Thursday, October 1, 2015
ZARAH TAZIL in A SCREAM IN THE NIGHT (c.1935)
Now how many Moroccan actresses do you think dabbled in Grade Z screenwriting in Hollywood in the 1930s? None, would be the obvious answer in a sane world. But this isn't a sane world and if you dig deep enough you'll actually come up with one Zarah Tazil, who is credited with writing or co-writing a handful of minuscule Bill Cody oaters released in the mid-1930s. Zarah also appeared as fiery senoritas in a couple of them but is probably best remembered as an equally fiery French-speaking, or rather French-screaming, villainess in Lon Chaney's A Scream in the Night, a very mild actioner set in "the Orient" that didn't enjoy a wide release until 1943, a good eight or so years after it had been filmed at the old Marshall Neilan studio on Glendale Blvd. Miss Tazil earned a "technical advisor" credit in that one but who exactly was she? And how did she end up being credited with writing Bill Cody westerns? Well, we just don't know. The only clue is that the producers of both the Cody Westerns and Scream, Ray Kirkwood, advertised six additional Lon Chaney films to be filmed, all scripted by Miss Tazil. Only The Shadow of Silk Lennox emerged but our Zarah was credited as art director rather than screenwriter. She seems indeed to have been closely connected to Mr. Kirkwood but just how close remains unknown. Was she actually Mrs. KIrkwood?