330px Frances Marion

So many people are spoken of as being groundbreaking. Screenwriter Frances Marion is truly one of them.

During her enormous career she wrote 187 (some say up to 300) scripts - starting in silent film.


Born in 1888 in San Francisco, Frances Marion became proficient in art in school. Once her school was destroyed in the 1904 earthquake, she dropped out, worked as a photographer’s assistant and model.

Multi-talented even at a young age, legendary filmmaker Lois Weber hired her as a writing assistant, and actress. She was so good and photogenic that she could have carved out a career in acting alone but chose to write for the screen.

Marion impressed World Films owner William Brady by recutting an unusable film that starred Brady’s daughter. This resulted in a job offer and in Marion eventually becoming head writer at World Films. She wrote upwards of 50 movies there.

In 1917 the hit Poor Little Rich Girl staring Mary Pickford and written by Marion, cemented Marion’s future as she became the official scriptwriter for the legendary star, Pickford, who started United Artists.

According to Columbia University, quote: “Marion maintained ongoing collaborations with Mary Pickford, Irving Thalberg, and William Randolph Hearst. She excelled at writing scripts that accentuated the strengths of specific actors and is often credited with defining the careers of Marie Dressler, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, and Pickford as well as Pickford’s husband, cowboy star, actor Fred Thomson.

“Her Hollywood tenure was spent mostly in the screenwriting department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where she worked closely with legendary producers Samuel Goldwyn and Irving Thalberg. Marion’s relationships with writers, actors, directors, and executives as well as the crew and staff show an enormous generosity that extended beyond position or power.”

End quote.

So nice to know that Hollywood could feature such people of talent and grace.

Marion had a socially-conscious side that extended to women’s suffragette, writer’s contract rights, and writer’s working conditions. She was a war correspondent in 1918 filming women’s contributions at the front for the government and, became the first woman to cross the Rhine after the Armistice.

In addition to her hundreds of scripts, Marion acted, edited, directed, and produced films. She also wrote text books on scriptwriting as well as dozens of novels, plays, articles, and more.

Her numerous awards include two Academy Awards for writing which also made her the first woman to win an Oscar. At that time she was the highest paid writer in Hollywood, male or female, earning today’s equivalent of 40,000 a week.

She was married four times and retained a lifelong friendship with Mary Pickford even doing a double honeymoon when both women got married around the same time.

Independently wealthy, Frances Marion retired from Hollywood in 1946 and devoted the rest of her life to novels and stage plays. She died in 1973 of a ruptured aneurism.

Sometimes called The Woman Who Gave Hollywood Its Voice, no one article or even series of articles can tell Marion’s story properly. But to paraphrase Socrates, if “a life well-lived” can be said about anyone, that anyone would be...Frances Marion.


There’s an excellent book called “Without Lying Down” by Cari Beauchamp about Marion and some of the early women pioneers of film if anyone is interested.