Zoe Akins (1886-1958) was a playwright, poet, critic and novelist. Born in the small town of Humansville, Missouri, she was encouraged to write by her father. Drawn to the theatre, she also briefly tried an acting career—but after a season of walk-ons, she decided to focus on writing.
Her first play to be produced in New York was the verse drama The Magical City (1915), performed by the Washington Square Players. In 1919, Akins made her Broadway debut with Papa: An Amorality in Three Acts, which had originally been published in 1913 as part of the influential Modern Drama series.
Despite critical acclaim, Papa was not a success, but Akins’ next Broadway play, Déclassé (1919), about a glamorous woman caught between romance and principle, was a bona fide hit. Akins moved to Manhattan full time—she had been living near St. Louis—and over the next 16 years, she would have 16 plays produced on Broadway. Her most famous play was the salacious comedy The Greeks Had a Word for It (1930), about three gold-digging chorus girls who pose as millionaires in order to land rich husbands.
In the 1920’s, movie studios began approaching Akins for rights to her scripts—her play The Moonflower was bought for $8,000; Greeks was bought for $80,000, then an incredible sum. In 1929, Akins moved to Hollywood, writing or co-writing 13 screenplays over the next nine years. She spent the rest of her life in California, though she continued to write for Broadway (winning the 1935 Pulitzer for The Old Maid) and later radio and television.