cover image The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood

Frederica Sagor Maas. University Press of Kentucky, $35 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-8131-2122-2

""This is a story that will make you angry,"" warns Brownlow, a noted film historian. Maas, a screenwriter during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, delivers on that promise. 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. Installed in the MGM writers' bungalow, she tackled a rewrite of Dance Madness (1926) but proved so ""ignorant of studio politics"" that she was labeled a ""troublemaker"" by producer Harry Rapf. After her 1927 marriage to script writer and producer Ernest Maas, the couple survived the coming of sound films, the Depression and various earthquakes, but dry scripting spells and the constant theft of their ideas, stories and credits led them to quit the business. In 1950 she ""bid farewell, without tears, to the Hollywood screen industry that had so entangled and entrapped me in its web of promises."" 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."" In this memorable tell-all, rise-and-fall memoir, Maas brings the gimlet hindsight of Julia Phillips's You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again to early Hollywood, and the results are thoroughly captivating. Photos. (June)