Archive for Anita Loos

The Sunday Intertitle: I’m Your Secretary

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 31, 2014 by dcairns


THE SOCIAL SECRETARY, from the husband-and-wife team of John Emerson and Anita Loos. Emerson is remembered almost solely for being Mr. Loos, which isn’t quite fair but is nearly fair. As director, he does a drunke scene wobblycam shot here that’s pretty damn inventive for 1916. But it’s his sole flourish.

You can’t quite make a feminist hero out of Anita. Because I say so. While the fact that she had a glittering career and was such a sharp observer of the Hollywood scene makes her a poster girl for the cause, what she wrote is informed by all sorts of prejudices of the day — she’s not trying to strike a blow for the girls, just trying to amuse herself and her audience.

In THE SOCIAL SECRETARY, Norma Talmadge can’t keep a job because her bosses are always flirting with her. Cue shots of dowdy secretaries at the secretarial rooming house she stays at, complaining that they’ve never had any problems. Meanwhile, a rich society dame is complaining her secretaries always leave to get married. Her ne’er-do-well son suggests advertising for one with the proviso “Must be extremely unattractive to men.” Norma sees this ad and sees in it the answer to her problem. Donning glasses and putting her hair in a bun and assuming a sniffy expression, she snaps up the position in a jiffy, even though none of this disguise conceals the fact that her figure is… well, “unattractive” wouldn’t be the first word I’d think of.


This being 1916, on her days off, Norma throws off her frumpy dress to reveal, beneath it, another frumpy dress.

Should have been a nice romcom but is more straight drama. Most welcome surprise is a sleazy journalist, played by —


Erich Von Stroheim. Trading monocle for pince-nez. Playing it for laughs, which consists of a sour expression to match Norma’s when she’s in frumpface.

Intertitles keep harping on about what a scavenger, what a vulture he is, kind of unnecessary when Loos has named him Mr. Buzzard. Intertitles generally a bit lacking in wit. “Was Anita on strike?” asked Fiona after one which read, simply, “Midnight.” “It’s no MATRIMANIAC,” I agreed. “Nothing is.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -and- But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady

The Sunday Intertitle: Douglas Fairbanks Hearts Miklos Jancso

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by dcairns

Doug, the wonder boy of the silent screen, likes to unwind by meditating upon the long tracking shots of a ’60s Hungarian arthouse epic.

WILD AND WOOLLY (1917), directed by John Emerson and written by Anita Loos, is in many ways a companion piece to the previous year’s MANHATTAN MADNESS (Allan Dwan) — both are posited on east-west contrasts of Wild West buckaroo hi-jinks versus New York metropolitan shenangans, and both involve Doug being caught up in elaborate charades staged for his benefit, making each a prototype of David Fincher’s THE GAME.

In W&W, Doug is a cowboy enthusiast and businessman sent way out west, where the townsfolk try to impress him by putting on bar-room brawls, gunfights, a train robbery and an Indian uprising. This stuff has the delirious, cliche-wallowing strangeness of WESTWORLD. Things get out of hand when the Indians revolt for real, having figured out that an entire town firing blanks to impress a visitor will be a pushover. Now it’s up to the soft Easterner to save the day. Lots of clambering over rooftops, jumping on horses, etc, and a nice moment where Doug gains access to the ammo in his upstairs hotel room by climbing onto a ceiling beam in the downstairs bar and kicking his way through the floor of his room.

The Sunday Intertitle: Get Me To The Church On Time

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 10, 2011 by dcairns

Fiona thought THE MATRIMANIAC had the funniest intertitles she’d ever read: the great Anita Loos was the scribe responsible, and they zing with silly wit. When the father whose daughter has eloped with Doug Fairbanks tries to give chase and finds his tyres have been punctured, the title reads simply, “Assorted curses.”

I confess I’m unable to choose between the contemporary action comedies of Doug Fairbanks (THE MOLLYCODDLE is a good one) and the period swashbucklers (THE BLACK PIRATE, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD). Both have their points. I love the spectacle and frippery of the historical farragos, but it’s undeniable that the teens and twenties-set yarns have more energetic bustle and throb, coming close to Keaton in their vision of a rough-and-tumble knockabout Young America, and Doug’s persona can take wing more fully in this locale.

In THE MATRIMANIAC, Doug is attempting to elope with Constance Talmadge (Keaton’s sister-in-law, a good comic in her own right, best-remembered now for INTOLERANCE). Complications ensue when the train leaves with Connie and Doug’s rival, but without Doug. Furthermore, lawyers from her father are en route on the next train, bearing an injunction to prevent the wedding. Doug must commandeer any transport available (railrodder, mule, automobile), writing a sheaf of IOUs as he does so, and kidnap a handy minister so the ceremony can be performed before the heavy hand of the law obtrudes.

At only 45 minutes, this is a peppy little number, well-preserved and showcasing Fairbanks at his most charming. He does a fair bit of athletic leaping and climbing, and even travels from building to building by way of telegraph wires, but his most impressive moment is a leap from the path of an oncoming locomotive, the kind of sure-death stunt no leading man would be entrusted with, post silent era, until the advent of Jackie Chan. Doug makes sure to spin around and pass close to the camera after his jump, just so we can see it was really him doing it.