Without Lying Down
Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood
Publication Year: 1998
Published by: University of California Press
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Wednesday evening, November 5, 1930, Fiesta Room of the Ambassadorwriting for her original story The Big House, she became the firstwoman writer to win an Oscar. Since 1917, she had been the high-est-paid screenwriter in Hollywood—male or female—and was hailed as"the all-time best script and story writer the motion picture world has ever...
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...arion Benson Owens first publicly documented her creative talentsexpelled from all public schools." As a rule, she was very well behaved, hav-ing been taught early "the hypocrisies of social graces." Yet while othersmight see her dismissal as something to be ashamed of, Marion was alwaysto view it with a sense of accomplishment. Just twelve years old, she had...
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The demands of building his father's business kept Robert downtown allday and into the night, and Marion failed to find domestic life particularlysatisfying. It had been difficult enough to play the role of society matron inSan Francisco where at least there was a society. This Los Angeles wasLos Angeles in 1912 was a sprawling flatland stretching between the...
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...he 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 con-trast to the many other companies that used vacant buildings on theempty lots during the winter months. (The term "shooting on the lot" cameThe executive office building was two stories of steel and concrete and...
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...ranees took the 7:30 ferry across the Hudson River to Fort Lee thenext morning and arrived at World studio's front gate, where theshe 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 witha confidence beyond his years, strode toward her with an outstretched...
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...ranees had been working nonstop for almost a year. As head of thescenario department, she reviewed all World's scripts as well as writ-ing her own. She helped cast the films, supervised screen tests fornew talent, and often directed scenes. At night she watched films, bothhers and those from other studios, and still she churned out five "Daily...
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...y the summer of 1917, Douglas Fairbanks had skyrocketed to fame. Ithad been a year and a half since he had met Mary and while he hadbeen immediately taken with her, she was attracted slowly as they saweach other at various functions, often in the company of their respectivespouses. They shared a unique experience in their mutual stardom and...
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...ary Pickford was married to one man and in love with another, butshe still had an eye for a handsome face. In her position as theirArtillery 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 Februaryevening in 1918, Mary spotted a six-foot-two, blue-eyed, sandy-haired full-...
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...ranees was greeted at the dock by reporters eager to hear her warstories. The reception had been arranged by Pete Smith, the FamousBos worth films. Frances used the opportunity to champion the talents ofWesley 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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Fred met her, but she had not let herself believe it was anythingserious. Fred had written, very matter-of-factly, about his pride inFrances'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 inOn page one, the Los Angeles Herald ran a large studio publicity picture...
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...n May of 1920, Fred and Frances sailed for Europe. They bought a car anddrove through Spain, along the French Riviera, and over to Genoa andPisa. The road to Florence was particularly dusty and they were slowed bythe muddy terrain on the way into town, but they spent several days enrap-tured by the array of artwork, particularly the Raphaels and Botticellis....
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...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 homeunselfishly showed him the lay of the land. Silver King was offered a stall atHoot Gibson's stables, where he stood a full head higher than the pintos...
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...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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...n her "spare time" Frances was finishing the novel she had started duringtheir summer at Chappaqua, The Rise and Fall of Minnie Flynn. It was afairly serious tale of a poor young girl from the New York tenementsclimbing to stardom through luck and fate without learning enough aboutherself and the world around her to maintain her good fortune. Frances...
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...ranees had been talking about filming the popular novel Stella Dal-"It's a beautiful woman's story," Sam asserted confidently. "I'mFrances was unable to resist asking, "As a female impersonator?""He looked at me sharply for a moment. When he laughed, I put theFrances always considered the conversation a defining moment in their...
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...n February of 1926, minor shock waves went through the business end ofthe film industry when it was announced Joseph E Kennedy had boughtcontrol of R-C Pictures Corporation and Film Booking Office of America.Wall Street experience was unique for a studio head; almost all the othercompanies were run by men who had grown up with the industry after...
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...arge estates began to proliferate around their hill and Jack Gilbert'snew home was right opposite theirs in Benedict Canyon. One nightFrances went out to check on her nieces, who were supposedly tak-ing a late-night swim, but instead found them congregated around the tele-scope that was to be for stargazing, now directed at the Gilbert home. The...
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...decided it was time to stop jumping between assignments and stu-,dios and settle into a long-term arrangement. Her personal life waschanging, and so was the business of making movies; mergers, competitionfor distribution, and rising costs over the past few years had sharply reducedSince completing The Scarlet Letter and The Red Mill at MGM, she had...
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...required, Frances knew she was at MGM to stay. Distasteful as itoften was, she was willing to play the role of loyal functionary whenrequired. It was with that awareness that she opened her invitation toattend the May 11, 1927, banquet in the Crystal Ballroom of the BiltmoreHotel to "celebrate" the official organization of the Academy of Motion...
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Contrary to the impression that Al Jolson opened his mouth to singand all of Hollywood stopped dead in its tracks, the "talkie" revolu-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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...red's image as a problem solver and a man of action was accurateveiled corporate nightmare. Kennedy continued to demand huge fees forFred's services in order to keep him off the screen and he was forced intoPrivately, Fred vacillated between grandiose plans and depression. Heplayed in the pool with his young sons and worked on a new thirty-foot...
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...or the first few months following Fred's death, Frances was numbwith the pain of loneliness. The very foundation of her existencealone with two babies to raise, twenty horses to feed, and a huge estate tomaintain, her only comfort came from her belief that the children were soFrances sat for hours at the organ or the piano and friends gingerly came...
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...rances's world had crashed the year before with Fred's death, so in theweeks following October 29, 1929, she witnessed the results of thestock market crash with a surreal sense of detachment. She comparedthe collective feeling of vulnerability and the frantic but futile search for a safehaven to being in a disastrous earthquake and her compassion was saved for...
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...he idea first came to her as she was watching Marie Dressier on theset 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 asimilar backdrop of the sea. And then it occurred to her she might be ableLorna had been working at MGM since 1927 and wrote four scenarios...
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...jng that she would use it as a base to look for something more per-manent. She had bought beach property in Venice with two houses on it,but in her determination to maintain their friendship, George took one ofthe 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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...returned home, Doug Fairbanks left on a pleasure trip to the Ori-_ ent and Frances and Mary went to work filming Secrets. While shehad kept up the pretenses of being the happy hostess of Pickfair, Mary wentbefore the cameras more determined than ever to show her worth on thescreen and with a new level of desperation to save her marriage. She had...
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...t the studio that summer of 1933, no one seemed to be in charge.Frances was treated with deference, but for the first time she feltmeetings in the hallways both bored and appalled her. Her contract expiredShe 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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...ranees returned to MOM in the middle of April 1935 and picked upwhere she left off, which to Anita Loos's relief meant being handedback the script of Riffraff. What Frances had started as Shantytownfor Mary Pickford and then tried to alter for Gloria Swanson and ClarkGable had gone from a melodrama to a comedy and back again. Irving had...
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...ranees returned to MOM in January of 1937, but her plan "to write,was now officially Mayer's right-hand man and he offered her a con-tract strikingly different in tone and content from any of her previousagreements. Her salary was $2,500 a week, but on a week-to-week basisthat could be terminated at any time by either party. She no longer had any...
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...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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...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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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...
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Page Count: 475
Publication Year: 1998