Against the Times: A Suffragist and Novelist, Conquering Film-Making Title By Title

Not an ordinary movie concept by any means, this motion picture from 1922 was a unique piece of work for its time. Manslaughter is a movie adapted from a novel of the same title written by Alice Duer Miller, and was about a girl involved an accident with a police officer on a motorcycle, killing him immediately upon impact. Even more fascinating was the spin of the plot, when the girl’s fiance acted against her, which led her to serve a jail sentence. Ironically, this gave her fiance the opportunity to turn to alcoholism while the girl turned her own life around. As a poet, a novelist, and a screenplay writer, Alice Duer Miller was a very talented writer who had works influencing not only the motion pictures industry, but the progression of women’s suffrage in America in the early 1900’s when women were on the rise towards economic and social mobility and freedom. Originally from New York City, Miller was born in the state where support for women’s suffrage was steadily intensifying, and naturally some of this experience was incorporated into her most notable works of poetry. Coincidentally, despite coming from a well-off family that had important positions as lawyers and business people, her fate took a turn when the wealth had come to an abrupt stop, and her writing skills became a tool for her to pay into her college education. This was a admirable feat of hers, since she was not only met with the issues of being a female attending a university at a time when women were still seen as house-makers and her own mother was not as approving of her decision to pursue an education over a family.  Aside from works on women’s suffrage and her personal experience, Miller also wrote a lot of romance and comedy novels which inspired the plots of numerous films adapted from her work. Some of her films were renamed, but the plots remained a clear picture of Miller’s story creation. She was even mentioned on the front cover of a Michigan newspaper named the Matinee, which was advertising her novel-inspired film Manslaughter, which was an indicator that Miller was a champion of her craft and a true suffragist who did not let her acknowledgment go overlooked. Another piece of valuable contribution to the adaption of her novel was the fact her editor was another female by the name of Anne Bauchens, which was crucial given that at the time of film-making, many would send their ideas in to the producing companies they worked for just to have their work enitirely made over and receive little to no credit for the original work they provided. Something that also set her film Manslaughter apart from the rest was that she was able to get the impressively successful producer Cecil Blount DeMille to help bring her novel to the light in its film version. Manslaughter, however, was not the first or even one of the first films that Alice Miller worked on. She also had numerous successful films which came before the 1922 hit, and as she was making debut with her stories she really hit the road running with her succession of films such as Irene, which landed her a career in Hollywood. From there, Miller continued to work on numerous films late into her life, making a name for herself in the business. Her history of film-making dated back as far as 1903, but her first original work was her collection of poetry called Poems in 1896. According to records, her long lasting career was fruitful, with films created based off her novels as late in her life as 1940, and in the midst of all her work she still got married later on in life to a man named Henry Wise Miller, with whom she remained married to until her passing in 1942. Ultimately, Alice Miller was a success story, making headlines for her films, her amazing work,  and her dedication, which inspired the women of her time, despite not being observed in film-making history as much to this day. – Review of ‘Manslaughter’ –  (Search Words: Manslaughter 1922) (Search Words: Alice Deur Miller films)  (Search Words: Manslaughter) (Search Words: Alice Deur Miller) (Picture)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *