Anita Loos - Writer

Writer and Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Corinne Anita Loos in Sissons (now Mount Shasta), California, 26 April 1888. Education: Attended schools in San Francisco and San Diego. Family: Married 1) Frank Pallma, Jr., 1915 (divorced 1915); 2) the director and writer John Emerson, 1920 (died 1956); one adopted daughter. Career: Child actress briefly; 1912—first film as writer, The New York Hat , followed by a large number of films for D.W. Griffith; 1916—collaborator with Emerson, and coproducer with

Anita Loos
Anita Loos
Emerson from 1919; 1925—published the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (play version, 1926, film version, 1928); other plays include The Whole Town's Talking , The Fall of Eve , The Social Register , Happy Birthday , Gigi , The Amazing Adèle , Chéri , Gogo Love You ; 1963—one-woman show, An Evening of Theatrical Reminiscences. Died: In New York City, 18 August 1981.

Films as Writer:


The New York Hat (Griffith)


The Power of the Camera ; The Telephone Girl and the Lady (Griffith—short); A Horse on Bill (Powell); The Hicksville Epicure (Henderson); Highbrow Love (O'Sullivan); Pa Says (Powell); The Widow's Kids (Powell); The Lady in Black ; His Hoodoo (Powell); A Fallen Hero (Powell); A Cure for Suffragettes (Kirkwood); The Suicide Pact (Powell); Bink's Vacation ( Bink Runs Away ); How the Day Was Saved (Powell); The Wedding Gown (Powell); Gentleman or Thief ; For Her Father's Sins (O'Brien); A Narrow Escape ; The Mother ; The Lady and the Mouse (short); The Mistake (short)


Hickville's Finest ; His Awful Vengeance ; The Saving Grace (Cabanne); A Bunch of Flowers ; When a Woman Guides ; The Road to Plaindale ; The Saving Presence ; The Meal Ticket ; The Suffering of Susan ; Nearly a Burglar's Bride ; Some Bull's Daughter ; The Fatal Dress Suit ; The Girl in the Shack ; The Stolen Masterpiece (Pollard); A Corner in Hats ; The Million Dollar Bride ; A Flurry in Art ; Billy's Rival ( Izzy and His Rival ) (Taylor—short); The Last Drink of Whiskey (Dillon); Nell's Eugenic Wedding ; The White Slave Catchers ; The Deceiver (Dillon); How to Keep a Husband ; The Gangsters of New York (short); The Hunchback ; A Lesson in Mechanics


The Deacon's Whiskers (Dillon); The Tear on the Page ; Pennington's Choice (Lund); Sympathy Sal ; Mixed Values (Dillon); The Fatal Finger Prints (Dillon); Lord Chumley ; The Sisters (short); A Ten-Cent Adventure (short); When the Road Parts (short); Double Trouble ; The Lost House


The Little Liar (Ingraham); A Corner in Cotton (Balshofer); Intolerance (Griffith); Macbeth (Emerson); Stranded (Ingraham); Wild Girl of the Sierras (Powell); A Calico Vampire ; Laundry Liz ; The French Milliner ; The Wharf Rat (Withey); The Half-Breed (Dwan); American Aristocracy (Ingraham); A Daughter of the Poor


Wild and Woolly (Emerson); Down to Earth (Emerson); The Deadly Glass of Beer


Stranded (Rosen); Publicity Madness (Ray)


Red-Headed Woman (Conway); Blondie of the Follies (Goulding)


The Barbarian (Wood); Hold Your Man (Wood); Midnight Mary (Wellman)


Biography of a Bachelor Girl (E. Griffith); The Merry Widow (uncredited)


Riffraff (Rubin); San Francisco (Van Dyke)


Mama Steps Out (Seita); Saratoga (Conway)


The Women (Cukor)


Susan and God ( The Gay Mrs. Trexel ) (Cukor)


They Met in Bombay (Brown); Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy); When Ladies Meet (Leonard)


I Married an Angel (Van Dyke)

Films as Cowriter with John Emerson:


His Picture in the Papers (Emerson); Manhattan Madness (Powell); The Matrimaniac (Powell); The Social Secretary (Emerson)


In Again, Out Again (Emerson); Reaching for the Moon (Emerson); The Americano (Emerson)


Let's Get a Divorce (Giblyn); Hit-the-Trail Holliday (Neilan); Come On In (Emerson); Good-bye-Bill (Emerson)


Oh, You Women! (Emerson); The Isle of Conquest (Jose); Under the Top (Crisp); Getting Mary Married (Dwan) (+ co-pr); A Temperamental Wife (Emerson) (+ co-pr); A Virtuous Vamp (Kirkland) (+ co-pr)


In Search of a Sinner (Kirkland) (+ co-pr); The Perfect Woman (Kirkland); The Love Expert (Kirkland); Two Weeks (Franklin); The Branded Woman (Parker)


Dangerous Business (Neill); Mama's Affair (Fleming); A Woman's Place (Fleming)


Polly of the Follies (Emerson); Red Hot Romance (Fleming) (+ co-pr)


Dulcy (Franklin)


Three Miles Out (Willat)


Learning to Love (Franklin)


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (St. Clair)


The Fall of Eve (Strayer)


The Struggle (Griffith)


The Girl from Missouri (Conway)

Films based on Loos's Writings:


The Whole Town's Talking (Edward Laemmle)


Ex-Bad Boy (Moore)


The Social Register (Neilan)


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks)


Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (Sale)


By LOOS: fiction—

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes , New York, 1925 (play version, with John Emerson, New York, 1926).

But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes , New York, 1928.

A Mouse Is Born , New York, 1951.

No Mother to Guide Her , New York, 1961.

By LOOS: other books—

With John Emerson, How to Write Photoplays (includes script The Love Expert ), New York, 1920.

With John Emerson, Breaking into the Movies (includes script Red Hot Romance ), New York, 1921.

With John Emerson, The Whole Town's Talking (play), New York, 1925.

With Jane Murfin, The Women (script), in Twenty Best Film Plays , edited by John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, New York, 1943.

Happy Birthday (play), New York, 1947.

Gigi (play), New York, 1952.

With D.W. Griffith, Intolerance (script), New York, 1955.

A Girl Like I (autobiography), New York, 1966.

The King's Mare (play), London, 1967.

With Helen Hayes, Twice over Lightly: New York Then and Now , New York, 1972.

Kiss Hollywood Good-by , New York, 1974.

Cast of Thousands , New York, 1977.

The Talmadge Girls: A Memoir , New York, 1978.

San Francisco (script), edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, Carbondale, Illinois, 1979.

Fate Keeps on Happening: Adventures of Lorelei Lee and Other Writings , edited by Ray P. Corsini, New York, 1984.

By LOOS: articles—

Close Up (London), April 1928.

Inter/View (New York), July 1972.

On LOOS: book—

Casey, Gary, Anita Loos: A Biography , New York, 1988.

Douglas, George H., Women of the Twenties , Dallas, 1989.

On LOOS: articles—

Schmidt, Karl, "The Handwriting on the Screen," in Everybody's (New York), May 1917.

Carey, Gary, in The Hollywood Screenwriter , edited by Richard Corliss, New York, 1972.

Cinema (Beverly Hills), no. 35, 1976.

Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.), Summer-Fall 1980.

Grant, Thomas, in American Humorists 1800–1950 , edited by Stanley Trachtenberg, Detroit, Michigan, 1982.

Obituary, The Annual Obituary 1981 , New York, 1982.

Yeck, Joanne, in American Screenwriters , edited by Robert E. Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1984.

Goldhurst, W. "Regeneration Through Disaster: San Francisco," in Post Script (Commerce), Winter 1985.

Film Dope (Nottingham), February 1987.

McCreadie, Marsha, "Pioneers (Part Two)," in Films in Review (New York), January-February 1995.

Lutes, Jean Marie, "Authoring Gentlemen Prefer Blondes : Mass-market Beauty Culture and the Makeup of Writers (Anita Loos' International Bestseller Gentlemen Prefer Blondes )," in Prospects , vol. 23, Annual 1998.

* * *

At the early age of 16, Anita Loos began her career in films by scripting over 100 scenarios for D.W. Griffith's Biograph Company. She is credited with writing the subtitles for Intolerance (1916), and is regarded as one of the first screenwriters to employ intertitles to silent films. Although she wrote serious plots for silent films ( Wild Girl of the Sierras and Stranded ), her early success came as a satirist of everyday events. Indeed, her original use of intertitles provided her with the opportunity to let loose with her wise-cracks that teased the picture. She was also proficient in slapstick comedy and wrote a number of half-reels featuring the Keystone Kops.

It was Loos, with her husband the director John Emerson (who assumed much of the credit for her creative endeavors) who first realized that Douglas Fairbanks's acrobatics were an extension of his effervescent personality. Loos, Emerson, and Fairbanks worked as a unit in Griffith's company and parlayed Fairbanks's natural athletic ability into swashbuckling adventure roles. Never missing a chance for satire, Loos (the "O'Henrietta of the Screen") parodied not only the nouveau riche American industrialist but also Fairbanks's own star persona in American Aristocracy . The scenario for the film is typical of Loos's humor: Fairbanks foils a buccaneer who is sending powder to Mexico in the guise of malted milk and as the result of his adventurous exploits wins the heart of a hatpin king's daughter. In pursuit of the villain, Fairbanks vaults a dozen walls and fences. He readies himself to leap at a window ten feet above the ground when he suddenly decides to take the easy way out and opens a basement window, climbing in the building like an ordinary mortal. Loos wrote other humorous films which firmly established Fairbanks as a major leading man of the American screen. Americans' love of publicity was ridiculed in His Picture in the Papers and pacificsm was satirized in In Again, Out Again .

Loos left the Griffith studio in 1925 and moved east with her husband. During her brief "retirement" from the film colony, she wrote the durable story of Lorelei Lee, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes . The story was quite successful as a novel, broadway musical, and film. Loos and Herman J. Mankiewicz cowrote the intertitles for the original silent film version directed by Mal St. Clair in 1928. Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) was an adaptation of the stage play and featured Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei and Jane Russell as her dark-haired girlfriend. Through the perils of Lorelei, the amoral and dim-witted young blond from Little Rock, Loos poked fun at male-female relationships. The blonde's flirtations and the gullible millionaires who surrounded her provided Loos with rich material gleefully to expose the merchandising of sexuality.

Loos returned to Hollywood and worked for MGM during the Irving Thalberg reign. She took over the writing duties from F. Scott Fitzgerald on the Harlow vehicle Red-Headed Woman . She also wrote Hold Your Man starring Harlow and Clark Gable. Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy were featured in the Loos script for San Francisco . This large-scale Hollywood soap opera evolved around San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake. Loos and the veteran MGM scriptwriter Jane Murfin adapted Clare Booth Luce's venomous comedy The Women to the screen; it featured an all-woman cast including Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Crawford.

—Doreen Bartoni

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