Nalbro Bartley: Author, Lecturer, and a Forgotten Figure in Screenwriting

Female authors and screenwriters were a dominant force in creating the storylines of the early 20th century films that have paved the way for the dazzling feature films we have today. Among those talented writers, was a woman by the name of Nalbro Bartley. On any given day, Bartley could have been found writing books and short stories, submitting works to newspapers and magazines, or delivering lectures. She wrote over 20 books, including at least 7 that were adapted into films. In fact, some of her works were published when she was still in her early twenties. And yet, despite her role in the world of literature and film, Bartley’s work remains largely under-recorded and underappreciated.

Bartley was born on November 10, 1888, in Buffalo, New York. Growing up with an older sister, she was the youngest of two siblings. Her affinity for creative work ran through her blood, as her father, William Bartley, was an entertainer. While little to nothing is known about her personal life, we do know that she got married three times, having a child with her second husband, Charles Leonard Shaw [1]. Based on her two divorces, it is likely that she was a woman of independence, willing to follow her own path without being chained down to a man. After all, her stories often center around women leads.

However, instead of breaking down all of her work, I chose to focus on one of her short stories that was later adapted into a movie: “The Cynic Effect.” This particular story was a comedy published in RedBook magazine in the 1920s. As of yet, I have not been able to locate a copy of the original text. Similarly, the movie it inspired, The Country Flapper, was nowhere to be found. Moreover, the song of the same name that accompanied the movie was gone from the records. All that we have to give us any indication of the contents of the story are the reviews and advertisements sparked by the film.

The Country Flapper, received a lot of its attention from its star lead, Dorothy Gish. The movie, directed by F. Richard Jones and produced by Producers Security, was made available to audiences in many major cities across the United States.

Both the short story and film were not an accurate representation of Bartley’s work to say the least. According to a review by Film Daily and the producer himself, the 5 reel film contained no plot whatsoever, merely chugging out comedic scenes [2]. If a plot were to be described, it is a story about a girl fighting for the love of a boy. In an attempt to win the boy from his disapproving father, she blackmails the father. However, the father burns the incriminating evidence, leaving the main character to settle instead with the shy boy that she got to help her with her scheme.

While the film was entertaining, it was torn to shreds by reviewers. The Times wrote that the story was “merely an assortment of stock rural characters and slap-stick small-town situations with the wit worn off them.[3]”


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