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Turney, Catherine

TURNEY, Catherine

Born 16 December 1906, Chicago, Illinois

Daughter of George W. and Elizabeth Blamer Turney; married Cyril Armbrister, 1930; George Reynolds, 1940

When Catherine Turney was six months old, her family moved to Rome, New York, where she grew up. In 1921 they moved to Pasadena, California. She studied play and short story writing at Columbia School of Journalism. In the summer of 1926, she began to work at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she assisted Gilmore Brown on the world premiere of Eugene O'Neill's Lazarus Laughed. She became director of the Playhouse Workshop and received a scholarship when the School of Theatre was officially established; she graduated in the first class in 1931.

Turney organized the Bandbox, a small touring company that later became the Leo Carillo Theater on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. As the difficulties of maintaining such theaters multiplied, she turned more and more to writing. She first wrote scripts for radio, a medium to which she returned from time to time. In 1936 Turney's first stage play, Bitter Harvest, opened in London, concerning the ill-fated love of Byron for his half sister. My Dear Children, produced on Broadway in 1938, was an excellent starring vehicle for John Barrymore. It capitalized on his reputation as a romantic figure and reveals the strong sense of theater characterizing much of Turney's work.

She wrote for Metro Goldwyn Mayer for a year during the 1930s, and for Warner Brothers from 1942 to 1948. Among her screen credits are Mildred Pierce (first draft, 1945), A Stolen Life (1946), Winter Meeting (1948), My Reputation (1946), and Cry Wolf (1947). In 1949 she moved to New York to write television scripts for Studio One and Starlight Theater, later returning to California where she continued to write for television shows such as Ford Theater, Lux Video, One Step Beyond, and Walt Disney.

Turney wrote one novel, The Other One (1955, later called Possessed), a supernatural story. Its dramatic quality led to its being made into a film, Bring Back the Dead (1956). Byron's Daughter (1972) is a biography of Medora Leigh, daughter of Byron and his half sister. It is a readable and well-documented study of an element in the poet's life that had previously been ignored.

Turney's films, particularly those written for Warner Brothers, are often characterized as "women's pictures," in part because the starring roles went to actresses like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Eve Arden; in part because the subject matter supposedly appeals to a female audience. Like her stage plays, however, they are theatrically effective vehicles with strongly characterized roles for all the players.

Other Works:

Surrender the Seasons (1981).


Chicago Tribune (9 May 1939, 21 Jan. 1973). LAT (19 Nov. 1972). New York Daily News (1 Feb. 1941). NYRB (22 Feb. 1973). TLS (14 June 1973).


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