Silent Memories
Grandmother wrote 'photoplays' in early days of movies
by Mark J. Price
January 27, 2003, the Akron Beacon Journal

Lillian J. Sweetser was a gentle grandmother who lived a peaceful life in Barberton in the 1940s. But, oh, those stories she could tell about her rip-roaring days as a scriptwriter for silent movies.

Such tempestuous times. Villains and vamps lurked everywhere, plotting fiendish acts against heroes and damsels.

Fortunately, Sweetser’s life wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the motion pictures she wrote.

She was never one to “go Hollywood.” When she entered the movie business, there was no Hollywood.

The fledgling film industry was based in New York when Sweetser began to pound away at her manual typewriter about 1910. She and her husband, Henry, were living in Belfast, Maine, raising four children, when she heeded the hypnotic call of the film projector.

The big studios of the day – Vitagraph, Edison, Biograph, Kalem and Imperial – were hungry for movie scripts. They offered $20 a reel to any free-lance writer who could crank out a worthy “photoplay.”

So Sweetser cranked.

The 27-year-old housewife wrote morality tales and romances, simple stories about gallant heroes, beautiful women and scheming villains. The movies were silent, of course, so dialogue had to be written in short bursts, small enough to fit on title cards.

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