From The “When Women Wrote Hollywood Archives 05: Clip from Don Juan (1926) Written by Bess Meredyth

Months of research went into the creation of the essays in “When Women Wrote Hollywood.” Here are some of the resources used to enlighten today’s film lovers to the female pioneers who helped create it.


From The “When Women Wrote Hollywood Archives 05: Clip from Don Juan (1926) Written by Bess Meredyth

From The

Don Juan is a 1926 American romantic Adventure film directed by Alan Crosland. It is the first feature-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc sound system with a synchronized musical score and sound effects, though it has no spoken dialogue.[4] The film is inspired by Lord Byron‘s 1821 epic poem of the same name. The screenplay was written by Bess Meredyth with intertitles by Maude Fulton and Walter Anthony.[5]

Don Juan stars John Barrymore as the hand-kissing womanizer.[5] The film has the most kisses in film history, with Barrymore kissing (all together) Mary Astor and Estelle Taylor 127 times.[6]  — Wikipedia


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29 Jane Espenson from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction – Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (1 minute 15 seconds)

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The Sisterhood of Science Fiction: A Walk Through Some Writers and Characters You (Should) Know And Love

29 Jane Espenson from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction - Dr. Rosanne Welch

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This one allowed me to riff on some of my favorite female science fiction writers across time, whether they be novelists or television writers. It also opened up a good conversation on what art we support and include in our lives – and what that art says to us and about us. — Rosanne

Transcript:

This lady I love. Jane Espenson. She got her start in Star Trek. Many women writers in television were first given a script on some version of Star Trek whether it was Deep Space 9 or The Next Generation. She’s been around a long time. She also worked on Buffy which is one of my favorite shows which is really particularly well-written. She created Warehouse 13 which I thought was an adorable show and a great interesting premise about all the objects in the world that were alien objects and when they passed through history they were hidden in a big warehouse. If they got stolen, people could take the powers of early people because they were inside the object. So, you know, Marilyn Monroe’s hairbrush made you sexy because it turned you into a platinum blonde and we couldn’t put that out in the world because there’d be way too much of that going on. Really cute interesting stuff. Of course, she also wrote the Battlestar Galactica. She wrote one of the best episodes of Once Upon A Time. It was called Red-Handed and it has to do with the real story of Red Riding Hood and werewolves and how those two stories converge and it’s just so brilliantly and it uses our biases about gender and power against us to not predict where it’s going. So it’s a really lovely interesting piece of writing. I think is in the third season.



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31 Ruth Gordon from “When Women Wrote Hollywood” with Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] ( 1 minutes 15 seconds)

Part of the California State University, Fullerton Faculty Noon Time Talks at the Pollak Library.

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Transcript:

Ruth Gordon. Now we’re up to Ruth. Ruth only wrote four movies together with her husband Garson Kanin. Two of them you’ve heard of Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike these are Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy vehicles. This couple was best friends with Gordon and Kanin and they wrote the movies outside of the studio system. If you worked as a writer in a studio you got assigned something to work on. These two just wrote movies they wanted to in their own house and then sold them to the studio to actors they knew so nobody rewrote them and they were on the set through most of the production because they hired George Cukor who was a famous director, and another friend of theirs, to direct them. What I think is important for us to think about Ruth is that — and I love Katharine Hepburn and I don’t want to like mess with her reputation too much — but she has a reputation for being a feminist. That’s wrong. Katharine Hepburn stayed the mistress of Spencer Tracy their entire relationship. He never left his wife and she never left him for not leaving his wife. Rumor has it — stuff has come out lately — that he actually beat on her and she put up with that. That’s not a feminist woman. Her characters in the films were feminists because guess why? Ruth was. Ruth was writing herself and her own attitude.

Dr. Rosanne Welch discusses the women in her new book “When Women Wrote Hollywood” which covers female screenwriters from the Silents through the early 1940s when women wrote over 50% of films and Frances Marion was the highest paid screenwriter (male or female) and the first to win 2 Oscars.  Yet, she fails to appear in film history books, which continue to regurgitate the myth that male directors did it all – even though it’s been proven that the only profitable movies Cecil B. de Mille ever directed were all written by Jeannie Macpherson film ever won for Best Picture was written by Robert E. Sherwood (who people have heard of, mostly due to his connection to Dorothy Parker) and Joan Harrison.


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From The “When Women Wrote Hollywood Archives 04: Facts and Fancies about a Woman You Know or Ought to Know. Motography, Vol. VIII, No. 8, October 12, 1912, 293-294

Months of research went into the creation of the essays in “When Women Wrote Hollywood.” Here are some of the resources used to enlighten today’s film lovers to the female pioneers who helped create it.


Facts and Fancies about a Woman You Know or Ought to Know. Motography, Vol. VIII, No. 8, October 12, 1912, 293-294

From The

From The

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IT has been your privilege to know something of the ups and downs of the film business, you who read the ever recurring numbers of this particular brand of yellow-backed journal, and you will be surprised to know that with it is identified a real, for sure woman. This woman, because she has dared to follow her own pleasure into the mysterious realm of motography. becomes at once more interesting than her sisters who merely contribute toward the making. Madam Alice Blache. president and general manager, director and producer, makes films. Get that; she makes ’em. There isn’t any part of the game she doesn’t know. Sbe started early, but she lays claim of being “the oldest man in the business!”

Read more


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28 D.C. Fontana from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction – Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (1 minute 9 seconds)

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The Sisterhood of Science Fiction: A Walk Through Some Writers and Characters You (Should) Know And Love

28 D.C. Fontana from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction - Dr. Rosanne Welch

 

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This one allowed me to riff on some of my favorite female science fiction writers across time, whether they be novelists or television writers. It also opened up a good conversation on what art we support and include in our lives – and what that art says to us and about us. — Rosanne

Transcript:

I like novels but I also like TV a lot. I’m a pretty big pop-culture person. So I wanted to look a little bit into the women who’ve written science fiction on television. We don’t hear a lot about them. We know this show. Everyone’s heard of it even if you’ve never seen it. Everyone credits it to Gene Roddenberry, who is the man who invented it. He’s quite a brilliant man. That’s wonderful but along the way he hired this lady DC Fontana who went by the name DC because she didn’t think they’d hire a girl named Dorothy to write a science fiction television show. So she got the job as DC Fontana and did it – she’s worked in every iteration of Star Trek including the games, including the animated series on Saturday. She’s been involved in Star Trek forever and was involved in the very beginning — Wrote several episodes in the first original series. Wrote a few early novels that were out. So she was deeply embedded in that show and embedded in creating powerful female characters and also on creating the alien — the Vulcan guy, Spock, giving him a background. She created much of the background of his culture because culture was important to her. So she’s pretty cool and of course they loved her so much they made — they put her in the animated show. They made an animated version of her.



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In Memoriam: D.C. Fontana and How William Shatner’s Chest Inspired one (or more) Female Television Writers to Succeed in the Boys Club of Hollywood

In fond memory of D.C Fontana, who died yesterday at the age of 80, I am reposting this homage I wrote for the Mindful(l) Media podcast in 2015. She will be greatly missed. – Rosanne


In Memoriam: D.C. Fontana, Star Trek & Women via Mindful(l) Media

How William Shatner’s Chest Inspired one (or more) Female Television Writers to Succeed in the Boys Club of Hollywood

As a child I didn’t come to Star Trek for the fantasy or for the fun futuristic optimism or even for the glory of the gadgetry of the tricorders and communicators. I came for William Shatner’s chest. Glimpsed quickly one day while changing channels, my pre-adolescent hormones screeched to a halt as I sat transfixed. That tight Star Fleet uniform shirt truly rippled across his chest, which seemed to strain to be released. We didn’t ‘flip’ in those pre-remote days. We sat in front of the set and manually spun the dial like the combination lock on our high school lockers, which brought us in to much closer contact with the (sometimes still black and white) pictures flashing upon our (compared to modern day frightfully small) screens. I don’t even remember which episode it was that first placed his pecs in front of me, but this obsession with Shatner’s chest focused me so much so that I never cared for the writers’ propensity for finding ways for his co-star to flaunt his own brand of sexuality. Forcing the unfeeling Mr. Spock to feel never moved me at all, so in second, third and fourth runs I never found “This Side of Paradise” much to my liking. In the epic mash up between Sexy Shatner and Sexy Spock, Shatner always won. But being a budding television writer even as a ten year old, I recognized in the idea the need to offer the actor a way out of the rigid character description enforced upon him by his creator.

Fontana 1970sViewed now from the perspective of a fifty-year old female television writer and scholar, no longer merely a fan, I find the episode fascinating for what it says about the history of women writers — and the female characters they create — in television. In those days of heady chest-worshipping I didn’t know that the D. C. in D. C. Fontana stood for Dorothy Catherine. When I later learned that information from reading The Making of Star Trek, I took her success as a beacon for my own journey, as did many other future female television writers I came to meet throughout my career. While countless books have been written about the influence of the program on science fiction and on television in general, what I came to learn was the influence Star Trek wielded on bringing women into the industry — and how their participation changes the way female characters are portrayed.

Because of Fontana, future writers of future Trek franchises invited other female writers to pitch ideas so that, to my great joy twenty years after I stumbled upon the original Trek, I found myself in the offices of Star Trek: The Next Generation pitching ideas for stories involving what was still largely a boys club of characters. Sure, they had accepted two women into their continuing cast — both in ‘soft’ occupations as ship’s counselor and medical doctor and still under the command of Captain Picard. But the franchise had proved a stepping stone for a variety of female writers I admired (including Jane Espenson and Melinda M. Snodgrass) and I was excited to be among them. I never sold a story to that iteration of the show, but I kept watching — and kept noticing — that written by women, female characters were (and sadly are still) often more developed (in ways other than their chest measurements).

In “Paradise” that is true of what actress Nichelle Nichols is given to do as our cast regular female, Lt. Nyota Uhura (whose first name I never knew until the writing of this essay) and what Jill Ireland is given to do as the guest character, Spock’s former girlfriend, Leila (who in the tradition of sex objects was never provided a last name). Normally confined to dialogue discussing ‘hailing frequencies’ and only seen taking orders from Captain Kirk, in “Paradise” Uhura commits mutiny against her captain. He has to state for the Captain’s log that, “Lt. Uhura has effectively sabotaged all communications.” While all the male starship members also commit mutiny, Uhura is given one-on-one screen time with the lead actor to do so. Likewise, while Leila seems at first to only be demonstrating that the most perfect, porcelain-faced blonde can even be sexy in overalls, she was also spouting Thoreau (as in Henry David) and his brand of 19th century Transcendentalist philosophy to Spock — and to the audience. For a show airing at the height of the hippie movement, Leila served as a mouthpiece for their dream of peaceful co-existence, one not yet shared by other generations. In several online interviews Fontana has chosen Leila as one of her favorite characters, so we know much of what Leila says comes from Fontana’s own philosophies.

Of course, in the end television was then (and still is now) a man’s world so Uhura’s and Leila’s interests are eventually subsumed by Kirk’s desire to prove, “Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is.” This philosophy discounts ‘woman’ as part of ‘man’ and makes the female-gendered idea of creating peace and happiness submissive to the more male dominant idea of success defined by changing the world around him. Why is a love of nature, as evidenced in Spock’s line: “I have seen a dragon… but I’ve never stopped to look at clouds before, or rainbows” less of an ambition for man? Even the American Founding Fathers cared more for the land and its beauty than these final frontier founders seem to do as they travel the galaxy. Why is the existence of this previous girlfriend and the chance to hear “I love you” from a formerly feeling-less alien male, less of an ambition of (wo)man?

Fontana 2012Despite her straining to include her voice in this world, the male producer(s) still stamped their voice on the final product that became “This Side of Paradise”. Over the course of my career, I came to learn that Fontana shared that experience with many of the female writers who followed her, each one planting just enough seeds or dropping just enough breadcrumbs of her own opinion onto the fields of male creation for the rest of us ‘chick writers’ to follow. Where as a child I saw “This Side of Paradise” as an epic battle between sexy male leads, as an adult I see it as the continued battle for the hearts and minds of the audience waged by writers of different genders. It is a fight that several other sisters have carried on through the decades and one I’m willing to declare has been won by a relative newcomer to the scene, Shonda Rhimes. Through the creation of her own new frontier in Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes provides male and female audiences alike with an all-inclusive world entirely conceived in a female mind. What do both the male and female doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital hope to provide their patients everyday? As Rodenberry provided a masculine ‘trek’ for man into the final frontier, the feminine goal Rhimes provides her characters is right there in the title of the hospital, ‘grace’. (And thanks to D. C. Fontana, Shonda chose to use her first name in her credits.)

All this musing makes me wonder how many young female writers are now coming to their careers because of a love of the way Patrick Dempsey’s chest ripples under his uniform shirt?

30 Lillian Hellman from “When Women Wrote Hollywood” with Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (55 seconds)

Part of the California State University, Fullerton Faculty Noon Time Talks at the Pollak Library.

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Transcript:

Another woman — we’re moving kind of through — now we’re moving to the 40s and 50s — Lillian Hellman. More people know of her because she was a playwright. They know about her winning some Tony’s and then her stuff was transferred to film. The Children’s Hour was almost a Pulitzer Prize winner but it’s the story of two lesbian women who run a girl’s school and one is accused of lesbianism and the Pulitzer Prize committee actually came out and said “we’re not giving an award to a movie that discusses that” — Oh to a play, excuse me. So it was won that year by Zoe Akins for a play that has been falling out of — nobody cares about anymore — et people are still performing The Little Foxes and you can still of course watch the Bette Davis version, which is quite brilliant. So Lillian Hellman is a pretty amazing woman. She’s also famous to us because during the Blacklist there was a threat of blacklisting her and when she was asked to give names to the committee in Washington that’s what she said — which could have destroyed her career.

Dr. Rosanne Welch discusses the women in her new book “When Women Wrote Hollywood” which covers female screenwriters from the Silents through the early 1940s when women wrote over 50% of films and Frances Marion was the highest paid screenwriter (male or female) and the first to win 2 Oscars.  Yet, she fails to appear in film history books, which continue to regurgitate the myth that male directors did it all – even though it’s been proven that the only profitable movies Cecil B. de Mille ever directed were all written by Jeannie Macpherson film ever won for Best Picture was written by Robert E. Sherwood (who people have heard of, mostly due to his connection to Dorothy Parker) and Joan Harrison.


Buy a signed copy of when Women Wrote Hollywood

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** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
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27 Nnedi Okorafor from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction – Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (23 seconds)

Watch this entire presentation

The Sisterhood of Science Fiction: A Walk Through Some Writers and Characters You (Should) Know And Love

27 Nnedi Okorafor from The Sisterhood of Science Fiction - Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (23 seconds)

Subscribe to Rosanne’s Channel and receive notice of each new video!

 

This one allowed me to riff on some of my favorite female science fiction writers across time, whether they be novelists or television writers. It also opened up a good conversation on what art we support and include in our lives – and what that art says to us and about us. — Rosanne

Transcript:

One of the most recent newer writers in the world is Nnedi Okorafor and she just won the World Fantasy Award in 201 — the World Fantasy Award for Best new novel Binti which is a fascinating novel but she’s got a couple out as well that I think are worth paying attention to. Again when he’s thinking about reading again she’s thinking about putting people of African descent in the future. That’s something she thinks of course is important so I think it was pretty cool. She’s Nigerian.



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From The “When Women Wrote Hollywood Archives 03: Anita Loos Papers 1917-1981., Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library

Months of research went into the creation of the essays in “When Women Wrote Hollywood.” Here are some of the resources used to enlighten today’s film lovers to the female pioneers who helped create it.


Anita Loos, screenwriter and novelist, was born on April 26, 1893, in Sisson, CA, the daughter of R. Beers and Minnie Ellen Loos. Miss Loos wrote the subtitles for D. W. Griffith’s film, Intolerance, in 1916. Her best known work is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She died on August 18, 1981, at the age of 93. The Anita Loos Papers consist of scripts, essays and articles from her career as a screenwriter and novelist. The bulk of the collection dates from 1917-1969. There are also adaptations of her works, unfinished scripts and research notes.


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29 A Female Perspective from “When Women Wrote Hollywood” with Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (34 seconds)

Part of the California State University, Fullerton Faculty Noon Time Talks at the Pollak Library.

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29 A Female Perspective from

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Transcript:

So we have three women always involved in the original A’Star Is Born”. See anything missing in the current version? Isn’t that interesting and one of the critiques of this current version is that they spend too much time on Bradley Cooper’s character. It becomes the story of the star who is dying not the story of the star who is being born. That’s probably one of the reasons –while it’s making tons of money because Lady Gagas wonderful and they’re good in the film — — critically it didn’t quite work. That, to me is the juice that was missing right? We needed the female perspective.

Dr. Rosanne Welch discusses the women in her new book “When Women Wrote Hollywood” which covers female screenwriters from the Silents through the early 1940s when women wrote over 50% of films and Frances Marion was the highest paid screenwriter (male or female) and the first to win 2 Oscars.  Yet, she fails to appear in film history books, which continue to regurgitate the myth that male directors did it all – even though it’s been proven that the only profitable movies Cecil B. de Mille ever directed were all written by Jeannie Macpherson film ever won for Best Picture was written by Robert E. Sherwood (who people have heard of, mostly due to his connection to Dorothy Parker) and Joan Harrison.


Buy a signed copy of when Women Wrote Hollywood

…or via Amazon…

Paperback Edition | Kindle Edition | Google Play Edition

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library