‘Pride month’ salutes film producer Harriet Parsons at UCLA Film Archive

louella, harriet parsons, 1959

Along with Virginia Van Upp at Columbia Pictures and Joan Harrison at Universal, Harriet Parsons (1906-1983) was one of the very few women to make her mark in the industry as a feature film producer in the 1940s.

Parsons got her start at Columbia creating myriad uncredited newsreel-like “documentary” shorts in the 1930s.

She then moved to Republic Pictures in 1940, where she produced their Meet the Stars series, receiving both on-screen and behind-the-scenes recognition. She forayed into features at RKO, where both The Enchanted Cottage (John Cromwell, 1945) and I Remember Mama (George Stevens, 1948) were nearly taken from her and reassigned to men. She would produce six feature films at RKO before finding gender discrimination unbearable, then in the mid-1950s, went back to ghostwriting her mother’s column.

[Of the pictures listed above, Clash by Night (1952) also included Norman Krasna and Jerry Wald as co-producers. I Remember Mama had its director, George Stevens, as executive producer. Parsons had an executive producer, Jack Gross, both on Night Song and The Enchanted Cottage.]

To highlight two milestones in her career, UCLA Film & Television Archive will screen Episode 1 of Meet the Stars, Chinese Garden Festival, before her landmark first feature as sole producer, The Enchanted Cottage, both on 35mm from the Archive’s collection.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks enjoying Pickfair’s pool
Meet the Stars #1: Chinese Garden Festival (1941)

Hollywood stars gather at the famed Pickfair estate for a garden party to raise funds for a war-torn China.

35mm, b&w, 11 min. Director/Producer: Harriet Parsons. With: Harriet Parsons, Mary Pickford, Barbara Jo Allen, Kay Aldridge, William Bakewell.

The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

For her first feature film producing project, Parsons tapped screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen (Cat People, 1942; The Seventh Victim, 1943) to adapt the 1921 Arthur Pinero play of the same name for RKO. Disfigured war veteran Oliver Bradford (Robert Young) who finds love with plain housekeeper Laura Pennington (Dorothy McGuire) after falling under the spell of an enchanted English cottage that renders them blind to each other’s physical shortcomings.

35mm, b&w, 92 min. Producer: Harriet Parsons. Director: John Cromwell. Screenwriters: DeWitt Bodeen, Herman J. Mankiewicz. With: Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young, Herbert Marshall, Midred Natwick, Spring Byington.

This Woman’s Work: Producer Harriet Parsons | In-person: Karina Longworth | UCLA Film & Television Archive | June 27, 7:30 pm

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