June Mathis born June Beulah Hughes (June 30, 1889[1], Leadville, Colorado USA - July 26, 1927, New York City, USA), was one of the most influential screenwriters and highest paid Hollywood executives in the 1920s.[1] She was one of the first 'director/writer' combos.[2] The American Film Institute catalogue credits her with 113 films in a 12 year career; among them Camille, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Blood and Sand. She was the first female executive for Metro/MGM and in 1926 was voted the 3rd most influential woman in all of Hollywood; behind only Mary Pickford and Norma Talmadge.[3]

Early Life and Acting careerEdit

Mathis was the only child born to Virginia Ruth and Dr. Philip Huges. She came from 9 generations of doctors, lawyers, and college professors, and her great uncle was the dean of one of the oldest colleges in England. Her parents later divorced when she was 7 and at some point her mother married William D. Mathis who was a widower with 3 children. Eventually June took her stepfather's name.

She was educated in Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Her first stage experience came very young while in San Francisco, dancing and doing imitations in vaudeville. Later she performed with Ezra Kendall in "The Vinegar Buyer".[2]

Mathis adopted her stepfather's surname for the stage. She appeared in several Broadway shows and eventually toured for four seasons with the female impersonator Julian Eltinge in the widely popular show The Fascinating Widow. Overall she performed in theatre for 13 years.[2]

She took a writing course in New York and eventually won a screen writing contest. Her screenwriting career began in earnest when she produced her first script, House of Tears, which was directed by Edwin Carewe in 1915. This film led to a contract in 1918 with Metro studios, which would eventually become MGM.[2]

Mathis viewed scenarios as a way to make movies more of an art form. She was one of the first screenwriters to include details such as stage directions and physical settings in her work. Much of the style of standard screen writing can be attributed to her. She was also one of the first writer/director combos..[2]

By 1919 Mathis and her mother moved to Hollywood. Within a year she had advanced to the head of Metro's scenario department. She was one of the first heads of a film department and the only female executive at Metro.[2]

Scenario Executive careerEdit

As Mathis held her position at Metro she was arguably one of the most powerful women in Hollywood (sometimes said to be as powerful as Mary Pickford), with influence over casting, choice of director and many other aspects of production.

Mathis is probably best known for discovering Rudolph Valentino after seeing him in a bit part in The Eyes of Youth. In 1921 she cast him in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Mathis had to exert considerable pull to cast Valentino, as studio heads resisted hiring the unknown actor for a lead role.[2] However, Mathis's insistence paid off and the movie was a success, launching Valentino into stardom. For the same movie she also had hired Rex Ingram as director. Valentino did not get along with Ingram or Metro leading to him switching to Famous Players-Lasky.

After seven years at Metro Famous Players-Lasky (later known as Paramount Pictures) was able to lure June away with the promise that she could continue to write for her protégé Valentino. When Valentino moved to Goldwyn Pictures she did as well, this time gaining sovereign control.

Attempting to film Ben Hur the studio was sure it would be a disaster and blamed Mathis. Mathis in turn blamed the director, Fred Niblo, and disowned the film shortly before the studio withdrew her while she was still on location in Italy. Mathis has also been blamed for the editing of Erich von Stroheim's masterpiece Greed from 10 hours to 2 and a half. In reality she was instructed by Metro to cut the film and left a memo about the matter to a regular editor, Joseph W. Farnham.[1] Her name was listed in the credits contractually when she had nothing to do with the film or the actual editing.[1] In fact Mathis had worked with Stroheim before and had been fond of his themes. Thus it would be even more unlikely she would butcher his film herself.[3]

After the issues with 'Greed' and 'Ben-Hur' Mathis returned from Italy and signed with First National. She scripted several successful Colleen Moore pictures including "Sally", "The Desert Flower", and "Irene".

After 2 years she left First National over limitations and signed with United Artists. She made one picture for them before her death "The Masked Woman" which her then husband Sylvano Balboni.

During her 12 year career in Hollywood, Mathis wrote scripts for over 112 films. She was regarded as one of the best screenwriters of her time and was highly sought after. At the age of 35 she became the highest paid executive in all of Hollywood. In 1926 she was voted the third most influential woman in Hollywood. [3]

Themes in workEdit

Mathis' spiritual beliefs often were found in her scripts. Several of her scripts had mystical bents or redeeming themes to them such as The Young Rajah. [2]

Having grown up around theatre performers as well as working with Eltinge Mathis had a tolerant view of alternative lifestyles. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had a scene with an apparent lesbian couple in the background. It also features a scene with German officers coming down the stairs in drag. Mathis told the Los Angeles Times of the scene, "I had the German officers coming down the stairs with women's clothing on. To hundreds of people that meant no more than a masquerade party. To those who have lived and read, and who understand life, that scene stood out as one of the most terrific things in the picture."[3]

At a time when Douglas Fairbanks was the epitome of manhood Mathis wrote scripts that featured more realistic themes and featured a more sensitive leading man with Valentino. [3]Fairbank's did not like doing love scenes and his movies tended to be of a boyish nature. With his movies a man was out in the wild discovering himself and saving the day. With Mathis' scripts such as Blood and Sand she brought out a more realistic male portrayal with her main character being conflicted over providing for his family, and possibly losing his life. Many of her scripts focused on a maturing male. [3] In addition to her other themes 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' was one of the first movie with an anti-war theme. [3]


On July 27th, 1927, Mathis suffered a fatal heart attack during the third act of the Broadway show The Squall with her grandmother. [4] Her last words were reportedly Oh Mother I'm dying! which has led to confusion over who she was with at the time of her death. However her mother had passed a few years prior. Mathis was 39. [4]

Mathis was returned to California, where she was interred in a crypt adjacent to that of her friend Valentino under the name June Mathis Balboni. Her mother and stepfather are buried below her.

Personal lifeEdit

Mathis was known as a short woman with untamed brown hair and a love of Parisian fashion. She had a famous temper and an unbending will. She was driven and would do all she could if she was convinced she was right..[2] Mathis was a spiritualist with mystical bents. Her scripts featured many heroes with a Christ like demeanor. She believed in reincarnation and always wore an opal ring when she wrote, convinced it brought her ideas. She had been a sickly child and believed she healed herself through her sheer force of will. She believed everything was mental and everyone had certain vibrations stating, '"If you are vibrating on the right plane, you will inevitably come in contact with the others who can help you. It's like tuning in on your radio. If you get the right wave-length, you have your station."'[2]

Mathis and Rudolph Valentino remained fast friends after Four Horsemen. While their relationship was never believed to be romantic in nature, there is evidence from both sides that the two enjoyed a very strong and loving platonic friendship. Accounts state that Valentino regarded Mathis in a motherly way, calling her 'Little Mother,' and that she thought of him as a son (despite only being 8 years older). Nita Naldi, who worked with the pair on Blood and Sand, said of them, She mothered Rudy, and my dear she worshiped him and he worshiped her".[2]

Mathis looked after Valentino's welfare at Metro, making sure he got the best parts and was taken care of. She also bailed him out of jail when he was arrested for bigamy when he married Natacha Rambova without finalizing his divorce to Jean Acker. Though the two were inseparable, their relationship became strained during Valentino's marriage to Rambova. When Mathis submitted a script for The Hooded Falcon, one of Valentino's pet projects, the couple deemed it unacceptable and asked to have rewritten. Mathis took it as a great insult and broke off all contact with Valentino.[2]

After Valentino's marriage with Rambova ended in 1925, the two friends reconciled at the premiere of Son of the Sheik when Valentino spotted Mathis with friends. It was said to be a tearful reunion and the pair began to act as if old times.[4]As Valentino began to feel ill in 1926 she was by his side and encouraged him to slow down and take some rest. True to her belief in the supernatural, Mathis reported seeing an apparition of Valentino in her living room the night he died.[2]

When Valentino unexpectedly died in August 1926 Mathis was said to offer the most touching quote by saying "My long association with Rudolph Valentino endeared him to me, as he has become endeared to everyone who knew him, my heart is too full of sorrow at this moment to enable me to speak coherently. I only know that his passing has left a void that nothing can ever fill in that the loss to our industry is too great to estimate at this time."[4]

Due to estate issues Valentino was left without a burial place, so Mathis offered up what she thought would be a temporary solution: to lend him her spot in the family crypt she had purchased in Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called the Hollywood Forever Cemetery). However, when Mathis herself died the following year, the arrangement became permanent. Instead of 'evicting' Valentino, Mathis's widower, Sylvano Balboni, moved his casket to the niche next to hers, and sold the remaining crypt to Valentino's family. Mathis and Valentino repose side by side to this day.

Before her death Mathis and Balboni along with a committee of local Italians had tried to create an Italian Park on Hollywood Avenue in Valentino's memory. However she passed on before anything was officiated and the project was eventually forgotten. [4]

Mathis remained close with her grandmother and her mother. In December 1924 she married Italian cameraman and later director Sylvano Balboni (sometimes spelled Silvano Balboni), whom she met on the set of Ben-Hur in Italy. They remained married until her unexpected death. After her death he moved back to Italy. They never had any children..[2]


"I first notice the eyes. There I find what I call soul, and by this alone, I judge."

"She discovered me, anything I have accomplished I owe to her, to her judgment, to her advice and to her unfailing patience and confidence in me." Valentino on Mathis.


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  • Reno (1930)
  • The Magic Flame (1927, continuity)
  • An Affair of the Follies (1927)
  • The Masked Woman (1927)
  • The Greater Glory (1926)
  • Irene (1926)
  • Ben-Hur (1925, adaptation)
  • We Moderns (1925)
  • Classified (1925, scenario)
  • The Desert Flower (1925)
  • Sally (1925)
  • Greed (1925, screen adaptation and dialogue)
  • In the Palace of the King (1923, adaptation)
  • The Day of Faith (1923, adaptation)
  • The Spanish Dancer (1923, adaptation)
  • Three Wise Fools (1923)
  • The Young Rajah (1922, screenplay)
  • Blood and Sand (1922, written by)
  • Hate (1922, adaptation)
  • Kisses (1922, also adaptation)
  • The Golden Gift (1922, story)
  • Turn to the Right (1922)
  • The Idle Rich (1921, adaptation)
  • Camille (1921 film) (written by)
  • A Trip to Paradise (1921)
  • The Conquering Power (1921)
  • The Man Who (1921)
  • The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1921)
  • Hearts Are Trumps (1920, scenario)
  • Polly with a Past (1920, scenario)
  • The Saphead (1920, scenario)
  • The Price of Redemption (1920)
  • Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1920)
  • Old Lady 31 (1920, scenario)
  • The Right of Way (1920)
  • The Walk-Offs (1920)
  • The Willow Tree (1920)
  • Fair and Warmer (1919)
  • Lombardi, Ltd. (1919, scenario)
  • The Brat (1919, also titles)
  • The Microbe (1919)
  • The Man Who Stayed at Home (1919)
  • Some Bride (1919)
  • Almost Married (1919)
  • The Amateur Adventuress (1919)
  • The Red Lantern (1919)
  • The Island of Intrigue (1919)
  • The Parisian Tigress (1919, story)
  • Blind Man's Eyes (1919)
  • Way of the Strong (1919, scenario)
  • Satan Junior (1919)
  • Johnny-on-the-Spot (1919, scenario)
  • Out of the Fog (1919)
  • The Divorcee (1919)
  • The Great Victory, Wilson or the Kaiser? The Fall of the Hohenzollerns (1919)
  • Eye for Eye (1918)


  • Sylvia on a Spree (1918, scenario)
  • Five Thousand an Hour (1918)
  • His Bonded Wife (1918)
  • Secret Strings (1918, scenario)
  • Kildare of Storm (1918, scenario)
  • The Silent Woman (1918)
  • The House of Mirth (1918)
  • A Successful Adventure (1918, also story)
  • To Hell with the Kaiser! (1918)
  • A Man's World (1918)
  • The House of Gold (1918, scenario)
  • Social Quicksands (1918)
  • The Winning of Beatrice (1918, scenario)
  • Toys of Fate (1918, scenario)
  • The Trail to Yesterday (1918, scenario)
  • With Neatness and Dispatch (1918, scenario)
  • Social Hypocrites (1918)
  • The Claim (1918)
  • The Brass Check (1918)
  • The Eyes of Mystery (1918, adaptation)
  • The Winding Trail (1918, story)
  • Daybreak (1918, adaptation)
  • The Legion of Death (1918, also story)
  • Blue Jeans (1917)
  • Red, White and Blue Blood (1917)
  • The Voice of Conscience (1917, scenario)
  • Draft 258 (1917)
  • The Jury of Fate (1917, adaptation)
  • Somewhere in America (1917)
  • Miss Robinson Crusoe (1917, story)
  • The Trail of the Shadow (1917, scenario)
  • Aladdin's Other Lamp (1917)
  • Lady Barnacle (1917, scenario)
  • The Call of Her People (1917)
  • The Beautiful Lie (1917, scenario)
  • The Millionaire's Double (1917, story)
  • A Magdalene of the Hills (1917, scenario)
  • The Power of Decision (1917, scenario)
  • His Father's Son (1917, scenario)
  • The Barricade (1917, scenario)
  • Threads of Fate (1917)
  • A Wife by Proxy (1917, scenario, unconfirmed)
  • The Sunbeam (1916, scenario)
  • The Dawn of Love (1916)
  • God's Half Acre (1916, scenario)
  • The Purple Lady (1916, scenario)
  • Her Great Price (1916, scenario)
  • The Upstart (1916, scenario)
  • Her Second Chance (1926, editorial director)
  • Irene (1926, editorial director)
  • The Far Cry (1926, editorial director)
  • The Girl from Montmartre (1926, editorial director)
  • What Fools Men (1925, editorial director)
  • The Marriage Whirl (1925, editorial director)
  • Sally (1925, editorial supervisor)
  • Three Weeks (1924, editorial director)
  • Name the Man (1924, editorial director)


Notes and referencesEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Alt Film Guide.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Leider, 2004.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Journal of Humanities. 2007.
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Ellenberger


  • "Rudolph Valentino: A Wife's Memories of an Icon" by Natacha Rambova and Hala Pickford


See also Edit

External linksEdit