These recently came through with a batch of silent film star photos and I thought the subject matter was different enough to make them worth sharing.
The press photo immediately below shows Jane Cowl, a turn of the century star of the stage, and Jane Murfin, who collectively wrote plays under the pseudonym Alan Langdon Martin. Under this name they wrote the smash Smilin’ Through, which opened in 1919 and ran for an incredible 1,170 performances on Broadway.
This same Smilin’ Through was adapted 3 times as a film, first in 1917 starring Norma Talmadge, Wyndham Standing, and Harrison Ford, the in 1932 with Norma Shearer, Fredric March, and Leslie Howard, and finally a 1940 muscial version starring Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Aherne, and Gene Raymond.
Prior to Smilin’ Through they’d worked together on a moderate hit but followed with two flops—they suspected sexism was hurting them and thus was born the singular Martin. Cowl doesn’t appear to have written anything specifically bound for film, but Murfin had a hand in over 20 screenplays all throughout the 1930’s until the end of the World War II years.
Margaret Mayo was also a stage actress, but unlike Cowl she retired from acting to take up full time work as a playwright. Mayo was married to Edgar Selwyn at the time he formed his partnership with Samuel Goldfish to form Goldwyn Pictures, the name formed in combination of the partners’ own surnames which Goldfish would later take as his own.
Selwyn and his brother, Archie, were previously Broadway producers. Not coincidentally Mayo’s last stage appearance as an actress came in late 1903, the same year she married producer Selwyn and took up playwrighting. So it makes sense that Goldwyn Pictures first production in 1917 would be Mayo’s Polly of the Circus (first produced on stage in 1907) starring Mae Marsh, followed by another Mayo adaptation, Baby Mine, that same year.
Both of the photos of Margaret Mayo on this page are dated that year, 1917, with one specifically noting she has retired as a playwright to take up writing for the screen full time going forward. Mayo charged Selwyn with desertion in their 1919 Reno divorce.
These rare and historical original vintage press photos are available at auction on eBay this week (ending the evening of April 8).
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