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Actress ZaSu Pitts is Dead

June 7, 1963 - Actress ZaSu Pitts (pictured in 1932) died of cancer this morning at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Hollywood, where she was admitted yesterday. She was 63 years old. Miss Pitts was a delicate, reedlike woman with plaintive eyes and fluttering hands. More than any of her other characteristics, her whimpering drawl established her identity and turned her into one of the screen’s most celebrated comediennes. But when Miss Pitts attempted a serious role as Lew Ayres’s bereaved mother in “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), she received a bitter disappointment. At a preview of the film, audiences could not reconcile her comic image with her role, and they laughed at her death scene. The producers reshot her scenes with another actress, Beryl Mercer, and Miss Pitts was typed as a fluttery comedienne for the rest of her life. The preview audience of “All Quiet” remains the only one who saw Pitts in the role, although she does appear for about 30 seconds in the film's original preview trailer. Miss Pitts received her unusual first name, ZaSu, in an unusual way. Her mother had two sisters, Susan and Eliza, of whom she was very fond. When the time came to christen the baby, Mrs. Pitts could not decide after which aunt to name the child, so she took the first syllable of one name and the last syllable of the other.

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