Ralph Spence

Active - 1918 - 1943  |   Born - Nov 4, 1889   |   Died - Dec 21, 1949   |   Genres - Comedy

Share on

"All bad little films when they die go to Ralph Spence." So read the Hollywood trade-paper advertisement of this former Houston journalist, who entered movies as a film editor in 1921. By the mid-'20s, Spence was firmly established as one of Hollywood's top title writers, supplying clever, witty dialogue for such silent film favorites as Wallace Beery, Raymond Hatton, and Marie Dressler. He was also famous as a "film doctor," rearranging scenes and rewriting subtitles in order to make poor films good and good films great. Legend has it that he once completely altered the mood and tone of a mediocre melodrama by reworking one single introductory title, transforming the villain's mistress into his maiden aunt. Many of his "gag" titles became classics: In 1927's The Callahans and the Murphys, for example, he has a drunken woman exclaim, "This stuff makes me see double and feel single!" Reportedly, Spence was considered so valuable a Hollywood commodity that he earned 10,000 dollars a picture; he was also the first title writer to receive separate billing on theater marquees, and at one juncture even starred in his own series of two-reel comedies. In the talkie era, Spence continued to specialize in comedy, collaborating on many of the early Wheeler and Woolsey vehicles at RKO; he was also one of the scenarists on Laurel and Hardy's 1939 "comeback" picture The Flying Deuces. Ralph Spence's final film credit was the 1943 musical Higher and Higher.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography