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Frederica Sagor Maas, 1900 - 2012

Do her tales of mistreatment, misogyny and discrimination in early Hollywood hold water?
The DailyFrederica Sagor Maas

"Frederica Sagor Maas, a pioneering female screenwriter who scored her first big success with The Plastic Age, a smash hit for 'It Girl' Clara Bow in 1925, died Jan 5." She was 111. Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter: "Because she was a woman, Maas was typically assigned work on flapper comedies and light dramas. Her efforts includes such other Bow films as Dance Madness (1926), Hula (1927) and Red Hair (1928); two films featuring Norma Shearer, His Secretary (1925) and The Waning Sex (1926); the Greta Garbo drama Flesh and the Devil (1926); and the Louise Brooks film Rolled Stockings (1927)…. In 1927, she married Ernest Maas, a producer at Fox, and they wrote as a team but struggled to sell scripts…. The pair, interrogated by the FBI for allegedly Communist activities, were out of the business by the early 1950s. Ernest Mass died in 1986 at age 94. In 1999, at the urging of film historian Kevin Brownlow, Maas published her autobiography, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood. She was 99 at the time."

"Disgusted by the 'shallow' industry, she and her screenwriter husband contemplated suicide before leaving the movie business altogether, she later wrote," writes Valerie J Nelson in the Los Angeles Times. "'Her book is perhaps the best muckraking memoir about early Hollywood,' film historian Alan K Rode said Friday. 'She was one of the last living connections to silent film, and her autobiography is an irreplaceable record written from the rare perspective of a woman who lived through those times. She was frank, and she was funny,' he said, 'and she kept that kind of wit and cynicism past 100.'"

"Sagor's various tales of mistreatment, misogyny, and discrimination have been taken as the absolute truth by the politically correct crowd," writes Andre Soares at the Alt Film Guide. "The way Hollywood men treated Sagor and/or other women — plagiarism, prostitution, power trips, etc — is supposed to serve as proof of how intelligent, driven females suffered in the hands of ruthless, sex-crazed male animals in the American motion picture industry." For Soares, "one problem with her version of history is that studios invariably used numerous writers, whether male or female, in their projects. Usually, in those pre-Writers Guild days, only two or three contributors received final credit, not because of the uncredited writer's gender but in large part because the final product oftentimes had little — if anything — in common with the original source…. Women, in fact, were getting credited for movies of all types and budgets, from historical spectacles like Ben-Hur, Hollywood's most expensive production until Gone with the Wind, to star vehicles for the likes of Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish, Alice Terry, John Gilbert, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, and Mae Murray. The PC crowd's claim that women in those days were relegated to writing solely fluffy material is both ludicrous and ignorant."

Update, 1/8: Luke McKernan notes that she once said that "if she'd had her time again she would never have gone into the movies. Is that true? Probably not. You don't stick at a business for thirty years without feeling some sort of commitment to it, and the passing of time can sour memories just as it can sugar the memories of others…. Her passing leaves perhaps just the former child stars Baby Peggy and Mickey Rooney as the living survivors of the silent era. Judging from Mass's view of Hollywood, 'survivor' is the appropriate word."

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111! Take that, Heesters.

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