Zasu Pitts

Zasu Pitts

Birth Name: Eliza Susan Pitts

Birthdate: January 3, 1894

Number of films Zasu Pitts made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Lowdown:

Named after her father’s two sisters, Eliza Susan Pitts would later legally adopt the stage name “Zasu” (pronounced SAY-ZOO by the actress). Cutting her teeth in the theater, Pitts would go on to become a prominent silent film actress before transitioning to the talkies, Broadway, and then finally finishing out her career with a series of supporting roles on television.

Only sharing two small roles with Bogart, and mostly used for comic relief, I was struck by how compelling Pitts could be onscreen. Dour-faced and grumpy, she could still steal every scene she walked through with just the right flustered expression or an angry “Hmm!” Having never seen Pitts before I watched It All Came True, she was one of the first actresses that I’ve come across for this blog that I instantly wanted to explore further.

While I’ve only begun to chip away at the legacy of work that Pitts has left behind, here’s a short summary of her work with Bogie.

The Filmography:

The Bad Sister – 1931

The Bad Sister - Zasu Pitts

Pitts plays Minnie, the maidservant to the Madison family. I thought Pitts had the standout performance of the film with her impeccable timing and ability to get laughs with little more than a frustrated “Hmm!” every time one of the main characters did something to complicate her life. I think one of the hardest roles to pull off is the likable grouch, but Pitts proved she was more than up for the challenge. Apparently, after her career in the silent films, Pitts was often relegated to smaller roles like this one in the talkies and used mostly for comic relief. While she may not have been given the full opportunity to shine here, she definitely helps save this dramedy from melodramatic overindulgence.

My original write-up on the film can be found here . . .

It All Came True – 1940

It all came true - zasu pittsAnn Sheridan with Pitts . . .

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Pitts plays Miss Flint, the addle-minded boarding house tenant who shares a bathroom with Bogart’s gangster on the run, Chips Maguire. It’s another scene stealing performance for Pitts as she spends most of the movie snooping on Bogart’s toilet habits and fretting over imaginary stalkers. Of all the films that I’ve watched for the blog so far, It All Came True has been one of the real hidden gems that I believe deserves a lot more notice. Pitts plays a wonderful basket case, and while I felt that she was a little underused (couldn’t we have had a little less of the other boarders and more Zasu?), she has a number of good scenes with Ann Sheridan and the other goofball characters that are sharing a house together.

My original write-up on the film can be found here . . .

In Closing . . .

A quick perusal of Twitter and Google shows me that there are quite a few Zasu fans out there keeping her memory alive with a lot of love and affection. While she may not have been a major player in Bogart’s life, her work elevated the quality of two of his smaller films. This’ll will hopefully be one of those posts that I’ll be able to add to over time as I continue to explore her filmography!

Zasu Pitts’ IMDB page can be found here . . .

Zasu Pitts’ Wiki page can be found here . . .

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can check out other entries in the series here.

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8 thoughts on “Zasu Pitts

  1. I like her in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, where she plays the switchboard operator in the Santa Rosita Police Department. A small role, but good screen time!

      • This is just my opinion as a long-time movie fan — but I think it’s the funniest comedy film ever made. I especially like seeing it in a movie theater. The AFI Silver in Silver Spring, MD, recently ran a 70mm print as part of a special “70mm movies” series, and I drove a couple hours to see it. Extravagant? Well, maybe — but how often will I have a chance to see one of my favorite movies in a theater in a 70mm format? I also saw the restored print of Peter Lorre’s film “Three Strangers” there last fall during the annual Film Noir fest. . . . .

      • “rear Window” is an excellent movie to see in a theater — especially because of the apartment set, which was all built in a sound stage.

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