Anita Loos was a well known name in film and literary circles in the Golden Age of Hollywood, but most people know her best as the author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a comedic novel published to huge acclaim in 1925, about a sparkling blonde gold digger in the 1920’s, a type that Loos knew well.
Loos grew up with Hollywood, in some ways. Her first foray into film was as a scenario writer on silent films in 1912, under the studio system, where she rubbed shoulders with DW Griffith and the Gish sisters. As films turned from silent to talkies, she worked away as a writer and had an excellent reputation for humour, through the 30’s, 40’s and beyond. Her output is amazing, she’s credited with 138 writers credits on IMDB, between 1912 and 1960. She also wrote several successful stage plays and novels as well, and her autobiographies and memoirs of her life remain popular.
Anita had a sparkling wit, and though she loved the company of many literary greats and stars, she hated pretension. The Algonquin and it’s literary types bored her with their self aggrandizing. She also didn’t much like sentimentality, and is said to have often laughed at people who proposed to her, in her younger years, but she was not an unkind person, for all that. And in fact, when she married, she was a devoted wife, overly so.
Her husband was John Emerson, a man who had many affairs, which was very hard on Anita, but also who rode on her coat tails, putting his name on her work as co-writer for a large part of her career, and spending her money, including removing large sums of money and putting them in his own name. My favourite story about him is that he would get very sick and lose his voice, causing Loos all kinds of worry and guilt, but it was in fact all a sham.
Later in life, when she and her husband were separated, though she still supported him financially, she came to rely more and more on her personal assistant, Gladys, who bossed her around and was her rock, but who also, as they both grew older, became a heavy drinker and was not always kind to Anita.
There’s something about Anita Loos, she was a stylish little figure, a very short, small woman who looked a lot younger than her age (at 40, she could still pass for half that) who had a unique take on life, who skewered people who took themselves to seriously. She loved people who had sparkle, that weren’t perhaps entirely honest, but she herself was quite a moral person, even a little old fashioned for her time (it’s easy to forget now how progressive the 1920’s were).
- I loved Anita Loos: A Biography by Gary Carey.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a hilarious book, which I love, and the work she is most known for.
- Those of you who love Hollywood, might also like her autobiographies Kiss Hollywood Goodbye and No Mother to Guide Her
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
- The Women (1939)