Tag Archives: Hollywood History

The Long Career of Virginia Van Upp

When I’ve given presentations on movie producer Virginia Van Upp, I’ve discussed her 45+ year career in Hollywood as falling into four major phases. In my research I’m discovering that the final phase of Van Upp’s career is proving more complex and surprising than the current official narrative.

“Growing up with Hollywood” (1902-1934)

Before deciding on a career as a screenwriter, Van Upp held a variety of positions within the burgeoning movie industry of Los Angeles. These roles included: child star, director’s assistant, editor, script reader, casting agent, actor’s representative, and secretary to Horace Jackson. The knowledge she gained from these jobs (actor’s agent in particular), would significantly help Van Upp in the next three phases of her career.

“The Paramount Years” (1934-42)

“The Columbia Years” (1942-47)

“The Wilderness Years” (1948-1970)

After leaving Columbia, Van Upp spent several years trying to launch independent movie projects and wrote and produced three documentaries in Germany for the U.S State Dept. She also worked on a number of movies for which she is uncredited. I thought this final phase would be hard to find materials on, but my research to date shows that these years were some of the most interesting, prolific, and creative of Van Upp’s career.

I’m looking forward to visiting USC, UCLA, and Margaret Herrick Library in August and discovering more about Van Upp (and her mother, Hollywood scenarist Helen Van Upp).

Van Upp Meeting Luis César Amadori in 1945

Virginia Van Upp meeting with Luis César Amadori when he visited Los Angeles in 1945. On Van Upp’s desk are the script and costumes for Gilda (1946). Sourced from archive.org

Above is Virginia Van Upp meeting with (Italian born) Argentine director Luis César Amadori in 1945 at Columbia Pictures. The two filmmakers shared an interesting discussion about Hollywood cultural stereotypes and women working in the film industry. Upon leaving Columbia, Van Upp would travel extensively in South America and Europe, associating with dignitaries and filmmakers.

You can read more about the fascinating connection between Hollywood and Argentine film during the 1930s and 1940s here.

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What I’m reading…

Shelley Stamp’s Lois Weber in Early Hollywood.


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How Americans Came to View Old Movies

Eric Hoyt’s original focus and smart approach provides a new perspective on what we may have considered familiar film history.


Eric Hoyt, Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries Before Home Video, University of California Press, 2014, 288 pp.

As a film historian I think about movies a lot, however I’ve never been more conscious of the physical size and weight of film until a recent visit to a collector’s apartment in Manhattan. Standing in his kitchenette – one of the many rooms given over to his film collection – he explained: “I removed the stove for more space. I couldn’t use it anyway because the heat would damage the film. Now I just microwave everything.” I returned a look that expressed something of both awe and concern. The space, effort, and cost required to preserve film proves considerable so if you’re not storing it out of love it needs to have value. While individuals may be susceptible to the former, the latter motivates corporations. “When did old movies become valuable?” This is the question Eric Hoyt asks at the start of his book Hollywood Vault, which traces the changing valuation of film libraries across six decades from their emergence in the silent era through to their acquisition by conglomerates in the late sixties (2). Continue reading

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