Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Frederica Sagor Maas July 6, 1900 - Jan. 5, 2012 Screenwriter from Silent Film Era

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Frederica Sagor Maas July 6, 1900 - Jan. 5, 2012 Screenwriter from Silent Film Era

Article excerpt

By Valerie J. Nelson

One of the last links to the silent film era, Frederica Sagor Maas wrote the script for 1925's "The Plastic Age," which launched actress Clara Bow. But Ms. Maas watched in horror as her serious treatment on women and work was turned into a frivolous 1947 musical, "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim," starring Betty Grable.

It was Ms. Maas' final Hollywood credit.

Disgusted by the "shallow" industry, she and her screenwriter husband contemplated suicide before leaving the movie business altogether, she later wrote.

For Ms. Maas, living an exceedingly long life was the best revenge.

"It's my only consolation to think, 'All you lousy so-and-sos are all 20 feet under, and I'm still here.' It's a satisfaction, but not a great satisfaction," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999.

Ms. Maas, who had long called San Diego home, was the third- oldest Californian when she died Thursday at 111, said Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group, which validates claims of extreme old age.

She took a decade to write her memoir, "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood," published in her 99th year. The book portrayed young Hollywood as heartless and unethical.

The 300-plus-page tome recounted a tortured screenwriting career that began when she was 23 in an industry in which "many people worked just for the buck" and told tales on famous names. Legendary producer Irving Thalberg was "very, very overestimated," she wrote, and she "never met anybody" who liked or trusted Louis B. Mayer.

She and her husband, Ernest Maas, saw their ideas stolen and plagiarized, and they were blackballed by the industry after being wrongly accused of being communists, she wrote.

"Her book is perhaps the best muckraking memoir about early Hollywood," film historian Alan K. Rode said. "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. …

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