Rediscover a screenwriting great at EIFF
In the second part of our look at the Anita Loos retrospective, Variety critic Jay Weissberg discusses the screenwriter's successful transition to talkies.
Read the first part of Jay's interview here.
The arrival of talkies in Tinseltown signalled a new stage in Anita Loos’ screenwriting career, and her initial forays included 1931’s epic The Struggle – director D.W. Griffith’s final feature – and a racy comedy, 1932’s Red-Headed Woman. Weissberg is in no doubt as to why Loos made a successful transition to the sound era.
“Loos had such an incredible ear for dialogue. Her intertitles for silent films were loaded with dialogue,” he observes. “She was also a short story writer and novelist. So there wasn’t a problem forming herself into a writer of talkies, for instance on Red-Headed Woman, Saratoga or San Francisco.”
San Francisco, a gripping disaster thriller set during the city’s great earthquake of 1906, is a particular favourite of Weissberg.
“It’s a terrific film. She really put her heart and soul into it,” he says of the 1936 movie. "I think it's also interesting to compare the film's star, Clark Gable, and Douglas Fairbanks, because they both championed her early on as a writer."
As the 1930s drew to a close Loos’ adapted Claire Boothe Luce’s Broadway hit, The Women, and Joan Crawford shines in the biting social satire. Many actresses benefited from Loos’ ability to craft fabulous female characters, memorably Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 comedy Gentleman Prefer Blondes.
“From early on she demonstrated this ability to write strong female characters,” Weissberg adds. “It’s great in Gentleman Prefer Blondes because you have the ditsy blonde, Lorelei Lee [Monroe], and her best friend Dorothy [played by Jane Russell], who has got her marbles together. In a sense it makes fun of Lorelei, but in the end she gets what she wants.”
Adapted from her own novel, the movie was followed three years later by Gentleman Marry Brunettes, which turned out to be Loos’ last film. She continued to write, notably memoirs of her time in Hollywood, until her death in 1981.
Loos’ incredible ability as a writer for the screen is evident in the diverse range of cinematic classics showing in the retrospective, and her remarkable body of work is ripe for rediscovery.
Don't miss out on our fantastic Anita Loos Retrospective pass - see all 12 films showing in the retrospective and the Anita Loos Rediscovered special event for only £30.