After one more supporting role in Cecil B. DeMille's Maria Rosa (1916) starring Geraldine Farrar and Wallace Reid, she played the lead in two 1916 films directed by William C. de Mille, Cecil's brother -- Anton the Terrible with Theodore Roberts and The Heir to the Hoorah opposite Thomas Meighan. Her future in cinema appeared promising as she won critical acclaim for her natural and effective performances. In 1917, she made her two final films for Lasky, in both of which her co-star was matinee idol Wallace Reid -- The Golden Fetter and a sequel to the studio's first feature entitled The Squaw Man's Son.

Anita then left Lasky to make six feature films for various independent companies over the course of the next two years -- The Girl Angle (1917), Whatever the Cost (1918), Petticoats and Politics (1918), Mistaken Identity (1919), One Against Many (1919), Stripped for a Million (1919). In all of these films, mainly western or adventure stories giving her the opportunity to play strong, independent heroines, she was the main attraction with star billing. She also kept busy in activities related to her celebrity as a star, undertaking a month-long national speaking tour in 1918 as part of the Liberty Loan Drive for the war effort. This time, she drove a car alone across the continent from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., using the southern or "Santa Fe" route through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and on to the nation's capital. (26) Yet, despite this apparent high point in her career, after 1919, she suddenly vanished from the screen, never to make another film appearance. The reason remains something of a mystery. Given the growing tendency towards monopoly and consolidation of the industry in the postwar era, perhaps some of her independent features had difficulty getting booking in theatres dominated by the major producers. Additionally, in contrast to films produced by such giant corporations as Paramount, Universal and Fox, it may be that her independent features were unable to generate the steady, frequent publicity needed to sustain a stellar career on the screen.

However, even though her acting days were over, Anita did not lose interest in filmmaking and in the 1920s sought a second career in films as a scenarist. The San Francisco Chronicle of August 12, 1926, carried an article on Anita the day after her arrival from Hawaii "where she has been gathering scenario material:"

Dusky dancing, maidens garbed in grass skirts and ankle bracelets are never old stuff so far as the moving picture fans are concerned, says Miss Anita King, scenario writer of Hollywood. She reached San Francisco from the Hawaiian islands on the liner President Taft. She has been gathering plot material in the South Seas for the movie thriller which she expects to work up. Miss King is a former motion picture actress. She was the "original Paramount girl" in the early days of the industry when Mary Pickford was a "baby star." She later gave up acting for the preparation of film material. In 1915, Miss King attained publicity when she drove alone in an automobile from San Francisco to New York, stopping at 100 theaters en route. The trip took forty-six days and was considered a feat. "Now with my mother, four children, the cat and the parrot, I often make the same trip in twelve days," said Miss King with a laugh. "Nobody thinks anything about it." (27)
The article raises several unanswered questions. Was she writing her scenarios under a pseudonym or working as an uncredited script doctor? No screenplay under the name of Anita King is listed in the American Film Institute catalogue of feature films of 1921-30. It is not even certain if the planned film on the South Seas was ever realized. And the reference to her mother and four children in the article is especially baffling. Anita's mother had died 28 years before, in 1898, and even the studio publicity linking her to the Mexican Revolution had acknowledged her mother's decease. Could she have been referring to a mother-in-law? Yet, while Anita was reportedly engaged to an officer in the military during 1918, they did not marry and she remained single for a number of years. Perhaps the children to which she referred were nieces and nephews.

Copyright 2003 William M. Drew

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Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Endnotes

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