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parlor1While a resident in the house, Nell Shipman made one of the most important decisions of her career. Wanting creative control of her work, she and her husband, Ernest Shipman (a Canadian film entrepreneur), formed an independent company. By this time she had become a respected actress who had the confidence and artistic integrity to turn down a star-billing contract with Sam Goldwyn. During her pregnancy with Barry (1912), she had added "writing scenarios" to her acting talents, and Selig, Universal and Vitagraph had produced her screenplays. Her script for a six-part serial, Under the Crescent (1915), was made by Universal and partially filmed at El Miradero, the Brand mansion which today houses a branch of the Glendale Public Library at Brand Park.

Back to God's Country PosterIn 1918 she and her husband formed a partnership with the popular outdoor adventure writer, James Oliver Curwood. Nell adapted one of his short stories, hired the cast and production crew, and starred in Back to God's Country. The wilderness melodrama was an international success and a financial boon for the Canadian investors whom her husband had solicited. Her relationship with her husband and Curwood soon came to an end, but she continued her fierce commitment to filmmaking by creating Nell Shipman Production, through which she made six more films.

It was in the parlor that she interviewed a cameraman and production manager for Back to God's Country. The cameraman was Joseph Walker. In his autobiography, The Light on Her Face, Walker writes about the meeting and photo tests in the backyard. He began his feature-filming career with Shipman, photographing five of her productions. He went on to shoot over 150 films, including nearly all of Frank Capra's, such as It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost Horizons

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