Help Wanted: Let’s get Frances Marion preserved!

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Well, not Frances Marion herself. That would be weird. No, I mean her films. Frances Marion is best remembered today as a pioneering screenwriter but she was also a director during the silent era. While The Love Light has been released on home media, her other directorial efforts, Just Around the Corner (1921) and The Song of Love (1923), have yet to see release. Both films are held by the Library of Congress.

Every year, The National Film Preservation Board selects 25 films to be specially preserved for the ages. You can read the complete nomination requirements here.

Please consider writing in and nominating some Frances Marion titles as both director and screenwriter. Here are my recommended selections but please feel free to include any Marion films that you love:

Stella Maris (1918)

*The Song of Love (1923)

*The Love Light (1921)

*Just Around the Corner (1921)

Dinner at Eight (1933)

The Big House (1930)

The Champ (1931)

(Screenwriter on all titles. Also directed titles marked with *)

What do I do?

Send in your list of nominees to the following email address:

dross@loc.gov

While they give their physical address on their nomination instructions page, they state that email is preferred. They also ask that you number your recommendations and state where you learned about their registry.

If you want more details, please visit the registry’s FAQ page.

Why Frances Marion?

While there were countless numbers of important women in early Hollywood, Frances Marion still has quite a bit of name recognition and respect. She deserves to have her films preserved. (The Wind is already on the registry but it is noted more for the contributions of Lillian Gish and Victor Seastrom.)

Most of all, her movies are important. Her writing is sharp and snappy. Her career as a director is intriguing. Her body of work deserves the honor of inclusion in the National Film Registry. The motion pictures listed, in my opinion, fit the requirement of being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

What if I want to nominate other films?

You are allowed to nominate up to 50 films. Please consider making a Frances Marion title one of that 50.

A big thank you for helping and another big thank you to the wonderful Women in Film & Video. They drew my attention to this important gap in the National Film Registry and inspired me to lend a hand.

Recommended

Photoplay Cookbook: Frances Marion’s “Tomato Nut Salad”

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Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we are going to be trying out a recipe from pioneering screenwriter and director Frances Marion.

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Marion may be well-remembered today for her witty scripts (Dinner at Eight, for example) but she also tried her hand at directing. Getting conked on the head with a light on the set of Song of Love turned her off to the idea of holding the megaphone (not sure I blame her) but she continued her wildly successful writing career for many years after.

I have to give Marion credit. You have to respect her for absolutely not taking her cookbook assignment seriously. She’s a busy woman! She’s churning out scripts in both quantity and quality and now they want a recipe too? Okay, buddy, here’s your recipe. Tomato Nut Salad. You take tomatoes. You take nuts. You have a salad.

I can respect this. But let’s see how good the recipe is.

The original recipe:

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“Sour cream dressing can also be used for other kinds of salads.” Really? This exotic “sour” cream has other uses? I am so happy they told me this, I never would have figured it out on my own.

I did not make my own sour cream. Out of respect for Frances Marion’s legacy of laziness (in the best way possible) I just went to the dairy case and bought the stuff ready-made. Ha! Take that, Photoplay! I also did not garnish it with parsley because I forgot. I used good cherry tomatoes as the larger varieties looked vaguely anemic. I sliced them in half as I did not relish the idea of chasing rolling little spheres around a plate with my fork.

It came out looking pretty nice, I must say.

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Here is my taste test video:

My Rating: 3 out of 5. With such a simple recipe, it all comes down to your ingredients. Good tomatoes and fresh walnuts? It should be okay.  I have to say, though, I did not really care for the tomato-walnut combination. I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t a pairing I ever would have made on my own. I think the astringent quality of the walnuts fights with the acid of the tomatoes.

This recipe garners a solid so-so from me. It’s not amazing in a bad or good way. Just okay.

Can it be improved? Yes! I substituted a Pink Lady apple for the tomato and thought it was absolutely killer. Kind of a deconstructed Waldorf Salad. I have actually been eating this for breakfast lately. Any crunchy, tangy apple will do. I can see it working with Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp or any other tasty little apple the stores might carry. This would have been a 5 star recipe if Marion had called for an apple.

I love tomatoes (they are my favorite produce-of-questionable-botanical-category-due-to-old-tariff-laws) but this recipe was made for apples.

Variations: If you or someone you want to prepare vintage salads for are unable to eat dairy, you can try this recipe with vegan sour cream. (This recipe contains soy. Just saying.)

Recommended

Zander the Great (1925) A Silent Film Review

A sort of orphanage-western-drama-comedy, Zander the Great was one of Marion Davies’ big hits and her first film for the newly-merged MGM. She is an orphan who takes in a small boy and then sets out for Arizona in search of his father, who may or may not be a bootlegger. On the way, she meets Harrison Ford, who really is a bootlegger. A darling bit of fluff from the pen of Frances Marion.

Continue reading “Zander the Great (1925) A Silent Film Review”

In the Vaults #9: The Song of Love (1923)

Status: 35mm prints held by The Library of Congress and the Czech Film Archive.

The Song of Love is one of those films that is more famous for what went on behind the camera. First, there was drama on the set. Joseph Schildkraut got most of the blame but I think he was just annoyed about being decked out in spit curls and ballet flats.

Anyway, news reports about the Talmadge-Schildkraut collaboration went from this:

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to this:

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But I still blame those spit curls.

Don’t worry about Mr. Schildkraut, by the way. He ended up just fine.

He cried all the way to the Oscars.
He cried all the way to the Oscars.

And the film was Frances Marion’s third and final attempt at breaking into directing. Marion was, of course, a popular and successful screenwriter. The first film she directed was The Love Light (which, for the record, I hated), starring Mary Pickford and Marion’s husband Fred Thomson. Marion was hit by a falling arc lamp while making The Song of Love and frequent Norma Talmadge collaborator Chester M. Franklin filled in while she recovered.

The scenario was adapted by Marion as well. Norma Talmadge’s character is named Noorma-hal. Noorma-hal. This is going to hurt, isn’t it? I wonder if any scenarios exist for Poola-hal Negri? Or Doorothy-hal Gish? Or Doouglas-hal Fairbanks?

Okay, I’ll stop.

The plot involves a dancing girl (Talmadge) who falls for an undercover French agent (Schildkraut). When a villainous rebel chieftain (Arthur Edmund Carewe) captures Mr. Schildkraut (spit curls and all), Miss Talmadge must spring into action to save the man she loves. All while (naturally) wearing teensy little costumes. Feminism!

Photoplay was mildly enthusiastic:

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Norma Talmadge steps slightly out of character one always thinks of her as dignity incarnate to become Noorma-hal, a passionate, lovely dancing girl of the desert. Although a different Norma she is always charming, always warmly sympathetic. Torn between the faith of her ancestors and the love of a man who has confessed to being a spy, the girl is forced to tight a great battle with herself.

Variety less so:

Outside of Miss Talmadge there isn’t an awful lot to “The Song of Love.” It is another of those desert stories, the same type more or less that went out of fashion a little over a year ago as far as the big first-run houses were concerned, at any rate. There is a lot of sand, some of the sheik stuff, some hard riding and gunplay, and above all Norma slips through a dance.

Just because a film was written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starred a woman… well, that doesn’t make it feminist. This is a fact some film historians seem to ignore. However, while it doesn’t work as an empowerment film, it looks like there are other advantages to this movie. Frankly, it looks like a kitschy riot! Here’s hoping we get to see it soon!