Frances Marion

Not to be confused with Francis Marion.
Frances Marion

Frances Marion in 1918
Born Marion Benson Owens
(1888-11-18)November 18, 1888
San Francisco, U.S.
Died May 12, 1973(1973-05-12) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, U.S.
Occupation Author, journalist, screenwriter
Years active 1912–1972
Spouse(s) Fred C. Thomson (1919–1928)
George W. Hill (1930–1933)

Frances Marion (November 18, 1888[1] – May 12, 1973) was an American journalist, author, film director and screenwriter often cited as the most renowned female screenwriter of the 20th century alongside June Mathis and Anita Loos. She was the first writer to win two Academy Awards.[2] [3]

Early life

Marion was born Marion Benson Owens in San Francisco, California. Her parents divorced when she was ten, and she lived with her mother. She dropped out of school at age twelve, after having been caught drawing a cartoon strip of her teacher. She then transferred to a school in San Mateo, and then to art school in San Francisco when she was sixteen years old. This school was destroyed by an earthquake in 1906.


Marion worked as a journalist and served overseas as a combat correspondent during World War I.[4] She documented women's contribution to the war effort on the front lines, and became the first woman to cross the Rhine after the armistice.[5] On her return home, she moved to Los Angeles and was hired as a writing assistant, an actress and general assistant by "Lois Weber Productions", a film company owned and operated by pioneer female film director Lois Weber. She could have been an actor, but preferred work behind the camera. She learned screenwriting from Weber, and wrote one screenplay for her, but then burned it.

As "Frances Marion", she wrote many scripts for actress/filmmaker Mary Pickford, including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl, as well as scripts for numerous other successful films of the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, she earned a salary of $50,000 per year which was unheard of at the time.[6] Marion went to New York for her job, and her husband declined to live with her and they divorced. She became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1930 for the film The Big House, she received the Academy Award for Best Story for The Champ in 1932, both featuring Wallace Beery, and co-wrote Min and Bill starring her friend Marie Dressler and Beery in 1930. She was credited with writing 300 scripts and over 130 produced films. She directed and occasionally appeared in some of Mary Pickford's early movies.

Personal life

Marion's father Len D. Owens built the Aetna Springs resort in Aetna Springs, California in the 1870s. After her success in Hollywood, she often visited the resort using it as a retreat and drew several actors to the resort with her.[7]

Marion was married four times, first to Wesley de Lappe, and later to Robert Pike, both prior to changing her name. In 1919, she wed Fred Thomson, who co-starred with Mary Pickford in The Love Light in 1921.[4] She was such close friends with Mary Pickford, that they honeymooned together when Mary married Douglas Fairbanks and Frances married Fred.[8] After Thomson's unexpected death from a leg wound in 1928, she married director George W. Hill in 1930, but that marriage ended in divorce in 1933. She had two sons—Frederick C. Thomson and Richard Thomson (adopted). Fred earned a PhD in English at Yale, taught there and later joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina. He became an editor of the writings of George Eliot, publishing editions of Felix Holt, the Radical in 1980 and later.

Later years and death

For many years she was under contract to MGM Studios, but, independently wealthy, she left Hollywood in 1946 to devote more time to writing stage plays and novels.

Frances Marion published a memoir Off With Their Heads: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood in 1972. Marion died the following year of a ruptured aneurysm in Los Angeles.[9]

Selected filmography

Year Title Featured Stars Notes
1912 The New York Hat Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish Contributing writer
1915 Camille Clara Kimball Young, Paul Capellani, Robert Cummings Scenario
A Girl of Yesterday Mary Pickford, Frances Marion, Glenn L. Martin actress
1916 The Gilded Cage Alice Brady, Montagu Love, Alec B. Francis scenarist/writer
1917 The Little Princess Katherine Griffith, Mary Pickford, Norman Kerry, ZaSu Pitts, Theodore Roberts Writer
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Mary Pickford, Eugene O'Brien Writer
The Poor Little Rich Girl Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks Writer
1918 Stella Maris Mary Pickford Photoplay
How Could You, Jean? Mary Pickford Scenario
M'Liss Mary Pickford Writer
Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley Mary Pickford, William Scott, Kate Price Writer
1919 The Cinema Murder Marion Davies, Eulalie Jensen, Anders Randolf, Reginald Barlow Scenario
Anne of Green Gables Mary Miles Minter Writer
1920 Pollyanna Mary Pickford Adaptation
The Flapper Olive Thomas, Warren Cook Screenplay, story
The Restless Sex Marion Davies, Ralph Kellard Writer
1921 The Love Light Mary Pickford, Evelyn Dumo Director, story (uncredited)
1922 The Toll of the Sea Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley Scenario (uncredited), story
1923 The Famous Mrs. Fair Myrtle Stedman, Huntley Gordon Adaptation, screenplay
1924 Secrets Norma Talmadge Adaptation
Cytherea Alma Rubens, Constance Bennett, Norman Kerry, Lewis Stone, Irene Rich Adaptation
The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln George A. Billing, Ruth Clifford, George K. Arthur, Louise Fazenda Story, screenplay
1925 Stella Dallas Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett, Lois Moran Adaptation
A Thief in Paradise Doris Kenyon, Ronald Colman, Aileen Pringle Adaptation
Thank You Alec B. Francis, Jacqueline Logan Writer
Lightnin' Jay Hunt, Wallace MacDonald Writer
1926 The Scarlet Letter Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson Adaptation, scenario, titles
The Winning of Barbara Worth Ronald Colman, Vilma Bánky Adaptation
Son of the Sheik Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Bánky, Montagu Love, Karl Dane, George Fawcett Adaptation
1927 The Red Mill Marion Davies Adaptation, screenplay
Love John Gilbert, Greta Garbo Continuity
Madame Pompadour Dorothy Gish Writer
1928 The Wind Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Dorothy Cumming Scenario
The Awakening Vilma Bánky, Walter Byron Story
Bringing Up Father J. Farrell MacDonald, Polly Moran, Marie Dressler Writer
1929 Their Own Desire Norma Shearer, Belle Bennett, Lewis Stone, Robert Montgomery, Helene Millard Screenplay
1930 Min and Bill Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery Dialogue, scenario
The Big House Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone Dialogue, story
Won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Good News Mary Lawlor, Stanley Smith Scenario
The Rouge Song Lawrence Tibbett, Catherine Dale Owen Writer
Anna Christie Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, Marie Dressler Writer
1931 Anna Christie Greta Garbo, Theo Shall, Hans Junkermann Adaptation
The Secret Six Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, Marjorie Rambeau Dialogue, screenplay
The Champ Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich, Roscoe Ates Story
Won the Academy Award for Best Story
1932 Blondie of the Follies Marion Davies, Robert Montgomery, Billie Dove Screenplay, story
Emma Marie Dressler, Richard Cromwell, Jean Hersholt, Myrna Loy Story
1933 Peg o' My Heart Marion Davies, Onslow Stevens, J. Farrell MacDonald Adaptation
Dinner at Eight Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Billie Burke Screenplay
The Prizefighter and the Lady Myrna Loy, Max Baer, Walter Huston, Primo Carnera, Jack Dempsey Story
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story
Going Hollywood Marion Davies, Bing Crosby, Fifi D'Orsay, Stuart Erwin Story (uncredited)
Secrets Mary Pickford, Leslie Howard Writer
1936 Camille Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore Screenplay
Riffraff Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy Screenplay, story
Poor Little Rich Girl Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Jack Haley, Gloria Stuart, Michael Whalen, Claude Gillingwater Writer
1937 Knight Without Armour Marlene Dietrich, Robert Donat Adaptation
Love from a Stranger Ann Harding, Basil Rathbone Adaption
1940 Green Hell Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Vincent Price, Joan Bennett, Alan Hale, Sr., George Sanders, John Howard Original story, screenplay

Published works


  • Beauchamp, C. Marion, Frances. American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  • Beauchamp, Cari (1997). Without lying down: Frances Marion and the powerful women of early Hollywood. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21492-7. 


  1. Beauchamp. 1997
  3. Cari Beauchamp. "Marion, Frances";; American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Access Date: Wed Apr 02 2014 02:02:28 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
  4. 1 2 "Frances Marion Biography". Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  5. "The Love Light starring Mark Pickford and Fred Thompson".
  6. womenfilmpioneersproject (2013-10-10), The Love Light (Frances Marion, Mary Pickford Co. US 1921) (d/w), retrieved 2016-03-31
  7. Jensen, Peter (February 6, 2012). "A grand 19th-century resort to be reborn in Pope Valley". Napa Valley Register. Napa, California. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  8. "The Love Light starring Mark Pickford and Fred Thompson".
  9. Sicherman, Barbara; Hurd Green, Carol (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period : A Biographical Dictionary. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 457. ISBN 0-674-62732-6.

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.