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Lydia Hayward

Gledhill, Christine

Lydia Hayward—born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in Sheffield, England, to a father in the entertainment business—started her career as a stage actress, but in her early forties switched careers to become a leading scriptwriter in the British film industry. Her theatrical career has yet to be researched; however, in 1914, according to the website Theatricalia, she was taking roles at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (n.p.). By 1920 she had become a sufficiently spirited and dependable character actor to be cast as the convention-challenging Lona Hessel in Rex Wilson’s film adaptation of Ibsen’s Pillars of Society (1920), giving a performance that Kinematograph Weekly found “probably the best all-round piece of work” in a well-regarded film (1920, 82). However, thereafter she deserted both stage and film acting, to go behind the scenes as a scenarist, working in the British film industry between 1920 and 1942, where she achieved frequent recognition in the trade press: on May 12, 1927, The Bioscope declared her “the finest scenario writer we have” (33). Indeed, her aim in joining the cast of Pillars of Society may have been to learn the film business, since in her only known interview—made in Australia on April 12, 1939 with The Sydney Morning Herald—she cites as her inspiration a shilling guide on the art of scenario writing, loaned to her when visiting the office of Frank Benson’s Shakespearean company (6).

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