Monday, May 29, 2017

Born Today May 29: John Emerson


American silent writer and director John Emerson was born Clifton Paden in Sandusky, Ohio. He grew in Ohio, where he most likely started his acting career.  Although his first documented acting credit on the stage came in 1904, it is thought that he did indeed get started before that.  He got his start in writing and directing first on Broadway; then gradually made the change to film (he also acted on Broadway as well).  He first credit in film came in 1912 in the capacity of a writer in The Agitator, an Allan Dwan directed short western made for the American Film Manufacturing Company.  He also made his directorial debut in 1912 with The Story Of The Starved Rock.  His first film acting credit came the next year with The Grey Sentinel, which was produced by the Broncho Film Company.  His credit as a producer came in 1918 with Come On In, which was made under the company that he founded with his wife, writer Anita Loos (the two of them co-wrote the screenplay). By the late 1910's, he was both a writer and directed of note in Hollywood, and very many of his films starred Douglas Fairbanks (Wild And Woolly (1917) is probably the best known).   Although he continued to write for the pictures, he stopped directing in the early 1920's, possibly due to the beginnings of a mental disorder that would plague him for the rest of his life, and was, unfortunately, progressive.  Probably one the best known of his writing contributions from the late silent era came with the now famously lost Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928)--famously remade in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe.  He did, though, manage to serve as president of Actor's Equity Association from 1920 to 1928.  The first full sound film that he wrote for came the next year with The Fall Of Eve (1929)--sound by MovieTone.  The last film that he contributed to the writing up came in 1938 with The Cowboy And The Lady; the film was nominated for 3 Oscars and won for Best Sound.  Increasing suffering from mental illness, Emerson was sadly confined to an institution for the last 18 years of his life.  He died in an institution on the 7th of March, 1956 in Pasadena, CA.  He was 85 years old.  He is buried in the Etna town cemetery in California. Though his career was cut short, and he didn't direct after the year 1922, he was a truly talented director; and it is fortunate that so many of the films that he did direct survive to this day.  [Note: that many sources wrongly give his birth year as 1874]

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