Vina Delmar: From Performer to Writer

Vina Delmar’s success was no secret – from being nominated for an Academy Award to being starred on movie posters even above actors’ names, she left her mark on literature and film adaptation. This American writer extraordinaire not only wrote best-selling short stories, but she was a savvy screenwriter whose lack of acting skills could surely be excused by her writing talent.

from Wikipedia

Inside Vina Delmar’s Life

Vina Delmar was born Alvina Louise Croter on January 29, 1903 in Brooklyn, New York as the daughter of two vaudeville performers. Upon further research, I learned that vaudeville refers to an allied network of theatres in which agents organize independent acts to flow together, much like what I interpret to be a variety show. Delmar lived a nomadic lifestyle in her infant years with her parents touring the vaudeville circuit. This migratory lifestyle, however, ended when she was 8 years old and her mother retired from the stage and they resided in Brooklyn again. It was around this age when Delmar picked up her first pen and began to handwrite stories. Her interest commenced at this age, but was interrupted when her mother passed away in 1916. Her father moved them to the Bronx, where she had allegedly experienced firsthand the conflicts of social classes and issues through her father’s shady neighborhood friends. These encounters impacted her storylines, which will be later mentioned. Anyhow, Delmar herself became a performer on the vaudeville stage by age 16. To say she was unsuccessful in her acting career would be an understatement. To make ends meet, she took on small theatre tech employments instead in the 1920s. In 1921, Delmar married a man named Albert Zimmerman, but more prominently known as Eugene Delmar (his stage name). Although he was a radio announcer and a writer, the only available information on him is linked to Vina, suggesting that his range of influence was more limited than his successful wife. Some called them “partners in crime,” but in actuality Vina was the brains of the operation while Eugene was simply a cog in the wheel. Since Vina had only attended school until the age of 13, she needed major help with writing and editing of her stories. This didn’t stop her intellect from flowing though, and although Eugene rarely received any credit in her published works, she considered them to be a team. In 1924, they had a son named Gray, but he would later be killed in an automobile racing accident in 1966. The married couple resided in Scarsdale, New York until 1940, when they followed their son to live in California. When Eugene passed away, some claim that Vina “ceased to be productive as a writer.” However, this cannot discount her many years of writing success.

 

Vina Delmar’s “A Chance at Heaven”

The short story, “A Chance at Heaven” was by far not Delmar’s most famous piece, but it did come from close to her heart. Briefly touching on the content of the plot, the main character gets pregnant and moves to New York – a setting that Delmar is all too familiar with. The book never got many reviews, but instead the film adaptation of it blew up. In my research, it was hard to find any information about the book itself, but the movie does appear to be a hit. She had written it as a short story, but many refer to it just as filmography.  

 

Link to magazine review of “A Chance at Heaven”: http://lantern.mediahist.org/catalog/newmoviemagazine08weir_0575

 

Works Cited:

 

“Viña Delmar.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 July 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viña_Delmar.

Vaudeville Circuits, http://www.jcs-group.com/entertain/stage/circuits.html.

“Author: Viña Delmar.” Vintage Bookseller, https://vintagebookseller.myshopify.com/pages/author-vina-delmar.

PeoplePill. “Viña Delmar: Playwright, Screenwriter, Novelist – Biography, Life, Family, Career, Works, Facts.” PeoplePill, https://peoplepill.com/people/vina-delmar/.

“Chance at Heaven (1933).” The Blonde at the Film, 10 Apr. 2017, https://theblondeatthefilm.com/2015/11/11/chance-at-heaven/.

Viña Delmar (1903-90) – Draft, https://www.jmcvey.net/hdwe/film/vd.htm.

“Vina Delmar; Adapted ‘The Awful Truth’ for the Screen.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 1990, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-01-28-mn-1265-story.html.

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