Actress. Born Eliza Susan Pitts in Parsons, Kansas, she was named for her mother's two sisters, each of whom wanted the child named after her, this resulted in ZaSu early in life. It didn't require a Hollywood agent. She moved to Santa Cruz as a child where her talent was recognized and encouraged from her start in high school plays. She staged a benefit, at the local opera house in 1914 to finance her trip to Hollywood. ZaSu was married twice, the first time to actor Tom Gallery, from 1920 to 1932. They had a daughter together. ZaSu then married John Woodall in 1933, a marriage that lasted until her death. Mary Pickford is credited with giving her credited roles in The Little Princess and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in 1917. Known for her comedic roles, particularly after the advent of the talkies, she was teamed with W.C. Fields, Thelma Todd and Slim Summerville. Erich von Stroheim cast her in 1923 for the lead female role in Greed, his legendary epic. He was later to say of her "One looks at Zasu Pitts and sees pathos, even tragedy, and a wistfulness that craves for something she has never had or hopes to have. Yet she is one of the happiest and most contented women I have ever known." When she was cast as the mother in All Quiet on the Western Front, a serious role, the pre-conditioned audience broke out in laughter. Devastated, the director reshot all the scenes with another actress for the final version of the film. She was typecast for good. From the days of "actions speak louder than words" she became known for her trademark hand wringing and her high-pitched voice which were the basis for Olive Oyl in the Popeye cartoons. Her plaintive eyes and signature "Oh dear me," endeared her to many. In the 1950s she played "Elvira ‘Nugey' Nugent" on the TV sitcom The Gale Storm Show, and her TV guest appearances included Perry Mason (Daphne Whilom in the Case of the Absent Artist, 1963), The Spike Jones Show, and The Philco Television Playhouse. She appeared in 1933 with Ted Healy and His Stooges in Meet the Baron and her last film in 1963, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was with Moe Larry and Curly Joe. That same year she died of cancer. With over 500 credits to her name she was a popular supporting actress in movies, the stage, and on TV. She wrote the book Candy Hits by ZaSu Pitts. In April 1994, the ZaSu Pitts stamp was issued by the United States Post Office as one of a group of ten stamps honoring stars of the silent film era. These stamps were designed by Al Hirschfeld. She took her success in stride saying "I never work at being an actress. I just act natural. Tell me anything easier than that."
Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm
In Loving Memory