Frances Marion

Active - 1915 - 2000  |   Born - Nov 18, 1887   |   Died - May 12, 1973   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American screenwriter Frances Marion was never certain of her birthdate, but thought that it was 1888 because she was told by her grandmother that the year was full of lucky eights. Thus she went through most of her life assuming herself one year younger than she was. One thing Marion did know for certain: she was the descendant of Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, better known as the Swamp Fox -- hence her own name. In her early years, Marion dabbled in illustrating, acting and modelling before securing a reporter job at the San Francisco Examiner. Thanks to an acute manpower shortage and her own powers of persuasion, Marion was among the few female correspondents sent to the Front in World War One. Back in California, she began writing scenarios for movies, which brought her to the attention of producer Louis B. Mayer. Once Mayer helped organize MGM, Marion became the studio's top screenwriter, responsible for such Oscar-winning fare as The Big House (1930) and The Champ, and also the creative force behind many a Marion Davies vehicle. Because she was a favorite of Davies, there were rumors that Marion kept her job at MGM only through the aegis of Marion's "protector" William Randolph Hearst; some historians insist to this day (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that Marion was virtually illiterate and that her greatest scripts were ghosted by others. Married four times, Marion's third husband was cowboy star Fred Thomson, whose westerns were so unusually well written that it was hinted that Frances was penning them under a pseudonym (Thomson's sudden death in 1928 was a devastating loss for Marion, one that required several years' emotional recovery). Leaving MGM to free-lance in the late '30s, Marion worked on such projects as Universal's Green Hell (1940) and 20th Century-Fox's Molly and Me (1943). The last films to carry Marion's name on the credits were The Clown (1953) and The Champ (1979), both remakes of the 1931 version of The Champ. Long retired, Frances Marion wrote her autobiography Off with Their Heads in 1972, the year before her death.

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