Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Hilma Lewis Enander

We’re back with yet another unknown playwright. This time it is Hilma Lewis Enander, who published a volume of short plays in 1913.

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The first play in the volume is In the Light of the Stone.

In the Light of the Stone

This play is really goofy. The plot may be summarized as follows:

Mrs. & Dr. Brooks are hanging out in the Patterson home with all their rich idiot friends. Someone has stolen Mrs. Patterson’s necklace. Cops are there. Dr. Brooks receives a call about a child possibly dying from typhoid. He must leave at once – alas, he finds the necklace in his pocket and wants to give it to teh Pattersons, but his wife talks him out of it. She claims people will suspect him. Blah blah. Eventually she talks to the Pattersons. Gadzooks!!! Lo and behold she stole it, panicked and dumped it her hubby’s pocket. She feels soooooo sorry. The Pattersons forgive her and promise never to tell anyone.

This play, despite its mediocrity, doesn’t really have fun lines or examples of supreme weirdness to share here. Of course there will be a link at the end for the play.

What a playwright can learn from this play:

If you want to introduce something that sounds kinda important (girl dying of typhoid) you should probably follow up on it.

The Man Who Did Not Understand 

Aka this reader. Bwahaha. Sorry.

Ted is a miner somewhere out in the Great American Desert.

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“delighted recognition”

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They’re really not into affection. Ted tries to convince Nan to go back from whence she came. It works out as well as you’d expect.

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“But my cousin is here.”

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Salt Lake City? Now it all makes sense. Because if you were gonna show up at a guy’s cabin unannounced with your pastor/cousin with the intention of performing a marriage, then you should totally do it on the way to Salt Lake City.

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“I’m ready for anything as long as I have you.”

Run, Ted, run.

Ted hems and haws about why he didn’t write her for such a long time. He says he can’t explain it in writing. She says:

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“It’s hard for me to understand when you don’t explain.”

She has a point, Ted.

[Sulkily]

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OMG. Ted is totally married!!!! Did not see that coming.

His wife is Minna, who wears hats.

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“an air of almost indifference.”

Nan kinda freaks out when she sees Minna and simply runs away.

#problemsolved

But, alack, Minna demands Ted explain all this Nan-sense.

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[Miserably]

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Ted is a fast operator. And fast with those mixed signals. “I love you, but you can’t come near Salt Lake City with me. Bye!”

He wrote Nan two letters. They were practically shacked up.

Minna was a nurse who helped Ted out – so he married her. Because Ted is awesome like that. Ted sucks this play sucks.

Well, three can play at that running away game…

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That’s nice that the LA job opening is always there.

Before she leaves, Minna has some wise advice good advice ok advice negligible advice.

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[taking notes]

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She suspiciously has prepared everything for her soon-to-be ex. Something’s afoot.

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Minna, Ted’s never gonna give you up.

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Ohhhhh – this makes perfect sense.

What a playwright can learn from this play:

Don’t have a character just get all flustered and run away after having spent forever and a half to make an entrance.

On the Trail

Okay kids, why is it so hard to write a decent stage Western? Even I wrote one for senior actors.

In On the Trail, Bertha is minding her own business when suddenly Jack shows up. Man is on the run from the law…again out West someplace.

Bertha inexplicably covers for Jack when the cps come looking. Meanwhile, when the cops are gone she lectures Jack, who says she is preaching.

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That’s some exposition right there about what’s going on with Bertha.

This play actually has a hint of being good when the machinations of a plot twist come into play.

Bertha has been telling the cops that Jack is her husband. Her for-real husband, Jim Bryce, comes home late and walks into a hornet’s nest of police, Bertha and Jack the outlaw pretending to be her husband.

NOW, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome studipidity poor writing,

Bertha’s now pinning the robbery on her actual husband by saying he’s the outlaw.

The sheriff reads the description of the bandit (for the second time in the play):

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Bryce, you ain’t the only one bein’ “locoed.”

FYI: “Loco” is a Spanish adjective meaning “crazy.” It pops up in US English and sometimes English-language pop culture.

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Oh, look. A Western with “locos” in the title. Film description from Google: “A tough drifter must escape the clutches of a lesbian nun who holds a rule of steel over the inmates at her mental asylum. He will lead the gang of disturbed inmates across the desert.” 

Also, this Ugandan/Danish band had a popular song about 20 years ago with the lyric “she just big up her chest and go loco.” Lieber and Stoller, eat your heart out.

Meanwhile, back on Planet 1913 Theatre, the sheriff questions Bertha.

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Ohhh, all a big misunderstanding. Whew!!!

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Aww, just helpin’ his mama.

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Jack knows how to talk to girls.  (FYI, if there’s one thing in this blog worse than the play, it’s that link)

So Jack explains to the cops how the robber would’ve gotten away…and he slips out the door and, and you’ll never believe it – gets away!!!!

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So this play had an almost-twist and was actually within shooting distance of “good.”

What a playwright can learn from this play:

Most writing advice books will tell you not to make your characters sound the same. Let’s simplify that axiom: Only one character per play per act should be able to use the phrase “after all.”

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I could find nearly nothing in terms of biographical information about Hilma Lewis Enander. She wrote an article about Charlie Chaplin’s father-in-law in 1926.

She had other plays copyrighted. She may be the Miss HL Enander who won a music prize. So may the HL Enander who also published a short story here.

I found a Hilma Lewis Enander from North Dakota, who would’ve been 18 when these plays were published (and that would make their undeveloped status more understandable) but apparently her maiden name was Nelson. I dunno. It would be nice to know more about this really unknown playwright.

The plays can be read here.

And to end this, here’s It’s A Small World for like an hour. Because it is a small world, after all.

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: The Beanstalk (Tara Meddaugh)

Hello again and welcome to Monologue Monday, the super fun happy place where we profile a different monologue every – single – Monday.

This week is literally Jack in The Beanstalk by Tara Meddaugh, a playwright so talented we’ve profiled two of her monologues before (March in Line – female) and (Ferret Envy – also female).

For those who don’t know, Jack and the Beanstalk is a fairy/folk tale dating back in some form perhaps 5,000 years. However, the familiar version we know first popped up in 1734 as The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean. The most familiar version was published in 1890.

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Version from 1807

The original story is as follows (according to Wikipedia)

Jack is a young, poor boy living with his widowed mother and a dairy cow, on a farm cottage. The cow’s milk was their only source of income. When the cow stops giving milk, Jack’s mother tells him to take her to the market to be sold. On the way, Jack meets a bean dealer who offers magic beans in exchange for the cow, and Jack makes the trade. When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes angry, throws the beans on the ground, and sends Jack to bed without dinner.

During the night, the magic beans cause a gigantic beanstalk to grow outside Jack’s window. The next morning, Jack climbs the beanstalk to a land high in the sky. He finds an enormous castle and sneaks in. Soon after, the castle’s owner, a giant, returns home. He smells that Jack is nearby, and speaks a rhyme:

Fee-fi-fo-fum!
I smell the blood of an English man:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

In the versions in which the giant’s wife (the giantess) features, she persuades him that he is mistaken and helps Jack hide. When the giant falls asleep, Jack steals a bag of gold coins and makes his escape down the beanstalk.


Jack climbs the beanstalk twice more. He learns of other treasures and steals them when the giant sleeps: first a goose that lays golden eggs, then a magic harp that plays by itself. The giant wakes when Jack leaves the house with the harp and chases Jack down the beanstalk. Jack calls to his mother for an axe and before the giant reaches the ground, cuts down the beanstalk, causing the giant to fall to his death.

Jack and his mother live happily ever after with the riches that Jack acquired.

Commentary: if the giant never really bothered anyone, Jack was kind of a jerk-face to steal from him and eventually kill him. Just saying…

Meddaugh’s monologue is like a snapshot of Jack when he first tries to climb the beanstalk and dude is scared. He talks to a crow for comfort and what follows is a character-rich psychological study of fear with a bit of humor.

The monologue can be found right here.

Trivia: that fee-fi-fo-fum line appeared earlier in Shakespeare’s King Lear:

Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.

The earliest written reference to it was by English playwright, poet and all-round writer Thomas Nashe in 1596:

Fy, Fa and fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman

Any way you cut it, Meddaugh’s monologue is a fresh take on a millennia-old story with a lot of phyisicality. Let’s see what our brave acting heroes have accomplished:

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

E

I hope everyone enjoyed this revisiting of a folk tale. Please join us Thursday when we profile an unknown playwright and also next Monday when we have another monologue!

Cheers!

Dude Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Niacin Theatre (War Food Administration)

The disease pellagra and its cause niacin deficiency are no laughing matter. But this 1944 US government-written radio play most definitely is.

Coming in at a whopping six pages, this affords us the chance of reading the whole dang play.

Pellagra is a serious disease still prevalant in certain parts of the world. The major symptoms are dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia. Which this website neatly termed “the three Ds”. It will indeed kill you if left untreated.

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Possibily the awesomest illustration of anything, ever.

Pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the American South from the early 1900s right up until World War II. Many researchers believed a germ or toxin in the corn caused the disease. However, Dr. Joseph Goldberger was able to establish it was some type of deficiency in the diet, but was unable to establish what type of deficiency.

This has been dramatized by the Science Channel below:

It wasn’t until 1937 that researchers figured out that niacin could cure pellagra.

Corn must be nixtamalized in order to gain the niacin necessary to treat pellagra.

In 1944, the War Department produced a short drama about pellagra.

While pellagra makes for a terrible disease, it also makes for corny radio theatre…

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Wrong Jem…

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Unknown
“aigs”

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Above: possible allusions to the dermatitis aspect of the disease.

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“I wish I was dead!”

“you’re always walkin’ down into the valley”

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Holy Hell, Jem’s turning all Lizzie Borden on poor Dave.

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Never a good sign.

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What could be turning Jem into a possessive psychopathic wannabe axe murderer?

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IT WAS THE NIACIN! (or lack thereof)

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Applause for what?

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The niacin cure may be a modern miracle, this play certainly wasn’t.

The play is available here.

Join us on Monday for more monologues and on Thursday for another unknown playwright.

 

 

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Elise in Incendiary (Adam Szymkowicz)

Hello everyone!!! Welcome to a new Monologue Monday. This week we’ll visit the character of Elise in Adam Szymkowicz’ Incendiary.

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From here.

For another Szymkowicz monologue we’ve profiled, please check here.

This certainly sounds like a fun play. Let’s get the synopsis from the New Play Exchange page:

“Elise is a pyromaniac fire chief who falls in love with Jake, the detective investigating her fires. Carrie, Elise’s therapist, is trying to get her to stop lighting fires and Carrie’s husband, Gary, is leading the life of a somewhat ineffective corporate spy.”

This sounds like one of those plays I wish I’d written.

Here’s a review from Chicago.

Of course these are Elise’s monologue…there’s a character breakdown for her:

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I could stay…

The first monologue’s set up is pretty ingenious/funny:

“Elise tries to decide if she should stay in bed with the detective she loves or go and start a fire.”

The actual monologue is right here.

“Bedroom.  Night.  JAKE snores in bed.  ELISE is partially dressed.)

ELISE

I could stay.  I could stay.  Oh, but the light and the heat and the smell, oh the smell.  But I could stay.  He has smells.  He has heat.  He has other fine attributes.

The light. The sound of a scraping match.  Acetone.  Gasoline.  Kerosene.  The dripping. The pain in the eyes.  The light.  The heat.  The billows of smoke.  We have too many buildings, don’t you think?  Too many construction sites, empty warehouses, all so much fuel.  It’s a service to take away these extra dangerous buildings.  They are in the way, they are dry and cracked and falling down and they need a good match, a good flame a cleansing of the palate, a cleansing of the city.

But I could stay and climb into his arms and breathe his foul comfort of a breath.  I could cling to his beliefs in right and wrong and the law.  I could give up firestarting right now for good.  I could climb back into his bed, dive under the covers.  I could warm myself on his broad back, lick the back of his neck, put my small hand around his trigger finger.

But there’s the light.  There’s the heat.  There is love and there is love and there are things that I need.  And I  . . .

(ELISE folds JAKE’s, puts it with care on his bed, then kisses him on the forehead.)”

Let’s see what brave performers have chosen this monologue…

A

 

B

“I want to stop…”

Here Elise tells her therapist how hard it is for her to stop lighting fires. You can find the monologue here:

“ELISE

I want to stop.  I really do.  I’m trying.  I really am.  But I don’t think you understand.  A fire is the most beautiful thing ever created.  I dare you to show me a work of art that can rival a five alarm fire.  You couldn’t do it.  You just couldn’t.  And I like art as much as the next person but I wonder always when I see a Van Gogh or a Rembrant–I imagine, as I’m sure you do, what it would look like on fire.  That second before the painting caves in, that would be . . . it would be . . . incomparable.  But sadly, I don’t think any of us will live to see it.  We could burn prints, I suppose, cheap gift store prints, but it would just be paper.  No melting paint, no disintegrating wood.  It’s a waste.

There is nothing in this world like fire.  At first it’s just a match, an idea, a spark, a little yellow flame, and it need nurturing to grow to an inferno.  Those oranges, those yellows, those cores of blue don’t just happen by themselves.  They take planning.  They take skill.  They take love.  I am not some Zippo-flicking fourteen year old—no.  I am an artist.  I can light a fire so precise all that’s left of the building is dust while the rest of the block is miraculously untouched.  And of course, me and the boys are always around to come and put it out in case anything should happen.”

A

B

C

D

E

“I’m just saying…”

Would a pyromaniac fire chief threaten somebody? This pyromaniac fire chief would.

The monologue is also available here:

“ELISE

I’m just saying you better not.  Things can catch on fire sometimes I can’t control.  Like your house.  Or your husband.  And maybe the firefighters will get bad directions and arrive much much too late to do anything about it and then your house or your husband will be unrecognizable.  Things like that can happen.  I mean you do what you want, I’m just saying if you like your house and your husband you might want to reconsider your position on whether or not you should mention my firestarting career to anyone.  Because I’m really good at eluding cops at least long enough to set everything you love on fire.”

A

 

B

 

Ya kinda want her to keep on lighting fires.

ALL of the monologues are available on Mr. Syzmkowicz’ site.

Anyways, this week we’ll have another Unknown Playwright on Thursday AND we’ll feature a new monologue on Monday.

Peace out.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Beulah Marie Dix

Beulah Marie Dix had a great, grand, glorious career as a writer, whether it was children’s books, novels, plays or screenplays. She excelled in all four and is considered a female pioneer in Hollyweird. We’ll talk more about her career soon.

Let’s take a look at two of her plays.

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Massachusetts playwright Beulah Marie Dix.

Allison’s Lad

Dix’ first play we’re looking at is a one-act entitled Allison’s Lad and is set during the bloodletting known as The English Civil War.

The background really isn’t super-important here, since the story (or a version of it) could take place in any war. But you’ll get some background anyways.

Without going into the causes much, the English Civil War happened when Charles I outlawed Parliament. Parliament didn’t take too well to that. Royalists (nicknamed Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (called Roundheads, seriously) duked it out all across the so-called British Isles.

One interesting thing is that some people got sick of it all and set up anarchist communes.

Eventually Charles I lost (and lost his head). Great Britain became a “Protectorate” under Oliver Cromwell.

Of theatre history note, the Cromwell regime banned theatre because they were Puritan horrible people.

Eventually people got tired of Oliver and his son Richard (who got the nickname Queen Dick) and brought back Charles II (the Restoration) and that is when Restoration comedy was born. And women were finally allowed to act on the English stage.

Here’s a neat “every day” map of the war:

But back to our play. Dix had a thing for history and wars. In fact, the one-act appears in a volume of one-acts set entirely during wartime. Other wars included in the volume are the 30 Years’ War and the 100 Years’ War.

The play is rather deceptive because it starts…trudgingly and goes out with a literal bang.

The Plot:

Several Royalist prisoners are playing cards. Apparently almost all have broken parole. Back in the olden days, if you were taken prisoner in war, sometimes you would be exchanged if you gave your word that you wouldn’t fight again for a certain amount of time.

Nearly all of these guys had broken their parole. Much is  made of one character (Winwood)’s parentage. He’s the titular lad. Sir William Strickland knew Winwood’s parents. Much is alluded to that his father was a coward…but that he is truly Allison’s lad and takes after her.

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Oh, and in addition to Tom Winwood’s father being a coward, he is also a card-carrying loser.

Take note of how concerned Strickland is about all this.

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Mama’s boy.

The Roundhead commander informs the parolees they might pay for breaking their word.

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Yeah, Winwood kinda freaks out. The commander then says one will be executed and they must draw lots, in the form of dice.

The play kindly provides an illustration.

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So son-of-a-coward must be executed, because that’s how the English Civil War works on stage.

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Winwood is led outside and duly shot. Strickland freaks out because…because…OMG…HE was Strickland’s real father…

And the shock of his son’s execution kills him.

Oh. My. God.

This play isn’t bad, but a bit…dramatic. It was published in 1910. I picked this because despite Nix’ history/war fixation, when World War I showed up Nix took to writing antiwar plays. I chose one entitled Across the Border.

Across the Border

This play is another shiny, magnificent beast. It was performed in November 1914 (the war started in August) and published in 1916 before the US entered World War I but after bunches of people had died.

This play is set in an anonymous country. My money is on Ruritania. Or Sylvania.

There is World War I some fictional war happening. Several soldiers are outnumbered. One, a junior lieutenant, is sent to break through/get help/be a big damn hero.

He comes to a house with an ominously titled Master of the House. The occupants of the house (who include a woman he’s only seen in his dreams) disarm him. They talk a lot of peace talk to him and make him feel guilty for, ya know, killing people.

He argues back that he did what he had to and he’s righteous, just, God approves, etc.

It takes him a while to figure out what the reader already knows: he’s dead.

He’s not very happy about this. He is forced to visit a cold and barren land and he learns that he is revisiting the aftermath of when his troops burnt down a town and killed civilians. In this regard it’s a bit like a Twilight Zone episode.

He begs for a chance to return to Earth to tell everyone not to have wars. The Master and Girl assent.

His anti-war visit goes over as well as you’d think. Nobody listens and he dies again.

The reviews seem good:

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Via here.

The Brushwood Boy was a Kipling character who also joined the military and who also dreamt of a girl.

This play is quite good and unlike the lieutenant, is worthy of revival. Especially given America’s current addiction to perennial bloodlettings.

This play is the rare example of theme overwhelming plot, characterization and dialogue. And the play still works. The theme being “war sucks.”

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OK got it.

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Uh-huh.

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The first scene from whence the second lietenant escapes. The crime against humanity? Turning their backs on the audience.

These are examples of how everything in the play feed into the theme of “war is terrible” –

The Master interrogates the lieutenant:

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The lieutenant carries around some pills to avoid capture.

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Welcome to righteous war.

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Does this sound familiar?

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The lieutenant is very descriptive:

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Pleasant.

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Welcome to the afterlife the Twilight Zone.

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Hehe. Not there yet.

He finds the girl of his dreams…after he’s dead. And she doesn’t want nothing to do with his murdering ass.

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“It clings!”

The lieutenant doesn’t want to die.

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Welp.

The lieutenant must look at the place his soldiers burnt down. The dead dog gets a higher place than him.

Warning: K-word ahead.

Waarskuwing: K woord vervolgens.

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That’s a pretty thorough indictment of war. At the time, the K word was considered pretty standard in English. It even described wars. It is now most definitely a racial slur.

I don’t condone the word at all. The reference can be changed in a modern production easily.

For a history of the word and why it’s so horrid, please read here.

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Perhaps.

After he comes back, in a field hospital, he tries to share the warnings.

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Having given humanity a chance and humanity rolling that chance up, lighting it on fire and flushing it into the Thames, the Girl comes to take him away…

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She explains.

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Peaceful Pixie Dream Girl.

If someone revived the play, would anyone listen?

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That’ll be a million dollar fine….

Beulah Marie Dix grew up in Kingston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. She studied History and English at Radcliffe College . 

She became a successsful author of children’s books, novels and stage plays. She and Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland collaborated on plays using a male nom de plume. 

Her agent was Beatrice de Mille, mother of film directors, William de Mille and Cecil B. de Mille, which is how Dix found her way to Hollywood. She took a trip to Hollywood in 1916 and decided to stay. She wrote scripts for William de Mille and her career took off like a California wildfire.

She married George Flebbe and had a daughter, Evelyn Scott, who worked for many years as a story editor at MGM.

Dix even wrote vehicles for Sessue Hayakawa. She continued publishing novels and passed away in 1970.

Link Heaven

Allison’s Lad

Across the Border

Her various works on archive.org

Her wikipedia page

Another profile

Her daughter’s marriage

This photo group contains two pictures from the play.

Her Internet Broadway Database page

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