June Mathis’ legendary eye for detail and sense of plot and theme are second only to her perseverance and determination; her accomplishments in the early to mid-1920s led to her being ranked by the Academy as the third most powerful woman in Hollywood, behind only Mary Pickford and Norma Talmadge.
Born in Colorado in 1887, June Mathis initially pursued a career in vaudeville at the age of 12, finding success in San Francisco. When she realized she wanted to write instead, she entered a screenwriting contest. She ended up receiving several offers and her first produced script came in 1915 with The House of Tears (dir. Edwin Carewe). She signed with Metro, wrote for some of the biggest stars of her day, and in the early 1920s became the first and only female executive in Hollywood. In 1921, came The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (dir. Rex Ingram), a project that belonged to Mathis in nearly every way. She wrote the script, chose the director, and perhaps more significantly, the star, one Rudolph Valentino. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse became the biggest-grossing film of 1921, launching its three principals players – Mathis, Ingram and, of course, Rudy – into superstardom. Her lifelong friendship with Valentino was a genuine and prosperous one, with Mathis writing several films for him including The Young Rajan (1922, dir. Phil Rosen), Blood and Sand (1922, dir. Fred Niblo) and The Hooded Falcon (1924, dir. Joseph Henabery). The jaw-droppingly disasterous production of Ben Hur (1925, dir. Fred Niblo) came just a year after the controversial editing of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (1924), but thankfully First National Pictures was just around the corner, ready to take her in. While there, she wrote several comedy scripts for Coleen Moore, and after two years, she joined United Artists. After Rudolph Valentino’s death in 1926, she loaned her spot in the crypt in the then-Hollywood Memorial Cemetery for him to be buried there. In 1927, June Mathis died from a heart ailment at the age of 40. To this day, Mathis and Valentino rest next to each other in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.