Silent Memories

To Sweetser’s embarrassment, her comedy called Molly’s Mistake shared the theater screen with a Pathe newsreel about President Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 inauguration.

“It was not only the silliest thing I ever saw, I was ashamed of it,” she said.

Sweetser amassed a large collection of movie stills, clippings and thank-you notes from actors and actresses who appeared in her photoplays. Her giant scrapbook was all she had left when she exited the business.

“The bottom dropped out of free-lance script writing when studios started getting sued for plagiarism after using what they bought as original stories,” Sweetser explained. “Now unpublished stories and books from unknown writers haven’t a chance unless they are submitted by a recognized literary agent."

Movie studios bought up all the rights to popular stories and then began to employ their own writing staffs, she said.

“Some old-time free-lance writers were hired,” Sweetser said. “A few made good. Others didn’t. I didn’t have enough gumption to try to get into the big stuff.”

So Sweetser left the business and became a New England newspaper correspondent. After her husband died in 1937, she moved to Summit County to be near her children Lawrence Sweetser and Helen Yocum, who both worked at Babcock & Wilcox.

In 1949, she invited Beacon Journal writer Helen Geib and photographer Julius Greenfield into her home on Sterling Avenue in Barberton. She thumbed through her old scrapbook and smiled shyly as she talked about her “corny” movie scripts from long ago.

In the second reel of her life, she was content to be a grandmother. But she never stopped writing. She kept her typewriter keys warm as a member of the Akron Manuscript Club and Ohio Press Women.

Lillian J. Sweetser was 89 years old when she died in 1974. She had lived in Summit County for more than 30 years.

You won’t find her name in any movie books and you may never see any of her films, but she deserves proper credit for entertaining the first generation of moviegoers.

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