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Frederica Sagor Maas 1900-2012

16 01 2012

Usually when someone is a super-centenarian (110+), that is their biggest claim to fame.  However, for Frederica Sagor Maas, she was also a trail blazing female screenwriter in early Hollywood.

Born on July 6, 1900, Frederica Sagor obtained a degree in journalism from Columbia University before taking a position as a story editor for Universal Pictures, and then as a screenwriter for Preferred Pictures in 1924.  Two of her most prominent titles were the Clara Bow and Garbo vehicles The Plastic Age and Flesh and the Devil.  Following solid work in the industry for several years, like many in the silent era, her workload declined in the 1930s.  Her last credit was for The Shocking Miss Pilgrim was in 1947.

She married fellow screenwriter, Ernest Maas, in 1927; the couple would remain married until his death in 1986 at the age of 94.  After many rejections of both her and her husband’s screenplays, coupled with the stock market crash of 1929, Maas and her husband became disillusioned and impoverished.  Eventually, however, she started a second career as a stenographer for an insurance agency, in time moving to the role of adjuster due to “adjusting” her age by 10 years on her resume.

Never one particularly fond of the movie industry or how it treated its employees, she wrote her tell all memoir “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” in 1999 at the age of 99.  Perhaps her greatest feeling of satisfaction was being able to tell her story and knowing that all those that did her wrong or whom she despised were in the ground.  In an interview with Salon in 1999, she said, “I can get my payback now. I’m alive and thriving and, well, you S.O.B.’s are all below.”

It is with some personal sadness to hear of Frederica’s passing last week at the age of 111.  In 2008, I contacted her about the possibility of doing an extensive on camera interview about her life and times in Hollywood.  I was contacted back by her niece, Phoebe, who told me that, though Frederica’s mind was sharp many days, that would be a taxing thing for her and that some days were better than others.  Being 108 at the time, that is not a shocker at all and I completely understood.  I further found out that famed film historian Kevin Brownlow had beat me to the chase so to speak by doing a series of interviews with Maas in 1999, though I don’t know that any of the footage has been released or used as of this time.  I’m sure Mr. Brownlow is waiting for the most opportune medium to present the footage.

Though we didn’t end up doing an interview, Frederica’s niece Phoebe was extremely kind and said there were several boxes full of correspondence and other items from Maas’s time in Hollywood that she would be happy to look through if any of the information was helpful for any of my writing efforts.  Furthermore, nearly a year later, Phoebe sent me a wonderful article from the San Diego Times regarding Frederica’s solidification as one of the oldest inhabitants of California.  I sent a gracious “thank you” note and Christmas card that year.  According to Phoebe, Frederica was ready for her time to come; after a certain age, it becomes difficult to go on when all your friends, family and loved ones are gone and it’s hard to do the things you once loved.  Though it’s always tough to see someone go, I’m sure Frederica is at peace now with her husband and other friends and family with an eternally youthful mind and body.  We are so lucky, as a film historian community, to have had someone with her knowledge so willing to share her experiences and stories of that early time in cinema’s history.

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Golden Globes!

16 01 2012

So, last night was the Golden Globes Awards presentation, likely the second most prestigious awards show and a usual pre-cursor and foreshadower of what usually occurs at the Oscars ceremony a couple months later.  I have to be completely honest here, I missed the show; however, I did have a good reason, as I spent the entire weekend moving into my new house.  This morning, I’m mentally and physically exhausted, compounded by lack of sleep due to an anxious dog and two anxious cats in a new place, but I still want to take a brief moment to recap the wins.  Being that I’ve been in the moving process for the past couple weeks, I’ve failed to see as many of the top contenders as would have hoped.  Now that I’m a little more settled, I’ll be catching up in time for the Oscars, so come back soon when I can have a more formulated opinion.  Anyway, here is the entire list of winners from last night’s ceremony:

Best Drama
The Descendants

Best Comedy/Musical
The Artist

Best Animated Film
The Adventures of TinTin

Best Actor in a Drama
George Clooney, The Descendants

Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical
Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Actress in a Drama
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Director

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Best Screenplay
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

Best Score – Motion Picture
The Artist – Ludovic Bource

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Masterpiece” – Madonna

Best Foreign Language Film
A Separation, Iran

Cecil B. Demille Award
Morgan Freeman

Television

Best TV Comedy or Musical
Modern Family

Best Television Series – Drama
Homeland

Best Mini-Series
Downton Abbey

Best Actor in a TV Drama
Kelsey Grammer, Boss

Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Best Supporting Actor in TV Series, Mini-Series, or Made-for-TV Movie
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Best Actress in a TV Drama
Claire Danes, Homeland

Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy
Laura Dern, Enlightened

Best Supporting Actress in TV Series, Mini-Series, or Made-for-TV Movie

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story

Best Actor in a TV Movie
Idris Elba, Luther

Best Actress in a TV Movie
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

I’ll take a moment to comment where I can.  The two biggest films of the year, I’ve yet to see; one because of the moving, the other because it still hasn’t been released in my city yet.  Those two movies are The Descendants and The Artist.  The Artist is actually my most anticipated film of 2011, so I am ecstatic that it will be opening at the local indie theater this coming week.  I will likely see it and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as a double feature this coming weekend.  I can’t wait!

Though I haven’t seen the film yet, I was very excited about its (The Artist) wins – it’s shaping up to possibly be the first silent film since 1929 to win a Best Picture Oscar.  Being a silent film aficionado, that’s music to my ears.  Maybe more silents will be hitting the modern cineplexes because of its success.  The next on the list I can comment on was for Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer; I think this was definitely a deserved award for her incredible performance.  In my review of the film from a couple weeks ago, I made special note of her and Viola Davis’s wonderful performances.  Scorsese winning Best Director, but no Best Picture Comedy/Musical is a bit of a surprise, but I loved Hugo and his direction of the film was expertly handled, so this was a pleasant surprise as well.  Now, for my most pleasant surprise…Woody Allen winning Best Writing!  I haven’t written a ton about Allen on the blog, partly because I’ve seen all his films and most of the films I review here are recent watches.  However, Allen is in my top five favorite filmmakers of all-time, and to see him win so much recognition after nearly a decade of lackluster films, is a good feeling.  The only other win I can wholeheartedly support is Downton Abbey.  I’m currently working through the second series with an iTunes season pass.  So far, it’s been as good as series one, and that’s saying a lot.

Well, those are my views on what I feel I can comment on.  Hopefully, within the coming week or two I’ll have a chance to catch up on my film going and have a little more informed opinion on this year’s best films.  Stay tuned!








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