The Shocking Miss Pilgrim – a 99-year old screenwriter tells it as Hollywood was!

Here’s another book recommendation! I read an excellent review of this book and decided to check it out, noting that she discussed Louis B. Mayer. It’s a slim volume but very insightful into the 20s and 30s. Maas discusses all aspects of her life and times, the cutthroat industry, prejudice against women, the parties that were little more than orgies. Seems like some aspects of Hollywood haven’t changed much!

From the “Publishers Weekly” review: “In 1920, she answered a New York Times classified ad from Universal Pictures, becoming, at age 23, Universal’s N.Y.C. story editor. In 1925, she arrived in Hollywood, turned down a screen test and instead scripted a Clara Bow vehicle, The Plastic Age….. Maas trashes Hollywood legends, recalling Louis B. Mayer as “a very fearful, insecure man”; Clara Bow dancing nude on a tabletop; Jeanne Eagels squatting to urinate in the midst of a film set; and Marion Davies commenting on her affair with Hearst: “I’m a slave, that’s what. A toy poodle.”

From the review: ” In The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, Frederica–who met and married filmmaker Ernest Maas in 1927–shows how, despite her screenwriting abilities, her career in motion pictures was stymied by her outspoken disagreements with studio bosses, and how many of those around her gave into debauchery. (At one party, she reports, “undressed, tousled men chased naked women, shrieking with laughter. Included in this orgy was Ray Long, Mr. Hearst’s representative; Harry Rapf, my own producer; and even the immaculate Irving Thalberg–all drunk, drunk, drunk.”) Her memoir’s prose has a charming tone, perfectly matching her Jazz Age exploits, which take up the bulk of the story. She also discusses the decline of the Maas’s careers, which they finally abandoned after the Second World War, but not before writing a musical (called The Shocking Miss Pilgrim) for Betty Grable. The best passages concern Frederica’s adventures in a young industry that was still discovering itself, such as her part in the creation of a motion picture legend: newly arrived actress Lucille LeSueur came up to her one day and said, “I like the way you dress. You dress like a lady. I need that. I want to be dressed right. Smart. I figured you could help.” One shopping expedition later, and Joan Crawford was taking her first steps toward stardom. “–Ron Hogan

My only complaint was that the book wasn’t longer; still, this is an excellent eyewitness account of what it was like to be a woman in Hollywood. You can probably get the book through your local library system or order it at the link above.