The Marva West Tan Lecture Series: Marsha Gordon

November 10, 2023 | 4:00PM
Cobb 307

The Department of Cinema and Media Studies Presents, as Part of the Marva West Tan Lecture Series:

“Ursula Parrott in Hollywood”

Marsha Gordon
Professor and Director of Film Studies

North Carolina State University

November 10, 2023 | 4:00 PM | Cobb 307
Reception to follow in Cobb 310

About the Lecture 
This presentation is focused on the career of a once famous, now all but forgotten figure: the widely adapted best-selling author Ursula Parrott.  From the late 1920s through the 1950s, Parrott played a significant and influential role in Hollywood, particularly on the way the modern woman was imagined woman during the Studio Era.  My work on Parrott has been an attempt to rectify her erasure as well as to understand how and why certain figures are celebrated and remembered while others are dismissed and written out of both popular and academic histories.  My talk will focus on her contributions to film history and will be richly illustrated with stills and clips from some of the ten films that were adapted from her writings from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Once the best-known ex-wife in America, Ursula Parrott (1899-1957) was a prolific author, Hollywood screenwriter, and headline-grabber during her colorful, unconventional life. The press covered her new books, Hollywood deals, marriages and divorces, and numerous run-ins with the law. She was Radcliffe-educated; had four optimistic walks down the aisle (and back); piloted for the Civilian Air Corps during World War II; co-founded a weekly rural Connecticut newspaper; and travelled the world, including an extended story-collecting trip to Russia in the 1930s.  She worked as a screen and story writer out of Astoria as well as during several stints in Hollywood.  Her words gave Norma Shearer her only Academy Award and launched Jimmy Stewart’s career as a lead actor. 

About the Speaker
Marsha Gordon is Professor and Director of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, a former Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and an NEH Public Scholar. She is the author of Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life & Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott (University of California Press, 2023), Film is Like a Battleground: Sam Fuller’s War Movies (Oxford University Press, 2017), and Hollywood Ambitions: Celebrity in the Movie Age (Wesleyan University Press, 2008), and co-editor of Learning With the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film (Duke University Press, 2019) with Allyson Nadia Field. She has co-directed three documentary shorts,  Nesting (2020), All the Possibilities… (2019), and Rendered Small (2017), which have played at film festivals like DOC NYC, Art FIFA, Hot Springs, River Run, and Sheffield Doc Fest.  She has just received a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship for 2024 to work on her newest documentary, This Beautiful Vision, The Artistry of Alexander Bogardy.  Her next book will be a much overdue biography of the pioneering Hollywood director, Dorothy Arzner.