Zasu Pitts
(01/03/1894 - 06/07/1963)

Zasu Pitts was an American film actress who starred in many silent dramas and comedy sound films.

Her unusual first name was coined from parts of the names "Eliza" and "Susan", female relatives who both wanted Pitts's mother to name the child after them.

Pitts made her stage debut in 1915 and was discovered two years later for films by pioneer screenwriter Frances Marion and made her debut in the silent film The Little Princess (1917), starring Mary Pickford. Pitts became a leading lady in Erich von Stroheim's masterpiece Greed (1924); based on this performance, von Stroheim labelled Pitts "the greatest dramatic actress". Von Stroheim also featured her in his films The Wedding March (1928) and Walking Down Broadway (1933), which was re-edited by Alfred L. Werker and released as Hello Sister.

Pitts grew in popularity following a series of Universal one-reeler comedies and earned her first feature-length lead in King Vidor's Better Times (1919). She met and married potential matinée idol Tom Gallery in 1920 and paired up with him in several films, including Bright Eyes (1921), Heart of Twenty (1920), Patsy (1921) and A Daughter of Luxury (1922). Their daughter Ann was born in 1922.

In 1924, the actress, now a reputable comedy farceur, was given the greatest tragic role of her career in Erich von Stroheim epic classic Greed (1924), an over nine-hour picture edited to less than two. The surprise casting initially shocked Hollywood but pointed out that she could draw tears and pathos with her patented doleful demeanor as well as laughs. The movie has grown tremendously in respect over time, having failed initially at the box office due to its extensive cutting.

Pitts enjoyed her greatest fame, however, in the 1930s, often starring in B movies and comedy shorts, often teamed with Thelma Todd. She also played secondary parts in many films. Her stock persona (a fretful, flustered, worrisome spinster) made her instantly recognizable and was often imitated in cartoons and other films. She starred in a number of Hal Roach shorts and features that were popular, and co-starred in a series of feature-length comedies with Slim Summerville. Her brief stint in the Hildegarde Withers mystery series was not well received, however; by this time Pitts was so established as a comedienne that audiences didn't accept her as a brainy sleuth.

Available Films

Secrets of the Night (1924)

Casey at the Bat (1927)

So's Your Aunt Emma (1942)

The Bashful Bachelor (1942)