Zora Neale Hurston was an author, playwright, anthropologist, and, briefly, a screenwriter. Paramount Pictures hired Hurston in 1941, but there is little documentation of her work for the studio. The brief mentions that exist reveal that Hurston worked on the script for an unproduced musical called Very Hot in Haiti. Yet, information about the unfilmed project is scarce. In this essay, I explore Hurston’s work for Paramount through a speculative approach: I analyze the documents that are known—trade papers, newspapers, production data, and Hurston’s writings—to inform speculation about the unknown, and potentially unknowable, aspects of her experience. In short, I ask: What might Hurston have worked on at Paramount? And what do those possibilities suggest or reveal about Hurston and studio-era Hollywood? The results demonstrate the power of taking a speculative, contextual, deductive approach to analysis of underdocumented historical figures.

You do not currently have access to this content.