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Essays

Louella Parsons and Harriet Parsons

Kelley, Michelle

Although best known as the premiere Hollywood gossip columnist of the classical Hollywood studio era, Louella Parsons began her career in the film industry in 1911 when she was hired by the Chicago-based production company Essanay as its chief scenario editor. Referencing a story published in Louella’s hometown Illinois newspaper the Dixon Telegraph in 1936, Parsons biographer Samantha Barbas writes that, although Parsons’s application for the position was initially discarded, she ingratiated herself with Essanay cofounder George Spoor’s wife, who subsequently persuaded Spoor to hire her. Barbas’s account of Louella’s hire differs slightly from that of Louella herself, put forward in her best-selling 1944 book, The Gay Illiterate. Barbas writes that Louella, upon discovering that her cousin Margaret Oettinger was friendly with Ruth Helms, the daughter of George Spoor’s wife’s closest acquaintance, begged the little girl to introduce her to Mrs. Spoor in exchange for movie tickets. In contrast, Parsons recalls that Helms was so impressed by a scenario she had written entitled Chains that the twelve-year-old took it upon herself to acquire Louella a job in the film industry: “Ruth hounded poor Mrs. Spoor so unmercifully that she, in turn, hounded her busy husband into giving me the appointment.” Parsons notes that Essanay not only hired her as scenario editor, but purchased the scenario for the sum of twenty-five dollars. Although no longer extant, Parsons reports that Chains was produced in 1912 staring Essanay heartthrob Francis X. Bushman (Barbas 2005, 33; Parsons 1944, 20–21).

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019