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Macpherson, Jeanie (c. 1884–1946)

Macpherson, Jeanie (c. 1884–1946)

American screenwriter, actress, and director . Born in Boston, Massachusetts, around 1884 (differing sources give birth date as early as 1878 and as late as 1897); died in 1946.

Filmography as actress:

Mr. Jones at the Ball (1908); Mrs. Jones Entertains (1909); A Corner in Wheat (1909); Winning Back His Love (1910); Fisher Folks (1911); Enoch Arden (1911); The Outlaw Reforms (1914); The Merchant of Venice (1914); Rose of the Rancho (1914); The Ghost Breaker (1914); The Girl of the Golden West (1915); Carmen (1915).

Filmography as screenwriter:

The Captive (1915, also acted); Chimmie Fadden Out West (1915); The Cheat (1915); The Golden Chance (1916); The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916); The Heart of Nora Flynn (1916); The Love Mask (1916); The Dream Girl (1916); Joan the Woman (1916); A Romance of the Redwoods (1917); The Little American (1917); The Woman God Forgot (1917); The Devil-Stone (1917); The Whispering Chorus (1918); Old Wives for New (1918); Till I Come Back to You (1918); Don't Change Your Husband (1919); For Better for Worse (1919); Male and Female (1919); Something to Think About (1920); Forbidden Fruit (1921); The Affairs of Anatol (1921); Saturday Night (1922); Manslaughter (1922); Adam's Rib (1923); The Ten Commandments (1923); Triumph (1924); The Golden Bed (1925); The Road to Yesterday (1925); Red Dice (1926); Young April (1926); The King of Kings (1927); The Godless Girl (1929); Dynamite (1929); Madam Satan (1930); Fra Diavolo (1933); The Plainsman (research story material only, 1937); The Buccaneer (adaptation only, 1942); Reap the Wild Wind (co-adaptation only, 1942).

A pioneer in the movie industry, Jeanie Macpherson was one of the first women to become a screenwriter and director. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, around 1884, she was initially a dancer and stage performer, then began acting in films in 1908, appealing directly to D.W. Griffith for her first role. She later became a lead actress for the newly formed Universal Studio, where she also directed and wrote many two-reelers. Around 1915, she began screen writing exclusively, eventually becoming a screen-writer for the legendary Cecil B. De Mille. Over the course of their 27-year relationship, she worked with De Mille on most of his silent films.

Their early collaboration on the classic Joan of Arc story, Joan the Woman (1916), provides an good example of how the two merged their very different approaches. While De Mille provided the huge framework for the story, consisting of large-scale sets and hundreds of extras, Macpherson crafted a simple human drama characterizing Joan as a frightened young girl with whom the audience could easily identify. The small story played out against the huge backdrop became a winning combination. During the early 1920s, the team also produced a series of social dramas, including Something to Think About, The Affairs of Anatol, and Adam's Rib, based on their shared belief that although people have numerous weaknesses, they can learn from their mistakes and become stronger in the process.

In addition to her film career, Macpherson was also an aviator, and apparently the only woman to pilot a plane for the noted stunt flyer, Lieutenant Locklear.


Acker, Ally. Reel Women. NY: Continuum, 1991.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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