Guest Author - Amber Grey
History has not been kind to the one and only June Mathis. Chances are, not a lot of people, if any, recognize the name. But at one time, Mathis was a notable figure in Hollywood. Without her, there would be no such thing as Rudolph Valentino. The very foundation of scriptwriting may be very different without her involvement.
Born June Beulah Hughes, she would adopt her stage name, June Mathis, taking the last name of her stepfather. She spent much of her youth in Vaudeville, dancing and becoming famous for her imitations. She would also appear on Broadway and toured in widely successful companies of the time.
But Mathis was not convinced she was leading lady material and turned to screenwriting instead. While living in New York with her mother, Mathis practiced her craft day and night, alternatively writing scripts and going to the cinema. She entered a script competition with a screenplay titled, "House of Tears". Although it did not win, her writing proved powerful enough to accept a job offer for Metro, which later became the legendary studio - Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Within three years of her new career, Mathis became the head of the Metro's writing department. Therefore making her the first woman ever to be named an executive in Hollywood.
In the realm of screenwriting, she is considered one of the first screenwriters to include specific directions in her scripts. A method which is now a part of a the standard format for screenwriting. Mathis believed her emphasis on developing scripts with a sharp focus on theme was the root of her success. A central theme to her work was of the mystical, which Mathis was known for having an extensive knowledge.
Writing was not her only talent. She was also known for being brilliant with her casting choices, just as it was when casting for "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). When it came into question of who would play the role of Julio, Mathis remembered a young handsome man she once saw in her friend's film, Clara Kimball Young's, "Eyes of Youth" (1919). This young actor was none other than the "Latin Lover" himself, Rudolph Valentino. When asked about how she knew who to cast, Mathis would say, "I first notice the eyes. There I can find what I call soul, and by this alone, I judge." And there is nothing more piercing than Valentino's gorgeous eyes.
Although she was an executive, Mathis still had to exert her power in order for her word to be trusted. Fortunately in the end, she got her way and Valentino was cast. Because of his seductive physique and magnetic charisma, he hit super-stardom after the film's release. It was not only a film that brought him eventual immortality, but also gave Mathis her fair share of success as well. Because of this film, she was considered the most powerful woman in Hollywood, only equal to Mary Pickford at times.
Throughout their careers, Valentino and Mathis shared a deep yet platonic relationship. His nickname for her was "Little Mother" since she kept a close eye on his well-being at Metro. Valentino would later comment, "She discovered me, anything I have accomplished I owe to her, to her judgment, to her advice and to her unfailing patience and confidence in me."
When Valetino fell ill in 1926, it was Mathis who came to his bedside to watch over his health. She was also the one who paid for his tomb in Hollywood Memorial Park. A year later, Mathis would pass away from her heart condition she had been suffering from birth. She is forever entombed next Valentino.