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Ducey wrote the story for her first film, His Enemy, the Law, in 1918. Her work was then singled out by Peter Milne in his Motion Picture News review of the film: “Lillian Ducey has provided a very human set of characters in her story and, being human in character and in deeds, they are always the center of attention” (3949). Ducey went on to write the Selznick productions The Spite Bride (1919) and Upstairs and Down (1919) for the celebrated silent actress Olive Thomas. She then worked with legendary director Eric von Stroheim, writing the titles for his directorial debut, Blind Husbands (1919). The film was hailed as a masterpiece. “Virtually a new angle on cinematic productions is provided by Blind Husbands,” said Edwin Shallert in The Los Angeles Times (II 12). Von Stroheim himself agreed. As the Atlanta Constitution quoted him: “I am Stroheim. They call me the Satan of the screen … I am the author and director and leading man in a photodrama which many people believe to be one of the best pictures of the year [and] the first picture I ever directed” (D6).
Ducey went on to collaborate with another renowned director-producer; her work for Allan Dwan included his films The Scoffer (1920) and A Broken Doll (1921). She also wrote Dwan’s In the Heart of a Fool (1920), which starred Anna Q. Nilsson and presumably led to the actress’s subsequent starring role in the single film Ducey directed, Youth Triumphant, in 1923. Deferential, Ducey would credit von Stroheim, Dwan, and director Maurice Touneur with her success (III34).
The sources of inspiration for Ducey’s scripts were varied, and their influence was often seen as socially profound, as with Lullaby (1924), which the Los Angeles Times in a 1936 article reported came from a three-line newspaper story that described how the State of New York would take over the care of a baby after the execution of its mother for murder. After this case, the article went on, other states arranged to take over the foster care responsibilities for other children who were orphaned in this way (C1). Ducey frequently explored themes of questionable parentage and adoption, for instance, in In the Heart of a Fool (1920), The Lullaby (1924), and Enemies of Children (1923); battered or crippled children in The Scoffer (1920) and A Broken Doll (1921); and broken or conflicted families in The Captain of His Soul (1918) and His Enemy, The Law (1918).
A group of melodramas brought Ducey’s career in screenwriting to a close, corresponding with the end of the silent era: The Warning (1927), Behind Closed Doors (1929), The Devil’s Apple Tree (1929), and The Climax (1930). The last, a tale of romance and opera in which the heroine’s voice is first lost and then regained, was the only film that she wrote to have been released in a sound as well as a silent version. She is not known to have been credited on films after 1930, and her literary star seems to have faded as well. Neither did she fulfill the Los Angeles Times’s expectations of a longer run as the “Efficiency Plus” female film director (III34).
Ducey, Lillian. “Their Tongues.” National Magazine vol. 40 (1914): 417-421.
“Enemies of Children.” Rev. Variety (20 Dec. 1923): 26.
“Fisher Plans Expansion.” Los Angeles Times (19 June 1923): II10.
Kingsley, Grace. “Plots Inspired in Odd Surroundings.” Los Angeles Times (13 Sept. 1936): C1, C3.
Milne, Peter. “His Enemy, the Law.” Rev. Motion Picture News (20 June 1918): 3949.
Schallert, Edwin. “Drama: ‘Blind Husbands.’” Los Angeles Times (22 Dec. 1919): II12.
“Stars and Stories of the Film World: Stroheim, ‘Satan of Screen,’ Comes to Tudor This Week, Stars in ‘Blind Husbands.’” The Atlanta Constitution (23 Nov. 1919): D6.
“Woman Director Efficiency Plus.” Los Angeles Times (29 April 1923): III34.
“Writers of the Day.” The Writer: A Monthly Magazine for Literary Workers Vol. XXVI. (January/December 1914): 104.Complete Project Bibliographies
A. Archival Filmography: Extant Film Titles:
1. Lillian Ducey as Screenwriter
Blind Husbands. Dir.: Erich von Stroheim, sc.: Erich von Stroheim, ttl: Lillian Ducey (Universal Film Manufacturing Company US 1919) cas.: Sam de Grasse, Francelia Billington, Erich von Stroheim si, b&w. Archive: ITN, USM, ATM, USL, CAQ, USM, ESM, CAO, ITT, AUC.
The Spite Bride. Dir.: Charles Giblyn, sc.: Lillian Ducey (Selznick Pictures Corp. US 1919) cas.: Olive Thomas, Robert Ellis, Jack Mulhall si, b&w. Archive: FRB.
In the Heart of a Fool. Dir.: Allan Dwan, sc.: Lillian Ducey (Mayflower Photoplay Corp. US 1920) cas.: James Kirkwood, Anna Q. Nilsson, Mary Thurman, Philo McCullough si, b&w, 35mm. Archive: USW.
A Broken Doll. Dir.: Allan Dwan, sc.: Allan Dwan, adaptation: Lillian Ducey (Allan Dwan Productions US 1921) cas.: Monte Blue, Mary Thurman, Mary Jane Irving, Les Bates si, b&w, 35mm. Archive: USW.
B. Filmography: Not Extant Titles:
1. Lillian Ducey as Director
Youth Triumphant/Enemies of Children, 1923.
2. Lillian Ducey as Screenwriter
Captain of His Soul, 1918; His Enemy, the Law, 1918; Upstairs and Down, 1919; The Scoffer, 1920; The Lullaby, 1924; The Warning, 1927; Behind Closed Doors, 1929; The Devil’s Apple Tree, 1929; The Climax, 1930 (silent and sound versions).
D. Streamed Media:
Blind Husbands (1919) is streaming online via Kanopy