Alice Duer Miller and Hollywood

Watching the Oscar Awards can make one think back to movies made during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”

If you have seen the 1935 Jerome Kern movie musical Roberta starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, you may have noticed the story line credit Alice Duer Miller (1874-1942) taken from her novel Gowns by Roberta. The film followed the 1933 Broadway success of the same name.

Roberta based on a novel by Alice Duer Miller

Alice was married to Henry Wise Miller (1877-1955), the great-grandson of George and Louisa Macculloch. In addition to her writing and political activities in support of the women’s suffrage movement, Alice frequently went to Hollywood to write screenplays for Goldwyn and Paramount studios. Her credits include: Wife vs. Secretary (1936), And One Was Beautiful (1940) and Irene (1940). Her poem The White Cliffs was the inspiration for the 1944 film The White Cliffs of Dover.

Alice also played the supporting role of Miss Beasley in Paramount’s 1936 film Soak the Rich. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum recently added a still shot from Soak the Rich to its archives. Seen here, “Miss Beasley (Alice Duer Miller) is alarmed to find that the intruder is a young man (John Howard) with a rope…”

Miss Beasley (Alice Duer Miller) is alarmed to find that the intruder is a young man

Though she was not nominated by the Academy for her supporting role, Alice’s screenwriting served as an introduction to a circle of friends including Alexander Woollcott, Noel Coward, Robert Benchley, Irving Berlin, Dorothy Parker, and Harpo Marx.