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His Picture in the Papers Movie Review

loos ship fairbanks architect

Movie lore has it that Anita Loos sold a script to D.W. Griffith for the Biograph film The New York Hat (starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore) while she was still a teenager. Since Loos was just four foot eleven, it wouldn't have been that hard to convince Mr. Griffith that she was only 19 in 1912, unless he'd picked up a copy of San Francisco's Sunday Call on February 16, 1902, when Loos, then at the Denham School on Bush Street, wrote, “What I Hope to Be When I Grow Up: Having not fully made up my mind as to what I shall become when I am a woman, the answer to that question will be difficult for me to give. So far in my life, my ambitions have inclined toward being a ship architect. The idea of taking up this profession was given to me by Longfellow's poem ‘The Building of the Ship,’ which we had as literature work in the seventh grade. My choice for being a ship architect rather than the architect of a house or other buildings is because the city is overrun with the latter, while there are comparatively few people who draw the plans of ships. I think also that the occupation which I so far have intended to take up is a quiet and refined business for a woman. If I had any talent at all in drawing or painting, I would like to be an artist, but as the only drawing I can do is mechanical, the occupation of an architect suits me. I will not think too seriously over this subject as I am only 12 years old.” Okay, so Loos was 23, not 19 when she first broke into films, but it was a close call for movie fans. We might never have HEARD of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Lorelei Lee had her creator toiled instead on blueprints for ships instead of scripts for the silver screen! Loos wrote well over 150 screenplays between 1912 and 1942, including several for Douglas Fairbanks. His Picture in the Papers ran 68 minutes and focused on Peter Prindle, who does all sorts of wild stunts (driving his car over a cliff, boxing with a pro, diving from a ship and swimming all the way to shore, jumping from trains), just to get his picture in the papers. Without Loos’ sparkling titles, the film might have been shorn down to two reels; luckily the critics screened it before the editor started splicing away and the movie, Fairbanks, and Loos ALL got their pictures in the papers! It was a happy teaming of a supremely confident star and a very clever screenwriter and it set the standard for all future Fairbanks vehicles (he went on to star in 45 films from 1915 to 1934).

1916 68m/B Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Clarence Handysides, Rene Boucicault, Jean Temple, Charles Butler, Homer Hunt, Loretta Blake, Helena Rupport; D: John Emerson; W: John Emerson, Anita Loos. VHS, 8mm

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