her many female colleagues who shaped filmmaking from 1912 through the 1940s. Frances Marion was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter—male or female—or almost three decades, wrote almost 200 produced films and won Academy Awards for writing "The Big House" and "The Champ."

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-9

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pp. 9-13

As Frances Marion rose to accept the Academy Award for Screenwriting for her original story The Big House, she became the first woman writer to win an Oscar. Since 1917, she had been the highest- paid screenwriter in Hollywood—male or female—and was hailed as "the all-time best script and story...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 13-37

Marion Benson Owens first publicly documented her creative talentsexpelled from all public schools." As a rule, she was very well behaved, having been taught early "the hypocrisies of social graces." Yet while others might see her dismissal as something to be ashamed of, Marion was always to view it with a sense of accomplishment. Just twelve years old, she had...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 25-37

...The demands of building his father's business kept Robert downtown all day and into the night, and Marion failed to find domestic life particularly satisfying. It had been difficult enough to play the role of society matron in San Francisco where at least there was a society. This Los Angeles was Los Angeles in 1912 was a sprawling flatland stretching between the...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 38-50

The Bosworth complex on Occidental was, for its time, state of the art.It had been built from the ground up as a year-round studio, in contrast to the many other companies that used vacant buildings on the empty lots during the winter months. (The term "shooting on the lot" came about because that is exactly what they were doing.)The executive office building was two stories of steel and concrete and...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 51-62

Frances took the 7:30 ferry across the Hudson River to Fort Lee the next morning and arrived at World studio's front gate, where the she was a writer, he unceremoniously pointed to a bench and said, "Wait for 'Sternie.' " After an hour, a slight young man in his late teens, walking with a confidence beyond his years, strode toward her with an outstretched...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 63-74

Frances had been working nonstop for almost a year. As head of the scenario department, she reviewed all World's scripts as well as writing her own. She helped cast the films, supervised screen tests for new talent, and often directed scenes. At night she watched films, both hers and those from other studios, and still she churned out five "Daily...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 75-86

By the summer of 1917, Douglas Fairbanks had skyrocketed to fame. It had been a year and a half since he had met Mary and while he had been immediately taken with her, she was attracted slowly as they saw each other at various functions, often in the company of their respective spouses. They shared a unique experience in their mutual stardom and...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 87-100

Mary Pickford was married to one man and in love with another, but she still had an eye for a handsome face. In her position as their Artillery and blew a special silver whistle to start the camp football game. On the field and at the dinner at the Hotel del Coronado that February evening in 1918, Mary spotted a six-foot-two, blue-eyed, sandy-haired full-...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 101-112

Frances was greeted at the dock by reporters eager to hear her war stories. The reception had been arranged by Pete Smith, the Famous Bos worth films. Frances used the opportunity to champion the talents of Wesley Ruggles and Harry Thorpe yet found it difficult to articulate the"What may come as an aftermath of all I saw and experienced is more...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 113-122

...Fred met her, but she had not let herself believe it was anythings erious. Fred had written, very matter-of-factly, about his pride in Frances's work during the war and Clara knew they had spoken of mar-riage, but it wasn't until February 12, 1919, that she realized the truth in the black and white of newsprint.1,...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 123-131

In May of 1920, Fred and Frances sailed for Europe. They bought a car and drove through Spain, along the French Riviera, and over to Genoa and Pisa. The road to Florence was particularly dusty and they were slowed by the muddy terrain on the way into town, but they spent several days enraptured by the array of artwork, particularly the Raphaels and Botticellis....

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Chapter 11

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pp. 132-141

...a large home at 744 Windsor Boulevard and put $3,000 down, agreeing tothe asking price of $83,000. Their next-door neighbor was Harold Lloyd,with whom they became lifelong friends, but they still had to find a home unselfishly showed him the lay of the land. Silver King was offered a stall at Hoot Gibson's stables, where he stood a full head higher than the pintos...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 142-153

...absorb the blows of reforming citizens and headline writers, but theday-to-day work of scenario writers became more complicated. Thestudios hired their own in-house censors and synopses of proposed storieswere submitted to the MPPDA. Yet many producers openly coached thewriters on how to get around the regulations, and Frances laughed when...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 154-168

In her "spare time" Frances was finishing the novel she had started during their summer at Chappaqua, The Rise and Fall of Minnie Flynn. It was a fairly serious tale of a poor young girl from the New York tenements climbing to stardom through luck and fate without learning enough about herself and the world around her to maintain her good fortune. Frances...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 169-179

Frances had been talking about filming the popular novel Stella Dallas-with Sam Goldwyn since one of their first meetings.. "It's a beautiful woman's story," Sam asserted confidently. "I'm Frances was unable to resist asking, "As a female impersonator?" "He looked at me sharply for a moment. When he laughed, I put the Frances always considered the conversation a defining moment in their...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 180-189

In February of 1926, minor shock waves went through the business end of the film industry when it was announced Joseph E Kennedy had bought control of R-C Pictures Corporation and Film Booking Office of America.Wall Street experience was unique for a studio head; almost all the other companies were run by men who had grown up with the industry after...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 190-198

Large estates began to proliferate around their hill and Jack Gilbert's new home was right opposite theirs in Benedict Canyon. One night Frances went out to check on her nieces, who were supposedly taking a late-night swim, but instead found them congregated around the telescope that was to be for stargazing, now directed at the Gilbert home. The...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 199-208

...decided it was time to stop jumping between assignments and studios and settle into a long-term arrangement. Her personal life wa schanging, and so was the business of making movies; mergers, competition for distribution, and rising costs over the past few years had sharply reduced...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 209-217

...required, Frances knew she was at MGM to stay. Distasteful as it often was, she was willing to play the role of loyal functionary when required. It was with that awareness that she opened her invitation to attend the May 11, 1927, banquet in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel to "celebrate" the official organization of the Academy of Motion...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 218-229

Contrary to the impression that Al Jolson opened his mouth to singand all of Hollywood stopped dead in its tracks, the "talkie" revolution was a tenuous process that took several years to evolve. The impact of sound had first been debated in the early twenties as radiobecame a medium of communication, some saying it would have no effectand others convinced it would ruin movies forever. Thalberg had mused, "I...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 230-242

Fred's image as a problem solver and a man of action was accurate veiled corporate nightmare. Kennedy continued to demand huge fees for Fred's services in order to keep him off the screen and he was forced into Privately, Fred vacillated between grandiose plans and depression. He played in the pool with his young sons and worked on a new thirty-foot...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 243-252

...or the first few months following Fred's death, Frances was numb with the pain of loneliness. The very foundation of her existence alone with two babies to raise, twenty horses to feed, and a huge estate to maintain, her only comfort came from her belief that the children were so Frances sat for hours at the organ or the piano and friends gingerly came...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 253-261

Frances's world had crashed the year before with Fred's death, so in the weeks following October 29, 1929, she witnessed the results of the stock market crash with a surreal sense of detachment. She compared the collective feeling of vulnerability and the frantic but futile search for a safe haven to being in a disastrous earthquake and her compassion was saved for...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 262-278

The idea first came to her as she was watching Marie Dressier on the set of Anna Christie. As marvelous as Marie was in the role of Marthy,about the possibilities of a more comedic drama for the actress set against a similar backdrop of the sea. And then it occurred to her she might be able Lorna had been working at MGM since 1927 and wrote four scenarios...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 279-294

...that she would use it as a base to look for something more permanent. She had bought beach property in Venice with two houses on it,but in her determination to maintain their friendship, George took one of the houses after the divorce and she kept the other for weekends or renting.She was looking for a house in town when her friend Hector Turnbull, the...

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Chapter 25

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pp. 295-312

...returned home, Doug Fairbanks left on a pleasure trip to the Orient and Frances and Mary went to work filming Secrets. While she had kept up the pretenses of being the happy hostess of Pickfair, Mary went before the cameras more determined than ever to show her worth on the screen and with a new level of desperation to save her marriage. She had...

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Chapter 26

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pp. 313-325

At the studio that summer of 1933, no one seemed to be in charge.Frances was treated with deference, but for the first time she felt meetings gone around. The power struggles, minicabals, and whispered in the hallways both bored and appalled her. Her contract expired May and she put all her faith in Irving's return. She worked at home on her Paid to Laugh designed as a vehicle for Mar-ion Davies and Bing Crosby in his acting debut. It was what Frances still did...

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Chapter 27

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pp. 326-337

Frances returned to MOM in the middle of April 1935 and picked up where she left off, which to Anita Loos's relief meant being handed back the script of Riffraff. What Frances had started as Shanty town for Mary Pickford and then tried to alter for Gloria Swanson and Clark Gable had gone from a melodrama to a comedy and back again. Irving had...

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Chapter 28

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pp. 338-357

Frances returned to MOM in January of 1937, but her plan "to write, direct and produce" had died with Irving Thalberg. Eddie was now officially Mayer's right-hand man and he offered her a contract strikingly different in tone and content from any of her previous agreements. Her salary was $2,500 a week, but on a week-to-week basis that could be terminated at any time by either party. She no longer had any...

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Chapter 29

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pp. 348-356

...droves; almost two thirds of the skilled employees from the tech-nical crews, scores of writers, directors, cameramen and actors and evenIt was left to Joe Cohn to hand Mayer the list of his stars who enlistedand Frances called "the Big Boss's" attempt to keep them home "the 'tug ofwar* which was won by Washington and the men who were determined to...

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pp. 357-372

...start on the Warners lot, that was thwarted when she discovered upon herarrival that the office they were to use was none other than the old Mariononly four films at Warners before retiring from the screen for good in 1937,Michael Curtiz was in a position to command his own production unitfollowing a series of hits that included The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee...

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pp. 373-378

Elsie Janis continued to work in films and theater in Europe and Americauntil her beloved mother's death in July 1930. Elsie claimed she had nevermarried because her mother was "the most marvelous companion in theworld. There's never been a wild place in Paris, or New York or Chicago thatI wanted to see that my mother wouldn't go along with me to see it.... If I...

Author's Notes

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pp. 379-386


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pp. 387-450


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pp. 435-440


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pp. 441-454


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pp. 455-492

E-ISBN-13: 9780520921382
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520214927

Page Count: 475
Publication Year: 1998