B7 Media is to republish Mary Oliver’s lost treasure, revised and updated by Richard Kurti, about the founding of the original MARRIAGE BUREAU (also released as an Audiobook). It has also been announced that B7 Media is developing a television series, inspired by Mary’s book, with Hollywood producers Bronwyn Cornelius (Sundance Festival, Clemency) and Laura Rister from Untitled Entertainment (Oscar nominated, Margin Call).
“Young men wander aimlessly through life, hoping that by some happy chance they’ll meet the girl of their dreams. Girls sit at home waiting for ‘Mr Right’, a nostalgic fantasy invented by their parents. There has to be a better way.” – Mary Oliver, 1939
That better way was found in April 1939 when Mary Oliver and Heather Jenner took the business of dating into their own hands and set up the country’s first ever Marriage Bureau in London’s fashionable Bond Street. Even today, at a time when internet dating is booming across all ages and classes, and women are setting the agenda as never before, one thing remains constant: love is too important to be left to chance. Whether the search begins with an app in the 21st century or a visit to two savvy young rebels in the 1940s, the desire for lifelong happiness with a perfectly suited partner is as strong as ever.
With a new introduction by screenwriter and novelist Richard Kurti (Monkey Wars, Maladapted, Going Postal), Mary Oliver’s biography charts, with searing frankness, the remarkable true story of the Marriage Bureau; its successes, its failures and its many clients. Told with wit and honesty in Mary and Heather’s own words, it is republished now for the first time in almost eighty years. An audiobook will also accompany the print release.
April 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, the Marriage Bureau marked the beginning of a dating rebellion. No longer did women have to wait for a suitor to come to their door, no longer did they have to wait for parents to arrange ‘appropriate’ matches — now women could put themselves out there in a safe way that didn’t threaten their reputations. They could look beyond their neighbourhoods and the boy-next-door to find the person that truly made them happy. But Mary Oliver and Heather Jenner’s revolutionary idea certainly had its detractors.
The story behind the Marriage Bureau is an extraordinary one, not least because it shredded the rulebook of propriety. What Mary Oliver and Heather Jenner established was nothing short of a revolution for women, who suddenly found themselves in a position of agency and power.
“While there were many books circulating in the 1940s and 1950s about how to please your husband, extracts from which circulate on social media today to much hilarity and derision by women and men, it’s been refreshing to read a book from that era, which was just as much about how to please yourself. Some of Mary’s views reflect the period, but many blatantly don’t and it’s that voice (probably with thousands of Instagram followers) for whom I’d happily pull up a bar stool, order a martini and listen to if Mary was around today.” says B7 Media’s Head of Production, Helen Quigley.
Writer, Richard Kurti explains how he first heard of Mary Oliver and what most intrigued him about her extraordinary story; “Why on earth would anyone set up a Marriage Bureau when the world was tumbling into a cataclysmic war? That was my first thought when I stumbled across a footnote about Mary Oliver and Heather Jenner in a book covering social history in 1930s London. Intrigued, I started Googling, and found my way to a battered old copy of a book written by the founders, that had only been published once in 1942.
“I sat on the sofa and started to read, expecting something stuffy and old fashioned. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mary Oliver’s voice rocketed across the decades with such frankness and caustic humour, that within minutes I was chuckling to myself. And I carried on chuckling, chapter after chapter, so much so that my wife asked what on earth I was reading. ‘If I’d read this fifteen years ago, before we were married, I’d have made a much better job of being a husband,’” I confessed.
“As soon as I put the book down, she picked it up, read it, and agreed – it’s a book that everyone who is even vaguely contemplating marriage should devour.”
Richard Kurti was determined not to let Mary’s voice fall silent and set about tracking down the rights so that he could get the book published in a brand new and updated edition. It was a massive task, involving hundreds of hours of online research and phoning complete strangers all over the world.
“I think it was worth it,” says Richard. “And hope that the story of Marriage Bureau, told by the women who founded it, will amuse others, as much as it amused me.”
The story behind the Marriage Bureau looks set to make it onto our television screens too. Indie producer Andrew Mark Sewell (Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Exit Thread) and Richard Kurti are currently developing a television series, inspired by Mary’s book, with Hollywood producers Laura Rister from Untitled Entertainment (Emmy nominated The Tale, Lovelace, Oscar nominated Margin Call) and Bronwyn Cornelius (Never Here, Widow’s Walk) whose latest critically-acclaimed film Clemency won the Sundance Film Festival (2019) U.S. Grand Jury Prize.
“Whether 1939 or 2020, Marriage Bureau is as relevant today as it was when Mary and Heather set out to blaze their own trail, and level the playing field on love,” says producer Bronwyn Cornelius. “These sharp-witted, smart and independent women are exactly who we need to see represented on television screens. These inspiring, layered and relatable characters will resonate with a wide audience, and I am thrilled to be working with B7 Media, Richard Kurti, and Laura Rister of Untitled Entertainment in Los Angeles to bring this series to life.”
Producer, Laura Rister adds, “Long before we swiped right, imagine a time marked by a personal touch in the business of matchmaking. These women originated a rebellious spark of independence in dating and forming unions, started no less, during a time of war and loss. We feel fortunate to examine WWII London and its humanity through this unique lens in our television series. After all, what is more universal than human connection and love, or more important in the path to happiness, than first finding self-respect and self-love?”
“Here is a story that is funny, romantic, and steeped in attitude, driven by two young women taking on the world,” observed Richard. “It’s rebels with immaculate lipstick; who doesn’t want more of that?”