Silent Film Era Screenwriter Dies at Age 111

Frederica Sagor Maas Cover - P 2012

Frederica Sagor Maas Cover - P 2012

Frederica Sagor Maas wrote stories and scripts for films starring Clara Bow, Norma Shearer, Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo.

Frederica Sagor Maas, a pioneering female screenwriters who scored her first big success with The Plastic Age, a smash hit for “It Girl” Clara Bow in 1925, died Jan. 5 in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, Calif. She was 111.

One of the last surviving personalities from the silent film era, Maas spent her last decade in a health care center.

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).

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The Plastic Age starred Bow, Donald Keith and Gilbert Roland in a romantic campus comedy adapted from a best-selling novel by Maas and Eve Unsell. It was Bow’s biggest hit to date.

A student of journalism at Columbia University, Maas landed a job in the New York office of Universal Pictures, then came to Hollywood to work for Preferred Pictures, followed by stays at MGM, Fox and Paramount.

In 1927, she married Ernest Maas, a producer at Fox, and they wrote as a team but struggled to sell scripts. They penned Miss Pilgrim’s Progress in 1941, but that languished until it morphed into the film The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947), now starring Betty Grable as the first female employee of a Boston shipping office.

They 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.