dorin_photo_bwDorin Gardner Schumacher was born in Manhattan to a handsome, Ziegfeld chorus boy father of Jewish-Polish-Lithuanian descent and a beautiful, never-to-grow up Ziegfeld showgirl mother who was descended, on her father’s side, from thirteenth century English nobility and on her mother’s from a long line of eccentric Helens, including Helen Gardner, an early woman film pioneer.

dorin_motorcycleSchumacher was educated in private and public schools in the US and Switzerland and earned a PhD in French literature. The French government named her a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques for her contributions to French culture. She lives on an island off the coast of Georgia and is currently chairman and CEO of an international biotechnology research consortium. Her tell-all book about Helen Gardner’s fascinating life and groundbreaking film career is in the works.

Steps Along My Helen Gardner Journey


Ithaca, New York. I present Helen Gardner’s VANITY FAIR (Vitagraph,1911) at Cornell University. My mother, Helene Gardner Pell, Gardner’s only child, is present.


Dunedin, FL. My mother dies at 88.

Orlando, FL. I visit the Leu House Museum, with its room dedicated to Helen Gardner, who lived there in the early years of the twentieth century.

Washington, DC. I make my first visit to the Library of Congress and see Gardner star in her sixth independent long feature production, A DAUGHTER OF PAN (Helen Gardner Picture Players, 1913).

Archival research follows over the years at LoC, New York Public Library’s Billy Rose Collection and Donnell Center, Margaret Herrick Library of Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Film Institute, The Cinema Museum, Netherlands film museum, among other silent film collections.


London, England. I discover a silver nitrate positive of Gardner’s third independent long feature production, A SISTER TO CARMEN (Helen Gardner Picture Players, 1913).


I apply for and receive a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film and Television to help me with the cost of restoring A SISTER TO CARMEN.


Orlando, FL. I introduce Gardner at the Leu House Museum’s “Silent Film Gala Featuring Helen Gardner in CLEOPATRA.” CLEOPATRA (Helen Gardner Picture Players, 1912) was Gardner’s first independent feature production.

I start advertising in Big Reel and Classic Images for Helen Gardner memorabilia and acquire valuable items.


The New York Times Book Review publishes my letter to the editor under the heading, “The Lady Was a Vamp,” in which I set the record straight that Helen Gardner, not Mary Pickford, who was the first American female star to form her own production company without the help of a man.

I am interviewed by The Journal News, Tappan, New York, for its article, “Film Pioneer Got Her Start in Tappan.”

Sacile, Italy. I present my restored A SISTER TO CARMEN for its international premiere, at the 18th Pordenone Silent Film Festival, and give a talk on Gardner.


Brooklyn, New York. I introduce Gardner at the U.S. premiere of my restored A SISTER TO CARMEN at the American Museum of the Moving Image program, Women Film Pioneers: Actress-Filmmakers of the Silent Screen.

Turner Classic Movies, Women Film Pioneers series. Interest generated by my restoration and screenings of A SISTER TO CARMEN leads to the digitization of Gardner’s CLEOPATRA (1912). I provide information for TCM’s introduction to the film, which is shown often on TCM.

Atlanta, GA. I give a presentation on Gardner to WIFT/Atlanta in conjunction with a screening of “Without Lying Down,” a TCM documentary on Francis Marion, another early woman film pioneer: “Women in Film Honor Women in Film.”

My restoration of A SISTER TO CARMEN is featured in “The Women’s Film Preservation Fund: The First Effort by a Woman to Preserve a Vital Part of Our Legacy,” by Karen Kalish, Point of View: Producer’s Guild of America.


Pordenone, Italy. My article, “Helen Gardner” is published in “The Collegium Papers,” Luca Giuliani, editor, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto.


London, England. My essay, “Restoring Helen Gardner’s A Sister to Carmen: A Granddaughter’s Journey,” is published in “This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film”, Roger Smither, editor, The International Federation of Film Archives.


Smither’s collection wins the prestigious Kraszna-Krausz Book Award as one of “the world’s best books on the moving image published in 2002-2003.”


I am given a collection of Gardner’s private papers and film memorabilia she left when she died.


London and New York. My entry, “Helen Gardner” is published in Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, Richard Abel, editor, Routledge. The book wins the Theatre Library Association’s 2005 award for excellence in writing on film and broadcasting. A paperback, updated edition is in preparation, with publication planned for 2010.


J.B.Kaufman’s review in Nineteenth Century Theatre & Film singles out my entry in Abel’s Encyclopedia: “Dorin Gardner Schumacher, granddaughter and historian of the pioneering film star Helen Gardner, offers a biographical sketch of her intriguing ancestor… “


I launch my Helen Gardner website.

I am given another collection of Gardner’s papers, photographs, and film memorabilia.


I purchase in a private sale more of Gardner’s papers, photographs, and film memorabilia.


I am given a scrapbook made by a Denver movie projectionist in 1913, in which he pasted photographs, newspaper announcements, reviews, ads, movie tickets, and letters from theatre managers around the country attesting to the popularity of CLEOPATRA with their audiences. This man was a huge fan of Helen Gardner, clearly awestruck by her performance as the Egyptian Queen and by the sumptuousness of her production.

New York, NY. My invited career profile of Gardner is included in Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and  Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project, Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries.

I launch my expanded Helen Gardner website.


New Haven, CT. I am accepted into and attend the Yale Writers Conference, session on Biography (MG Lord).

London and New York. My essay “Helen Gardner: A Rediscovered Screenwriter of Silents,” is included in J. Selbo and J. Nelmes, eds., Women Screenwriters International Guide, Palgrave Macmillan: London, New York, in press.

I submit a proposal, “Helen Gardner: Philosopher of Early Cinema,” to Women and the Silent Screen VIII conference.


New Haven, CT. I attend the Yale Writers Conference sessions on Biography (MG Lord) and Memoir Intensive (Eileen Pollack).

Pittsburgh, PA. I present “Helen Gardner: Philosopher of Early Cinema,” at Women and the Silent Screen VIII conference.