Gertrude Purcell

Gertrude M. Purcell (June 14, 1895 – May 1, 1963) was an American screenwriter, playwright, and stage actress known for her work on films like The Invisible Woman and Destry Rides Again.

Gertrude Purcell
BornJune 14, 1895
New York City, New York, USA
DiedMay 1, 1963 (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, USA
EducationHunter College
Columbia University
OccupationScreenwriter, playwright, stage actress

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Born in Manhattan to Cornelius and Frances Purcell, Gertrude graduated from Hunter College and then took extension courses at Columbia University, where she met Leila Taylor, a journalism student. Right out of college, the two managed to get their script for Voltaire, a three-act comedy, to director Arthur Hopkins, who agreed to direct and produce it on Broadway.[1] At the time, this made them the youngest playwrights to have a play on Broadway. Purcell also played a few parts on the stage during this time period.[2][3][4][5]

Hollywood careerEdit

By the early 1930, she had begun writing and adapting screenplays under contract at Paramount Pictures, and by 1931, she had moved to Los Angeles.[6] One of her first screenplays was the Dorothy Arzner–directed Honor Among Lovers, a Paramount film starring Claudette Colbert and Frederic March.[7]

Purcell—who was described by a friend as a "masculine, funny, and hard-drinking woman"[8]—worked as a freelancer for much of her career, penning scripts for most of the major studios. Her biggest Hollywood credits include The Invisible Woman, The Lady and the Mob, and Destry Rides Again. Purcell and screenwriter Edmund Hartman were supposed to write Babes on Broadway at MGM, but producer Arthur Freed fired the pair in order to assign the project to Freddy Finklehoffe.[9]

She appears to have married writer-producer Islin Auster, who was 10 years her junior, in secret in Tijuana in 1932, but by 1940, they no longer appear to have been living together.[10]

McCarthy eraEdit

During the McCarthy era, Purcell was noted as an "important" informer and a "cooperative witness" alongside industry insiders like Elia Kazan.[11] She testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities[12] that she had been a member of the Communist Party from 1939–1942 but that she had quit after becoming disenchanted with its policies.[13] "I was fed up with thought control, lack of spirit and initiative," she said at the time.[14]

Purcell attempted suicide in the wake of her testimony, but her landlord found her in her Hollywood apartment on North Grace Street and had her transported to the hospital. "I have been out of work for a year, and I wanted to end it all," she told the police.[15][16] She would never work in Hollywood again, but she would live another decade. Purcell died May 1, 1963, in Los Angeles. Her final resting place is unknown.

Selected playsEdit

  • Three Little Girls (1930)
  • Fancy Lady (1930)
  • Luckee Girl (1928)
  • The Madcap (1927)
  • Just Fancy (1927)
  • Listen Dearie (1926)
  • The Eternal Masculine (1925)
  • Tangletoes (1925)
  • Stella Dallas (1924)
  • Voltaire (1923)

Selected filmographyEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Clipped From New York Herald". New York Herald. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  2. ^ "Clipped From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  3. ^ "25 Mar 1922, Page 1 - The News Reporter at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  4. ^ "13 Jun 1926, 85 - Daily News at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  5. ^ "7 Aug 1921, 42 - New York Herald at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  6. ^ "13 Sep 1931, 50 - The Los Angeles Times at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  7. ^ "13 Apr 1931, 3 - Chippewa Herald-Telegram at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  8. ^ Wald, Alan M. (2012-10-15). American Night: The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War. UNC Press Books. ISBN 9780807837344.
  9. ^ McCaffrey, Donald W. (2006). Bound and Gagged in Hollywood: Edmund L. Hartmann, Screenwriter and Producer. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810857292.
  10. ^ "Clipped From Evening Courier". Evening Courier. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  11. ^ Ceplair, Larry; Englund, Steven (1983). The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-1960. University of California Press. p. 457. ISBN 9780520048867. gertrude purcell screenwriter.
  12. ^ Activities, United States Congress House Committee on Un-American (1953). Hearings.
  13. ^ "Clipped From The Los Angeles Times". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  14. ^ "9 Apr 1953, Page 5 - Albuquerque Journal at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  15. ^ "Clipped From The Los Angeles Times". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  16. ^ "Clipped From The Bakersfield Californian". The Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved 2018-12-28.