Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Last Flapper

I just came across a remarkable obituary in that staple of the almost lost art of writing them, The Telegraph. Would you believe - and I very nearly don't - that the limpid-eyed young lady above has only just left us this month? She was the euphoniously named Frederica Sagor Maas, and at the time of her death she was, at 111, the third oldest person in California.

That alone is, to an extent, remarkable in itself. What has me gobsmacked, though, is that she was very likely among the very last links to the silent-film era at its most vibrant. A scriptwriter, she worked on films including the major Clara Bow vehicles The Plastic Age and It (generally identified, inaccurately, only with the hyperflorid writing of Elinor Glyn), as well as one of Louise Brooks's more notable Stateside efforts, Rolled Stockings (as evocative a Jazz Age title, in its way, as any, no?). She even had a hand in the great Garbo-Gilbert Flesh and the Devil.

She and her husband, Ernest, had a varied time of it, and while their work on Betty Grable's 1947 vehicle The Shocking Miss Pilgrim helped make that picture a hit, they left Hollywood, and Frederica spent the balance of her professional life in the somewhat less fraught field of insurance adjusting.

At 99, she published an autobiography that was, apparently, equal part bitterness and exposé, full of lurid tales of Paramount orgies and Metro misbehavior. She didn't think much, it seems, of most of the studio types she worked with, and she doesn't seem to have gone out of her way to have played the Hollywood game.

It's amazing to think that until just a couple of weeks ago there was someone among us who could have told us, first person, what it was like to watch Clara Bow at work and play, someone who was a peer and counterpart of Frances Marion, who was hard at work as a scriptwriter years before Dorothy Parker headed West. Not to mention someone who likely danced the Charleston and Black Bottom alongside Lucille LeSeuer in some LA nightclub and who was a friend of Norma Shearer's (before Mrs. Thalberg became the semi-petrified Boss's wife and no matter what she thought of the man she dismissed as a "mama's boy").

At 110, the Telegraph reports, she asked for "a large chocolate cake" on her birthday. She earned it.


  1. Oddly enough, kabuki asked for a large chocolate cake for his last birthday. kindred spirits kabukuki would like to think. just imagine lunch with this wonderful lady. wow

  2. Amazing! Thank heavens Luise Rainer is still with us, telling tales of early Hollywood. Jx

  3. Just a word of caution about mentioning "cake" anywhere near Mistress MJ.

  4. Thank you darling. I read several obits on her when she passed and had many of the same thoughts and reactions to them that you did. I just don't think I could have written them as beautifully as you just have.

  5. And if she was anything like my 101 year old Grammy-in-law, her memories of those times were quite crystalline and vivid, much more so than the occasional present day fog she drifts in and out of.