The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood

Maas, Frederica Sagor

Published by University Press of Kentucky, 1999
ISBN 10: 0813121221 / ISBN 13: 9780813121222
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Synopsis: " Freddie Maas's revealing memoir offers a unique perspective on the film industry and Hollywood culture in their early days and illuminates the plight of Hollywood writers working within the studio system. An ambitious twenty-three-year-old, Maas moved to Hollywood and launched her own writing career by drafting a screenplay of the bestselling novel The Plastic Age for ""It"" girl Clara Bow. On the basis of that script, she landed a staff position at powerhouse MGM studios. In the years to come, she worked with and befriended numerous actors and directors, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Eric von Stroheim, as well as such writers and producers as Thomas Mann and Louis B. Mayer. As a professional screenwriter, Fredderica quickly learned that scripts and story ideas were frequently rewritten and that screen credit was regularly given to the wrong person. Studio executives wanted well-worn plots, but it was the writer's job to develop the innovative situations and scintillating dialogue that would bring to picture to life. For over twenty years, Freddie and her friends struggled to survive in this incredibly competitive environment. Through it all, Freddie remained a passionate, outspoken woman in an industry run by powerful men, and her provocative, nonconformist ways brought her success, failure, wisdom, and a wealth of stories, opinions, and insight into a fascinating period in screen history.

Review: Frederica Sagor Maas's life encompasses nearly the entire 20th century (she was born in early July 1900), and during the early years of the Hollywood film industry, she was as fierce a competitor for success as any man. Miss Sagor, still a student at Columbia College, was hired by Universal Pictures as an assistant story editor in 1920, when the job basically entailed attending Broadway plays and determining whether the studio should buy the film rights. Because her boss was an alcoholic, she soon found herself in complete charge of the story department. But she wanted to write screenplays herself, so she went to Hollywood and landed a job adapting a novel called The Plastic Age, which Preferred Pictures had acquired as a perfect vehicle for the "It Girl," Clara Bow.

In The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, Frederica--who met and married filmmaker Ernest Maas in 1927--shows how, despite her screenwriting abilities, her career in motion pictures was stymied by her outspoken disagreements with studio bosses, and how many of those around her gave into debauchery. (At one party, she reports, "undressed, tousled men chased naked women, shrieking with laughter. Included in this orgy was Ray Long, Mr. Hearst's representative; Harry Rapf, my own producer; and even the immaculate Irving Thalberg--all drunk, drunk, drunk.") Her memoir's prose has a charming tone, perfectly matching her Jazz Age exploits, which take up the bulk of the story. She also discusses the decline of the Maas's careers, which they finally abandoned after the Second World War, but not before writing a musical (called The Shocking Miss Pilgrim) for Betty Grable. The best passages concern Frederica's adventures in a young industry that was still discovering itself, such as her part in the creation of a motion picture legend: newly arrived actress Lucille LeSueur came up to her one day and said, "I like the way you dress. You dress like a lady. I need that. I want to be dressed right. Smart. I figured you could help." One shopping expedition later, and Joan Crawford was taking her first steps toward stardom. --Ron Hogan

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Title: The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early...
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Acceptable

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