Remembering One of Columbia’s Earliest Journalism Students

The span of the L.A. Times obituary for journalism-student-turned-Hollywood-screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas is breathtaking. Which is to be expected since she was, before passing away last Thursday in San Diego, the third oldest Californian at age 111.

ShockingMissPilgrimCoverHer autobiography The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood, published when Maas was 99 (!), takes its title from her final Tinseltown credit, a great personal disappointment starring Betty Grable. She had a tough time migrating from the silent era, during which she authored Clara Bow’s breakout, and at one point contemplated committing suicide with her husband by driving off a Hollywood hillside. From Valerie J. Nelson’s obit:

Both she and her husband, Ernest Maas, saw their ideas stolen and plagiarized, and they were blackballed by the industry after being wrongly accused of being communists, she wrote.

“Her book is perhaps the best muckraking memoir about early Hollywood,” film historian Alan K. Rode said Friday. “She was one of the last living connections to silent film, and her autobiography is an irreplaceable record written from the rare perspective of a woman who lived through those times.”

After studying journalism at Columbia University in the late 1910s, Maas got a job as a script assistant in New York with Universal Pictures. The Kindle edition of Maas’ memoir is priced at $19.95.