Saturday, August 22, 2009

Percy Harold and Bessie Morgan Rex, Part 6

Percy Harold Rex’s Hereford bulls 1950’s.

A 1932 letter to the editor in the Utah Farmer caught Bessie Morgan Rex’s eye. The “Lament of a Cowman’s Wife” appears to have moved her to write this poetic response. “Everybody to His Notion,” by Bessie M. Rex was also published in the Utah Farmer.

Last year I took a picture of a “sample page” from Grandmother Bessie’s scrapbook. She clipped and saved thoughts and poems and treasures. I didn’t realize then that she’d pasted “Lament of a Cowman’s Wife” in the bottom left hand corner of this page. Had I known, I would have gotten a better picture.

Bessie wrote and directed plays that were performed in her Randolph ward [A congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint members.] and Relief Society. Sometimes she and the cast traveled to Woodruff or Laketown to perform. About 1928 she wrote The Light Eternal, a Drama in Six Reels.

The structure of this story/play puzzled me. I hadn’t read a play like it before. Eight or nine years ago I pulled it out again and started asking questions. My aunt [Winifred Rex Andrus] said it was one of her mother’s plays that she’d hoped to publish, but she didn’t know why she called it “a drama in six reels.”
A little research led me to learn that Grandmother Rex wrote “The Light Eternal” in about 1928 for the silent screen, hoping to have it produced.

In the beginning of film everything shot was a “short,” and one minute long, because that was all the cameras of the time could accommodate. When this technical difficulty was overcome a short became the length of one reel, running ten minutes. The running time of most silent films was seldom given in hours and minutes. An hour film would be six reels long. All silent films were projected by hand. They could run a bit shorter or longer, depending on the pace of the projectionist as he turned his machine.

Her drama is historical fiction, typical of Church magazine articles of that time, e.g. Young Woman’s Journal, Organ of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, July, 1927: “Dramatic Episodes From The Book of Mormon,” Episode II, and “Famine,” a Book of Mormon Story, suggested by Helaman, Chapter Eleven.
The Light Eternal is a drama of intrigue, romance, and faithful devotion. Based on biblical history, her twenty-three page handwritten manuscript evidences her talent, knowledge, and devotion to her faith

If you are interested in seeing more of this, please contact me.

Some of the short stories Bessie wrote are Sammy and Sue in the Land of Delight, A Lesson for the King, Plain Jane, The Story of the Magic Drop, The City of Dreams, The Green Frog, and The Enchanted Rose. Among the things she left were several untitled handwritten scripts.

Bessie had a beautiful alto voice, she enriched the choirs she participated in. She sang in many quartets with Aunt Bess [Elizabeth Smith] Rex, Earnest McKinnon, and Adelbert Fackrel.

(To be continued.)
Pictures and documents from author and Helen Rex Frazier collection. History, Descendants, and Ancestry of William Rex & Mary Elizabeth Brough of Randolph, Utah, compiled and edited by Ronald Dee Rex, 1999, p. 270.

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