To all appearances, Corinne Anita Loos (lohs) was a typical Roaring Twenties “Flapper.” Pretty and petite, she bobbed her dark brown hair, danced the Charleston in short skirts, and associated with “hustling” men and “fast” women in Hollywood, New York, and Europe. Show business people called her “Miss Loose,” a mispronunciation she never corrected. Actually, Loos was a highly intelligent, self-disciplined woman, the author of witty novels, plays, film scripts, nonfiction works, silent film scenarios and subtitles, and short stories.
Born in Sissons, California, Anita contributed to the family income as a child by performing on stage with her sister, Gladys. Their father, R. Beers Loos, a flamboyant and unsuccessful publisher of tabloids, directed them. Their mother, Minerva, had a small inheritance that kept the family together. After moving several times to escape creditors, the Loos family eventually settled in San Diego, where Anita graduated from high school. Unfortunately, her sister Gladys died during childhood. Her older brother, Clifford Loos, became a successful medical doctor in Los Angeles. Throughout their lives, Clifford and “Neetsie,” his pet name for her, maintained a close relationship.
Beginning in 1911, Loos wrote scenarios and subtitles for silent films produced by several film companies. Many were filmed in New York City. Biograph director D. W. Griffith, famous for the Civil War epic Birth of a Nation (1915), was amazed to discover that Loos was a young woman. One of her first successes was a twelve-minute one-reeler, The New York Hat, starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore. Loos persuaded Griffith to add more dialogue and explanation to subtitles instead of relying so much on camera action. At first, he was skeptical, but filmgoers liked it.
In 1916 Loos began collaborating with John Emerson, a director and actor from Broadway. Their scenarios made Douglas Fairbanks a star by showcasing his boyish charm and athletic ability. Emerson’s His Picture in the Papers (1916) is about a snobbish family who will not allow their daughter to marry a farmer until he somehow becomes famous. In 1919 Anita wrote Getting Mary Married for publisher William Randolph Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. This silent film...
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