ZaSu Pitts

ZaSu Pitts

Infobox actor
bgcolour = brown
name = ZaSu Pitts

imagesize = 194px
caption = early publicity photo
birthname = Eliza Susan Pitts
birthdate = birth date|1894|1|3|mf=y
location = Parsons, Kansas, U.S.
deathdate = death date|1963|6|7|mf=y, age 69
deathplace = Hollywood, California, U.S.

ZaSu Pitts (January 3, fy|1894 – June 7, fy|1963) (pronEng|ˈzeɪsuː ˈpɪts) was an American film actress who starred in many silent dramas, although later, her career digressed to comedy sound films. She overcame her unglamorous looks and wallflower tendencies by basing her stage and screen persona on them in scores of comedies.


Her unusual first name was coined from parts of the names, "Eliza," and, "Susan," female relatives who both wanted Pitts' mother to name the child after them. In many film credits and articles, her name was rendered as, Zazu Pitts, or, Zasu Pitts. Though her name is commonly mispronounced as, "Zazz-oo," in her 1930s film shorts with Thelma Todd (see below) it is clearly pronounced, on-screen [by Todd] as, "ZAY-sue;" her name was also consistently pronounced, "ZAY-sue," during her recurrent guest appearances on, "Fibber McGee and Molly"'s show in 1939.


Born in Parsons, Kansas, to Rulandus and Nellie (Shay) Pitts, ZaSu was the third of four children. Her father, who had lost a leg while serving in the 76th New York Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, had settled the family in Kansas by the time ZaSu was born. [ [ Rulandus Pitts biography on 76th NY Regiment site] ] In 1903, when she was 9 years old, they moved to Santa Cruz, California seeking a warmer climate and better job opportunities. Her childhood home at 208 Lincoln Street still stands. She attended Santa Cruz High School, where, despite her shy demeanor, she participated in school theatricals.

Pitts made her stage debut in 1915 and was discovered two years later for films by pioneer screenwriter Frances Marion. Pitts made her debut in the silent film, "The Little Princess" (fy|1917), starring Mary Pickford. Pitts became a leading lady in Erich von Stroheim's masterpiece, "Greed" (fy|1924); based on this performance, von Stroheim labeled Pitts, "the greatest dramatic actress." Von Stroheim also featured her in his films, "The Wedding March" (fy|1928), and, "Walking Down Broadway" (fy|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 (fy|1919). In 1920 she met and married potential matinée idol, Tom Gallery, and paired up with him in several films, including, "Bright Eyes" (fy|1921), "Heart of Twenty" (fy|1920), "Patsy" (fy|1921) and, "A Daughter of Luxury" (fy|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's epic classic, "Greed" (fy|1924), a nine-hour-plus picture, edited to under two hours. The surprise casting initially shocked Hollywood, but showed that Pitts could draw tears with her doleful demeanor as well as laughs. The movie has gained respect over time, having failed initially at the box office due to its extensive cutting.

Pitts enjoyed her greatest fame in the 1930s, often starring in B movies and comedy shorts, 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, 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. By this time Pitts was established as a comedienne, and audiences didn't accept her as a brainy sleuth.

Trading between comedy shorts and features, Pitts earned praises in such heavy dramas as "Sins of the Fathers" (fy|1928), "The Wedding March" (1928), also helmed by von Stroheim, and "War Nurse" (fy|1930). By the advent of sound, which was an easy transition for her, she was fully secured in comedy. One bitter and huge disappointment was when she was replaced in the war classic "All Quiet on the Western Front" (fy|1930) by Beryl Mercer after her initial appearance in previews drew unintentional laughs. She decided, however, to make the most of the situation. She had viewers rolling in the aisles in such wonderful entertainment as, "The Dummy" (fy|1929), "Finn and Hattie" (fy|1931), "The Guardsman" (1931), "Blondie of the Follies" (fy|1932), "Sing and Like It" (fy|1934) and "Ruggles of Red Gap" (fy|1935). She excelled in her comedy partnerships with comedienne Thelma Todd (in short films) and comedian Slim Summerville (in features).

In the 1940s, she also found work in Vaudeville and on radio, trading quivery banter with Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, and Rudy Vallee, among others. She tackled Broadway, making her debut in the mystery, "Ramshackle Inn", in 1944. The play, written expressly for her, fared well, and she took the show on the road in later years. Post-war films continued to give Pitts the chance to play comic snoops and flighty relatives in such fare as, "Life with Father" (fy|1947), but in the 1950s she started focusing on TV. This culminated in her best known series role, playing second banana to cruiseline social director Gale Storm in "The Gale Storm Show" (ytv|1956), as Elvira Nugent ("Nugie") [a.k.a., "Oh, Susannah"] , the shipboard beautician.

Pitts' last role, shortly before her death, was as a voice actress (switchboard operator) in the Stanley Kramer comedy, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (fy|1963). A street in Las Vegas, Nevada is named after her.


*John E. Woodall (8 October 1933 – 7 June 1963) (her death)

*Tom Gallery (23 July 1920 – 2 May 1933) (divorced); two children: Ann Gallery (natural) and Don Gallery (born Marvin Carville La Marr), whom they adopted and renamed after the 1926 drug-related death of his mother and Pitts' good friend, silent film actress Barbara La Marr.


Ill health dominated Pitts' later years after she was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1950s. She continued to work until the very end, making brief appearances in "The Thrill of It All" (fy|1963) with Doris Day and James Garner, and the all-star comedy epic, "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963). She died at age 69 in Hollywood, California, leaving behind a gallery of scene-stealing worrywarts for all to enjoy.

Pitts was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, in Culver City, California.


*She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1994, she was honored with her image on a United States postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
*Was an excellent cook and a collector of candy recipes, which culminated into a cookbook entitled "Candy Hits by ZaSu Pitts" which was published posthumously in 1963.
*Mae Questel caricatured Pitts's voice for the character Olive Oyl for the Fleischer Studios animated cartoon version of the comic strip "Popeye".
*From the 1940s through the early 1960s, Pitts also made numerous television appearances, including her role in "Oh! Susanna" (1956-1960), with Gale Storm. As Nugie, the shipboard beautician and partner-in-crime, she made the most of her timid, twitchy mannerisms.
*She was on radio, appearing several times on the earliest Fibber McGee and Molly show. Her character was a somewhat dipsy dame who was constantly looking for a husband.
*Referred to sadistic gossip columnist Hedda Hopper as a "ferret".
*Conservative both politically and financially, she left her lucrative job with Thelma Todd over a money dispute with Hal Roach, and often complained about taxes.
* In Parsons, Kansas, there is a star tile at the Parsons Theatre to remember her by. It is placed at the entrance for movie-goers to see.
* During the 1980s, a large R&B/Soul band based in San Francisco performed under the name "The ZaSu Pitts Memorial Orchestra"


*"Uneasy Money" (short subject)
*"Tillie of the Nine Lives" (short subject)
*"A Desert Dilemma" (short subject)
*"His Fatal Beauty" (short subject)
*"Canning the Cannibal King" (short subject)
*"He Had 'em Buffaloed" (short subject)
*"The Battling Bellboy" (short subject)
*"O-My the Tent Mover" (short subject)
*"Behind the Map" (short subject)
*"Why They Left Home" (short subject)
*"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (role unconfirmed)
*"The Little Princess"
*"A Modern Musketeer" (short subject)

*"A Dog's Life" (short subject) (scenes deleted)
*"Who's Your Wife?"
*"Good Night, Paul" (role unconfirmed)
*"How Could You Jean?"
*"The Pie Eyed Piper" (short subject)
*"A Society Sensation" (short subject)
*"The Talk of the Town"
*"The Greatest Thing in Life" (scenes deleted)
*"A Lady's Name"

*"As the Sun Went Down" (1919)
*"Sunnyside" (short subject) (scenes deleted)
*"Men, Women, and Money"
*"Better Times"
*"Poor Relations"
*"The Other Half"

*"Seeing It Through"
*"Bright Skies"
*"Heart of Twenty"


*"Is Matrimony a Failure?"
*"For the Defense"
*"Youth to Youth"
*"A Daughter of Luxury"

*"Poor Men's Wives"
*"Souls for Sale" (Cameo)
*"The Girl Who Came Back"
*"Mary of the Movies" (Cameo)
*"Three Wise Fools"
*"Hollywood" (Cameo)
*"West of the Water Tower"

*"Daughters of Today"
*"The Goldfish"
*"Changing Husbands"
*"Legend of Hollywood"
*"Wine of Youth" (scenes deleted)
*"The Fast Set"
*"Secrets of the Night"

*"1925 Studio Tour" (short subject)
*"The Great Divide"
*"The Re-Creation of Brian Kent"
*"Old Shoes"
*"Pretty Ladies"
*"A Woman's Faith"
*"The Business of Love"
*"Thunder Mountain"
*"Wages for Wives"
*"The Great Love"

*"What Happened to Jones"
*"Monte Carlo"
*"Early to Wed"
*"Sunny Side Up"
*"Risky Business"
*"Her Big Night"

*"Casey at the Bat"

*"13 Washington Run"
*"Wife Savers"
*"Buck Privates"
*"The Wedding March"
*"Sins of the Fathers"

*"The Dummy"
*"The Squall"
*"Twin Beds"
*"The Argyle Case"
*"Her Private Life"
*"Oh, Yeah!"
*"The Locked Door"
*"This Thing Called Love"

*"No, No, Nanette"
*"All Quiet on the Western Front" (appeared in silent version)
*"The Devil's Holiday"
*"Little Accident"
*"The Squealer"
*"Monte Carlo"
*"War Nurse"
*"The Lottery Bride"
*"River's End"
*"Sin Takes a Holiday"
*"Passion Flower"
*"Free Love"1931
*"Screen Snapshots Series 10, No. 6" (1931) (short subject)
*"Finn and Hattie"
*"The Bad Sister"
*"Beyond Victory"
*"Let's Do Things" (short subject)
*"A Woman of Experience"
*"Their Mad Moment"
*"Catch as Catch Can" (short subject)
*"The Big Gamble"
*"Penrod and Sam"
*"The Pajama Party" (short subject)
*"The Guardsman"
*"War Mamas" (short subject)
*"The Secret Witness"
*"On the Loose" (short subject)

*"The Unexpected Father"
*"Broken Lullaby"
*"Seal Skins" (short subject)
*"Steady Company"
*"Red Noses" (short subject)
*"Destry Rides Again"
*"Strictly Unreliable"
*"The Trial of Vivienne Ware"
*"Strangers of the Evening"
*"Westward Passage"
*"The Old Bull" (short subject)
*"Is My Face Red?"
*"Make Me a Star"
*"Roar of the Dragon"
*"The Vanishing Frontier"
*"Show Business" (short subject)
*"Blondie of the Follies"
*"Back Street"
*"Alum and Eve" (short subject)
*"The Crooked Circle"
*"Once in a Lifetime"
*"The Soilers" (short subject)
*"Madison Sq. Garden"
*"Sneak Easily" (short subject)

*"They Just Had to Get Married"
*"Asleep in the Feet" (short subject)
*"Maids a la Mode" (short subject)
*"Out All Night"
*"The Bargain of the Century" (short subject)
*"Hello, Sister"
*"One Track Minds" (short subject)
*"Professional Sweethearts"
*"Her First Mate"
*"Love, Honor and Oh Baby!"
*"Aggie Appleby Maker of Men"
*"Meet the Baron"
*"Mr. Skitch"

*"The Meanest Gal in Town"
*"Two Alone"
*"Three on a Honeymoon"
*"Sing and Like It"
*"Love Birds"
*"Private Scandal"
*"Their Big Moment"
*"Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch"
*"The Gay Bride"

*"Ruggles of Red Gap"
*"Spring Tonic"
*"She Gets Her Man"
*"Hot Tip"
*"Going Highbrow"
*"The Affair of Susan"

*"Thirteen Hours by Air"
*"Mad Holiday"
*"The Plot Thickens"
*"Sing Me a Love Song"

*"Merry Comes to Town"
*"Forty Naughty Girls"
*"52nd Street"

*"The Lady's from Kentucky"
*"Naughty But Nice"
*"Mickey the Kid"
*"Nurse Edith Cavell"
*"Eternally Yours"

*"It All Came True"
*"No, No, Nanette"

*"Uncle Joe"
*"Broadway Limited"
*"Niagara Falls"
*"Weekend for Three"
*"Miss Polly"
*"Mexican Spitfire's Baby"

*"Mexican Spitfire at Sea"
*"The Bashful Bachelor"
*"So's Your Aunt Emma"

*"Let's Face It"

*"Breakfast in Hollywood"

*"The Perfect Marriage"
*"Life with Father"

*"Francis" (1950)
*"Denver and Rio Grande" (1952)
*"Francis Joins the WACs" (1954)
*"This Could Be the Night" (1957)

*"The Teenage Millionaire" (1961)
*"The Thrill of It All" (1963)
*"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963)

ee also

* ZaSu Pitts Memorial Orchestra


External links


NAME= Pitts, ZaSu
DATE OF BIRTH= 1894-1-3
PLACE OF BIRTH= Parsons, Kansas, U.S.
DATE OF DEATH= 1963-6-7, age 69
PLACE OF DEATH= Hollywood, California, U.S.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • ZaSu Pitts — hacia 1920 Nombre real Eliza Susan Pitts Nacimiento 3 de enero de 1894 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Zasu Pitts — (eigentlich: Eliza Susan Pitts; * 3. Januar 1894 in Parsons, Kansas; † 7. Juni 1963 in Hollywood, Kalifornien) war eine US amerikanische Filmschauspielerin. Sie wuchs in Santa Cruz in Kalifornien auf. Ihr ungewöhnlicher Vorname setzt sich aus den …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ZaSu Pitts — (eigentlich: Eliza Susan Pitts; * 3. Januar 1894 in Parsons, Kansas; † 7. Juni 1963 in Hollywood, Kalifornien) war eine US amerikanische Filmschauspielerin. Sie wuchs in Santa Cruz in Kalifornien auf. Ihr ungewöhnlicher Vorname setzt sich aus den …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ZaSu Pitts — (3 de enero de 1894 7 de junio de 1963) fué una actriz estadounidense. En muchos de los créditos de las peliculas en las q participó y artículos contemporaneos, su nombre aparece como Zazu Pitts …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Zasu Pitts — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Pitts. Zasu Pitts …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ZaSu Pitts Memorial Orchestra — The ZaSu Pitts Memorial Orchestra was formed in San Francisco by Stephen Ashman, a bass player. They released several LPs in the 1984 1987 time period and continue to be active. The Orchestra did not have any overt connection to ZaSu Pitts beyond …   Wikipedia

  • ZaSu Pitts Memorial Orchestra — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • Pitts — could refer to:People* Allen Pitts, an American born Canadian football player * Boozer Pitts, an American college football coach * Byron Pitts, an American reporter for CBS * Chester Pitts, an American football player * Charles Pitts, an American …   Wikipedia

  • Zasu — may refer to:*Zasu, Master of the seat, head of the temple (abbot) in Sōkan, the Japanese system of rankings for Buddhist clergy *Zasu (horse) **1974 winner of the Champagne Stakes (Australia), a Group 1 horse race in Australia for two year old… …   Wikipedia

  • Pitts — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Curtis Pitts (1916–2005), Flugzeughersteller (siehe Pitts Special) Karnail Paul Pitts (1977–1999), US amerikanischer Rapper Rafi Pitts (* 1967), britisch iranischer Filmregisseur Trudy Pitts (1933–2010),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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