Friday, February 8, 2019

Marie Coolidge Rask

Marie Coolidge Rask (b. Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, 15 August 1872; d. reg. New York, 20 November 1949)

Marie Aurilla Coolidge was the daughter of Charles S. Coolidge (1842-1922) and his wife Helen Mott Post (1840-1921).  She had one brother, John Milton Coolidge (1877-1916).

She apparently attended college, but details are unavailable.  On 8 January 1896, in Dunn county, Wisconsin, she married Olaf Harold Rask (1872-1902), who had been born in Minnesota of Norwegian parents. Olaf studied at Granville University in Granville, Ohio, and at the University of Minnesota, and became a journalist for Minnesota newspapers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. He was a major in the Minnesota militia, and during the Spanish-American war became a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. The couple had one child, Fredrik August Rask (1896-1963).  Olaf Rask died of cholera in the Philippines, and after 1904, Marie Rask received a widow's pension.

In 1904, she was studying for her novitiate (as Sister Harriet) at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Peekskill, New York, when she was transferred to Kenosha, Wisconsin, visiting with her parents in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, on the way there (The Wellsboro Agitator, 14 September 1904).  For unknown reasons, she soon left the order, and began writing plays, stories, and articles, for newspapers as well as for magazines. Her first book was a short farce in one act, How the Shrew Was Tamed (1909), as by M.A. Rask, "with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare."  Around this time she settled in Brooklyn, while writing for papers such as The New York World.  She also wrote for The Motion Picture Story Magazine, and for Photoplay Magazine, serializing the stories of popular films. Some of her newspaper work was apparently syndicated, appearing regularly in other newspapers in cities including Pittsburgh.

By 1911 her byline changed to include her maiden name, which she sometimes hyphenated as "Coolidge-Rask." She was pleased to claim Calvin Coolidge as a distant relative (she believed that they shared Josiah Coolidge, a Revolutionary War hero and participant at the Boston Tea Party, as a great-great-grandfather) who rose in political prominence, as Lt. Governor and then Governor of Massachusetts, and then Vice President (1921-23) and President (1923-1929) of the United States. 

Mary Coolidge-Rask is remembered for her three photoplay books, all published by Grosset & Dunlap:  La Bohème, by Marie Coolidge-Rask, illustrated with scenes from the photoplay, King Voidor's production, [July] 1926; Sparrows, novelized by Marie Coolidge-Rask, original story by Winifred Dunn,  illustrated with scenes from the photoplay starring Mary Pickford, [October] 1926;  and London after Midnight, by Marie Coolidge-Rask, based on the scenario of the Tod Browning production, a Metro-Goldwin-Mayer picture, starring Lon Chaney, [February] 1928. 

London after Midnight is by far the most significant of these, for the last known print of the film was destroyed in a studio vault fire in May 1967, so Coolidge-Rask's novelization is one of a small number of sources from which the plot of the film can be reconstructed. The situation is complicated, and I refer anyone interested to two books by Thomas Mann, London After Midnight: A New Reconstruction Based on Contemporary Sources with a transcription of a newly-discovered magazine fictionization of the lost film (2016), and London After Midnight: An English Translation of the 1929 French Novelization of the Lost Lon Chaney Film (2018), edited with a preface and afterword by Thomas Mann; translation of Lucien Boisyvon's Londres Après Minuit by Kieran O'Driscoll.


  1. Thank you Douglas! I have been researching my copy of the 1928 Readers Library photoplay edition of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (very rare) and this post has been a great help in knowing more about the author!

  2. You are welcome. A familiar named involved with the Readers Library series in the UK from 1925-27 was Henry Savage, who co-authored one of the titles, Faust [1927] and edited and abridged some other classics for that series.