By the 1920s, child actress turned screenwriter Anita Loos had already written dozens of silent films and two books on breaking into the film business. But it was her first novel, serialized in Harper's Bazaar, that made her name in publishing. Edith Wharton called it "the great American novel." In 1926, her tale of Lorelei Lee, the archetypal "dumb blonde" gold digger from Arkansas, made Loos an international celebrity. The novel was translated into several languages.

Her stage version of the story opened in New York in September 1926 and later toured successfully. In 1928, the first film version appeared featuring Ruth Taylor in the lead role. Loos wrote the titles (it was a silent film) with Herman J. Mankiewicz. Loos then wrote a sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, published in 1928. It, too, was a hit.

Two decades later she co-wrote, with Joseph Fields, the book for a musical version, with music by Jules Styne and lyrics by Leo Robin. The show includes the songs "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," "Bye Bye Baby," and "I'm Just a Little Girl From Little Rock." The original Broadway production opened December 1949 at the Ziegfield theatre. It starred Carol Channing and ran for 740 performances. (The first West End production, which starred Dora Byran, opened in 1962 and lasted for 223 performances.) Fox optioned the script for a Betty Grable vehicle, but decided to go with a sexier and less expensive Marilyn Monroe. Howard Hawks directed this 1953 version, which also starred Jane Russell. Two songs by Hoagy Carmichael were added to the film, "When Love Goes Wrong," and "Anyone Here for Love."