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Rediscover a screenwriting great at EIFF

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Variety writer Jay Weissberg tells EIFF online why he's thrilled with the Anita Loos Retrospective.

World-renowned Variety critic Jay Weissberg was delighted to discover that screenwriting legend Anita Loos was the subject of EIFF’s main retrospective this year. In the first of a two-part look at the retrospective, Weissberg discusses the incredible impact of Loos in the silent era.

“For me, one of the remarkable things about Loos is how she was able to capture what America was about,” comments Weissberg. “The films that have been chosen really show her range. We have the first film she ever wrote when she was 16, The New York Hat, which shows the kind of style she brought to American film.”

Made in 1912, The New York Hat was Loos’ first collaboration with the legendary D.W. Griffith, and her particular style of writing intertitles lends a different dimension to the director’s films, such as 1916’s Intolerance.

“So many of the early Griffith films, which are great, can feel preachy, but with Loos they don’t,” Weissberg observes. “She had this beautiful ability to write an intertitle, and her use of American slang in particular was a key to how she brought an audience in and instantly onto her side. She allowed the audience to commune with the film”

Loos was incredibly prolific throughout her career, racking up over 130 writing credits in five decades, and forged lasting relationships with many of the industry’s leading lights. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was one of Loos' many admirers, and the pair worked together frequently in the silent era, including 1916's His Picture in the Papers.

“Her films with Douglas Fairbanks were such a perfect partnership because he represented that ebullience and openness which America seemed to have at that time. She mirrored that so beautifully with her skewering of pretension and breaking down of class barriers.”

In 1919 Loos married director John Emerson, the two having worked together on silent classics such as The Social Secretary. The relationship may be one of the reasons why Loos is less visible in popular cinema history.

“The collaboration with Emerson is very difficult because he took a huge amount of the credit for a lot of the work that Loos wrote on her own,” Weissberg notes. “Let’s not forget, though, that a lot of his films, and her films, are lost. Most of her films with Constance Talmadge, which were incredibly important and hugely popular, are lost.”

The loss of these movies has certainly contributed to Loos’ relative anonymity today, which makes the screening of these seminal silent films all the more vital.

Check back on Monday when Weissberg discusses Loos successful transition to talkies.

Don't miss out on our fantastic Anita Loos Retrospective Pass - see all 12 films screening as part of the retrospective and the Anita Loos Rediscovered special event for only £30.

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