Born on this day in 1888, Frances Marion (born Marion Benson Owens) would grow up to become one of the most prominent women of Hollywood’s golden age. But Frances Marion was no screen star — she was a writer, one of only a few women who were able to find major success in the male-dominated world of 20th century screenwriting. Before becoming a screenwriter, she worked as a journalist.
In the mid-1910s Marion took on her first real movie biz job, working with actress/director Lois Weber as a writing assistant for Weber’s production company. (In 1912 she had contributed to a short film according to IMDb, but her Hollywood career didn’t take off until she teamed with Weber later in the decade.) During this time, Marion also befriended Mary Pickford, and the two collaborated frequently on films including Poor Little Rich Girl and The Little Princess.
According to the National Women’s History Museum (nwhm.org), Marion recieved the highest salary of any screenwriter, male or female, by the time the ’20s and ’30s rolled around. In addition, she was the first woman to win an Oscar for something other than acting, taking home the Best Screenplay award for 1930’s The Big House. She took the same award home again for 1931’s The Champ, and was nominated a third time for 1933’s The Prizefighter and the Lady.
Frances Marion decided to leave Hollywood in the mid-1940s in order to pursue a career in writing novels and stage dramas. By that time she’d made a huge name for herself, collecting well over 100 screenwriting, adaptation and story credits.
I haven’t come close to seeing all of Marion’s films, but she has written quite a few that I love, including Camille, Blondie of the Follies, Anna Christie, The Wind and Stella Dallas. Happy birthday to this fantastic writer who (along with Ruth Gordon, June Mathis and others) helped pave the way for for all of the female screenwriters who have followed in their footsteps.