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Marguerite Bertsch

Parchesky, Jennifer

Little is known about the background or personal life of Marguerite Bertsch, who is quoted in a Photoplay biography in 1916 as saying that “I believe one’s work should speak for one, and if it cannot do that, the less said, the better” (160). We do know that she was well educated, having attended Columbia University, and that she worked as a public school teacher before joining the Vitagraph staff in New York. The same 1916 “thumbnail biography” also mentions playwright Beatrice deMille, mother of Cecil, as an early mentor. Beginning as a staff writer at Vitagraph in 1911, Bertsch had risen by 1914 to become editor-in-chief of the scenario department—succeeding Beta Breuil—where she was responsible for evaluating hundreds of scenarios submitted weekly to the company, selecting promising properties, and revising scripts, all while continuing to write her own original scenarios. Contemporary reports, like that in the New York Telegraph in 1916 emphasize her professional achievements and intellectual acumen, describing her as “a big woman mentally” and “delightfully feminine, but with the brain of a diplomat.” A 1916 cartoon in the Columbus Dispatch depicts her as a bespectacled figure taking a pen to an enormous pile of scenarios under the caption, “Margaret Bertsh [sic] is a scholarly woman.”

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