Old film rejection slip: "All scenes of an unpleasant nature should be eliminated"

This undated form rejection from Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (which was in existence from 1907-1925) is a sweet little snapshot into the mores of the time -- and the bits that haven't changed since. According to the Old Hollywood Tumblr, "[Essnay is] mostly remembered today for its series of Charlie Chaplin films."

Rejection slip, Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (via Neatorama)


  1. So Hollywood used to reject things for “Too conventional” and “Idea has been done before”? Wow.

    1. If that failed, either 5 or 11 would inevitably catch the rest. How do you write an original story that’s been done before?

  2. It seems to have been mistaken for some form of checklist on how to make a successful movie by current day Hollywood.

  3. Oh how I would love to travel back in time and submit some choice YT videos, just to see how many reasons I could get checked off.

    Oh… I guess I would kill Hitler too ;)

  4. Its interesting that the one checked item is the item that no studio would even include today.

    Ah to be young again.

  5. Now I want to fill this form out for every horrible new movie that comes out. There’s gotta be a movie that completely fills the sheet. Transformers 2, I’m looking at you.

  6. I have a stack of rejections slips that touches the ceiling.

    Here are a few:

    “Thank you for submitting your book proposal. However, we at the Sock Drawer Press publish only snakeskin-bound reprints of popular southern birdcalls. Good luck in placing your manuscript elsewhere.”

    “Thank you for sending your short story to the Woodpecker Literary Gazette. We regret we are unable to develop it for publication at this time. We have moved to a content-free format; our next issue, and all subsequent issues, will contain only blank pages for our subscribers to scribble on as they see fit.”

    “Thank you for your submission to the Moonachie Quarterly Annual. After serious consideration, we have decided not to buy your article because frankly, we never read anything that anyone sends us. We’re sure you’re very talented, etc., but our magazine is written entirely by our closest friends. Please feel free to submit again, and again, and again. We won’t read any of it, we just enjoy wasting your time.”

    “Thank you for submitting your novella to the Wasp Literary Agency. As you know, we represent some of the most popular and best-selling authors in the world. Which is why we chuckled when we saw your name on your title page. (It’s a funny name. Is it Italian? How do you pronounce it? Never mind.) We tossed your manuscript onto our slush pile where it sat for two years, until one of our summer interns pulled it out, read the first two pages, yawned, and then mailed it back to you with this letter. Did you really think we’d offer representation to a nobody like you? Seriously.”

  7. It makes me wonder what a similar rejection slip from an early porn producer would look like. I assume that they wouldn’t have terms like “cum” or “money shot”–would they use terms from Victorian erotica like “pego” or “gamahuche”, did they have their own slang, or was the whole idea of writing scripts for porn (or getting outside submissions for the same) just too ludicrous for the time?

  8. I’m sure a lot of potentially good movies went sadly unmade because of guilded-age censorship rules.

  9. Essanay was not in Hollywood. The studio was in Chicago. Still is, actually (at least the same building is…), but they mostly do industrials, these days.

    1. @MichaelRN: the Essanay company was headquartered in Chicago, but their main studio was in Niles, California, now part of Fremont. It’s where Charlie Chaplin filmed “The Tramp”. Part of their studio has been preserved and is now the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

  10. I grew up next to Essanay Studios. My dad told me about the history of the place when I was quite young. He also told me they many famous movie stars lived in the apartments around the area. I walked past that place million times. Essanay was part of the birth of the Movie industry, before Hollywood. The buildings are still there. There have been many businesses there, and I doubt that any have any relations with Essanay. It’s that nice that Essanay would return your manuscript, and have the courtesy to tell you why.

  11. This list is perfect for Twitter movie reviews: Weak plot; Not interesting. Big budget Hollywood lives by #12

  12. Any future attempt by Oliver Stone to document the next chapter in american history would surely be met with rejection reason 17.

  13. I prefer the classic response: “Thank you for your submission. We will waste no time reading it.”

  14. Since there seems to be some question …

    See that “1333 W. Argyle” on the slip? That’s the street I live on. I’m currently typing this only a slight bit down the road from the Essanay archway, which is still up. It has the Native American heads on it that you see on the ad there.

    It’s near the Andersonville/Uptown border of Chicago, and this particular area became a demographic center for emigrating bui doi.

    There’s tale that the apartment building where I live used to be the hotel for the Essanay techies/best buys when they were in town.

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