(and the women of the OWI)
Although Elizabeth Wheeler’s life, and her career as a director and editor, were short, she is included here as an example of at least half a dozen women who wrote, directed and/or edited newsreels, shorts and feature films for the Office of War Information in their offices in midtown Manhattan, which she joined after her work with the FPL.
The OWI was formed in 1942 by President Roosevelt to produce audio, photo and film material “to facilitate the development of an informed and intelligent understanding, at home and abroad, of the status and progress of the war effort.” It was dismantled a year later, in part due to the resistance from Hollywood producers, who didn’t want their work overseen or “censored” by the OWI.
Some of Wheeler’s co-workers included Edla Benjamin (credited as editing US News-Review no. 5), who later wrote mystery novels; Helen Grace Carlisle, who worked on “theatrical” reels in the OWI; Florence Marks, who later worked at the NY Times, where she met her husband, the film critic Bosley Crowther; and Marion Dix, who had been a screenwriter in Hollywood during the 1930’s, with nineteen credits to her name. After her work in the OWI, Dix became Chief of the Film & TV Section of the United Nations’ Dept. of Information in NYC, established the UN Information
Center for Asia, and directed and produced films on Buddhism.
There is scant record about which films and newsreels the women edited, but a war office memorandum dated November 18, 1942, lists Wheeler as a director as well an editor. She is credited with editing US News-Reel #2: Mobile Laundry for Front Line Troops and US News-Reel #3.
In 1943, for the US Department of Agriculture, she edited Henwar Rodakiewicz’ It’s Up to You, which was shot by Paul Strand. In 1944, Wheeler directed and edited Light for the Traveller, shot by her cousin, the photographer George Daniell. Her last known work was the documentary Last Night We Attacked: A Photographic Record of Fighting Resistance in Palestine in 1947, written by Larry Ravitz.