“To some people life is narrative. To others it is drama. To me life is dramatic. It is never just a story, and to me scenario writing is the easiest form of expression.” Kate Corbaley thus expressed her views in Photoplay after winning first prize in the Photoplay-Triangle Scenario Contest. The film she wrote was Real Folks (1918), which began her journey as a screenwriter. Following Corbaley’s receipt of the prize, Real Folks was produced by Triangle Film Company and released in theatres. Although the Photoplay contest appears to have given a talented young woman a head start, we still have reason, given Anne Morey’s recent research, to be skeptical about the industry recruitment of amateur writers and the promotional motives behind contests (Morey 1997, 300-319). We wonder if Photoplay’s figure of 7,000 stories submitted was an inflated number. Further, Corbaley was not a complete novice, as the Photoplay article reveals that Real Folks was Corbaley’s second prize (104). In 1917, she had written a comedy for Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew and the comedienne praised her for her ability to create people. And the relatively untrained Corbaley had not written a scenario that went directly into production but “Real Folks” was an original story that still had to be adapted for the screen—something we learn from the American Film Institute catalog, which lists Corbaley as “storywriter” and credits Jack Cunningham as scenario writer. Was Corbaley’s story worthy of the prize? Although no extant prints of Real Folks survive to help us assess the work, film reviews were favorable. Exhibitor’s Trade Review praised the visual style, mentioning its landscapes, interiors, and close-ups as well as the story that combined “mirth” with “pathos” (913).
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