Kate Corbaley, StorytellerPosted: July 29, 2022
Another staff writer with a rather unconventional but valued talent was Kate Corbaley. At $150 a week, Corbaley was one of the few staffers whose salary was in the same range as Selznick’s…
Her specialty was not in editorial but rather as Louis Mayer’s preferred “storyteller.” Mayer was not a learned or highly literate man, and he rarely read story properties, scripts, or even synopses. He preferred to have someone simply tell him the story and he found Mrs. Corbaley’s narrational skills suited him. She never received a writing credit on an MGM picture, but many in the company considered her crucial to Mayer’s interest in stories being considered for purchase or production at any given time.
That’s from Thomas Schatz, The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era.
Storytelling is a current obsession in business. A few days ago I searched “storyteller” under Jobs on LinkedIn and found 35,831 results. Amazon, Microsoft, and Pinterest are all hiring some version of “storyteller,” as are Under Armor, Eataly and “X, the Moonshot Factory.” The accounting firm Deloitte is hiring Financial and Strategic Storytellers (multiple listings, financial and strategic storytellers are sought in San Diego, Miami, Chicago, Charlotte, Tampa, Las Vegas, and Phoenix).
It’s reported in City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s that one afternoon in May, 1936, Kate Corbaley summarized a novel that was already perceived as hot property. She told Louis B. Mayer
a new story about a tempestuous southern girl named Scarlett O’Hara.
Mayer wasn’t sure what to think, so he sent for Irving Thalberg, who declared:
Forget it, Louis. No Civil War picture ever made a nickel.
(This seems improbable: in 1936 Birth of A Nation would’ve held the record as one of if not the biggest movie of all time? Must track this tale to its source, will report.)