Paul Powell, Producer-Director-Writer, a Powerful Photoplay Practitioner

Film Daily April 24, 1921

Paul Powell, 1921


Paul Powell offers an interesting back-story to his film career, with writing and censoring duties being his entrance to Hollywood. Powell began as a reporter in Chicago with the Tribune, and then he moved on to Los Angeles, with the Express as a political writer and city editor,[1] and resident film-reviewer.[2] Powell was self-described as a pioneer sob-sister of the daily paper game;[3] by 1912, he had added the title of a motion picture censor[4] to his résumé.

Powell began his celluloid work with the Lubin Manufacturing Company at the Western Studio[5] in 1912, although no titles from that first year are available on which he was employed.[6] Powell’s most notable film-works were, The Matrimaniac, starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1916; A Girl of the Timber Claims, the first starring vehicle for Constance Talmadge, 1917; Rudolph Valentino starred in, All Night, 1918, and Pollyanna, in 1920, with Mary Pickford in the title role. Powell was often referred to as one of Fine Arts’ finest directors,[7] with the word exceptional used to describe his talent and that he was a stickler for realism; a man with a thorough knowledge of the construction and technique of acting.[8] His years of experience were lauded as having brought him to high-places in the art of cinema;[9] but, a swollen ego was not his, with first-hand accounts witness to the fact that he was never mistaken for a director because he did not act or dress the part.[10] With around ninety films directed and nearly twenty scenarios to his credit, Powell, was a busy man in Hollywood from 1912 to 1930; working with such picture-play luminaries as D. W. Griffith and Thomas H. Ince.

Not everything can be about work

It did not take long for Powell to seek the comradery of those in Hollywood; he was an avid angler and became a member of the Mutual Fishing Club, with fishing-gatherings on Sundays, in the waters surrounding the Catalina Islands. Others that were a part of the club were Jack O’Brien, Jack Conway, Christy Cabanne, Wallace Reid, Raoul Walsh, Lloyd Ingraham, Charles Gorman, William Hinckley and Thomas O’Brien.[11] The wives of the Hollywood anglers were involved too, each hosting in turn the returning fishing party, with baked fish a la carte, while the anglers recounted their Sunday expedition, or in other words, sharing their fish-tales. Each season ended with a medal awarded to the member with the highest record.[12] As to comfort Mr. Powell chose South Pasadena, on Lemon Street as his California home, settling in to the City of Angeles routine.[13]

In the same time-frame as his entry to the aforementioned tight-knit angling club, Powell was hired by D. W. Griffith in early 1915,[14] and his first Majestic Motion picture was, The Lost Lord Lowell, starring Dorothy Gish, which was released on February 21. Although, there were still Lubin projects that were released after his debut with Griffith’s Majestic; Powell joined Triangle with T. H. Ince in 1917.

Unaccounted for Powell projects…


It takes no time at all when investigating the films of Paul Powell, to find omitted data, such as with his second project, His Excellency, which was released on January 27, by Lubin. Powell, by all modern sources is credited as director for the film, but he also wrote the scenario;[15] this tidbit of knowledge demonstrates clearly that Lubin hired Powell with writing in mind, utilizing that well honed talent, so well known to Chicago and Los Angeles newspaper subscribers. And again, this idea is proven with his very next project, The Measure of a Man, Powell is known as director of the one-reeler, but, as with his second entry for Lubin, he wrote the scenario as well.[16]

Next on the missing-list he produced and directed Fate and the Fugitive, starring Velma Whitman, in 1914.[17] Also he directed a film that appears to be totally lost from film-memory or an untraceable title (at least for me), The Wild Cat, 1914.[18] In addition to directing, The Long Lane, in 1914, he also produced; the two-reeler, was written by William Ritchey.[19] With The Stolen Yacht, 1914, Powell performed the double duty of producer-director again.[20]


In 1915 working with scenarist Russell E. Smith, Powell directed, The Nun, starring Dorothy Gish, with Mary Alden and Cora Drew (uncredited by modern sources for her performance in this three-reel drama), F. A. Turner, Jennie Lee and W. E. Lawrence in support, with exterior filming near Santa Barbara, including the missions in the vicinity. At first glance this film appears to be missing from Hollywood history,[21] but, the true identity of the project was the December 1915, release, Her Mother’s Daughter; yet, the production was still often referred to by Hollywood trade magazines as, The Nun.[22] The connection would be impossible to find, if it were not for a thorough review by the Moving Picture World.[23]


As well, according to the Motion Picture News Studio directories of 1916, Her Grandparents was directed by Paul Powell, not Frank Powell, who has historically been given credit for the picture.[24] Christy Cabanne gained another credit that might belong to Powell, with, Sold for Marriage, starring Lillian Gish; this was an April, 1916 release, written by William E. Wing and co-starring, Frank Bennett, Walter Long and Allan Sears. The reference that Paul Powell directed Sold for Marriage is from an April, 1916, edition of Motion Picture News.[25]


The Pointing Finger based on the original story, No Experience Required, by Frank R. Adams, may need to have Powell added to the list of directors, joining Edward A. Kull and Edward Morrissey with that credit.[26] Or then again, Powell may have been announced as the director, with plans changed at a later date, yet with that said: these reports were seen as late as the end of August, with the film’s release on December 1, 1919, which could have been a little tight to change the head man.


It may be that Paul Powell was responsible for the editing of many his projects as was the case with Pollyanna, 1920.[27]


By C. S. Williams

[1] The Motion Picture News, July 25, 1914

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) November 30, 1912

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) July 10, 1917

[2] Moving Picture World, October 5, 1918

[3] Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) October 5, 1919

[4] Santa Ana Register (Santa Ana, California) December 4, 1912

[5] Motion Picture News, September 5, 1914

[6] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1920

[7] Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon) July 23, 1916

[8] Statesville Sentinel (Statesville, North Carolina) February 22, 1917

Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) February 8, 1919

Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota) January 24, 1920

[9] Iowa City Press-Citizen (Iowa City, Iowa) October 28, 1920

[10] Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina) June 13, 1919

[11] Motography, May 29, 1915

[12] Ogden Standard (Ogden City, Utah) June 5, 1915

[13] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1920

[14] Motography, February 13, 1915

[15] Moving Picture World, February 14, 1914

[16] Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) March 4, 1914

[17] Motion Picture News, August 8, 1914

Moving Picture World, January 16, 1915

[18] Motion Picture News, September 5, 1914

[19] Moving Picture World, October 31, 1914

[20] Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914

[21] Reel Life, May 8, 1915

Moving Picture World, March 27, 1915

Motion Picture News, April 17, 1915

Moving Picture World, December 18, 1915

Motion Picture News: Studio Directory, January 29, 1916

[22] Motion Picture News: Studio Directory, January 29, 1916

[23] Moving Picture World, December 18, 1915

[24] Motion Picture News: Studio Directory, January 29, 1916

Motion Picture News: Studio Directory, October 21, 1916

[25] Motion Picture News, April 1, 1916

[26] Wid’s Daily, August 15, 1919

Variety, August 27, 1919

[27] Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon) December 28, 1919


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