Hattie McDaniel and Gone with the Wind

hattie-mcdaniel-1 (Famous People)
Credit: Famous People

1939 is regarded as one of the greatest years in Hollywood’s history. Some classic films released include The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights and Gone with the Wind. Based on the novel by Margret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind follows the relationship of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) during the American Civil War. The film would go on to break many box office records and win countless awards, including the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Hattie McDaniel. This is special because it was the first Oscar won by a black American.

Hattie McDaniel was born on June 10, 1895. She was the thirteenth child born to Henry McDaniel and Susan Holbert. Her father fought in the Civil War and had major psychological issues later in life, while McDaniel’s mother was a domestic worker. McDaniel was born in Wichita, Kansas, before moving with her family to Denver, Colorado, when she was five. In school she was naturally drawn to music and performance. Even in a school of only two black students, McDaniel’s natural talent gained her classmates’ admiration. Close to the end of her studies, she dropped out of school in favour of pursuing a performance career.

McDaniel travelled with vaudeville acts on the road for a number of years. She gained a reputation for her singing and dancing and was nicknamed “Hi-Hat-Hattie.” She wrote and performed her own Blues songs. In 1930, McDaniel’s siblings, Sam and Etta, invited her to come to Hollywood. They had had minor success getting small parts in films. McDaniel packed her bags and followed suit. By the late 1920s, McDaniel also had a string of successful radio work, most notably The Optimistic Donuts.

Arriving in California, McDaniel took up residence in a middle-class black American area of Los Angeles affectionately known as “Sugar Hill”. She appeared in popular movies, such as Judge Priest (1934) and Show Boat (1936), but still had to keep a second job in order to support herself and her family. Auditioning alongside fellow black American actresses Louise Beavers, Etta McDaniel, Ruby Dandridge and Hattie Noel, McDaniel was cast in the biggest role of her career as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.

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Vivien Leigh and McDaniel in Gone with the Wind Credit: Tribute.Ca

McDaniel was so determined to get the part that she dressed in full costume when meeting with producer David O. Selznick for the first time. McDaniel made an impression. Mammy was the O’Hara family’s maid and helped raise and look after Scarlett from a child. Mammy was originally bought as a slave by Scarlett’s grandmother, but the character was a cherished member of the family. 

Clark Gable played a joke on the set. In the scene where they toast to the safe arrival of baby Bonnie, Gable put real brandy in McDaniel’s glass without her knowing. The two were good friends. Learning that the black American cast members were banned from the film’s Atlanta premier, Gable wanted to boycott the entire event. Atlanta was still a racially segregated state in 1939. McDaniel convinced Gable to attend. She was absent.

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McDaniel and Gable in Gone with the Wind Credit: A Tripe Down Memory Lane

Gone with the Wind was nominated for thirteen categories at the 12th Academy Awards. The film won eight, including Best Picture and Best Director for Victor Fleming. That same year Fleming also directed The Wizard of Oz. McDaniel’s award was presented to her by actress Fay Bainter and she gave a short acceptance speech. She was the first black American to attend the ceremony as a guest and not a servant. As of 2018, McDaniel is one of only six black American women to win an Oscar. In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the second black American to win an Academy Award. 

Opinion of Gone with the Wind was divided among the black community. Some felt Mammy was yet another stereotyped, black maid, while others saw her as a ground breaking, witty and resourceful character. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) criticized McDaniel publicly for her continued portrayal of maid characters. In response, she said “I’d rather play a maid than be one.” McDaniel was proud of her work and felt she was a role model for future generations of black Americans. If any black actors were struggling in Hollywood, and needed a place to stay, she would happily open her doors to them every time.

After Gone with the Wind, McDaniel enjoyed a brief stint of successful work. She had parts in The Great Lie (1941) and Disney’s controversial Song of the South (1946). McDaniel also entertained soldiers during World War II and promoted war bonds. By the mid-1940s, her career was slowing down and she focused more on radio work. She sadly passed away from Breast Cancer on October 26, 1952. McDaniel continued to work until her final days.

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McDaniel accepting her Oscar from Fay Bainter Credit: Hollywood Reporter

McDaniel loaned her Oscar to Howard University but it went missing during the Race Riots of the 1960s. It hasn’t been seen in the years since. She has two stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame in 1975. As part of the Black Heritage series, McDaniel’s likeness was featured on a stamp in 2006. Producers Aaron Magnani and Alysia Allen purchased the rights to Jill Watt’s book, Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood. They plan to make a McDaniel biopic film in the near future.

hattie-mcdaniel-1 (Black Doctor)
Credit: Black Doctor

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on February 14th, 2018. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Get Ready For A Biopic About Hattie McDaniel, The First Black Oscar Winner (http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/hattie-mcdaniel-biopic_us_5a57a204e4b068abc338babd)

Gone With the Wind – iMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

Hattie McDaniel – Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/hattie-mcdaniel-38433)

Hattie McDaniel – iMDB (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0567408/?ref_=tt_cl_t8)

Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7t4pTNZshA)

Rides: Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time

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Credit: iMDB

Terminator 2: 3D – Battle Across Time was a theme park attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood. As of 2018, the ride now only operates at Universal Studios Japan. James Cameron – director of the first two Terminator films – played a big part in its creation. The principle cast returned: Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. The ride featured a mixture of live actors and 3-D film interaction.

The Production

In the early 1990s, designers from The Goddard Group and producers from Universal Studios met to come up with concepts for a Terminator attraction. The Goddard Group had previous success for Universal with rides such as The Adventures of Conan and Jurassic Park: The Ride, as well as other theme park attractions around the world. CEO Gary Goddard loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) so much when it came out that he took his entire staff to see it in the cinema. They took up an entire row of seats. He was very excited to work on the T2: 3-D project. Extensive brainstorming and storyboarding were completed before anything was proposed to Cameron.

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Cameron, Goddard and Schwarzenegger
Credit: James Cameron Online

The director was unsure of the idea and was convinced he would be telling both companies “no” on his way to the meeting. He was very impressed with what Goddard and the rest had come up with and, not only had a few things to add, wanted to direct.

The budget for T2: 3D has been estimated at over $60 million USD ($24 million USD for the film alone). This makes it one of the most expensive theme park attractions of all time. The “near future” battle ground scenes were shot at night in the Arizona Desert and took three weeks to complete. New 3-D camera technology was invented to meet the requirements of the production. In one extreme close up shot, Schwarzenegger unintentionally damaged part of a $40,000 USD camera beam splitter with his shotgun prop. The film crew had to cut retakes short because of the incident.

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T2: 3-D Theatre Credit: The Studio Tour

While filming continued, a custom-built theatre was made at Universal Studios Florida. It featured three 15 meter wide screens, 66 speaker locations, as well as secret panels, sliding walls and hydraulic lifts that would work in sync with the film throughout the show. In post-production, editors continually tweaked the film to seamlessly match the movement of actors and stunt people. A full-size replica of the theatre was constructed in an abandoned airplane hangar where the live action choreography was rehearsed.

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Stan Winston Credit: Wookipedia

Special effects, animatronics and puppetry fell to Stan Winston. Cameron and Winston had previously worked together on both Terminator films, as well as Aliens (1986). Winston’s other credits include Predator (1987), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Jurassic Park (1993), Iron Man (2008) and many other movies. He won academy awards for Aliens and Jurassic Park. Sadly, he passed away in 2008 from cancer.

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T-70 Credit: Hollywood Hardware

 Showtime…

After the audience are ushered to their seats, the show begins with a Cyberdyne Systems representative taking the stage and welcoming everyone. A brief video is played that highlights the company’s upcoming technological marvels, including a group of T-70s (a crude and simplistic precursor Terminator to Schwarzenegger’s T-800 model). The machines show off their capabilities before Sarah and John Connor highjack the video feed. They tell people to evacuate the building as they are about to blow it up. The T-1000 enters via a time portal and is followed shortly after by The Terminator on a motorcycle. The T-1000 chases The Terminator and John back through the time vortex to the 2029 battle grounds of the human and machine war. The Terminator and John evade the T-1000, Hunter Killers and Mini Hunters before infiltrating the Skynet complex. They fight the T-1000000 – a completely computer-generated chrome spider-like creature – before blowing everything up and winning the war. John is returned to the present day.

T-1000000 (Terminator Wiki)
T-1000000 Credit: Terminator Wiki

Legacy

T2 3-D opened at Universal Studios Florida on the 27th of April 1996. It received 5.1 million visitors during its first year of operation. A second attraction was opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1999, and a third in Japan in 2001. The attractions have been a great success, but the Hollywood ride was closed in 2012 and the Florida one in 2017. The ride at Universal Studios Japan is still going. With the release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003, T2: 3-D is no longer considered Terminator canon.

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Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Stan Winston – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0935644/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117880/)

T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – Terminator Wiki (http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/T2_3-D:_Battle_Across_Time)

T2 3D: Battle Across Time – The Story Behind the Theme Park Extravaganza at Universal Studios (https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2012/12/t2-3d-battle-across-time-story-behind/)

The Making of T2: 3-D: Breaking the Screen Barrier (Documentary, 2000)

Lillian Gish: The First Lady of American Cinema

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Credit: Los Angeles Times

Lillian Gish was one of the most influential and famous actors in Hollywood’s history. Her first film was in 1912 and a career spanning seventy-five years followed. Gish’s partnership with pioneering director D. W. Griffith is regarded as one of the greatest collaborative relationships of all time. Some of their films include Way Down East (1920), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919) and the controversial, and highest grossing film of the silent era, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Not only having a successful acting career, Gish was also a writer, director and producer. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1971. As the years passed, the media dubbed Gish “The First Lady of American Cinema.”

Lillian Diana Gish was born on the 14th of October, 1893, in Springfield, Ohio. Her father left when she was young. Running low on money and with nowhere else to turn, Gish’s mother, Mary, and her daughters joined a group of traveling actors. Gish and her sister, Dorothy, made their stage debuts in 1902. They proved to be extremely popular in melodramas, making $10 a week for their efforts. (No figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation.) The three women travelled all over America, taking any roles they could and saving every cent possible. It was during this period Gish met future silent screen legend Mary Pickford and the two became lifelong friends.

In 1912, Gish and Dorothy appeared before a camera for the first time in An Unseen Enemy. Pickford had previously introduced Griffith to the sisters and he decided to give them a go. On set, Griffith thought the two women were twins and found it hard to distinguish them apart at a distance. He gave them different coloured hair ribbons; blue for Gish and red for Dorothy. Griffith very much enjoyed working with the two, especially Gish. He cast them often in his one- and two-reel shorts. Gish appeared in near forty silent shorts between 1912 and 1914. She received universal acclaim for her performance as The Young Wife in The Mothering Heart (1913).

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Dorothy and Gish in An Unseen Enemy (1912) Credit: Movies Silently

As silent films became more sophisticated and had longer run times, Gish starred in many of Griffith’s signature feature films. In 1915, she was cast as Elise Stoneman in The Birth of a Nation. The film was a critical success, but drew a lot of controversy for its negative depictions of African-Americans. It had white people dressed up in blackface. Gish stayed clear from commenting on the issues, but always defended that it was never Griffith’s intention to be racist.

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Dorothy, Griffith and Gish Credit: Library of Congress

In the climax of Way Down East, Gish, Griffith and the film crew shot on a real frozen river during a blizzard. Gish had to dangle her hand and hair in freezing cold water for hours at a time. She never once complained and crew members noticed how dedicated to the role she was. Though the scene is now regarded as one of the greatest in Hollywood’s history, Gish would experience health concerns for the rest of her life. She lost partial feeling in her hand. Gish’s last film with Griffith was Orphans of the Storm in 1922.

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Gish on the ice in Way Down East (1920) Credit: Pinterest

Gish directed her first and only movie in 1920. The film, Remodelling Her Husband, starred her sister Dorothy. With no known footage existing today, it is now considered a lost film. Around this period, Gish supervised the construction of a new film studio for Griffith too.

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Photoplay Magazine (December, 1921) Credit: Famous Fix

In 1924, Gish signed a $800,000 picture deal with MGM. This made her one of the highest paid and sought after actors in Hollywood at the time. Under MGM, Gish appeared in classics such as The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928). She made her “talkie” film debut in One Romantic Night in 1930.

By the early 1930s, Gish and MGM’s relationship had broken down and they parted ways. She returned to the theatre and focused her attention there. Gish also had her radio debut in the early 1930s. She scarcely acted in films during this period. In 1948, Gish appeared on television for the first time. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Duel in the Sun (1946). Gish also received critical praise for The Night of the Hunter (1955).

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Gish accepting her Oscar in 1971
Credit: University of California

Gish was active in films throughout the 1960s to 1980s. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. As part of the pre-production for the western The Unforgiven (1960), director John Huston and star Bert Lancaster intended to teach Gish how to shoot. They were shocked to discover she already knew and was quicker and more accurate than them both.

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Gish and Davis in The Whales of August (1987)
Credit: IMDb

In 1987, Gish starred along side Bette Davis in The Whales of August. At 93-years-old, this made Gish the oldest actress ever to star in a leading role. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 27, 1993. Every year on Gish’s birthday, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, show at least one of her films as a tribute.

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Credit: IMDb

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on December 6th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

50 Facts About Lillian Gish – The First Lady of American Cinema (http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/105983/20160119/50-facts-lillian-gish-first-lady-american-cinema.htm)

Charles Affron – Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life (Book)

Lillian Gish, 99, a Movie Star Since Movies Began, is Dead (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/01/movies/lillian-gish-99-a-movie-star-since-movies-began-is-dead.html?pagewanted=all)

Lillian Gish – Encyclopaedia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lillian-Gish)

Lillian Gish – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001273/)

Lillian Gish: The Actor’s Life for Me (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/lillian-gish-about-lillian-gish/614/)

Lillian Gish – Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-lillian-gish/)

The Official Website of Lillian Gish (https://www.lilliangish.com/)

Stella Adler on Method Acting

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Credit: The Famous People

A big influence on the modern Hollywood acting style comes from Stella Adler. She had done away with the earlier big gestures used in silent film acting, such as an actor placing both hands on their heart to indicate sorrow. She bridged the gap between early twentieth-century Russian theatre and what was becoming popular in film at the time. Adler drew from the imagination rather than personal experience. She had a name in American theatre, appeared in a handful of films and has taught some of the greatest actors of all time. She was known for her harsh, but fair analysis of student’s skills. Some included Marlon Brando and James Dean. Even after her passing, the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Angelina Jolie have studied at her acting schools.

Stella Adler was born on the 10th of February, 1901. Her father, Jacob P. Adler, was a famous actor on the Yiddish Theatre circuit. She was only four-years-old when he had her star in one of his productions, Broken Hearts. Adler had no formal acting training, but instead learnt from her father and by watching others. By her late-teens, she had been in over one hundred plays either in the Yiddish Theatre or as part of a vaudeville act. Adler’s performances took her all over the United States, Europe and South America.

In 1931, she was invited to join the Group Theatre in New York City. Adler accepted the offer but never felt fully welcome. Many agree this is where she achieved her best work as Sarah Grassman in Success Story, Adah Menken in Gold Eagle Guy, Bessie Berger in Awake and Sing and Clara in Paradise Lost. The Group Theatre was formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg; themselves experimental actors focusing on cutting edge techniques and deeply influenced by Russian theorist Konstantin Stanislavski. Adler and Strasberg frequently clashed over the interpretation of Stanislavski’s work.

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Credit: Stella Adler: A Life in Art

Having a break, Adler headed to Europe in 1934. On a chance encounter in Paris, she met Stanislavski and was not only able to speak with him, but was instructed and taught by him for the next five weeks. Stanislavski was born in Moscow in 1863, was an actor himself and brought new psychological and emotional aspects to the craft. His theories were big in the United States in the 1930s. Adler was the first and only American to study directly under him. Returning home with new insight, Adler and Strasberg still couldn’t find a common ground so she decided to leave the Group Theatre.

In 1937, Adler gave Hollywood a shot. She appeared in three films: Love on Toast (1937), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and My Girl Tisa (1948). Adler spent six years as an associate producer at MGM. She taught acting at the New School for Social Research around this time. Adler also directed commercial theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Stella Adler School of Acting first opened its doors in New York in 1949. She could finally teach acting her own way. Where Lee Strasberg highlighted an actor’s need to draw upon personal experience to envision a character, Adler focused and honed the imagination. She was against the idea of using past traumas as a way to achieve an emotion, especially a negative one. In her own words: “drawing on emotions I experienced – for example, when my mother died – to create a role is sick and schizophrenic, I don’t want to do that.” Adler instead focused on spiritual realism, emotional memory, dramatic and self-analysis, and disciplined practise. Adler received critical acclaim for her work with Marlon Brando and his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). He was nominated for Best Actor at the 1952 Academy Awards.

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Credit: Los Angeles Times

Today, Adler’s school is known as the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. It is a not-for-profit organisation; an LA branch opened in 1984. Both run weekly acting classes. Some actors to come through Adler’s schools include Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson.

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Credit: John Kehoe Bookseller

Adler officially retired from acting in 1961. In the later part of the decade, Adler juggled her time between her acting school and teaching at Yale University’s School of Drama. She was head of drama at New York University in the 1980s. Adler released a book in 1988, The Technique of Acting. The book is still widely taught and referenced. She continued to teach until her death from a heart attack on December 21, 1992.

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Credit: Pinterest

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on November 21st, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

8 Acting Techniques (and the Stars Who Swear by Them) (https://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/resources/8-acting-techniques-and-stars-who-swear-them/)

Encyclopaedia Britannica – Stella Adler (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stella-Adler)

PBS – American Masters (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/stella-adler-about-stella-adler/526/)

Stella Adler Biography (https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/stella-adler-5150.php)

Stella Adler – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0012245/bio)

Stella Adler Los Angeles (http://www.stellaadler.la/)

Stella Adler Studio of Acting (http://www.stellaadler.com/)

Filming Locations: Vasquez Rocks

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The Vasquez Rocks Credit: Roadtrippers

The Vasquez Rocks are one of the most iconic filming locations in American cinema history. It has been used as a backdrop in movies since the late silent era and is still prominently seen in modern films and television series. The Vasquez Rocks have been featured in Dracula (1931), The Texas Ranger (1931), The Girl and the Bandit (1939), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1995) and Star Trek (1966-1969), among many others. The rock formation is located close to the town of Agua Dulce and is about a forty-five minute drive from central Hollywood. It is believed the Rocks was formed approximately 25 million years ago when the tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault line pushed together. The Vasquez Rocks are near 45 meters tall, at their highest point, and cover an area just under four kilometres square.

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Power Ranger Command Centre
Credit: Blogspot

The Rocks take their name from notorious outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez (1835-1875). The earliest known group of people to occupy the Vasquez Rocks region were the Chumash Native American Indians in 450AD. Their descendants, the Tataviam, later lived in the area. But it wasn’t until Tiburcio used the Rocks as a hideout in 1873 and 1874 that it would later gain fame. Before Tiburcio’s time, the area was known to locals as simply “The Rocks”. Born Jose Jesus Lopez, Tiburcio entered a life of crime at an early age. He was in and out of prison throughout his youth. On August 13, 1873, he and a gang robbed the general store in Tres Pino and killed three people in the process, including one marshal. A bounty was issued for his capture: $8,000 alive or $6,000 dead (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). For the following two years, Tuburcio and his gang used the Vasquez Rocks to elude law enforcement. Eventually Tuburcio was captured and brought to justice. He was somewhat of a celebrity leading up to his hanging on March 19, 1875. While in custody, Tuburcio signed autographs and was considered charming by anyone who met him. He was played by Anthony Curio in an episode of Stories of the Century (1954-1955).

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Tiburcio Vasquez Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

In 1910, entrepreneur Henry Krieg recognised the location’s uniqueness and invested in turning it into a tourist destination. Krieg’s family still reside in the area.

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Title Card from 1952 Credit: The Agua Dulce History Project

As of today, over 200 movies and television series have been filmed at the Vasquez Rocks. The site’s harsh and rural landscape was extremely popular in B-Westerns during the 1940s and 1950s. The Rocks can be seen in the backgrounds of Golden Trail (1940), Along the Oregon Trail (1947) and Shotgun (1955). Television companies began to utilise the area’s close proximity to Hollywood when they became regular productions in the 1950s. Some shows include The Lone Ranger (1949-1957), Gunsmoke (1955-1975), Bonanza (1959-1973) and The Big Valley (1965-1969). The Vasquez Rocks have been used as alien worlds in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), the original Battlestar Galactica (1979-1980) and four series and three movies of Star Trek.

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Captain Kirk and the Gorn fight  Credit: Los Angeles Times

In the Star Trek first season episode “Arena”, Captain Kirk is transported to the surface of a remote asteroid – by an alien intelligence – where he must fight a Gorn commander to the death. Using local materials, Kirk forms a crude weapon and overpowers the lizard. At the final moment when Kirk can kill the Gorn, he refuses. Impressed by Kirk’s resolve, the alien intelligence return them to their ships. Peaceful dialogue between the Federation and the Gorn Hegemony had been opened. The Enterprise flies off in search of its next adventure.

 

Considered corny by today’s standards, the fight sequence is regarded as one of the most iconic scenes in film history. The desert shoot lasted for two days in November, 1966. Actors Bobby Clark and Gary Combes got so hot inside the Gorn rubber suits that they nearly fainted. The Vazquez Rocks have been a favourite filming site for Star Trek and have been featured in The Next Generation (1987-1994), Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005).

The Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is maintained by The County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. The Interpretive Centre (tourist information) was opened in 2013, and was awarded the highest ratings award for environmental safety. People can visit the site most days of the year, but a permit is required for filming. Weddings are a popular event, with groups of up to forty being allowed per function. Filming shoots are still common at the Vasquez Rocks with many being planned for the immediate future.

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Interpretive Centre Credit: Gruen Associates

Sources:

County Parks – Vasquez Rocks Natural Area (https://santaclaritaguide.com/VasquezRocks.html)

How Vasquez Rocks, L.A.’s onetime outlaw hideout, became ‘Star Trek’s’ favorite alien landscape (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-star-trek-50-vasquez-rocks-20160829-snap-story.html)

Memory Alpha – Vasquez Rocks (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Vasquez_Rocks)

Movie Sites – Vasquez Rocks (http://www.moviesites.org/vasquez.htm)

The True Hollywood Story of The Vasquez Rocks – Hollywood’s Favorite Rocky Set (https://filmmakeriq.com/2012/06/the-true-hollywood-story-of-the-vasquez-rocks-hollywoods-favorite-rocky-set/)

Vasquez Rocks (http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vasquez-rocks)

Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland: Two Women Who Defied Hollywood

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Credit: Olivia de Havilland Online

Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland are two of the most famous actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Besides talent, they stand out from their contemporaries because they filed lawsuits against Warner Bros. Pictures. Both were contracted to the studio in the 1930s and were unhappy. Among many other actors of the time, Davis and de Havilland were exploited by the studio but chose to take a stand in hopes of voiding their contracts. In a Hollywood contract, actors were expected to follow a strict set of rules – on a film set and in life – and had to make any movie they were given whether they wanted to or not. A studio essentially owned an actor.

Bette Davis was born on April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her father left when she was young and she, and her sister Barbara, were raised by their mother. Davis showed an interest in acting from an early age and starred in High School plays. She had a successful Broadway career before making the transition to Hollywood. In 1931, Davis signed a contract with Universal Pictures before switching to Warner Bros. the following year. She performed bit parts in a handful of movies before being loaned to RKO for Of Human Bondage (1934). This was Davis’ first Academy Award nomination. People in and out of the American film industry began to take notice. Over the next few years, Davis received Best Actress Academy Awards for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938).

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Credit: Pinterest

By the mid-1930s, Davis was beginning to get fed up with Warner Bros. She was unhappy with the roles she was getting and became disillusioned with the studio. She felt that the average parts were damaging to her career. As a way of rebelling, in 1937, Davis headed to England. Warner Bros. placed an injunction on Davis as they saw this move as a breach of contract. Davis sued hoping to get out of her contract and evidently lost. Though it was a failure, the incident did lead to better roles and a higher salary for Davis. She led the way for her friend Olivia de Havilland.

de Havilland started her life – July 1, 1916 – in Tokyo, Japan, before moving to the United States with her family when she was young. She signed a seven year contract with Warner Bros. in 1935. She made an impact early on in her career starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) and was frequently featured with actor Errol Flynn as an onscreen couple. de Havilland is best known for playing Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939), and – as of 2017 – is the only surviving cast member. She won an Academy Award for To Each His Own (1946) and was nominated for Best Actress for her work on Gone with the Wind. She lost to Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American woman to win the award. She has also been critically praised for her performance in The Snake Pit (1948). She played a woman with a mental illness.

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Credit: Biography.com

Like Davis, de Havilland was unhappy with Warner Bros. and frequently clashed with them. She kept being cast as a one-dimensional, objectified love interest for the male protagonist. As time went on, de Havilland refused to act in assigned films and was suspended without pay for a period of time. This happened on and off throughout the years. de Havilland’s contract came to an end in 1943. She was shocked to discover she owed Warner Bros. work for the time she was suspended. A total of six months had accumulated. She filed a lawsuit and the case went to court in 1945. This was unheard of at the time as stars never challenged the big studios. de Havilland won and was released from her Warner Bros. commitments. The landmark ruling became known as The De Havilland Law. It states that an actor is contracted to a studio for exactly a seven year calendar period. The case is still regularly referenced in American entertainment lawsuits.

de Havilland’s career soared in the 1940s but slowed down by the 1950s. She appeared alongside Bette Davis in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). de Havilland was also nominated for Academy Awards for The Heiress (1949) and My Cousin Rachel (1952), winning the former. She received a Nation Medal of Arts award from President Bush for her life’s work in 2008.

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Credit: TCM

Bette Davis had a long and critically acclaimed acting career before her passing in 1989. The story of her fallout with Joan Crawford was turned into a television series, Feud (2017). It stars Susan Sarandon (Davis) and Jessica Lange (Crawford). The two’s bitter relationship started on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). They did not get along at all. Davis was nominated for Best Actress at the 1962 Academy Awards. Crawford was not and felt the nomination should’ve been hers. Crawford took their rivalry to the next level. Davis eventually lost to Anne Bancroft. Instead of Bancroft, Crawford headed to the stage and accepted the award in her place. Prior to the event, she had contacted all the other nominees and offered to accept on their behalf. Davis was at a loss for words.

de Havilland is suing the producers of Feud for using her likeness without permission. She retired from acting in 1988 and currently resides in France.

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Credit: Classic Movie Favorites

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on October 17th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Bette Davis Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/bette-davis-9267626)

Bette Davis vs Joan Crawford – Hollywood’s most notorious feud (http://www.queensofvintage.com/bette-davis-vs-joan-crawford/)

De Haviland v. Warner Bros. Pictures (http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/67/225.html)

How Bette Davis Became a Hollywood Icon By Refusing to Conform at Every Turn (https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/04/bette-davis-birthday)

Olivia de Havilland Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/olivia-de-havilland-9269867)

Olivia de Havilland: The actress who took on the studio system and won (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stipanowich-de-havilland–20160701-snap-story.html)

The Clippings File: Bette Davis and the System (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-clippings-file-bette-davis-and-the-system)

The Star System (http://www.classichollywoodcentral.com/the-star-system/)

Why Olivia de Havilland Is Suing FX Over Feud: Bette and Joan (https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/06/olivia-de-havilland-feud-fx-lawsuit)

Women and the Hollywood Star System

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Credit: Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library

Hollywood quickly adapted once it realised the power A-list stars held over box office revenue. Within the first two decades of American cinema, a well-oiled machine known as the Star System had been created. Producers and Hollywood Executives would find an actor and mould their personality and talent into a product that could be sold and marketed. If someone wanted to “make it big”, they needed to adhere to a strict set of rules and guidelines. The stress took its toll on many. Some turned to drugs, some turned to wild partying and others became self-destructive. Studios put up huge sums of money to pay off journalists and media outlets not to run stories that could be damaging to their star’s image, such as Rock Hudson’s coming out as a homosexual. Women had little control over their personal lives and their bodies were forever the subject of scrutiny.

The Early Years

The first silent films had no credits and the public didn’t know actors’ names. Audiences started noticing the familiar faces of actors in short films and nicknamed them. Florence Lawrence was “The Biograph Girl” and Florence Turner was “The Vitagraph Girl”. The early studios – The Biograph Company, Edison Studios and Vitagraph Studios – started receiving fan mail and autograph requests. At first, they were reluctant to divulge who their stars were. It wasn’t long before studios started advertising stars in films and ticket sales skyrocketed. An actor became a brand.

The first studio to do this was the Independent Moving Picture Company (IMP) in 1910. Producer Carl Laemmle paid Florence Lawrence an undisclosed amount for her to come work at IMP. In a scripted turn of events, Laemmle leaked to newspapers that Lawrence had been killed in a car accident. He waited for the news to have its effect and then announced that she was well and was now employed at his studio. This was one of the first movie marketing and exposure ploys.

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Florence Lawrence in The Players (1912) Credit: Pinterest

Studios were still careful not to give their stars too much freedom. Feeling constricted and unable to express creativity, Mary Pickford and a number of others formed United Artists in 1919. Their goal was to create a studio where they, and other independent filmmakers, could make films without the restrictions of the big Hollywood studios.

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Mary Pickford in a United Artists Publicity Photo Credit: charliechaplin.com

The Rise of the Star System

By the early 1920s, Hollywood was dominated by five major film studios (Fox Film Corporation, MGM, Paramount, RKO and Warner Bros.). Each invested in talent scouts who would go to theatres, nightclubs and vaudeville acts searching for potential stars. Lana Turner was signed on the strength of a screen test alone. Contracts were offered to up and coming actors, with it only to be taken away at the last moment because the studio lost interest or got cold feet. If an actor was lucky enough to obtain a contract, the process had them under go further training in acting, voice coaching, singing and dancing. They were moulded into what the studio wanted. Studios placed greater priority on appearance than actual talent. Many had their names altered. Lauren Bacall was screen credited as Lauren Bacall, but was born Betty Joan Perske.

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Lana Turner Credit: YouTube

A standard contract lasted seven years with reviews every six months. If a film performed poorly at the box office, studios had the ability to release actors prematurely. Studios regularly leased stars out to other studios with the individuals having little say in what projects they were in. The 1930s saw many actors being typecast into certain roles.

Responsible for introducing the Production Code censorship, Will H. Hays also had studios build morality clauses into actor contracts. Women could not be seen in public without makeup on. They were also continually sexualised, objectified and controlled. Jean Harlow had a section in her contract forbidding her to marry.

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Jean Harlow Credit: Alchetron

The Hollywood Star System life took its toll on many. Elizabeth Taylor, who was signed at nine-years-old, detested it. Clara Bow argued that she had no private life. Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis even took Warner Bros. to court on separate occasions to void their contracts. Many women traded sexual favours for advancement within the industry. It is rumoured that Joan Crawford and Judy Garland had abortions at the studio’s request. Garland already suffered from body image issues and this only added to her trauma. Loretta Young refused to have an abortion and secretly gave birth to Judy Lewis. The child was put up for adoption, but Young, having a change of heart, opted to raise her daughter instead.

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Loretta Young Credit: imdb

The End

The Star System had dissolved by the mid-1960s, the same time as the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Audiences were becoming more sophisticated and wanted greater realism and grittier substance in their films. Actors are still contracted by studios today, but have more freedom in the roles they choose to pursue. Hollywood has come a long way since its early years but still has further to go for total equality. Bette Davis campaigned for equal pay rights for women in the 1930s and Jennifer Lawrence (among others) is still fighting for that today.

 

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Jennifer Lawrence in Serena (2014) Credit: Pinterest

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on September 18th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Classic Hollywood’s Secret: Studios Wanted Their Stars to Have Abortions (https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/07/classic-hollywood-abortion)

Classical Hollywood Star System (https://cinewiki.wikispaces.com/Classical+Hollywood+Star+System)

How Bette Davis Became a Hollywood Icon By Refusing to Conform at Every Turn (https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/04/bette-davis-birthday)

Olivia de Havilland: The actress who took on the studio system and won (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stipanowich-de-havilland–20160701-snap-story.html)

Star System (http://www.hollywoodlexicon.com/starsystem.html)

The Hollywood Studio System During the Golden Age (http://www.hollywoodmoviememories.com/articles/hollywood-history/hollywood-studio-system-golden.php)

The Star System (http://www.classichollywoodcentral.com/the-star-system/)

Star Wars: ‘Revenge’ of the Jedi

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Credit: TheForce.Net

Up until two months before its release, Return of the Jedi was titled Revenge of the Jedi. T-shirts were made, posters were printed and even a teaser trailer was released. The rare 90-second promo was unveiled at the 2016 Academy Awards to coincide with A New Hope’s 39th anniversary. Since Return’s release in 1983, there has been no definitive answer as to why the name was changed. Fans and movie buffs, alike, have speculated based on behind the scenes stories that have surfaced over the years.

It’s possible creator George Lucas yielded to backlash. Fans have noted that revenge is against Jedi beliefs and they didn’t appreciate such a villainous tone. Before the film’s release, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper printed an article that explored fan anger. Though the article only represented a local voice, the opinion was felt universally.

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Credit: Wookieepedia

Another idea was that producers felt the name was too similar to the second Star Trek film’s then title The Vengeance of Khan. Both films were originally scheduled to be released close to each other in 1982. Producers didn’t want to risk confusing the general public with two franchises that had “star” in their titles. The Star Trek sequel was eventually released as The Wrath of Khan.

Co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has gone on record as saying, that he suggested to Lucas, “return” was a weak title and that it should be changed. They worked on many script drafts under “revenge”, but, in the end, it was Lucas who ultimately had creative control.

There was a rumour that the title change was part of an effort to combat bootleg merchandise. It was perceived that Lucas was playing a big practical joke on those selling counterfeit products. This is highly unlikely as a considerable amount of money had been invested into marketing and publicity by the time of the name change.

There were many differences between Revenge of the Jedi and what was eventually seen on screen in the final version. The script had Princess Leia leading the fight on two Death Stars for the majority of the film. She was absent from Han Solo’s rescue. Luke and Lando Calrissian faced Jabba the Hutt and his men alone. There was greater conflict between Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. In Revenge, Palpatine ordered Luke’s kidnapping without Vader’s knowledge. He felt that Vader was compromised knowing Luke was his son. Yoda was going to be left out of the film all together. Child psychologists reported that an established character was needed to reinforce that Darth Vader was in fact Luke’s father. Young children couldn’t comprehend the reveal in The Empire Strikes Back. Apparently, they believed Vader was being deceitful. Whether this was Lucas’s actual reasoning for Yoda’s return remains unknown. The climactic battle didn’t take place on Endor, but on a moon orbiting the capital world of the Galactic Empire. Wookies were going to be the moon’s native species in early versions of the screenplay. The Ewoks were introduced because Chewbacca and his people had already been established as being quite intelligent.

There were several endings to Revenge of the Jedi. One had Luke, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – Yoda and Obi-Wan as force ghosts – battling Vader and the Emperor in a lava environment. Palpatine met his end when Vader knocks him into molten rock. One ending had Luke walking off into the sunset like a cowboy in a western, leaving his friends behind in search of his next adventure. Another had Vader and Luke going in search of Luke’s lost twin. The part hadn’t been written as Leia yet.

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Credit: Pinterest

Merchandise for Revenge of the Jedi are highly sort after collectors’ items these days. Original posters can go anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to thousands, depending on condition. Film crew jackets – only issued on the set and extremely rare – sell at auction for $5,000 Australian.

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Credit : eBay

Revenge of the Jedi was used as the name of a comic strip that first appeared in the Los Angeles Time Syndicate newspaper. It ran from November 1982 to January 1983. Now considered part of the Star Wars Legends Universe (any non-movie material released before Disney’s Star Wars acquisition in 2012 and not officially licenced), the Revenge of the Jedi comic explored Admiral Ackbar species’ introduction into the Rebel Alliance. It also told the story of how Darth Vader gained command of the Super Star Destroyer Executor.

In Japan, the film’s title is still Revenge of the Jedi on some media. In a YouTube video, Techmoan presents a 1980s Return of the Jedi video disc. The English text reads “Return”, but the Japanese writing translates to “Revenge”. Skip to 15:30 in the below video for the clip.

“Revenge” was used for the title of the third film in the prequal series, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. In 2015, Return of the Jedi finally got a sequel after a 32-year wait. The Force Awakens was the first in a new trilogy of Star Wars films. Its follow up, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, hits cinemas this December.

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Credit: IMDb

Sources:

30 Things You Didn’t Know About Return of the Jedi (https://www.wired.com/2013/05/return-of-the-jedi-anniversary/)

[Opinion] – Reconstructing Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi (http://www.disgruntledindividual.com/2012/10/opinion-reconstructing-star-wars.html)

Rare Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi trailer discovered in the Oscars archive (http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-05-27/rare-star-wars-revenge-of-the-jedi-trailer-discovered-in-the-oscars-archive)

Revenge of the Jedi (Comic) (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Revenge_of_the_Jedi)

Revenge of the Jedi Script (https://web.archive.org/web/20070203075748/http://www.starwarz.com/starkiller/scripts/revenge_revised_rough_draft.htm)

Star Wars: George Lucas was FORCED into changing Return of the Jedi title (http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/762235/Star-Wars-George-Lucas-Return-of-the-Jedi-Revenge-of-the-Jedi-The-Last-Jedi-Episode-VI)

The ‘Return of the Jedi’ That Could Have Been (https://www.yahoo.com/movies/blogs/movie-talk/return-jedi-could-202622407.html)

The Star Wars story that could have been – Return Of The Jedi was nearly VERY different (http://metro.co.uk/2017/02/01/the-star-wars-story-that-could-have-been-return-of-the-jedi-was-nearly-very-different-6416536/)

Was Return of the Jedi released in Japan as Revenge of the Jedi? (https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/152833/was-return-of-the-jedi-released-in-japan-as-revenge-of-the-jedi)

Frances Marion: One of the First Hollywood Screenwriters

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Credit: Columbia University

Over half the scripts written during Hollywood’s silent era were written by women. The women came from a variety of backgrounds when they entered the industry. Some were actors, some came from Broadway and others started off as journalists, to name a few professions. Largely unknown to a modern film audience, Frances Marion was one of the first well established and sought-after screenwriters in American cinema. During the 1910s to late 1930s, she penned many scripts for films that are now considered classics. She wrote across many genres and even received academy awards for The Big House (1930) and The Champ (1931).

Born on the 18th of November 1888, in San Francisco, her parents named her Marion Benson Owens. She would later be inspired and take her screen credit from famous American Civil War soldier Frances Marion. She started out as a journalist, model, career artist and World War I correspondent before eventually moving to Los Angeles.

Marion’s Hollywood career began in the early 1910s when she was hired as a writing and general assistant at Lois Weber Productions. The company was started by Florence Lois Weber, herself a pioneering film director. It was here that Marion learnt about the film industry and honed her script writing skills.

Written with Anita Loos, her first screenplay was The New York Hat (1912). It was directed by the legendary D. W. Griffith and starred the day’s most well-known actress Mary Pickford. The experience was great exposure for Marion and started a powerhouse partnership (and friendship) with Pickford.

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Credit: Time Magazine

Marion and Pickford had similar mindsets and worked extremely well together. Director and acquaintance Clarence Brown noted their strong chemistry and compared their ability to create new material together as being “spontaneously combustible”. It wasn’t long before they became close friends and regularly spent time together outside of work. Pickford soon hired Marion as her exclusive writer. Some of their greatest collaborations include The Little Princess (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), Stella Maris (1918) and Pollyanna (1920).

On the production of The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Marion and Pickford were creating comedy material that clashed with director Maurice Tourneur’s vision. He felt the subject material was too dark in nature to make funny. But because Pickford was the star and had creative authority, Tourneur’s objections were overruled. Based on a play by Eleanor Gates, the story follows a young girl – Gwen (played by Pickford) – in a middle-class family who is lonely and unwanted. Her parents make no time for her and the housing staff, who are responsible for Gwen’s wellbeing, push her around and abuse her. Producers were also not happy with the film’s final cut and thought it was in their best interests not to release it. Marion was distraught that she had possibly destroyed Pickford’s career. The two campaigned, the producers gave in and the film was distributed. It was a success and was responsible for Pickford’s trend of playing young children in comedy roles. She was twenty-four when she played 11-year-old Gwen.

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Credit: IMDb

By the 1920s, Marion was one of the most popular Hollywood screenwriters with a string of hits to her name. She was the highest paid screenwriter earning $3000 a week (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation), an astronomical amount never heard of before in the industry at the time. Marion gained critical acclaim for Stella Dallas (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). She even had a hand in directing with Just Around the Corner (1921), The Love Light (1921) and The Song of Love (1923).

Marion retired from screenwriting in the late 1930s. She was disillusioned by the state of Hollywood screenwriting and described it as “like writing on sand with the wind blowing”. She found it very restrictive in its rigid, structured approach. At this stage in her career, she had written over 100 scripts and won countless awards. She wrote Pickford’s last starring film, Secrets (1933), before Pickford retired from acting to focus on producing. Their partnership had lasted nearly twenty years. In 1937, Marion wrote one of the first guides on American screenwriting, How to Write and Sell Film Stories. The book was taught as part of the film curriculum at the University of South California.

Marion spent her later years writing stage plays and novels. She passed away in 1972. Her academy award winning script, The Champ, was remade in 1979 and starred Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway. Marion will be played by Julia Stiles in an upcoming Mary Pickford biopic, The First (2017).

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Credit: Wikipedia

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on August 29th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Frances Marion – Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/frances-marion-214110)

Frances Marion – IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0547966/)

Profile – Frances Marion (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-frances-marion/)

Julia Stiles To Play Scribe Frances Marion In Mary Pickford Pic ‘The First’ (http://deadline.com/2013/01/julia-stiles-frances-marion-mary-pickford-the-first-418595/)

The Poor Little Rich Girl: Mary Pickford and her wordsmith. (https://trueclassics.net/2012/06/03/the-poor-little-rich-girl-mary-pickford-and-her-wordsmith/)

This Forgotten Female Screenwriter Helped Give Hollywood Its Voice (http://time.com/4186886/frances-marion/)

Betty Boop Through the Years

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Credit: The Cut

Cartoon character Betty Boop took the world by storm upon her debut in 1931. Her unique voice, signature “Boop-Oop-a-Doop” catchphrase and Jazz-age flapper dancer look made her standout from her Disney and Looney Tunes animation contemporaries. She was aimed at an adult audience and was considered one of the first Hollywood sex symbols. Like many other areas of American cinema at the time, when the Production Code was implemented in 1934, Boop saw drastic changes in representation and personality. She went from a carefree, sexually confident independent woman to a conservative fully dressed introvert.

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Mae Questel and Max Fleischer Credit: Tech Times

Boop was the brainchild of Max Fleischer. He was born on July 18, 1883, and was also known for bringing the Popeye the Sailor Man comic strip to the silver screen. After completing a commercial art degree, Fleischer worked in various forms in the entertainment industry. He started Inkwell Studios with his brother, Dave, in 1921. Besides Betty Boop and Popeye, Inkwell Studios are also famous for creating the first Superman cartoons. Dave directed all one hundred plus Betty Boop shorts.

Changing the name in 1929, Fleischer Studios pioneered sound in animation. The first series was Song Car-Tunes in 1924. It beat Disney’s Steamboat Willie – Mickey Mouse’s debut – by almost four years. Each Song Car-Tunes entry was approximately three minutes long and also started the “follow the bouncing ball” trend. Audiences could now singalong by following a ball on the screen as it moved to music and subtitles. Talkartoons was another series of short animation films introduced in 1929. This is where Boop first appeared.

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Boop as a French Poodle Credit: Fleischer Studios

Betty Boop’s first incarnation was an anthropomorphic French poodle. Within a year of her first short, Dizzy Dishes, Boop’s appearance changed to a woman. Her human form was modelled after Clara Bow, Helen Kane and “Baby” Etsher Jones. Bow was known for her supporting roles in It and Wings. Both films came out in 1927, with Wings winning Best Picture at the first Academy Awards. Kane and Jones were both 1920s Jazz singers. Kane was known as “The Boop Boop a Doop Girl”, eerily similar to the character’s famous catchphrase “Boop-Oop-a-Doop”.

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Mae Questel Credit: Biography.com

A handful of women have voiced Boop, but Mae Questel is by far the most recognised. Born in 1908, her original plan was to become a teacher. Questel got the role after participating in a Helen Kane impersonation contest. She won and received $100 (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). The contest ran yearly from 1928 to 1938 and women aged between six and eighteen could enter. Questel was also famous for voicing Olive Oil in the Popeye cartoons.

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Helen Kane Credit: Tralfaz

In 1932, Kane sued Fleischer and his studio for using her likeness as Betty Boop without permission. She demanded $250,000 in compensation and the lawsuit dragged on for a couple of years. Kane said to Fleischer she would drop the case if he fired the other women and made her the sole voice of Boop. He only wanted Questel and the case continued. The lawsuit ended when footage of “Baby” Etsher Jones performing surfaced that proved that she was the real caricature and inspiration for Boop. Jones was unable to be located to testify. It was later believed she had died the year before.

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“Baby” Etsher Jones Credit: Betty Boop Wiki

At the height of her popularity, Boop was shown in cinemas all over the world. She was especially well received in Japan. So much so that Boop sings in Japanese in A Language All My Own (1935). Fleischer wanted to make sure the cartoon was as authentic as possible and used Japanese exchange students as a test audience.

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Boop in A Language All My Own (1935) Credit: Alchetron

A stricter Motion Picture Production Code was introduced in 1934. It was a way of censoring film content before distribution. It was regulated within the industry itself by the Legion of Decency, a group that had strong ties to the Catholic Church. The doctrine consisted of a list that was thought to be offensive to a film going audience. Some areas that were boycotted included homosexuality, interracial lovers, drug and alcohol use, abortion and nudity. Couples were no longer allowed to be seen in the same bed together on screen. Boop was caught in the crossfire.

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Boop after the Production Code Credit: Cartoons of 1935

Her appearance changed drastically and she started wearing long dresses and cardigans. Her hoop earrings and bracelets disappeared. She slowly lost her signature curls and got a boyfriend, Freddie. Her personality changed and she became quieter and less outspoken. Over time, the stories began to focus more on Boop’s supporting cast members – Pudgy the dog, Koko the Clown and the eccentric Grampy – and less on her. The audience began to lose interest and production of new Boop cartoons came to an end in 1939. Questel retired from voice acting to start a family around the same time. Fleischer Studios had financial issues and was defunct by 1942. Boop faded into obscurity.

Betty Boop cartoons were among the first to enter television syndication in the 1970s. She found a new audience and resurgence here. Boop made a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). She appeared in her original black and white form and was, again, voiced by Mae Questel. Besides some failed TV specials over the last thirty years, no new Betty Boop comeback has occurred. Questel passed away in 1998. Boop’s creator, Max Fleischer, died in 1972. These days Boop exists only in merchandise and for her nostalgia factor.

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Boop in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) Credit: The Billford

Author’s Note: Betty Boop Through the Years is dedicated to my mum, Sherryn Mary Kernaghan, an original Boop revival fan who left this world too soon. Your love and inspiration still guide me, and I still hear your voice in my head telling me off whenever I do something stupid.

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on July 12th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

100 Little Known Facts About Betty Boop (http://bettyboop.wikia.com/wiki/100_Little_Known_Facts_About_Betty_Boop)

Betty Boop and the Production Code of 1934 (http://www.oocities.org/d-patanella/boop.html)

Betty Boop – Under The Production Code (http://www.liquisearch.com/betty_boop/under_the_production_code)

Betty Boop Wiki (http://bettyboop.wikia.com/wiki/Betty_Boop)

Clara Bow Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/clara-bow-9221851)

Helen Kane (http://bettyboop.wikia.com/wiki/Helen_Kane)

Mae Questel: The Voice Behind Betty Boop (https://www.biography.com/news/voice-of-betty-boop-mae-questel)

Max Fleischer Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/max-fleischer-082515)

The Forgotten Black Woman Behind Betty Boop (https://www.thecut.com/2017/03/the-forgotten-black-woman-behind-betty-boop.html)