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Hope Loring - Winging Her Way to the First Oscar Win

Script contributor Dr. Rosanne Welch celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us with this month's spotlight on prolific screenwriter and trailblazer Hope Loring.

Hope Loring co-wrote Wings (1927), the first film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Film at the inaugural ceremonies in 1927. The story of World War I fighter pilots involved in a love triangle starred Clara Bow and is the first on-screen appearance of a young Gary Cooper.

Born in Barcelona, Spain (or maybe Madrid) in 1894 Loring had moved to England at the age of 2 to live with an aunt after her parents died in a car accident. At the age of five, the aunt moved her to the United States where she studied dance and literature at various boarding schools. At 14 Loring sold her first short story to a magazine. She reported that she had come to Los Angeles by 1916 after stints as an extra in New York and drama critic in Florida.

Hope Loring

Hope Loring

There are conflicting stories about whether Loring had married young and even whether she had a child upon arriving in California. Records show she took a day job at Universal Pictures as the head of the serial and short reel department and a director of western and serial scenarios. There she learned the importance of writing to a budget, which includes using standing sets. Loring put those lessons to work as she began her screenwriting career on such films as A Society Sensation (1918), Lure of the Circus (1918–1919), and The Vanishing Dagger (1920).

[Screenwriter Eve Unsell, Hitchcock’s Mentor Who Saved Universal’s European Operation]

Loring married Leighton in 1920 which prompted her to leave her steady employment at Universal to write freelance. Loring’s literary background made handling adaptations such as the first screen version of The Lone Ranger (1920) a specialization. The two soon found themselves in demand from the studios and by the major actresses of the day. The day after their contract ended at Warner Brothers in 1925, they signed a contract with MGM. There they wrote His Secretary (1925) for the studio’s number one female star, Norma Shearer. Later, Loring and Leighton also worked for the Mary Pickford Company, writing Little Annie Rooney (1925) for which Pickford both starred and shared a writing credit.

In 1927 the team wrote two highly successful and culturally important films: Wings and It, (adapted from a story by the subject in last month’s column -- Elinor Glyn). Post Wings Lighton became a producer and never returned to writing. He had only written five films before partnering with Loring, while Loring went on to write eleven films without him between 1927 and 1931. One of them, Children of Divorce (1927) seemed to reflect on her own childhood as it covered the residual issues a child faces by losing parental connection.

[Screenwriter Sarah Yeiser Mason - The Little Woman that Wrote 'Little Women' Well]

Eventually, they retired to Spain where Loring died in 1959. Upon retirement, Loring had amassed 63 films credits including her Oscar.

(Fun Fact: Some 80 years after Wings won its Oscar the French black-and-white film, The Artist (2011), an homage to movies of the 1920s, became only the second mostly silent films to win Best Picture.)

If you’d like to learn more about the women highlighted in this column, and about the art of screenwriting while earning your MFA, our low residency Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting is currently accepting applications.

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