John Marcus Colton (December 31, 1887 – December 26, 1946) was an American playwright and screenwriter born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He spent the first 14 years of his life in Japan where his English father was a diplomat. After returning to the US he soon worked for a Minneapolis newspaper.
John Colton, author of "Rain," had been in Hollywood since the early 1920s, where he became a close friend of Irving Thalberg. A vital part of the Hollywood gay scene, Colton share a home with Mercedes de Acosta and often turned up in the gossip columns "out on the town" with George Cukor or Orry-Kelly. Under the heading "So We're the Same, Are We?" (reflecting the post-Code admonition that the stars were just plain folks), Lloyd Pantages recounted in Photoplay a drag act Colton performed at Orry-Kelly's, done up in a flowered robe and roses in his hair, imitating Sarah Bernhardt and Mrs. Leslie Carter. There was also Edgar Allan Woolf, whom MGM story editor Samuel Marx described as "a wild red-headed homosexual." Woolf was was a platwright before coming to Hollywood, where he wrote such films as The Mask of Fu Manchu and Freaks (both 1932), as well as serving as one of the three credited writers on The Wizard of Oz.
Colton is best remembered for adapting, with Clemence Randolph, Somerset Maugham's novella Rain into a 1922 smash hit play starring Jeanne Eagels. He wrote the original play, The Shanghai Gesture, produced on Broadway in 1926. He excelled at writing plays dealing with Americans in far-off lands, an experience Colton knew firsthand from his early youth in Japan. With these huge successes Colton was lured to Hollywood, primarily MGM, where he wrote intertitles for some silent films and scenarios for others. In the talking film era he wrote numerous screenplays. Three of his stage plays found motion picture production: Rain (1932); The Shanghai Gesture (1941); and, posthumously, Under Capricorn (1949).
Colton suffered a stroke in 1945. He died of a second stroke in Gainesville, Texas in 1946. Colton, a gay man, never married.
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