Who was Anita Loos?

Anita Loos

Anita Loos had a long career as an American screenwriter, playwright and author. She knew from the time that she was six years old that she wanted to write. Her father managed a theater company, and wrote several one act plays. Anita had graduated from high school, and her father encouraged her to write some herself. She wrote her first play entitled The Ink Well, which turned out to be successful and for which she received royalties.

She next tried a one reel screenplay called The New York Hat and received $25. The play starred Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore, and it really started her on her successful career. She wrote her plays from real life situations, getting ideas from all her experiences. Within three years she wrote 105 scripts, and only four were not made into a play.

She joined a film colony in Hollywood and was put on the payroll for $75 with a bonus for every script that was produced as a play. She later wrote five screenplays for Douglas Fairbanks that made him a star.

1935 Press Photo Frannie Lederer with Mary Anita Loos dining in Hollywood
1935 Press Photo Frannie Lederer with Mary Anita Loos dining in Hollywood
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Loos and John Emerson, a director, had become partners to produce plays. Loos became very attracted to Emerson. He was a self-proclaimed philanderer, but Loos was sure he would find her different than other women and they were married. But it proved to be an unfortunate union from the start.

They wrote two books, and their scripts had both their names, but Loos did most of the work. When one of their contracts was not renewed, Emerson blamed it on her scripts, even though he had taken the credit for them. Loos herself later declared that Emerson took all the money and credit, even though he just watched her work.

Loos was urged to write a book from a collection of short stories, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Sensing that this would be an overwhelming success, Emerson tried to sabotage its publication because he was afraid of losing his control over Loos. But in the end he settled for a dedication in the book.

As years passed, Loos became more and more successful. After “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” came “But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.” A musical version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” ran on Broadway for 90 weeks with then unknown Carol Channing.

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She and Emerson often lived apart, but he would show up at inopportune times to take advantage of her success. She was always faithful and at one time paid for an apartment of his own.

Loos and Helen Hayes had been good friends, but when their husbands died within a few weeks of each other, the two women formed an even greater bond. They collaborated to write a book entitled Twice Over Lightly: New York Then and Now, and Loos wrote several memoirs and biographies. She was a constant contributor to magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker.

After suffering for several weeks with a lung infection, she died in New York City at the age of 93.

For more flapper costume ideas, read about Isadora Duncan.

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