Screen Scribes (1925) 🇬🇧

Olga Prinzlau  | Screen Scribes (1925) |

February 22, 2024

Reams have been written about the different stars and players who live and love upon the screen, and the directors who pull the strings of their actor-puppets so that photoplays may more sincerely portray life in all its varied aspect also come in for their share of publicity.

But the scenario and continuity writers, whose names figure only on the preliminary subtitles of the film are almost entirely overlooked by the public. It seems so easy to tell a story on the screen, therefore everybody forms the mistaken idea that writing a scenario is an easy task. Nothing of the kind. Every movement of every actor is analysed, in the mind of the scenarist with a view to its effect upon the finished picture, and every word in the scenario presents a definite group of players, properties and lighting.

To the uninitiated, C.U., or Med. L.S. mean less than nothing, but to the director or the camera-man they signify the angle from which a scene or a player is to be photographed. C.U. stands for Close-Up, and Med. L.S. for Medium Long Shot, the first bringing the camera right in front of the player, the second placing it so that neither scene nor player are too close to the audience.

All this technique must be at the finger’s ends of the scenarist, who first proceeds to eliminate everything but the bare bones of the story, around which he or she then drapes the thousand and one details and incidentals leading up to the climax.

Dorothy Farnum, one of the best-known screen scribes in the field is young in years, but her literary achievements and her vivid imaginative gifts won her a long term contract with Warner Bros. Beau Brummel, “Lovers’ Lane,” “Babbitt,” “Being Respectable,” “The Lover of Camille,” and “A Lost Lady” are examples of her work.

“Talent,” she declares, “is essential, of course, in writing for the screen, but training is an all-important factor also. One must sit back and watch life go by, life and people. Then too, history, science, art, and above all, current events must be studied continually.”

Comedy scenarios are amongst the most difficult to write, Chaplin [Charles Chaplin] and Lloyd [Harold Lloyd] usually make themselves responsible for theirs. In the light comedy department, Amba Leos and John Emerson star, Julien Josephen, too, has a knack of presenting any plot from a comical angle. He is, too, a successful short story writer.

Olga Prinzlau, whose first effort was a Mary Pickford story when Mary was with Griffith [D.W. Griffith], has since adapted many hundreds of stories for the screen. She was originally a portrait painter.

Another clever woman writer, Marion Fairfax, who was the scenarist of “The Lost World,” first gained fame as a playwright. At one time she used to write all Marshall Neilan’s continuities.

The dean of them all, however, is C. Gardner Sullivan, who was connected with Thomas Ince [Thomas H. Ince] for so many years. He has lost count of the number of his Efforts, but he wrote or adapted practically every film made by William Hart [William S. Hart], Charles Ray, Enid Bennett and the other Ince stars.

Slowly but surely, the always increasing demand for scenarists is creating a new school of writers who concentrate their entire general knowledge as well as their literary talent to the art of the motion picture.

Screen Scribes (1925) |

C. Gardner Sullivan

Marion Fairfax

Olga Prinzlau

Dorothy Farnum

Collection: Picturegoer Magazine, May 1925