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Siskiyou native Anita Loos was pioneering woman in Hollywood, Broadway

Submitted by Jack Trout
Anita Loos

At only four feet, 11 inches tall, Anita Loos stood as tall as Mt. Shasta at the end of her career in legend and grandeur. The Sisson native spent 30 years in the silent film industry and is known as the first successful women screenwriter and biography novelist in Hollywood. 

Born on April 26, 1889 in Sisson, California (before it was Mount Shasta), Loos left with her family at 4 years old for a few years and lived in San Francisco, often appearing on stage as early as 6 years old. She soon became the family’s primary source of income while her lush father was away on one of his alcoholic escapades. 

Later she graduated from San Diego High School. Encouraged by family and friends with years of part time onstage performances under her belt, Anita soon developed a strong desire to become a screenwriter in New York. 

In her early years she wrote in some New York publications about Manhattan socialites and realized she hit a nerve with the American public who wanted to know more about the stars of that time. 

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Her unique writing style was duly noted by many of the social elite critics and fans on the New England Coast. 

After writing the “The Ink Well,” she received occasional royalties and this helped launch her name around the newly formed Hollywood film industry and the likes of Broadway that had been running strong since the 1750s in New York. 

In 1911, about the same time Hollywood was getting started, she sent her first attempt at a screenplay, “He Was A College Boy,” for which she received $25. She then went on to write “The New York Hat” which starred Lionel Barrymore (the great uncle of Drew Barrymore)  and Mary Pickford. The film was directed by David W. Griffith (Of Mice & Men). It was her third screenplay and the first to be produced. 

Loos’ real life scenarios with friends on family vacations in Southern California became fodder for her screenplays, film adaptations and eventually popular novels. 

Like Julia Morgan during the same era, Loos was a pioneer in a male dominated field. 

Morgan was one of the first women architects in California with numerous projects erected locally at the Hearst Castle on the McCloud River and at San Simeon, California. 

Loos was the first woman screenwriter of her time that was sought out by legendary greats like Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  

Her only problem was her scripts were so well written that it was hard to play out her comical satires in detail on silent film during the silver screen’s infancy. 

Her name and fame came to light in October of 1927 when voice-over was added to the first series of films and more than 15 years worth of manuscripts were adopted by eager film directors that trusted her brilliance and real life screenwriting scenarios. 

Loos’ influence on her generation was vast in an industry that was growing leaps in bounds by the 1930s and 40s. She would wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and write for 10 hours or more and was self-dedicated. 

Some of her works would end up being novels while others would eventually become screenplays or movies as she always had multiple projects brewing in areas of films, novel and Broadway entertainment.

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In 1919 Loos wrote the masterpiece “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” which Marilyn Monroe starred in in 1953. She also wrote in the same year “Getting Mary Married,” a story contracted by William Randolph Hearst about his then mistress Marion Davies. It was the only Marion Davies film that ever made any money. 

Loos is remembered in both Hollywood and on Broadway for 140 writer credits, eight producer credits and  three acting credits.

Anita Loos died in 1981 at age 92 in New York City and is buried in Etna.