The Nell Shipman Exhibit
Doctors House - Parlor
While a resident in the house, Nell Shipman made one of the most important decisions
of her career. Wanting creative control of her work, she and her husband, Ernest
Shipman (a Canadian film entrepreneur), formed an independent company. By this
time she had become a respected actress who had the confidence and artistic integrity
to turn down a star-billing contract with Sam Goldwyn.
During her pregnancy with Barry (1912), she had added "writing scenarios" to her
acting talents, and Selig, Universal and Vitagraph had produced her screenplays.
Her script for a six-part serial, Under the
Crescent (1915), was made by Universal and partially filmed at El
Miradero, the Brand mansion which today houses a branch of the Glendale Public Library
at Brand Park.
In 1918 she and her husband formed a partnership with the popular outdoor adventure
writer, James Oliver Curwood. Nell adapted one of his short stories, hired the cast
and production crew, and starred in Back to God's Country. The wilderness
melodrama was an international success and a financial boon for the Canadian investors
whom her husband had solicited. Her relationship with her husband and Curwood soon
came to an end, but she continued her fierce commitment to filmmaking by creating
Nell Shipman Production, through which she made six more films.
It was in the parlor that she interviewed a cameraman and production manager for
Back to God's Country. The cameraman was Joseph Walker. In his autobiography,
The Light on Her Face, Walker writes about
the meeting and photo tests in the backyard. He began his feature-filming
career with Shipman, photographing five of her productions. He went on to shoot
over 150 films, including nearly all of Frank Capra's, such as It's a Wonderful
Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost Horizons
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Last modified: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 2:50:36 PM