Jeanie MacPherson

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Jeanie MacPherson
MacPherson in 1921
Abbie Jean Macpherson

(1886-05-18)May 18, 1886
DiedAugust 26, 1946(1946-08-26) (aged 60)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
Occupation(s)Actress, screenwriter, director
Years active1908–1917 (acting)
1913–1946 (screenwriting)
Notable workHer collaborations with director Cecil B. DeMille

Abbie Jean MacPherson (May 18, 1886[1] – August 26, 1946) was an American silent actress, writer and director. She is known for her collaborations with directors D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, and was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Early life[edit]

Abbie Jean MacPherson[1] was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a wealthy family of European (Spanish, Scottish and French) descent.[2] Her parents were John S. MacPherson and Evangeline C. Tomlinson.[1] As a teenager, she was sent to Mademoiselle DeJacque's school in Paris, but returned to the United States when her family could no longer afford the fees.[2]

MacPherson earned a degree from the Kenwood Institute in Chicago and began working as a dancer and stage performer. MacPherson began her theatrical career as part of the chorus in the Chicago Opera House. Over the next few years, she took singing lessons and worked several theater-related jobs.[2]

Film career[edit]

MacPherson made her film debut in the 1908 film The Fatal Hour, directed by D. W. Griffith. She acted in many controversial roles in which she portrayed characters of ethnicities other than her own; due to her dark hair, she was often cast in Gypsy or Spanish roles. From 1908 to 1917, she amassed 146 acting credits. She saw her time with Griffith as her "first glimmer of the possibilities in the new industry [and] from those days on [she had] seen a variety of attitudes toward the scriptwriters."[3]

After working with Griffith, MacPherson began working with the Universal Company, where she starred in more prominent roles.[4] In 1913, she wrote, directed and starred in The Tarantula, about a Spanish-Mexican girl, known as the Tarantula, who seduced men before killing them. With this film, she became the youngest director in motion picture history.[citation needed] The Tarantula is the only film she directed.

A young Jeanie

MacPherson continued working for the Universal Company for two years, until her failing health caused her to leave.[4] Upon her recovery, MacPherson began working for Lasky Studios; however, she quickly sought out Cecil B. DeMille to see if she could act in his films. He told her, "I am not interested in star MacPherson, but I am in writer MacPherson";[4] and from that point on, she focused on writing.[citation needed]

DeMille and MacPherson formed a partnership that some scholars consider to be one of the industry's most influential and long-lasting.[3] MacPherson wrote the scripts for 30 of DeMille's next 34 films. Some of their most notable collaborations are Rose of the Rancho (1914) starring Bessie Barriscale, The Girl of the Golden West starring Mabel Van Buren, The Cheat (1915) starring Sessue Hayakawa, The Golden Chance (1915) starring Wallace Reid, Joan the Woman (1916) starring Geraldine Farrar, A Romance of the Redwoods (1917) with Mary Pickford, The Little American again starring Pickford, and The Woman God Forgot (1917) again starring Farrar.

In 1921, MacPherson told a reporter, "I shall always be grateful for Mr. DeMille's assistance. He is a hard taskmaster, and he demands that a thing shall be perfect... It was hard, but it taught me that anything worth doing at all was worth doing perfectly."[2]

MacPherson believed that motion picture owed its psychology to D. W. Griffith and its dramatic picture scenario construction to DeMille.[3][4] In 1927, she became a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[4]

Personal life[edit]

MacPherson and DeMille's relationship was met with speculation for years. DeMille's niece, Agnes de Mille, later confirmed that MacPherson was one of her uncle's three mistresses.[5]

Picture of Cecil B DeMille, a famous American film director, producer and actor of the early cinematic era.
Cecil B. DeMille

MacPherson was a pilot and sought to take daily flights. She was the only woman to pilot the plane of Ormer Locklear.[4]

In 1946, MacPherson became ill with cancer while researching Unconquered (1947), a historical drama, and had to stop work.[2] She died that August in Los Angeles at age 60 and was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. She was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6150 Hollywood Blvd.[4]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Abbie Jean Macpherson - Massachusetts Births". FamilySearch. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Clark, Randall (1986). "American Screenwriters". Dictionary of Literary Biography. 44 (2nd): 185.
  3. ^ a b c Casella, Donna. Feminism and the Female Author: The Not So Silent Career of the Woman Scenarist in Hollywood - 1896-1930,; accessed December 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Lowry, Carolyn. The First One Hundred Noted Men and Women of the Screen"
  5. ^ "Jeanie Macpherson profile". Women Film Project. Retrieved December 2, 2014.

External links[edit]