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Frances Marion in 1920, on the set of The Love Light, which she wrote and directed
Marion Benson Owens
November 18, 1888
|Died||May 12, 1973 (aged 84)|
Frances Marion (born Marion Benson Owens, November 18, 1888 – May 12, 1973) was an American journalist, author, film director and screenwriter often cited as the most renowned female screenwriter of the 20th century alongside June Mathis and Anita Loos. She was the first writer to win two Academy Awards.
Marion was born Marion Benson Owens in San Francisco, California to Len Owens and Minnie Benson. She had an older sister, Maude, and a younger brother, Len. Her parents divorced when she was ten, and she lived with her mother. She dropped out of school at age 12, after having been caught drawing a cartoon strip of her teacher. She then transferred to a school in San Mateo and then to art school in San Francisco when she was 16 years old. This school was destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
While in San Francisco, Marion worked as a photographer's assistant to Arnold Genthe and experimented with photographic layouts and color film. Later she worked for Western Pacific Railroads as a commercial artist, then as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. After moving to Los Angeles, Marion worked as a poster artist for the Morosco Theater as well as an advertising firm doing commercial layouts.
In the summer of 1914 she was hired as a writing assistant, an actress and general assistant by Lois Weber Productions, a film company owned and operated by pioneer female film director Lois Weber. She could have been an actor, but preferred work behind the camera. She learned screenwriting from Weber, and wrote one screenplay for her, but then burned it.
Marion worked as a journalist and served overseas as a combat correspondent during World War I. She documented women's contribution to the war effort on the front lines, and became the first woman to cross the Rhine after the armistice. As "Frances Marion," she wrote many scripts for actress/filmmaker Mary Pickford, including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl, as well as scripts for numerous other successful films of the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, she earned a salary of $50,000 per year which was unheard of at the time. Marion went to New York for her job, and her husband declined to live with her and they divorced. She won the Academy Award for Writing in 1931 for the film The Big House, she received the Academy Award for Best Story for The Champ in 1932, both featuring Wallace Beery, and co-wrote Min and Bill starring her friend Marie Dressler and Beery in 1930. She was credited with writing 300 scripts and over 130 produced films. She directed and occasionally appeared in some of Mary Pickford's early movies.
Marion's father Len D. Owens built the Aetna Springs resort in Aetna Springs, California in the 1870s. After her success in Hollywood, she often visited the resort using it as a retreat and drew several actors to the resort with her.
Marion was married four times, first to Wesley de Lappe, and later to Robert Pike, both prior to changing her name. In 1919, she wed Fred Thomson, who co-starred with Mary Pickford in The Love Light in 1921. She was such close friends with Mary Pickford, that they honeymooned together when Mary married Douglas Fairbanks and Frances married Fred. After Thomson's unexpected death from a leg wound in 1928, she married director George W. Hill in 1930, but that marriage ended in divorce in 1933. She had two sons—Frederick C. Thomson and Richard Thomson (adopted). Frederick earned a PhD in English at Yale, taught there and later joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina. He became an editor of the writings of George Eliot, publishing editions of Felix Holt, the Radical in 1980 and later.
Later years and death
|1912||The New York Hat||Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish||Contributing writer|
|1915||Camille||Clara Kimball Young, Paul Capellani, Robert Cummings||Scenario|
|A Girl of Yesterday||Mary Pickford, Frances Marion, Glenn L. Martin||actress|
|1916||The Gilded Cage||Alice Brady, Montagu Love, Alec B. Francis||scenarist/writer|
|1917||A Little Princess||Katherine Griffith, Mary Pickford, Norman Kerry, ZaSu Pitts, Theodore Roberts||Writer|
|Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm||Mary Pickford, Eugene O'Brien||Writer|
|The Poor Little Rich Girl||Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks||Writer|
|1918||Stella Maris||Mary Pickford||Photoplay|
|How Could You, Jean?||Mary Pickford||Scenario|
|Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley||Mary Pickford, William Scott, Kate Price||Writer|
|1919||The Cinema Murder||Marion Davies, Eulalie Jensen, Anders Randolf, Reginald Barlow||Scenario|
|Anne of Green Gables||Mary Miles Minter||Writer|
|The Flapper||Olive Thomas, Warren Cook||Screenplay, story|
|The Restless Sex||Marion Davies, Ralph Kellard||Writer|
|1921||The Love Light||Mary Pickford, Evelyn Dumo||Director, story (uncredited)|
|1922||The Toll of the Sea||Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley||Scenario (uncredited), story|
|1923||The Famous Mrs. Fair||Myrtle Stedman, Huntley Gordon||Adaptation, screenplay|
|Cytherea||Alma Rubens, Constance Bennett, Norman Kerry, Lewis Stone, Irene Rich||Adaptation|
|The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln||George A. Billing, Ruth Clifford, George K. Arthur, Louise Fazenda||Story, screenplay|
|1925||Stella Dallas||Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett, Lois Moran||Adaptation|
|A Thief in Paradise||Doris Kenyon, Ronald Colman, Aileen Pringle||Adaptation|
|Thank You||Alec B. Francis, Jacqueline Logan||Writer|
|Lightnin'||Jay Hunt, Wallace MacDonald||Writer|
|1926||The Scarlet Letter||Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson||Adaptation, scenario, titles|
|The Winning of Barbara Worth||Ronald Colman, Vilma Bánky||Adaptation|
|Son of the Sheik||Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Bánky, Montagu Love, Karl Dane, George Fawcett||Adaptation|
|1927||The Red Mill||Marion Davies||Adaptation, screenplay|
|Love||John Gilbert, Greta Garbo||Continuity|
|Madame Pompadour||Dorothy Gish||Writer|
|1928||The Wind||Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Dorothy Cumming||Scenario|
|The Awakening||Vilma Bánky, Walter Byron||Story|
|Bringing Up Father||J. Farrell MacDonald, Polly Moran, Marie Dressler||Writer|
|1929||Their Own Desire||Norma Shearer, Belle Bennett, Lewis Stone, Robert Montgomery, Helene Millard||Screenplay|
|1930||Min and Bill||Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery||Dialogue, scenario|
|The Big House||Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone||Dialogue, story|
Won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
|Good News||Mary Lawlor, Stanley Smith||Scenario|
|The Rogue Song||Lawrence Tibbett, Catherine Dale Owen||Writer|
|Anna Christie||Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, Marie Dressler||Writer|
|1931||Anna Christie||Greta Garbo, Theo Shall, Hans Junkermann||Adaptation|
|The Secret Six||Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, Marjorie Rambeau||Dialogue, screenplay|
|The Champ||Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich, Roscoe Ates||Story|
Won the Academy Award for Best Story
|1932||Blondie of the Follies||Marion Davies, Robert Montgomery, Billie Dove||Screenplay, story|
|Emma||Marie Dressler, Richard Cromwell, Jean Hersholt, Myrna Loy||Story|
|1933||Peg o' My Heart||Marion Davies, Onslow Stevens, J. Farrell MacDonald||Adaptation|
|Dinner at Eight||Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Billie Burke||Screenplay|
|The Prizefighter and the Lady||Myrna Loy, Max Baer, Walter Huston, Primo Carnera, Jack Dempsey||Story|
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story
|Going Hollywood||Marion Davies, Bing Crosby, Fifi D'Orsay, Stuart Erwin||Story (uncredited)|
|Secrets||Mary Pickford, Leslie Howard||Writer|
|1936||Camille||Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore||Screenplay|
|Riffraff||Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy||Screenplay, story|
|Poor Little Rich Girl||Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Jack Haley, Gloria Stuart, Michael Whalen, Claude Gillingwater||Writer|
|1937||Knight Without Armour||Marlene Dietrich, Robert Donat||Adaptation|
|Love from a Stranger||Ann Harding, Basil Rathbone||Adaption|
|1940||Green Hell||Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Vincent Price, Joan Bennett, Alan Hale, Sr., George Sanders, John Howard||Original story, screenplay|
- Minnie Flynn. NY: Boni and Liveright, 1925
- The Secret Six. NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1931 [novelization of her own screenplay]
- Valley People. NY: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1935
- How to Write and Sell Film Stories. NY: Covici-Friede, 1937
- Molly, Bless Her. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1937
- Westward The Dream. Garden City NY: Doubleday and Company, 1948
- The Passions of Linda Lane. NY: Diversey Publications, 1949 [paperback; revised edition of Minnie Flynn]
- The Powder Keg. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1953
- Off With Their Heads!: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood. NY: The Macmillan Company, 1972 [memoir]
- Beauchamp. 1997
- 1900 United States Federal Census
- "Earthquake of 1906: 110 years ago today - San Mateo Daily Journal". Sdailyjournal.com. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
- Beauchamp, Cari (1997). Without Lying Down. University of California Press. pp. 22–37. ISBN 978-0520214927.
- Biography.com. "Frances Marion Biography". Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
- "The Love Light starring Mark Pickford and Fred Thompson". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
- "The Love Light (Frances Marion, Mary Pickford Co. US 1921) (d/w)". YouTube. 2013-10-10. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
- Jensen, Peter (February 6, 2012). "A grand 19th-century resort to be reborn in Pope Valley". Napa Valley Register. Napa, California. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Sicherman, Barbara; Hurd Green, Carol (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period : A Biographical Dictionary. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 457. ISBN 0-674-62732-6.
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