Jump to: navigation, search

Sight and Sound (2005) - Script Special: Eliot Stannard: The Man Who Wasn't There




Eliot Stannard is known for his writing credits on eight of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films. However, he had already garnered 80 screenwriting credits since he started in the trade in 1914 and was one of the very first practitioners of the profession to think seriously and write publicly about exactly what it takes to be a writer for the screen. Here, Eaton discusses Stannard's screenwriting principles.


(c) Sight and Sound (Dec/2005)

Eliot Stannard wrote eight of Hitchcock's silent films and a screenwriting manual that, decades after the passing of the silent era, Michael Eaton finds more useful than any modern equivalent

Today's viewers, largely unaccustomed to the artistry of silent films, might well scratch their heads when faced with a question posed in 1920: "What is a Scenario Writer?" But it seems likely that readers of one of the earliest screenwriting manuals were equally nonplussed at the time of its publication, eight years or so before the adoption of sound. For the author ruefully admits: "Some of the Public believe this mystical and almost mythical person merely writes those fragments of explanation or dialogue technically known as sub-titles."

On those unavoidable occasions when the embarrassed screenwriter is forced to reveal his, in the present instance, trade, it is remarkable how frequently the public still assume that our job is merely to contribute the dialogue - those, that is, already sophisticated enough to know that the words are not made up by the actors. Little seems to have changed since the appearance of "Writing Screen Plays", Eliot Stannard's contribution to a book called Cinema Acting.

Who is Eliot Stannard? If the name is recognised these days it would most likely be for his writing credits on eight of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films, from his directorial debut (The Pleasure Garden, 1925) to his penultimate silent picture (The Manxman...