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June 16, 2023

30 Vintage Photos of ZaSu Pitts in the 1920s and ’30s

Born 1894 in Parsons, Kansas, American actress ZaSu Pitts made her stage debut in 1914–15 doing school and local community theater in Santa Cruz. Going to Los Angeles in 1916, at the age of 22, she spent many months seeking work as a film extra. Finally, she was discovered for substantive roles in films by screenwriter Frances Marion, who cast Pitts as an orphaned slavey (child of work) in the silent film A Little Princess (1917), starring Mary Pickford.

Pitts’s popularity grew following a series of Universal one-reeler comedies, and earned her first feature-length lead in King Vidor’s Better Times (1919). The following year she married her first husband, Tom Gallery, with whom she was paired in several films, including Heart of Twenty (1920), Bright Eyes, Patsy (both 1921) and A Daughter of Luxury (1922).

Pitts enjoyed her greatest fame in the early 1930s, often starring in B movies and comedy short films, teamed with Thelma Todd. She played secondary parts in many films, and starred in a number of Hal Roach short films and features, often in partnership with Thelma Todd as two trouble-prone working girls. At Universal she co-starred in a series of feature-length comedies with Slim Summerville. Switching between comedy short films and features, by the advent of sound, she became a specialist in comedy roles.

Pitts’s final role was as Gertie, the switchboard operator in the Stanley Kramer comedy epic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). She died in Hollywood in 1963, aged 69. She was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960, for her contribution to motion pictures. Her star is on the south side of the 6500 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Take a look at these vintage photos to see portraits of young ZaSu Pitts in the 1920s and 1930s.


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