Lenore J. Coffee

Active - 1921 - 1959  |   Born - Jul 13, 1896   |   Died - Jul 2, 1984   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Following her graduation from Dominican College in San Rafael, California, San Francisco-born Lenore J. Coffee landed a job writing advertising copy for a Frisco department store. In 1919, Coffee entered the film industry as a script girl on the Clara Kimball Young vehicle The Eyes of Youth. She then became a title writer for Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille and others. During the silent era, Coffee solidified her reputation as a "fixer upper," tackling creative problems that had arisen on the scripts of other writers; as such, her contributions frequently went uncredited. Making an easy transition to talkies, she worked for MGM until 1937, until an acrimonious salary dispute ended her association with that studio. She moved on to Warner Bros., almost immediately earning an Oscar nomination for her work on Four Daughters (1938). The Warners thought so highly of Coffee that they permitted her to work at home--a rare privilege, inasmuch as most Warners scriveners were not only required to put in regular hours at the studio, but also punch a time clock! At the height of her powers in the 1940s, Coffee wrote or co-wrote some of Warners' best films, including several Bette Davis vehicles. Outside of her movie activities, Coffee collaborated with her husband William J. Cowan on the controversial stage play Family Portrait, a demystified, down-to-earth look at the family of Jesus Christ. She also wrote a novel, Weep No More, later filmed as Another Time, Another Place (1958). After wrapping up her final Hollywood project, 1959's Cash McCall, Coffee and her husband relocated to his native England. After Cowan's death, however, Coffee suffered a series of financial reverses and was obliged to move back to California, where she spent her declining years at the Motion Picture Country Home. In 1973, she penned her memoirs, Storyline: Reflections of a Hollywood Screenwriter. Lenore J. Coffee was the mother of Sabina Thorne, a fine novelist in her own right.

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