Bess Meredyth

Bess Meredyth (born Helen Elizabeth MacGlashen, February 12, 1890 – July 13, 1969) was a screenwriter and silent film actress. The wife of film director Michael Curtiz, Meredyth wrote The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and adapted The Unsuspected (1947). She was one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Bess Meredyth
Bess Meredyth
Helen Elizabeth MacGlashen

(1890-02-12)February 12, 1890
DiedJuly 13, 1969(1969-07-13) (aged 79)
Occupation(s)Actress, screenwriter
Years active1912–1947
Burton Leslie
(m. 1912; annul. 1912)
(m. 1917; div. 1927)
(m. 1929; died 1962)
ChildrenJohn Meredyth Lucas

Early lifeEdit

Meredyth began her involvement in performing and writing from an early age. Her father was the manager at a local theatre, and she studied piano throughout her childhood. After encouragement from her English teacher, Meredyth also pursued fiction writing.[1] At the age of 13, she approached the local newspaper editor about writing a fiction column. Each story she wrote for the paper earned her a dollar, making this her first paid work as a writer.[2]

Meredyth began her career in show business in vaudeville as a comedian. She most often sang or performed monologues while accompanying herself on the piano, a form she referred to as a "pianologue."[2]

Acting careerEdit

Meredyth began her screen career as an extra at D.W. Griffith's Biograph Studios in New York, before moving to Los Angeles in 1911.[3] Meredyth worked as an actress for five years, subsidizing her income with screenwriting. While most of this work was as an extra, her most prominent role was the titular character in the 4-reel Bess the Detectress (1914) serials.[3]

Relationship With Wilfred LucasEdit

Meredyth met Wilfred Lucas in 1911 when he encouraged her to pursue screen acting.[2] The year after, the two worked together on the film A Sailor's Heart (1913), the first of many artistic collaborations.[3] They were eventually given their production unit at Universal Studios, in which they produced the 30-reel long Trey of Hearts (1914) serials.

Meredyth and Lucas had one child together, television writer John Meredyth Lucas.[3] They divorced in 1927, following her return from supervising Ben Hur (1925)[1]

Work with Snowy BakerEdit

In 1918, Meredyth and Lucas traveled to Australia to work with Australian sportsman Snowy Baker. They made three films together, The Man from Kangaroo (1920), The Jackeroo of Coolabong (1920) and The Shadow of Lightning Ridge (1921), the first two of which Meredyth co-directed.[3] She was arguably the first professional screenwriter to work in Australia.[4]

Relationship with Michael CurtizEdit

Meredyth and director Michael Curtiz met soon after his arrival in the United States, while both were working at Warner Brothers Studios.[5] They were married in 1929 and unsuccessfully attempted to start a production unit at MGM studios in 1946.[1]

Though often uncredited, Meredyth contributed to several of Curtiz's projects. Most notably, Curtiz reportedly called Meredyth for input several times a day while working on his most successful film, Casablanca (1942). [6]

Meredyth and Curtiz separated twice; once in 1941, and again in 1960. However, they remained in contact after this separation,[1] and Curtiz included Meredyth in his will upon his death in 1962.[5]


In 1934, Covei-Friede published The Mighty Barnum by Meredyth and Gene Fowler. In a review in The New York Times, John Chamberlain wrote that the book "marks the first time that a motion-picture scenario, or 'shooting script,' has been published in book form."[7]


Throughout her time at MGM studios, Meredyth had mainly worked under Irving Thalberg. Upon his death in 1936, the new MGM executives dropped Meredyth's contract.[1] Rather than re-entering as a "junior writer," as the new executives offered, Meredyth decided to retire from professional screenwriting. Despite this announcement, she has three credits after her alleged retirement, The Mark of Zorro (1940), That Night in Rio (1941), and The Unsuspected (1947).[3]


On July 13, 1969, Meredyth died at the Motion Picture Country Hospital at age 79.[8]


As writerEdit

As actressEdit

  • The Spanish Jade (1915)
  • The Mother Instinct (1915) as Madame de Voux
  • When Eddie Took a Bath (1915) as Bess, the Wife
  • Who Stole the Bridegroom? (1914) as Bess, the Bride
  • When Lizzie Got Her Polish (1914) as Bess
  • When Their Brides Got Mixed (1914) as Bess, the Bride
  • When the Girls Were Shanghaied (1914) as Mrs. Newlywed
  • Those Were the Happy Days (1914) as The Belle of the School
  • When Bess Got in Wrong (1914) as Bess
  • Father's Bride (1914) as The Wife
  • The Little Auto-Go-Mobile (1914) as The Wife
  • Pass Key Number Two (1914) as Wifie
  • Her Twin Brother (1914) as Josephine Brown
  • The Third Party (1914) as Bess, the Wife
  • The Wooing of Bessie Bumpkin (1914) as Bessie Bumpkin
  • Jimmy Kelly and the Kidnappers (1914) as Bess
  • Willy Walrus and the Awful Confession (1914) as Bessie Bumpkin
  • Bess the Detectress in the Dog Watch (1914) as Bess
  • Bess the Detectress in Tick, Tick, Tick (1914) as Bess the Detectress
  • Willy Walrus, Detective (1914) as Bessie Bumpkin
  • The Cure (1914) as The Daughter
  • Bess the Detectress in the Old Mill at Midnight (1914) as Bess
  • Willy Walrus and the Baby (1914) as Bessie Bumpkin
  • The Call Back (1914)
  • The Fascinating Eye (1914) as Bess
  • Stolen Glory (1914) as Jane Dare
  • Dangers of the Veldt (1914) as Gretchen
  • The Desert's Sting (1914) as Helen Edwards
  • Bred in the Bone (1914) as The Colonel's Daughter
  • A House Divided (1913) as Betty Culver
  • The Widow and the Widower (1913) as One of the Children
  • Gold Is Not All (1913) as The Slavey
  • A Sailor's Heart (1913) as The Sailor's 1st Sweetheart


  1. ^ a b c d e Beauchamp, Cari (1997). Without Lying Down. New York: Scribner. pp. 42, 154–55, 306, 357, 375. ISBN 0684802139.
  2. ^ a b c Lucas, Victoria (2015). Women Screenwriters, An International Guide. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 824–827. ISBN 9781137312372.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Clark, Virginia M. (1997). International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers- Writers and Production Artists. Detroit: St. James Press. pp. 566–567. ISBN 1558623027.
  4. ^ Stephen Vagg, 'A Brief History of Australian Screenwriting'. Lumina Issue 7, May 2011
  5. ^ a b Robertson, James C. (1993). The Casablanca Man. New York: Routledge. pp. 98, 138–139. ISBN 0415068045.
  6. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (1992). Round Up The Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca- Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. New York: Hyperion. pp. 122–123. ISBN 1562829416.
  7. ^ Chamberlain, John (December 17, 1934). "Books of the Times". The New York Times. p. 17. ProQuest 101062807. Retrieved October 17, 2020 – via ProQuest.
  8. ^ "Bess Meredyth". The New York Times. Associated Press. July 15, 1969. p. 39. ProQuest 118599144. Retrieved October 17, 2020 – via ProQuest.

External linksEdit