As with many women in early cinema, such as Jeanie Macpherson and Frances Marion, Dorothy Farnum’s career in Hollywood began with acting before settling into writing. Known for her intelligence and beauty, she worked well in front of the camera. From articles in the Los Angeles Times, we know that she was educated in a convent boarding school (location unknown) where Farnum mastered French history and literature and became fluent in Spanish and German (C27, 33). Although she received several offers to act and even appeared in the films Over Night (1915) and The Cub (1915), she was reported to have instead preferred writing scenarios for the silent screen. Farnum’s scenario writing career began in 1919 when she approached producer Harry Rapf with an original scenario titled The Broken Melody. Impressed with her skills, he employed Farnum at a commission of twenty-five dollars a week. Unfortunately, after just two weeks Farnum proved to be too inexperienced and was released from her contract. Rapf promised to employ her once she attained a footing in the industry and refined her trade. Farnum continued to work for a few years, steadily writing adaptations and scenarios. Finally, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, Rapf rehired her in May 1926 and gave her work on what would become one of her most renowned films: Beau Brummel (1924) starring John Barrymore (C27).
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