Short, Besa (unknown–1974)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: August 5, 2020

Besa Short, film executive, began her work in entertainment with the Dallas Little Theatre (see THEATER), a nationally recognized amateur organization that flourished in the city throughout the 1920s and 1930s. She contributed to organizing and planning the Little Theatre and subsequently worked as its press agent and executive secretary. At least some of her work with the theater was voluntary, and one local paper referred to her as a "society woman" at the time she became involved with this group. Her husband, Paul Short, was a theater manager and motion-picture executive who had moved to Dallas to work for R. J. O'Donnell, head of the Southwest division of Publix Theatres. In the late 1920s Short moved from the Little Theatre to serve as publicist for several motion-picture theaters in Dallas, a position apparently offered to her by O'Donnell. Through their work both Besa and her husband were involved with Texas show business executive Karl Hoblitzelle, whose Interstate theater chain ultimately purchased Publix and employed O'Donnell. By 1933 Short was an advance agent for Interstate, and the following year Hoblitzelle and O'Donnell asked her to direct the chain's new short subjects department. Interstate's executives' interest in short subject films, which usually ran twelve to fifteen minutes, derived from their desire to avoid adopting the increasingly common practice of offering two feature films at one showing to entice audiences into theaters during the Great Depression. Hoblitzelle and O'Donnell encouraged Short to use her new department to offer an alternative to these double billings by booking into their 165 theaters in Texas and New Mexico a well-designed program that balanced feature films with short subject specials. Short, the only woman in the country involved in this kind of work at this time, took their challenge and quickly developed a nationally recognized department. Her comprehensive publicity and booking plan included weekly bulletins, special events at theaters to showcase short subject films, and a consistent strategy of using the "shorts"-from Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny cartoons to documentary films-as garnishment and balance to feature films. Responsible for the overall program arrangement at all of Interstate's movie houses, she watched virtually every film produced in Hollywood, provided program suggestions to theater managers, and used advertisements that equally emphasized feature and short films. Throughout her career the coincidental match of her name and her film specialty added to her recognition. By 1946, when she resigned her position, Short was the best-known short-subject film expert in the nation and was credited with building her division at Interstate into a national model. At her departure from Dallas, her work was praised by show business leaders around the United States, including Walt Disney, who noted Short's significant role in making Disney cartoons an important nationwide entertainment factor. Short moved to California in the fall of 1946 to join her husband, who had taken a job with Paramount studios. That same year she became director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's short subjects department. The Shorts returned to Dallas in 1950. Short devoted most of her energy to her career, but she did participate in some volunteer efforts in World War II, and she enjoyed golfing when time allowed. She was featured in American Magazine in 1937 for her motion picture work and during her career was honored for her contributions to short-subject films by both the Associated Motion Picture Advertisers and the Short Subject Producers. Preceded in death by her husband in 1967, Besa Short died in Dallas on August 19, 1974. She was survived by one nephew and was buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

"America's Interesting People," American Magazine, December 1937. Dallas Morning News, March 24, 28, August 18, November 20, 1941, August 10, 15, 24, November 6, 1946, August 20, 1974. Dallas Times Herald, April 28, 1967. New York Times, November 16, 1941. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Short, Besa,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
August 5, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: