Leah Baird papers

Catalogued by Krampe, Francesca
Margaret Herrick Library. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
333 S La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Published February 2021


Descriptive Summary

Abstract: The collection contains production files, primarily in the form of scripts written by Baird, including many for films in which she starred, such as THE DESTROYING ANGEL (1923), IS DIVORCE A FAILURE? (1923), and WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES (1922). There are files on unproduced films, clippings, correspondence, documents regarding her husband, producer Arthur F. Beck, and several scrapbooks.
Collector: Baird, Leah
Dates: 1897-1970
Dates: 1918-1926
Collection number: 2723
Collection Size: 11 linear ft. of papers
Repository: Margaret Herrick Library. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

Access

Available by appointment only.

Publication Rights

Property rights to the physical object belong to the Margaret Herrick Library. Researchers are responsible for obtaining all necessary rights, licenses, or permissions from the appropriate companies or individuals before quoting from or publishing materials obtained from the library.

Preferred Citation

Leah Baird papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Judith Lowry, 2019.

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Leah Baird papers span the years 1897-1970 (bulk 1918-1926) and encompass 2.9 linear feet. The collection contains production files (produced and unproduced), subject files, other papers (Harry T. Morey), writings, oversize material, and scrapbooks. The collection primarily reflects Baird’s work as a screenwriter, with some material covering her work as an actress.
The production files (produced) include material for over a dozen features for which Baird either appeared in, produced, or wrote the screenplay. There are scripts for DEVIL’S ISLAND (1926), JUNGLE BRIDE (1933), THE PRIMROSE PATH (1925), SPANGLES (1926), and STOLEN PLEASURES (1927), all written by Baird for films in which she did not appear. Films made for Leah Baird Productions which were written by and starred Baird, including THE DESTROYING ANGEL (1923), IS DIVORCE A FAILURE? (1923), WHEN HUSBANDS DECEIVE (1922), and WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES (1922), are represented primarily by scripts, clippings, and pressbooks. Unfortunately, there is very little production material to offer insight into the workings of Leah Baird Productions. Apart from the films written by and starring Baird, the only other title in the series representing Baird’s work as an actress is WOLVES OF KULTUR (1918). The collection contains a magazine adaptation, pressbook, and trade ad for this 15-part serial. There is no material covering her numerous appearances in Vitagraph shorts.
The production files (unproduced) consists primarily of script material by Baird. Notable projects include a film on the life on Giuseppe Garibaldi, and two adaptations of novels by Gertie de Wentworth-James, MAIDEN MADNESS and THE PRICE.
The subject files include agreements, clippings, correspondence, and treatments submitted to both Baird and Arthur F. Beck. Notable correspondents include William Beaudine and Harry Warner. Of interest are the documents pertaining to the work of Baird’s husband, producer Arthur F. Beck, including clippings, contracts, and credits. The submissions include treatments by Willard Mack, Harry J. Revier and Mabel Z. Carrol, and correspondence regarding an adaptation of the “Dan Dunn” comic strip.
The other papers series pertains to Baird’s frequent co-star in Vitagraph shorts, Harry T. Morey. However, none of the material in the series covers their work together. There are advertisements, clippings, and reviews for a few of Morey’s films, such as BEATING THE ODDS (1919) and A MAN’S HOME (1921). Of interest is a brochure for the American Film Manufacturing Company advertising the studio’s releases for 1912.

Biography

Leah Baird (1883-1971) was born Ada Frankenstein in Chicago to German parents. Baird began her acting career in stock theater, working with companies in Toronto and New York. In 1908, she was cast opposite Douglas Fairbanks in “The Gentleman from Mississippi,” and the two performed the show on Broadway for two years. She is rumored to have appeared in Independent Moving Picture Co.’s HIAWATHA (1909) for Carl Laemmle, but her first official credit is in JEAN AND THE WAIF (1910), one of the Vitagraph Company of America’s series of shorts featuring Jean the Dog. For the next several years, she appeared in over 100 shorts, primarily for Vitagraph, Independent Moving Pictures Co., and Universal Film Manufacturing Company. In addition to acting, she also wrote seven shorts for Vitagraph during this time.
In 1914 she married producer Arthur F. Beck. She continued to appear in shorts, features, and serials for the remainder of the decade, and in 1919, signed with both W. W. Hodkinson Corporation and Artco Productions, Inc., Beck’s production company. In 1921, Baird and Beck founded Leah Baird Productions in Cliffside, New Jersey. With her production company, Baird wrote and starred in seven feature length films, as well as the serial CYNTHIA OF THE MINUTE. Baird’s productions, such as DON’T DOUBT YOUR WIFE (1922), WHEN HUSBANDS DECEIVE (1922), and IS DIVORCE A FAILURE? (1923), were melodramas concerned with double-standards and morality in marriage.
Apart from these films, Baird’s acting credits during the decade were sparse, ending with three shorts pairing her with Taylor Holmes in 1927. In the meantime, she continued to write and produce. Her screenplays during this time include THE PRIMROSE PATH (1925) and SHADOW OF THE LAW (1926), both starring Clara Bow. Following her screenplay for JUNGLE BRIDE (1933), Baird retired from screenwriting. In 1941, after over a decade away from the screen, Baird returned to acting with the help of her friend, Harry Warner. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, she appeared in small, uncredited roles in over three dozen films, primarily for Warner Bros., and made her final appearance in THE HARD MAN (1957).

Arrangement of the Collection

Arranged in the following series: 1. Production files, subseries A-B as follows: A. Produced; B. Unproduced; 2. Subject files; 3. Other papers, subseries A-B as follows: A. Production files; B. Subject files;; 4. Writings; 5. Oversize; 6. Scrapbooks.

Indexing terms

Baird, Leah
Leah Baird Productions
Actresses
Directors
Screenwriters
Silent films

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