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Florence Ryerson

Florence Ryerson
Florence Ryerson.jpg
Florence Willard

Sept. 20, 1892
DiedJune 8, 1965 (aged 72)
Other namesFlorence Willard
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
  • screenwriter
  • playwright
  • author
Known forfilm scripts
Spouse(s)Harold Swayne Ryerson (1914–1927, divorced)
Colin Campbell Clements (1927–1948, his death)
ChildrenHarold Swayne Ryerson Jr.

Florence Ryerson (September 20, 1892 – June 8, 1965) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and co-author of the script for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Between 1915 and 1927 she published more than 30 short stories and then joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1926 to work on silent film scripts. In 1930 and 1933 she and her husband wrote two of the earliest novels about the teenage years for girls. The novels were based on a short story series Ryerson had started in 1925. She continued to write for most of her life, writing plays for Broadway in the 1940s.

Life and career

Early years

Florence Ryerson was born in Glendale, California. She was the daughter of Charles Dwight Willard and Mary McGregor.[1] Charles Dwight Willard (1860-1914), journalist and political reformer, was an 1883 graduate of the University of Michigan, worked on the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Herald, and was author of The Fall of Ulysses - An Elephant Story (1912), The Herald's History of Los Angeles City (1901), and other books.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Florence was educated at Stanford and Radcliffe. In 1920 Florence and her first husband, Harold Swayne Ryerson, worked in the manufacture of ladies' clothes.[10] Florence was also a stage actress.[citation needed] She attended George Pierce Baker’s famous “47 Workshop” at Harvard University, as did her second husband, Colin Campbell Clements.

Magazine writer

Ryerson published more than 30 short stories in magazines between 1915 and the early 1930s. Her writing appeared in Munsey's Magazine, The American Magazine, Woman's World, Ladies' Home Journal, and numerous other magazines.[11]


In 1926, Florence Ryerson joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to work on silent film scripts,[12] among them Adam and Evil and Wickedness Preferred. Later sound films she wrote include the Fu Manchu and Philo Vance series.

She was co-author of the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz, along with frequent collaborator Edgar Allan Woolf and British author Noel Langley.[13][14] Both Ryerson and Woolf created the Wizard's Kansas counterpart, Professor Marvel.


With Colin Clements, her second husband, Ryerson wrote two of the earliest novels featuring teenage girlhood: This Awful Age (1930) and Mild Oats (1933), both based on a short story series Ryerson had started in 1925 in Woman’s World magazine. Both books were published by D. Appleton. The couple adapted these stories, first as a play, June Mad (1939), which was then adapted as a film, Her First Beau (1941). Actors from the film performed the story on the Lux Radio Theatre on October 27, 1941.

Shadow Ranch

Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements(c. 1948).
Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements
(c. 1948).

In the 1930s, Ryerson and Clements acquired the 19th century Workman Ranch in Canoga Park, in the western San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. She renamed the estate Shadow Ranch for the amount of shade provided by the numerous large Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) eucalyptus trees, originally planted in the 1860s during the Workman era. They restored and expanded the historic adobe and redwood ranch house, and lived there through the 1940s. Ryerson co-wrote The Wizard of Oz screenplay while living there.

Playwright and novelist

Ryerson wrote short stories,[11] plays, and mystery novels with husband Colin Clements. For Broadway in the 1940s they wrote Glamour Preferred, Harriet, and Strange Bedfellows.[15] In Harriet, Helen Hayes portrayed Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Later years

Colin Clements died in 1948. Ryerson retired to Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, in 1951, where she continued to write plays, some for the local high school.[16]

Florence Ryerson Clements died in Mexico City of cardiac insufficiency in 1965.[17]


  1. ^ California, Biographical Index Cards, 1781-1990 Record for Mrs Florence Ryerson Clements, Jan 1932
  2. ^ Willard genealogy: sequel to Willard memoir. By Joseph Willard, Charles Wilkes Walker, Willard Family Association. Boston 1915 p 597
  3. ^ Charles Dwight Willard. The Herald's History of Los Angeles City. Kingsley, Barnes and Neuner Co. Los Angeles 1901
  4. ^ Willard, Charles Dwight. The Fall of Ulysses - An Elephant Story. George H. Doran, 1912
  5. ^ Willard, Charles Dwight. The Free Harbor Contest At Los Angeles: An Account Of The Long Fight Waged By The People Of Southern California To Secure A Harbor (1899). Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 2, 2008)
  6. ^ Willard, Charles Dwight. A History of the Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, California. From Its Foundation, Sept., 1888 to the year 1900. Kingsley-Barnes & Neuner Co. (1899), Los Angeles
  7. ^ Charles Dwight Willard. City Government for Young People. Nabu Press (January 10, 2010)
  8. ^ Donald R. Culton. Charles Dwight Willard: Los Angeles' "Citizen Fixit", City Booster and Progressive Reformer. California History. Vol. 57, No. 2 (Summer, 1978), pp. 158-171
  9. ^ Emily K. Abel. Suffering in the Land of Sunshine. Rutgers University Press November 2006. Willard's letters describe his 30-year struggle with tuberculosis.
  10. ^ 1920 US Federal Census
  11. ^ a b "Chronological List". Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  12. ^ Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc (1926). Film Daily Year Book 1926. Media History Digital Library. New York, Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc. ((cite book)): |first= has generic name (help)
  13. ^ Florence Ryerson on the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ US Women of the West, 1928 Record for Florence Ryerson (Mrs. Colin Clements)
  15. ^ COLIN CLEMENTS, PLAYWRIGHT, 53; Husband of Florence Ryerson Dies -- Wrote 'Harriet' and 'Bedfellows' With Wife. New York Times - Jan 30, 1948
  16. ^ Mrs. Florence Clements, Noted Writer, Hampton Falls Resident, Dies In Mexico. Hampton Union June 17, 1965
  17. ^ Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974 Record for Florence Ryerson Clements
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Florence Ryerson
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