Research for writing projects can become an interesting learning experience. Just like the act of looking something up on Wikipedia can turn into a two hour long journey starting with bears and winding up reading about Alaskan Explorers.
We are all familiar with the Disney movie, Snow White. I remember pulling the VCR tape out of the white box with her picture on the front. I wasn’t aware that it started off as a written story modified into a fairy tale, then into a Broadway Play and then into a black and white silent film before it even became the movie that I loved as a kid.
So, when I started looking into Snow White a little deeper, here are some of the interesting historical facts that came up. According to Wikipedia,
- The original story of Snow White was published 1812 but the Grimms revision to make it more of a fairy tale came along in 1854.
- The Broadway Play debuted on October 31, 1912 at Little Theater. Marguarite Clark played Snow White.
- The seven dwarves were originally called Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee, who was the youngest boy with a thievery issue.
When the story hit Broadway, Snow White was played by Marquarite Clark, an American stage and silent film actress, who made her Broadway debut in 1900, but her lead role in Snow White ultimately defined her persona as an actress. The first film version of Snow White was released December 25, 1916 as an American silent romantic fantasy. Walt Disney was fifteen when he saw the Broadway show in his hometown, Kansas City, and made it the subject of his first feature length animated film in 1937.
Digging a little bit deeper into the subject, I started looking at Clark’s personal life outside of the movie industry. She married Harry Palmerston Williams on August 15, 1918. Once I started on this path, I found out that not only was her life and career interesting, so was her husband’s. After closing a lumber company he had owned, he was looking for other interests to pursue. First it was fast boats, and then it was airplanes. He was prompted by Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic to buy a Ryan Monoplane from Jimmy Wedell, who he wound up going into the aviation business with.
Her husband’s company built air racers along with other aviation enterprises. Her last film in 1921 was called Scrambled Wives, a silent comedy film which she took part in directing. After which she retired to her husband’s plantation.When her husband died in a plane crash on May 19, 1936, she became the sole owner of Wendell-Williams Air Service Corporation. Ironically, the other owners of the company had died in plane crashes before Harry. She wound up selling the company in 1937. The assets from the commercial airline piece of the company (the New Orleans to Houston air routes) wound up being the founding pieces of what would eventually become Eastern Airlines.
She died in 1940 at the Leroy Sanitorium of pneumonia.
Wow! And their story is a part of the Eastern Airlines story. Never knew that there was a connection between Snow White and an airline did you? Funny how life works out.
I’m trying to remember how the research got started about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the first place. Was is on purpose? Or was it something I stumbled upon while looking into some other topic? Whatever the reason, it ended up netting me some great information to start writing about. As I look back at my notes, the Snow White information that I stumbled onto was originally going to become some additional family history for Mrs. Stockton, a character I have written stories about in a previous blog. She was the main character in an episode story that I created in July and August of 2014. That blog story became the inspiration for a short story that I wrote called Mrs. Stockton’s Journey.
The rough draft I started with those notes, talks about Shirley Stockton and her Grandmother’s love of Snow White. Her Grandmother had gone to New York City to see Clark at the Little Theater in 1912. At that show, she received a Snow White figurine from her mother.This figurine was handed down through the family and now sat on a shelf in the office in Mrs. Stockton’s house. She had placed it next to a picture of her Granddaughter Shelby when she had been Snow White for Halloween. She knew in her heart that Shelby would be the one to get the figurine when she passed away. With this draft, I even went so far as to figure out what years would work for my characters to be able to see the Broadway show for Shirley’s Grandma and the animated film for her Mom. The 1937 Disney Animated film was the one that she would have seen to make my timeline work for that part of the story.
On some other notes I found with with this same theme, I started a story about an elementary school English teacher, Mrs. Abbott. She was an older lady that lived outside of town. She was a cat lady who owned seven cats that she named after each of the seven dwarfs from Snow White. Mrs. Abbott named her cats after the original characters to stay true to the original story. She, like Mrs. Stockton’s Grandmother, had a love for Snow White and her class even made it her nickname.
Not all creative ideas are destined to take off into a story right away. Some of them just provide writing practice to see where the writer can take them with their current creative flow. And some of them will take on a life of their own at a later time and place. My writing mentor who passed away six years ago told me that sometimes the first manuscript that you write, never gets published. It winds up being a practice one for you to hone your craft with. It kind of shocked me when she said it. She saw the look if surprise that I must have had on my face and said,
“It isn’t a bad thing. It only helps you to become a better writer.”
I still have my first manuscript that my mentor refers to. It isn’t the one that I’m getting ready to have edited in a week. That one sits in a binder on my shelf with some good practice in it.