I’ve learned about lots of amazing vaudeville & silent film era people in doing my Sugarchurch blog, but the story of Anita Loos (and this photo) is one of my favorites.
Anita Loos (1888–1981) was an American screenwriter, playwright and author. She wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the stage version of Gigi and she looks like Richard Hell in this 1930s photo. She’s seems to have lived an amazing life, including pre-teen rambles through seedy turn-of-the-century San Francisco…
Loos followed her dissolute alcoholic father as they explored San Francisco’s underbelly; together they would sit on the pier, fishing and making friends with the natives, feeding into her lifelong fascination with lowlifes and loose women. In 1897, at their father’s urging, she and her sister performed in the San Francisco stock company production of Quo Vadis. Gladys died while their father was on one of his drinking and philandering “fishing trips”. Anita continued appearing on stage, sometimes being the family’s sole breadwinner. Eventually Beers Loos’ spendthrift ways caught up with them, and in 1903, Beers Loos took an offer to manage a theater company in San Diego. There, Anita performed simultaneously in her father’s stock company, and under another name with the more legitimate stock company in town.
her big break:
In 1911, the theater was running one-reel films after each night’s performances; Anita would take a perfunctory bow and run to the back of the theater to watch them. She sent her first attempt at a one-reel screenplay, The New York Hat, to the Biograph Company, for which she received $25.The New York Hat, starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore and directed by D. W. Griffith, was her third screenplay and the first to be produced. Loos dredged real life and real situations for her scenarios, she dished up her father’s cronies, her brothers friends, the rich vacationers from the San Diego resorts, eventually every experience became grist for her script mill.
photo by Clarence Sinclair Bull