Elmer Blaney Harris

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Elmer Blaney Harris (January 11, 1878 – September 6, 1966) was an American author, dramatist, and playwright.

Biography[edit]

Harris's summer home in Prince Edward Island.

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of eight children. He moved with his family to Oakland, California, after his father's broom factory burned to the ground. After high school, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1901 with a B.S. in Writing, and as an actor for the university theater troupe would gain him a patron, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst. With her financial backing, Harris was able to study in New York City and Europe for the next four years. When he returned to San Francisco he became a newspaper reporter for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, and he lectured at clubs and universities on authors and playwrights, such as George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen. This didn't last very long; when the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed the newspaper's office and the newspaper, Harris left for New York City. He would write feverously for newspapers and magazines, contributing articles, reviews, and short stories, all the while translating with Cora Older. He would travel back and forth from Manhattan to the Bay Area, and in California he helped to found the Carmel-by-the-Sea artist colony. At Carmel he dramatized his first play, Sham, a short story by Geraldine Bonner.

Harris got married in 1908, and after his honeymoon he built a summer home in Fortune Bridge, Prince Edward Island, also helping set up an artist colony there. At Fortune Bridge he would work on his next three plays, The Offenders (1908), Trial Marriage (1909), and Thy Neighbor's Wife (1911). During this period, he divided his time between Fortune Bridge and New York City. He saw the transitions of the motion picture industry of both the move from New York to Hollywood, and from silent films to sound. For the next twenty years he was very prolific, collaborating on, directing, adapting, or supervising the production of almost 35 silent and "sound" films, including 6 for the Peninsula Studios, Chalk Marks (1924), The Girl on the Stairs (1924), The Wise Virgin (1924), The Awful Truth (1925), Beauty and The Badman (1925), and Let Women Alone (1925), while also writing seven original screenplays of his own.

When World War I broke out he was 39, which was too old at the time for combat. He went to work for the Food Board under Herbert Hoover, but sick of working with Graham flour, he took a new position as civil aide to the commander in charge of amusements and morale at Camp Bowie, Texas as a dramatic director with the Fosdick Commission. He was also stationed in San Diego.

He wrote his first screenplay in 1919, Lottery Man. He would live half the time in New York City, writing for the stage, and Hollywood, writing for the motion picture industry. He would base the story of Johnny Belinda on the residents in the local area of his summer home in Fortune Bridge, and actual events that occurred there. The title character is based on Lydia Dingwell (1852–1931), of Dingwells Mills, Prince Edward Island.

Elmer Blaney Harris died at age 88 in Washington, D.C..

External links[edit]