The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Lillie Hayward (1889-1977)

Serial Writer

A thirty-year veteran of film writing when she came to Disney, Lillie Hayward first entered the movie industry through her silent film star sister, Seena Owen. Lillie did the teleplays for several Mickey Mouse Club serials, and also wrote screenplays for four Disney films shortly before retiring.

Should not be confused with stage actress Lillian Hayward White, who dropped her last name for films during 1912-1918.

Background

She was born Lillie C. Auen in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Sep 12, 1889 (not 1891 as widely reported). Her druggist father, Jens C. Auen, had arrived from Denmark in 1888. In Minnesota, he met and married Karen C. Sorenson, who had also immigrated from Denmark. The family moved off to Oregon, where brother Andun L. Auen was born in 1891, then to Spokane, Washington, where little sister Signe M. Auen was born in 1894.

By 1914 Signe Auen had entered the newly-established Hollywood film industry as an actress, making a dozen films in two years. She switched the spelling of her name to the English phonetic "Seena Owen" in 1915 and year later appeared D. W. Griffith's epic Intolerance (1916). Lillie joined her sister in California around 1915, and was introduced by Signe to Englishman Bernard C. Hayward, a divorced commercial photographer turned cinematographer. Lillie and "Duke" Hayward married, then had a daughter in 1918.

Bernard's film work soon dried up, and Lillie, despite being a young mother, took a job as a script editor for her sister's studio. The couple separated, and Lillie and her daughter moved in with Signe, who was herself divorced from actor George Walsh and also had a daughter. The sisters were joined by their mother, now also divorced, and their brother, who described himself as a real estate broker, but who seems to have always lived in his sisters' shadow.

Lillie got her first screen credit in 1924, doing the adaption of a novel Janice Meredith, for a William Randolph Hearst epic. She would have steady work writing for films and television for the next forty years, which was lucky since her sister's movie career dried up with the advent of talkies. Signe did take up screenwriting herself, and the sisters collaborated on one picture, Aloma of the South Seas (1941), but Signe's writing career was intermittent and didn't last long, which meant that Lillie became the extended family's sole support.

Lillie worked for a number of studios on assignment over the years, but never had any memorable hits. As the number of films being made dropped in the early fifties, Lillie moved into writing teleplays, starting with The Ford Television Theater in 1953. She did some episodes of Waterfront the following year, before getting her first Disney work in early 1955.

Contribution

The Disney Studio preferred to go outside it's own ranks for serial writers. Like her colleague Jackson Gillis, Lillie worked on assignment, doing teleplays for other shows at the same time as she was writing MMC serials. Unlike Gillis or Stirling Silliphant, however, Lillie never wrote original stories, but instead, adapted material from novels or other sources. Lillie was proficient at writing action scenes, employing lots of characters for whom she rarely bothered to devise individual personalities. At age sixty-six, after thirty years of writing scripts, she was quick and competent, but a little blasé about the work, and no longer willing to invest more substance to a story than the bare minimum needed to tell it.

Her first Disney assignment was a story created by director William Beaudine Sr, about a teenage girl and her dog living in the west. Beaudine sold the idea to Walt Disney, who then turned it over to Lillie for the final shooting script. It's hard to tell from Corky and White Shadow who contributed what. Certainly the campiness was pure Beaudine. Most likely, Lillie simply broke Beaudine's script into episodes, giving some introductory narration to each. This was a rush job, with Walt greenlighting the story in May 1955 and filming completing in late June. Lillie thus acquired the reputation for quick writing, which would lead to her next Disney serial.

When Walt Disney fired Stirling Silliphant, the second serial of the What I Want To Be series was left hanging without a script. Commitments had already been made by the studio for location shooting at a Wisconsin dairy farm, which the American Dairy Association had arranged. Remembering how well Lillie and Beaudine had worked together on a short time frame, producer Bill Walsh assigned them to write and direct Adventure in Dairyland. Lillie worked from Silliphant's original outline, retaining the dual boy-girl protagonists, but dropping the adult guide. The use of the popular Annette Funicello and the likeable Sammy Ogg ensured the serial's success, though overall the story felt contrived.

The first Spin and Marty serial had been successful, in large part thanks to the writing of Jackson Gillis. For the next two installments the producers chose to go with Lillie Hayward. Lillie did an adequate job with each, especially the action scenes, but she was unable to show any development in the main characters, and the new actors brought in each season (including the Mouseketeers) usually remained extras, without names or lines. However, once again the popularity of the young stars overcame the scripts' weaknesses, and Lillie was given another assignment straightaway.

For the last Disney serial, Lillie adapted the 1950 novel Margaret as Annette. Originally set in southeast Texas during 1909, the story was updated to a contemporary "anytown". The novel was compelling, sensitive, and still reads surprisingly well today. Lillie cut down the plot to a few incidents, simplified and reduced the number of characters, producing a story that resembled an overlong episode of Ozzie and Harriet. Silly and trite it may have been, but with Annette herself in the lead, how could it go wrong? Lillie also adapted her own script to story form for the Walt Disney Magazine.

Aftermath

As the Mickey Mouse Club slowed down, Lillie did the screenplay for Tonka (1958), a better than average Disney western about a horse and the Lakota boy (Sal Mineo) who captures him. This was an action picture that played to Lillie's strengths as a writer. After the Mickey Mouse Club wrapped up, Lillie did the screenplay for The Shaggy Dog (1959), a weak comic fantasy saved by the star power of it's quartet of young teenagers, and a forgettable circus film, Toby Tyler (1960).

Lillie was married in June 1959 to writer Jerry Sackheim, whom she met when they collaborated on The Boy and The Pirates (1960). The couple resided in Studio City, California, where Lillie died on June 29, 1977.

Contact Info | ©2006-14 OriginalMMC.com