Despite asserting a historically rare degree of control for a woman working within Hollywood’s studio system of the 1930s and 40s, producer-screenwriter Virginia Van Upp (1902 -1970) has received little scholarly attention from film historians.
My research project entitled “The Rise of Virginia Van Upp” examines the filmmaker’s varied and impressive forty-five year career in Hollywood. Beginning as a child actor during the silent era, Van Upp went on to perform a wide range of jobs in the industry from screenwriting for Paramount, to executive producing such classics as Gilda and The Impatient Years at Columbia, and lastly working in ‘the wilderness’ attempting to launch several independent projects. Not unlike Van Upp, the ambitious female characters in her movies often use the media to curate images of themselves that boost their success. I suggest that through talent and media savvy, Van Upp established a unique auteurist authority for translating her vision from page to screen.
In addition to the close analysis of Van Upp’s movies, my research takes me on a tour of the studio archives, interviews with family members, and working through the hundreds of national, trade, and fan paper entries that address Van Upp’s career.