Charles Brackett on Forgotten Screenwriter Muriel Bolton

Charles Brackett Diaries.jpg

I’m reading legendary screenwriter Charles Brackett’s diaries, and it’s a bit of a slog. Lots of repetitive entries about meetings in LA restaurants. But it’s worth it, because every so often you find a gem about some forgotten icon or a story that never made it into the public consciousness. One such story is his experience hearing about screenwriter Muriel Bolton. Brackett clearly respected her, and he was very difficult to impress. Here’s an excerpt:

She loved writing and just sat in her Chicago home turning out plays and novels, not knowing what to do with them, not bothering to inquire. One day she saw in the paper that the University of Chicago was offering a prize for a play so she went to her well-stocked shelf. She had ten by then and sent the first one she had written to the contest.

Some weeks later she learned it had won. Somebody at the university told her of other contests. She sent off three of her other plays, and they all won.

One was being performed in Santa Barbara, so she decided to run out for two days to catch two performances. Standing the lobby she heard two men speaking about the play so flatteringly that she thanked them. One of them, Sam Marx (father of the Marx brothers), asked her if she had an idea for a certain kind of picture. She said she’d think about it, and the next day appeared at his office with a 52-page treatment.

Sam thanked her, said he’d let her know in a few days. She said no, she had to go back to Chicago that night. He said he’d write. She said no, she’d read it to him. Against all his protests she did. Metro (MGM) pictures bought the treatment and put her on the screenplay.

One day Dick Holiday got word that she’d heard he was an agent and she’d been told she should have an agent. When he was at Metro, could he drop in?

He found her distressed. Kenneth MacKenna (director) had told her she was through with her assignment, he hadn’t another right now but she must regard Metro as “her home” and there was no need to discuss it with anyone else.

She was puzzled by that. No need to discuss what with whom? She’d asked a fellow writer she met in the hall who told her she should get an agent and mentioned Dick’s name.

Dick brought her to Paramount, where she awed everyone. Bill Dozier asked her if she had an idea for a Henry Aldrich story. Instantly, she gave him one beginning, middle, and end, all complete. Bill asked if she had another. Instantly she came out with a second.

She was hired and and has been there ever since…