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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 2 August 1872Detroit, Michigan, USA
Date of Death 20 July 1942Santa Barbara, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameRobert Leicester Wagner

Mini Bio (2)

Rob Wagner moved to Santa Barbara from Detroit in 1906. He settled in Los Angeles about 1909. His first scenario for a film, "The Artist's Sons," was produced by Selig Studios in 1911. Between 1915 and 1918 he wrote a series of articles on the film industry for the Saturday Evening Post. Wagner was Charlie Chaplin's publicity man and confidant for many years. He was a director of Will Rogers film shorts. He was founder, editor and publisher of Rob Wagner's Script, a literary magazine for the film community. The magazine was published from 1929 to 1949.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Rob L. Wagner <r_wagner@dailybulletin.com>

Rob Wagner, who helped pioneer film criticism and coverage of the industry with his influential magazine, Rob Wagner's Script, began his career not as a journalist and filmmaker but as an artist.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1872, Wagner was the second of four children born to Robert Wagner and Mary Leicester Hornibrook Wagner. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1894 with a degree in engineering. Abandoning any intention of becoming an engineer he became an illustrator for the Detroit Free Press and the New York magazine, The Criterion. He also was an art editor for Encyclopedia Britannica in London from 1900-02.

In 1903, he married Jessie Willis Brodhead in Detroit and moved to Paris to study art at Academies Julian and Delecluse. During 1904 he painted portraits in Detroit. With his wife suffering from ill health, he moved to Santa Barbara in 1906, where Jessie died eight months later. He continued to paint portraits of many of California's most prominent citizens, including writer Stewart Edward White.

By 1910, he relocated to Los Angeles and immediately became interested in the infant art form of motion pictures. His cousins, Jack and Blake Wagner, were already involved in films working off and on for D.W. Griffith when he was filming in California.

Wagner's first film was "The Artist's Sons" (1911), an autobiographical story about his bohemian lifestyle as an artist. It featured his two sons, Leicester and Thornton Wagner, and much of his own artwork. Shortly after the debut of the film he met and married Florence Welch, a Kansas newspaperwoman. Wagner took a job as a teacher at Manual Arts High School and counted Frank Capra and future famed World War II aviator Jimmy Doolittle as his students. He directed and produced a documentary on the Los Angeles school system titled "Our Wonderful Schools" (1915) and gave Capra his first film job as a crew hand.

During this period he switched from portrait painting and teaching to writing, penning a series of articles on the film industry for the Saturday Evening Post, which was eventually compiled into a book, "Film Folk" (1918). The series helped revive a sagging industry that was suffering economically before World War I.

By 1918 he was a good friend with Charlie Chaplin, becoming his publicist and confidante. He introduced Chaplin to early leftist political causes, including some of the leading lights of the day such a Max Eastman and Upton Sinclair. He wrote early and often about Chaplin and even penned an early biography of the filmmaker, but shelved the manuscript at Chaplin's request.

Wagner believed that if he were to write with authority on the industry, he would have to participate more in filmmaking. He briefly worked for Mack Sennett as a gag writer, and then shifted over to Hal Roach Studios to direct a series of short films featuring Will Rogers. He also was under contract for Famous Players-Lasky where he wrote for or directed some minor films. He also was associated with actor Charles Ray.

Throughout the 1920s, he continued to write for various publications, including Liberty, Photoplay and other magazines. In 1929, he founded Rob Wagner's Beverly Hills Script, which later became simply Rob Wagner's Script. The magazine featured comment and features on film, art and literature. Wagner never paid his writers, but offered many film celebrities a forum for their views. It was often referred to as the West Coast New Yorker. Among Southern California's elite contributing to Script were Chaplin, Sinclair, Will Rogers, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Max Brand Louis L'Amour, Ray Bradbury and artists Stanton McDonald Wright and Leo Politi.

Often Wagner, who was an ardent Socialist, opened his magazine to explore political issues. He gave Upton Sinclair fair coverage of his bid for governor of California in 1934 when most other news organizations refused. And he published the controversial final speech from Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" in 1940.

In 1942, Wagner died of a heart attack in Santa Barbara with his wife and brother, James R.H. Wagner, at his side. His son, Leicester, took over the magazine for a short period. His widow continued publishing Script until 1947 when it was sold to Robert L. Smith, general manager of the Los Angeles Daily News. But without Wagner, the magazine lost its personality. It folded in 1949.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Spouse (1)

Jessie Brodhead (1903 - 1906) (her death)

Trivia (1)

Rob Wagner's documentary film, "Our Wonderful Schools" (1915), won a bronze medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition fair in San Francisco.

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