We were like dragonflies. We seemed to be suspended effortlessly in the air, but in reality, our wings were beating very, very fast. `
-Mae Murray on 1920s Hollywood
In a series of letters home to a friend in New York, aspiring screenwriter Callie O’Keith details her adventures in the “movie colony” in 1922.
The youngest and only girl of seven, Callie was born as the ship docked at Ellis Island and grew up in Five Points, New York. Her mother was killed by a runaway streetcar when Callie was eight, and six years of domestic drudgery "raising" her elder brothers convinced her that glorious spinsterhood was the life for her.
After selling a story to the Saturday Evening Post for the unthinkable sum of $50, she tucked the money under her father's pillow as a goodbye present and hopped on the next train out of Grand Central heading West.
Written in real time in 1922, Callie’s letters seamlessly blend fact and fiction, threading real world characters and events through her own own ambitions, friends, and love interests.
They reveal a fledgling industry hurtling from Bohemian backwater towards the slickly controlled powerhouse of the Golden age.
Up until 1925, an average of 50% of Hollywood releases were written by women, and there was a higher proportion of female directors working then than now. Over ten years, from the creation of the Hayes Office in 1922 until the adoption of the Motion Production Code in the early thirties, the power structures that would ultimately protect Weinstein (et all) were systemically built by the men they would serve.
Women like Callie and her friends saw everything they had worked for crumble — and many, having pioneered this brand new industry, died destitute.