In 1957, Dare Wright wrote and published her first children's book, entitled The Lonely Doll. It was the first in a series of 10 books that featured Edith, the lead character, and the bears who accompanied her on many adventures. Many women of a certain age grew up with Edith and her friends, and those of you who are familiar with the series will remember the black and white photographs that accompanied the books, showing the doll Edith in various poses with the stuffed bears.
Especially the first book which showed Edith receiving a spanking by Mr. Bear, who punished Edith for misbehaving after he discovers her playing dress up with makeup, heels and jewelry, along with a message about Mr. Bear being silly scrawled in lipstick on a mirror.
I grew up with these books, and I can remember pouring over the photographs and desperately wanting to live in the world of Edith and the bears. As an adult, I am such a fan of Dare and her work that I choose her name for my own daughter's middle name. They are very haunting and eerie books, and a sort of cult following has developed amongst fans and people obsessed with the beautiful and enigmatic author and photographer of the book, Dare Wright who died in 2001.
One such person is the amazing filmmaker and author Susan Marks, who along with her filmmaking partner John Dehn have embarked on creating a documentary about the mysterious Dare Wright and her fascinating world of Edith and the bears. Susan and John worked previously together on the feature documentary Of Dolls And Murder.
So, how did you first find out about The Lonely Doll and the work of Dare Wright? What attracted you to her work?
John Dehn: I have a vague childhood memory of the Lonely Doll books, perhaps my older sisters had them. Then a year ago my filmmaking partner Susan Marks brought up the idea of making a film about Dare Wright and it seemed like a pretty intriguing idea.
Susan Marks: I was obsessed with the Lonely Doll books when I was a child. So much so that my babysitter eventually put her foot down and said she would read to me as long as it was not another one of those Lonely Dolls books. Dare profoundly influenced me as an artist she is probably the reason behind me making two other documentary films about dolls - Of Dolls & Murder and Inside the Speakeasy Dollhouse.
I am attracted to the Dare Wright story as a filmmaker because her story is so beautifully tragic.
Do you think the Mr. Bear Books would ever be published today?
We both think the Lonely Dolls have a timeless quality and could easily be published today. There are some photos in the Lonely Doll books , however, that kids today may have a hard time relating to - like Mr. Bear spanking Edith. (There so much more to explore with the spanking, but we will save it for the film. )
Children's literature has always been filled with children in peril, dangerous situations and characters getting hurt, and Dare's books are really no different in that sense.
What do you hope to show in your documentary?
We want to tell this unexpected story and offer an unexpected glimpse into the life Dare Wright. We feel that her story is long overdue. In the process, we want to introduce Dare, Edith, Mr. Bear and Little Bear to new audiences. And for the audiences that only know of Dare through the Lonely Doll books, we hope to share the deeper, richer story behind a truly great artist. And finally, for this who already know the Dare Wright - we may just surprise you. There is so much about Dare's story that hasn't been made public knowledge yet.
How will the family be involved with this project?
Dare's family is integral to getting this film made. They are spearheading the fundraising, and providing us with 20,000 of Dare's photos, as well as home movies, and so much more. Even though Dare's family is very involved they are leaving the filmmaking, creative control and final cut to us.
What else have you been working on?
We are finishing up a documentary film on Frances Glessner Lee and her Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death - sort of a sequel to Of Dolls & Murder. We are also working on a screenplay about Frances.
I've yet to meet John, but over the past year I've developed a close friendship with Susan who has to be one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. Her documenatry of Dolls & Murder (available on Netflix) is one of the most riveting movies I have ever seen. She is also the author of Finding Betty Crocker, which delves into the great advertising icon of of the 1950's. I'm so excited for the Dare Wright film because I can't think of anyone else more capable of doing this subject justice.
A Kickstarter campaign has just begun to raise the funds necessary to create the film:
And you can learn more about the fascinating world of Dare Wright and the project here on the official website.