Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier

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Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier

Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier (March 25, 1896 – January 3, 1984), known earlier in her career as Elizabeth Pickett, was an American author best known for her 1942 novel, the bestseller Drivin' Woman, which was promoted as a novel in the vein of Gone with the Wind.[1][2] In her earlier career, she was also a silent short-film director and a screenwriter who wrote scenarios and titles for Fox Film Corporation.

Early life and education[edit]

Chevalier was born in Chicago in 1896, and was a granddaughter of Confederate States Army General George Pickett.[3] Pickett took over her family's tobacco farm in Lexington, Kentucky before graduating from Wellesley Women's College in 1918. At the end of the first World War, she went to work in Washington D.C. with the American Red Cross as a historian and publicist until eventually making propaganda shorts for the non-profit organization.[4] Pickett also managed to contribute about eleven hundred pages to the 1923 History of the American Red Cross.[5] In her early work she made a one reel picture called In Florence Nightingale's Footsteps, which was designed to try and persuade women to become war nurses. It was this event that swayed Pickett to pursue more work in film and so she began working for the Fox Film Corporation shortly afterwards.[6]

Film career[edit]

In her earlier career, Elizabeth Pickett was a silent short-film director and a screenwriter who wrote scenarios and titles for Fox Film Corporation. In 1923 she produced the very first "short series" films for Fox Film Corporation.[4] Pickett helped to write and direct nearly forty "short series" films for Fox until eventually becoming the West Coast supervisor.[7] Over the course of her career she edited and titled more than fifty Fox varieties. Pickett wrote several original stories such as Navajo and Wolf Fangs and adapted and titled works including Wings of the Storm, and The Monkey Talks. Other contributions she made in the film industry include titling and editing Kentucky Pride, Exploring the Amazon, Whispering Sage, The Shamrock Handicap, and Marriage License.[6]

Pickett recalled that many aspects of her work as a novelist were influenced by her early work in film. In 1929 Paramount gave Pickett the opportunity to write the screenplay for her very first feature film, Redskin.[8] Redskin was a fiction, high-quality technicolor film directed by Victor Schertzinger and produced and distributed by Paramount Famous Lasky. It was shot in authentic Pueblo and Navajo locations in both Western New Mexico and Arizona. The feature essentially represented the peak of Pickett's career in film even though it was criticized for all its habitual stereotyping of Native Americans.[5] Before beginning to write the screenplay for Redskin Pickett spent months with Native Americans gathering information about their characteristics and behavior in order to gain better insight on their culture for the movie.[9] Pickett said that her overall goal in the industry was to not only write and direct her own pictures but also to make an analogy between cinematography and film. Redskin was the first film that provided Pickett with the opportunity to achieve her goals and successfully write a feature film.[5] She was described as having some of the highest ambitions to direct/write in film according to the Moving Picture World.[5] With these goals in mind, many of Picket's films combined elements of both documentary and narrative fiction. Much of her work involved shooting Western American landscapes such as in Cliff-Dwellers of America (1925) and King of the Turf (1923). It was the short, King of the Turf that later inspired John Ford with his feature Kentucky Pride (1925), which Pickett also edited and titled.[4]

Novel[edit]

Pickett's novel Drivin' Woman (1942) was a bestseller that she dedicated to her husband Stuart Chevalier, a descendant of the family of J. E. B. Stuart. The story's setting is the South after the American Civil War and appeared to be modeled after Gone with the Wind.[10] The plot focuses on the life of a girl who inherits a southern tobacco plantation.[11] The movie rights to Drivin' Woman were sold to MGM for $60,000 before she finished writing it – probably in part due to the success of the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind;[3] however, it was never made into a film.

Later life[edit]

According to her UPI obituary, she served on the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross in 1952, and President-elect John F. Kennedy considered her for the post of United States Secretary of the Treasury in 1960 or 1961.[12]

Her husband, attorney Stuart Chevalier, died in 1956.[13] She died on January 3, 1984 at the age of 87, and was buried in Altadena, California.[12][14]

Quotes[edit]

"In this business of ours the writer will have to be the director as well, in order to survive".[15] – Pickett

“I have written with the camera on some thirty or forty Varieties and I can see that the whole trend of production today, both from the standpoint of real economy and artistry, is with the person who writes with the camera”.[15] – Pickett

Filmography[edit]

Director[edit]

Year Title
1918 American Red Cross propaganda shorts
1923 King of the Turf
1925 Rocky Mountain Gold
1925 Under Colorado Skies
1925 Cliff Dwellers of America

Writer[edit]

Year Title Contribution
1925 Kentucky Pride titles
1926 The Shamrock Handicap titles
1926 Marriage License titles
1926 The Silver Treasure titles
1926 Wings of the Storm titles
1927 Wolf Fangs screenplay/story/titles
1928 Fleetwing screenplay/story
1929 Redskin screenplay/story
1952 Navajo screenplay/story

Editor[edit]

Year Title
1925 Kentucky Pride
1926 The Shamrock Handicap
1927 Marriage
1928 Fleetwing

References[edit]

  1. ^ (5 July 1942). "Drivin' Woman" and Other New Works of Fiction, The New York Times
  2. ^ Driscoll, Charles (5 November 1941). New York Day by Day, Painesville Telegraph
  3. ^ a b Parsons, Louella O. (7 April 1941). 'Drivin' Woman', Novel of Reconstruction Period, Yet Unfinished, Bought for Movie, Milwaukee Sentinel
  4. ^ a b c Acker, Ally (1991). Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema 1896 to the Present. Continuum New York. p. 19. ISBN 0-8264-0499-5. 
  5. ^ a b c d Koerner, Michelle. "Elizabeth Chevalier Pickett". Women Film Pioneers Project. Columbia University Libraries. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Thiede, Karl. "Motion Picture News Booking Guide and Studio Directory". New York, Motion Picture News, Inc. p. 122. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Acker, Ally (2011). Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema The First Hundred Years 1890's-1950's. 1. New York, NY: A Reel Women Media Publication. p. 23. ISBN 978-1440489617. 
  8. ^ Acker, Ally (1991). Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema 1896 to the Present. Continuum New York. p. 20. ISBN 0-8264-0499-5. 
  9. ^ Magazine Builders, Inc. (November 1928 – April 1929). "Screenland". Lantern. 18: 104. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Hollywood Scene". Motion Picture Herald (151). Quigley Publishing Co. May–June 1943. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Hollywood Scene". Motion Picture Herald (142 & 143). Quigley Publishing Co. March–April 1941. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  12. ^ a b (13 January 1984). Best selling novelist, Reading Eagle (UPI story)
  13. ^ (8 July 1956). Overflow Crowd Attends Stuart Chevalier Rites: Pastor Lauds Courage and Conviction of Attorney, Author and Philanthropist, Los Angeles Times
  14. ^ (13 January 1984). Elizabeth Chevalier; Writer, Film Scenarist, Producer, Los Angeles Times
  15. ^ a b Waller, Tom (December 17, 1927). "Elizabeth Pickett". Moving Picture World (USA): 29. 

External links[edit]