Eleanor Gates

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Eleanor Gates
Eleanor Gates.jpg
Born26 September 1874
Died7 March 1951(1951-03-07) (aged 76)
EducationUniversity of California and Stanford University
Spouse(s)Richard Walton Tully[1]
1901–14 (divorce)
Frederick Ferdinand Moore
1914-16 (not legal)

Eleanor Gates (26 September 1874 – 7 March 1951) was an American playwright who created seven plays that were staged on Broadway.[2] Her best known work was the play The Poor Little Rich Girl, which was produced by her husband in 1913[3] and went on to be made as films for Mary Pickford in 1917 and for Shirley Temple in 1936.[4]


Eleanor Gates was born on 26 September 1874 in Shakopee, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis. She later described her early life in her novel The Biography of a Prairie Girl. Gates married another playwright, Richard Walton Tully, in 1901 after they had both completed their studies at the University of California, in Berkeley. Gates had worked initially as a writer for a newspaper in San Francisco, as well as writing novels. In 1907, one of her novels was illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Her best known work was the play The Poor Little Rich Girl, which was produced by her husband in 1913. Tully divorced her in 1914 citing desertion, which Gates admitted.[1]

Before Gates's divorce had been finalized, she married another divorcé, Frederick Ferdinand Moore, in Paterson, New Jersey, in October 1914. In 1916 they separated when they both realized that they were not legally married.[5] At the time they both said they intended to remarry when it could be arranged.[5] Moore later created Book Dealers' Weekly (1925).

At the beginning of 1915, Gates founded the Liberty Feature Film Company, which was said by Motion Picture News to be the only film company to be owned and managed by women. The company was led by the wife of an Alaskan businessman, Sadir Lindblom. In the year that it existed the company created several two reel films.[6]

The first film, produced in 1917, was The Poor Little Rich Girl, which starred Mary Pickford. Shirley Temple starred in the 1936 remake of the same name. The film story, created to cash in on the talents of the eight-year-old Temple and the rights to the "changing places" story, was obtained for $40,000 to Gates and an additional $20,000 to Mary Pickford's company which had made the 1917 film. The new film had made two million dollars by the end of 1939.[4]

Gates died on 7 March 1951 in Los Angeles County General Hospital.[2]


  • The Biography of a Prairie Girl, 1902
  • Good-night: (Buenas Noches), 1907 - illustrated by Arthur Rackham
  • The Poor Little Rich Girl (play in three acts), 1912
  • Doc - 1914 film
  • Swat the Fly, 1915
  • The Plow Woman, 1917 film
  • Apron-Strings, 1917
  • Piggie, 1919
  • Cupid the Cowpuncher, 1920 film based on her story
  • The Rich Little Poor Boy, 1922
  • Once to Every Man, 1934 film - written with George Waggner


  1. ^ a b "R. W. Tully Seeks Divorce. Playwright Sues Eleanor Gates on Ground of Desertion". New York Times. 24 March 1914. Retrieved 16 October 2010. Richard Walton Tully, playwright, instituted suit in the Superior Court here to-day for a divorce from Eleanor Gates Tully, the author. The charge is desertion. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Eleanor Gates, 75, Playwright, Dies". Los Angeles Times. 8 March 1951. Retrieved 2010-10-17. Eleanor Gates, 7, writer of "The Poor Little Rich Girl" and seven other plays produced on Broadway, died yesterday in General Hospital. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Gerald Bordman and Thomas S. Hischak. "Tully, Richard Walton" The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. 2004. Retrieved October 16, 2010 from Encyclopedia.com:
  4. ^ a b "Poor Little Rich Girl". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 17 October 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b "Eleanor Gates Doubly Wed". New York Times. 1 July 1916. Retrieved 16 October 2010. Eleanor Gates Moore, author of "The Poor Little Rich Girl" and other books, under the name of Ellen Gates, started suit here today for the annulment of her marriage to Frederick F. Moore. The couple were married in Patterson, N.J. in October 1914. ... CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Mahar, Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (2008). Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood p.66. ISBN 9780801890840.

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