Adeline Leitzbach once mused: “[In] the old days in pictures… we used to go out on a lot with a couple of actors, a horse, a camera man and an author. We used to shoot scenes, and mould them into a story. And they used to pay us ‘authors’ about twenty five dollars for such a story.” (“Why I Have Decided to Write for the Radio,” p. 1).
As her more than twenty credits attest, Leitzbach moved up the ladder and spent the 1910s through the early 1930s as a busy movie scenario writer. As most of her movies were produced during the silent days, many of them are lost. In fact, of the 20 known feature films and shorts for which Leitzbach is credited (alternately credited as Adeline Hendricks), few at all are known to survive and just two are available on DVD. A complete list with release year, director and leading players, Leitzbach’s specific credit, production company, as well as survival status, if known, follows. Note: The notorious 1937 Fox vault fire in Little Ferry, New Jersey resulted in the loss of most of the silent films produced by Fox Film Corporation, which would make it highly unlikely that Leitzbach’s four 1918 Fox films remain.
FEATURE FILMS CREDITED TO ADELINE LEITZBACH/ADELINE HENDRICKS (* = extant, or partially extant)
Diamonds and Pearls aka The Hour Glass (1917), directed by George Archainbaud; starring Kitty Gordon, Milton Sills, Curtis Cooksey; written by Adeline Leitzbach (credited as Adelaine Leitzbach). World Film. Survival status: unknown.
Stolen Honor (1918), directed by Richard Stanton; starring Virginia Pearson, Clay Clement, Ethel Hallor; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach from a story by George Scarborough. Fox Film Corporation. Survival status: unknown.
The Heart of Romance (1918), directed by Harry Millarde; starring June Caprice, Bernard Thornton, George Bunny; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach, from the screen story “Her Father’s Money” by Frances Crowley. Fox Film Corporation. Survival status: unknown
Her Price (1918), directed by Edmund Lawrence; starring Virginia Pearson, Edward J. Rosen, Victor Sutherland; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach from a story by George Scarborough. Fox Film Corporation. Survival status: unknown.
The Liar (1918), directed by Edmund Lawrence; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach from a story by Katharine Kavanaugh; starring Virginia Pearson, Alexander F. Frank, Edward Roseman. Fox Film Corporation. Survival status: unknown.
Dad’s Girl (1920), directed by David G. Fisher; starring Jackie Saunders, Jack Drumier, Kempton Greene; scenerio by Adeline Leitzbach (as Adeline Hendricks). Waldorf Photoplays, Inc. Survival status: unknown.
Ashamed of Parents (1921), directed by Horace G. Plympton; starring Charles Eldridge, Jack Lionel Bohn, Edith Stockton; scenerio by Adeline Leitzbach (as Adeline Hendricks) based on the story “What Children Will Do,” by Charles K. Harris. Warner Brothers Pictures. Survival status: unknown.
Wife in Name Only (1923), directed by George W. Terwilliger; starring Mary Thurman, Arthur Housman, and Edmund Lowe; adaptation by Adeline Leitzbach (as Adeline Hendricks) of her own play based on the Bertha M. Clay novel of the same name. Pyramid Pictures. Survival status: unknown.
Success (1923), directed by Ralph Ince; starring Brandon Tynan, Naomi Childers, Mary Astor; screenplay by Adeline Leitzbach and Theodore A. Liebler, Jr. [based on their play] with titles by George V. Hobart. Murray W. Garsson Productions (distributed by Metro Pictures Corporation and Gaumont [France]). Survival status: unknown.
Counterfeit Love (1923), directed by Ralph Ince and Roy Sheldon; story by Thomas F. Fallon and Adeline Leitzbach; starring Joe King, Marian Swayne, Norma Lee. Murray W. Garsson Productions (distributed by Playgoers Pictures). Survival status: unknown.
* I Am the Man (1924), directed by Ivan Abramson; starring Lionel Barrymore, Seena Owens, Gaston Glass; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach (as Adeline Hendricks). Chadwick Pictures. Survival status: A Welsh IMDb reviewer claims to have watched a French-language print used for exhibition in Belgian cinemas.
* Walls Tell Tales aka Great Actors and Authors #1: Walls Tell Tales (1928; short film), directed by Edmund Lawrence; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach and story by Irwin S. Cobb; starring Madge Kennedy, Roland Young, and Efrem Zimbalist. Famous Lasky Corporation. Survival status: a 16mm copy exists at UCLA Film & Television Archive (UCLA catalog, inventory number: M43411).
Manhattan Knights (1928), directed by Burton L. King; story and screenplay by Adeline Leitzbach; starring Barbara Bedford, Walter Miller, Betty Worth. Excellent Pictures. Survival status: unknown.
Two Masters aka Great Actors and Authors #2: Two Masters (1928; short film), directed by Edmund Lawrence; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach and story by Rita Weiman; starring Mary Eaton, Guy Bates Post, Minnie Dupree. Famous Lasky Corporation. Survival status: unknown.
Montmarte Rose (1929), directed by Frederick Hiatt and Bernard McEveety [director credits unconfirmed, per IMDb]; adaptation by Isadore Bernstein, written by Sylvia Bernstein and Jacques Jaccard, story by Adeline Leitzbach (as Adeline Hendricks). Excellent Pictures. Survival status: unknown.
* The House of Secrets (1929), directed by Edmund Lawrence; starring: Joseph Striker, Marcia Manning, Elmer Grandin; screenplay by Adeline Leitzbach, from the novel The House of Secrets by Sydney Horler. Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation. Survival status: The film is presumed lost (silentera.com), however a (partial?) sound disc of the film exists at the UCLA Film & Television Archive (UCLA catalog, inventory number M112644).
* The Dancing Town aka Great Actors and Authors #3: The Dancing Town (1928; short film), directed by Edmund Lawrence; scenario by Adeline Leitzbach adapted from the story “Daughters of Shiloh” by Rupert Hughes with titles by San Marx and Sidney Skolsky; starring Harry Beresford, Elizabeth Patterson, Charles Eaton, Helen Hayes. Famous Lasky Corporation. Survival status: a 16mm diacetate copy exists at UCLA Film & Television Archive (UCLA catalog, inventory number: M00884). This film was restored and shown at UCLA’s 12th Festival of Preservation on July 28, 2004.
* The Peacock Fan (1929), directed by Phil Rosen; starring Dorothy Dwan, Tom O’Brien, Lucien Prival; scenario by Arthur Hoerl, from a screen story by Adeline Leitzbach. Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation. Survival status: print exists [16mm reduction positive] (silentera.com) Available on DVD through Alpha Video; 85 minutes.
One Splendid Hour (1929), directed by Cliff Wheeler; written by Sylvia Bernstein and Jacques Jaccard, adapted by Isadore Bernstein, story by Adeline Leitzbach; starring Viola Dana, George Periolat, Allan Simpson. Excellent Pictures. Survival status: unknown.
* Notorious But Nice (1933), directed by Richard Thorpe; story by Adeline Leitzbach with screenplay and dialogue by Carol Webster. Chesterfield Motion Picture Corporation. Survival status: extant. Available on DVD through Alpha Video; 71 minutes.
Leitzbach’s most accessible film is the last known for which she is credited, Notorious But Nice. Produced by the Chesterfield Motion Picture Corporation, a “Poverty Row” studio that made low budget second-bill features, it has now fallen into the public domain. The movie featured a strong cast for its budget— Marian Marsh (who broke out as the female lead of 1931’s Svengali), Donald Dillaway (who had appeared in “A” pictures Min and Bill and Platinum Blonde), and Betty Compson (who had earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for 1928’s The Barker).
The film tells the story of small town girl Jennie Jones (Marian Marsh) whose secret past causes her to lose her man Richard Hamilton (Donald Dillway). Betty Compson, plays Millie Sprague, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that eventually comes to Jenny’s aid.
The scope of the Leitzbach papers suggests that she was a prolific writer and would indicate that she occasionally, if often, worked uncredited. A clue to the mystery can be found within the AHC’s collection. Typed inside the title page of the synopsis of a motion picture story called Captain Haide of the Royal Mounted Police is the following (as seen above): Screen Productions by the same author for the coming season: ONE SPLENDID HOUR [in caps], Gentlemen Preferred, Just Off Broadway, Chinatown Nights, Circumstantial Evidence. Leitzbach therefore may have been an uncredited writer on the features: A Gentleman Preferred (a 1928 western directed by Arthur Hotaling and starring Gaston Glass, from Mayfair Productions), Just Off Broadway (a 1929 drama directed by Frank O’Connor, starring Donald Keith and Ann Christy, notably from Chesterfield Motion Picture Corporation and the credited screenwriter Arthur Hoerl of The Peacock Fan), Chinatown Nights (a 1929 crime-action movie directed by William A. Wellman, and starring Wallace Beery and Florence Vidor, from Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation), and Circumstantial Evidence (a 1929 drama directed by Wilfred Noy, starring Cornelius Keefe and Helen Foster, also notably from Chesterfield Motion Picture Corporation). This would explain the break from 1929 to 1933 in her credits.
Also of interest among the AHC’s Leitzbach papers is the story Mother Knows, for which a handwritten note scrawled across the cover reads: “Sold to Chesterfield Pro — Sept – 1933 thru Jay Packard” [Packard was Leitzbach’s agent]. The story concerns the Briggs children: Edward (age 23), Grace (age 19), and Albert (nearly 18) who, sick of small town life, decide to head to the big city to find their fortune. Cross-referencing the story with the Chesterfield productions of the mid-30s, no such movie appears to have been made based on it. Therefore, in addition to her uncredited work, there is potential that she had story sales for movies that were unproduced.
The final chapter of Leitzbach’s writing career concerns her interest in writing for radio. Within The New York Public Library’s Adeline Leitzbach papers, Billy Rose Theatre Division, are letters that she wrote to New York radio station WOR. In a response to an inquiry sent to the NYPL, the collection “contains a few letters regarding WOR. They are about procedure of submission and one regarding an appointment. None address the success or failure of any submissions.” No known radio show by Leitzbach has been identified (notably, none exist at the Paley Center for Media, a major repository of radio programming).
Within the AHC’s Adeline Leitzbach Papers are three manuscripts of note regarding radio. They reveal her dedication to her craft and her love of New York City. To begin with, is Leitzbach’s 3-page essay entitled “Why I Have Decided to Write for Radio.” In the undated document she writes: “…. the head of a large motion picture organization who had just offered me a job in the scenario department of his company… looked at me aghast when I said I didn’t want to go to Hollywood, that I intended to remain in New York and write for the Radio…. Radio Audiences to-day are demanding programmes of interest and merit. That of course, goes for the dramatic playlets that are presented on the air. We have fortunately a few very fine programmes, and as time goes on, radio will develop as pictures did, in the dramatic field of writing.”
Additionally, there is a three-episode “pilot” for a radio drama entitled “White Collars and Overalls.” As noted in the opening announcement of the script, this was intended to be “the first of a series we call City Close-ups in which we take you into the homes, the highways and the byways of the great city of New York. We show you the little tragedies and the comedies in the lives of the dwellers in the greatest city of the world.” In fact, Leitzbach’s radio play offers a personal touch as it features the character Otto Krause, a German immigrant like herself, and centers around his family and their prosperous bakery and lunchroom. Interestingly, for the final episode of the “pilot,” Leitzbach offered the following in the show’s announcement: “If any member of our radio audience would like to hear about any particular section of New York, if they will send in their request to this office, Miss Leitzbach, the author of City Close-up[s] will tell them a story of the locality in which they are interested.”
Lastly, as relates to radio, is the curious appearance of the script of a produced show from NBC, broadcast on November 13, 1931. Called “Women in the News” the 3-page script offers the “gossip-fest” of Sylvia Gay, who talks directly to the ladies about tidbits in the news. The orchestral opening is the “Who Is Sylvia” Theme. Could Leitzbach herself have been Sylvia? Did she ghostwrite this radio series? One can only guess, as no other mention of the show exists in the files.
From the end of her career to its beginnings, also within the Leitzbach papers is a novel that the teenage Adeline wrote circa the turn of the century. Wrapped in a now shredded manila envelope, the 238-page single-spaced tome concerns sultans, knights, and princesses. Alternately titled The Crown of Glory and Life’s Guiding Star, it is both preceded and followed by descriptive phrases: “A Romance of the Holy City” and “A Romance of ‘Ye Olden Times.’” On the first pages are some adolescent doodlings and on the back of the last page Adeline was practicing her signature, especially her curlicue “A,” no doubt with daydreams of her future fame as a celebrated novelist.
Leitzbach’s death date is not entirely confirmed, but sources indicate that she died in 1968 in New York City at the age of 81.
The Adeline M. Leitzbach papers at the American Heritage represent the largest collection of her work in one location.
— Gary Rutkowski, Archives Intern/Graduate Student in UW American Studies