Sunday, January 12, 2020

Fantagraphics releases volume 5 of Louise Brooks inspired Valentina comix

Fantagraphics, one of the leading publishers of comix and graphic novels in the world, has announced the release of volume 5 in its ongoing publication of the complete Valentina, by Italian artist Guido Crepax. This 450 page hardcover book retails for $85.00. More information about the book can be found HERE.

In volume 5, "Bonnie and Clyde, Louise Brooks, and the globetrotting photographer Valentina (a movie and TV star herself!) take center stage. The Complete Crepax Vol. 5: American Stories collects stories that span 1968–1986, such as “The Man from Harlem,” Crepax’s ode to boxer Joe Louis and jazz. In other tales, Valentina attempts to balance new relationships with lovers Bruno and Effi alongside the domestic life she shares with Phil. Meanwhile, Valentina’s rich fantasy life goes Hollywood. Bonnie and Clyde make an appearance, and there are several homages to the silent film era. The first is the wordless BDSM classic, “The Magic Lantern”; and in the second, she “meets” one of her inspirations — actress Louise Brooks!"

Guido Crepax was born in Milan in 1933 and died in 2003. After acquiring a degree in architecture, he worked on publicity campaigns for such corporations as Shell and Dunlop and book covers and jazz LP jackets before contributing comics to the Italian magazine Linus in 1965. He went on to become one of Italy’s most important cartoonists. 
 Information about some of the earlier volumes in the series can be found on the Fantagraphics website. Volume 1 does not seem to be available, though volume 4, volume 3, and volume 2 are available, as is a special boxed set of volumes 3 & 4. These books are rather expensive, and are seemingly only? available in a digital format. Fantagraphics is also offering a Valentina game, pictured below. "Valentina: the Game features illustrated snapshots of the globetrotting heroine’s adventures—in glorious color! Players assemble tiles to..."


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, screens in Los Angeles in February

Pandora's Box (1929), starring Louise Brooks, will be shown at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on February 29, 2020. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by composer and jazz pianist Cathlene Pineda along with trumpeter Stephanie Richards and guitarist Jeff Parker. This special event is being presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the American Cinematheque. More information and tickets made be found HERE. [See the previous post for another screening of Pandora's Box in February, this time in England.]

According to the Philharmonic website: "Weimar cinema classic Pandora's Box stars Louise Brooks as Lulu, a dancer-turned-hooker who attracts men (and the occasional Countess) like moths to a candle. Marlene Dietrich, then on the cusp of stardom, was considered for the role of the amoral young woman until director G.W. Pabst fixed on Brooks after seeing her in A Girl in Every Port. The American actress brought a vivacity and naturalism to the role – as well as a distinctive bob hairstyle – that gives one of the wildest performances of the silent era continuing resonance with audiences.

If Louise Brooks stands out as an unusually modern woman in Pandora's Box, the film itself serves as a fascinating window on an earlier era. Politicians, titans of industry, and the aristocracy are all part of the milieu Lulu inhabits as the story begins; her eventual descent to a criminal underworld underlines the fragility of German society between the wars. Less than a year after Pandora's Box premiered in Berlin, the stock market crashed in America, pulling the financial rug out from under the Weimar Republic and setting the stage for Hitler’s rise. The Roaring Twenties were over.

While Lulu’s end is not a happy one, Pandora's Box is much more than a juicy morality tale. With tight pacing and a touch of humor, filmmaker Pabst proves a good match for his leading lady (he would also collaborate with Brooks on Diary of a Lost Girl later that year), and Günther Krampf’s B&W cinematography brings the film’s varied people and places into sharp relief. Talent on both sides of the camera elevate what could have been mere melodrama to a celebration of passions unleashed. Even if you can’t always get what you want, desire is a universal language, and Pandora's Box still speaks it eloquently."

[Of course, I have my doubts about A Girl in Every Port leading Pabst to Brooks, but be that as it may.]

The L. A. Philharmonic / American Cinematheque screening is part of a month's worth or related concerts, performances, screenings and exhibits centering on Germany's Weimar Republic  (1918-1933). The Philharmonic's website states "In the 1920s, Germany saw a remarkable cultural renaissance prior to the rise of Nazism. Intellectualism and modernism took root in the chaotic social and economic climate between world wars. The arts and sciences burst with imagination, queer identities were brought to the forefront, and the lines between high and low art were erased. Join in a wide-ranging look at this fascinating, turbulent time." More information about this series of events can be found HERE.

Max Beckmann, Paris Society, 1931. Oil on canvas, 43 x 69 1/8 inches (109.2 x 175.6 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, screens in England in February

Pandora's Box (1929), starring Louise Brooks, will be shown at the Cinema City in Norwich, England on February 24, 2020. More information and tickets made be found HERE.

According to the Cinema City website: "One of the great silent films, G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box is renowned for its sensational storyline, sparkling Weimar-period setting and the legendary, lead performance from its iconic star Louise Brooks. Following the rise and fall of Lulu (Brooks), a spirited but innocent showgirl whose sheer sexual magnetism wreaks havoc on the lives of men and women alike, the film was controversial in its day, then underappreciated for decades. Pandora’s Box now stands as an incredibly modern movie, and few stars of any era dazzle as bright as Louise Brooks."

Speaking of Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box and England, UK author, film critic and Louise Brooks Society friend Pamela Hutchinson has announced that a second edition of her BFI (British Film Institute) Film Classics title, Pandora's Box, will be released this year. Though the book itself is the same, Hutchinson recommended read will feature a new cover! More information about the book can be found HERE.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Louise Brooks and Linda Ronstadt

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of people who share my interest / passion for Louise Brooks. Some are well known. I am thinking of individuals like the singer Rufus Wainwright, novelist Laura Moriarty (The Chaperone), Oscar honoree Kevin Brownlow, actor Paul McGann (Doctor Who), and the singer Linda Ronstadt, to name a few. Last night, I finally had the chance to see the recent documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice. Seeing that film led me to reminisce about the time I met the acclaimed singer.

Our meeting came about this way.... back when I lived in San Francisco, we had a common friend. She was someone I worked with. And as I was always blabbering on about old movies, this friend knew of my interest in silent film, and my regular attendance at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. One day, in 2014, Linda expressed interest in seeing Ramona (1928), a newly found film the Festival had just shown. The now retired singer couldn't make the event, but still hoped to see this early version of the classic California story which starred the Mexican-born actress Dolores del Rio.

Our common friend mentioned Linda's interest, and I offered to loan my review copy of Ramona. The disc was relayed to the singer, and inside I inserted one of my business cards so it might find its way back to me.

I hadn't known it then, but Linda was something of a devotee of Louise Brooks. As I was soon to learn, she had seen a few of Brooks' available films, and had also read the Barry Paris bio and Brooks' own Lulu in Hollywood, as well as the then recently released Brooks' inspired novel, The Chaperone. Seeing my Louise Brooks Society business card peaked Linda's interest, and she asked our common friend if we might like to meet.

I was thrilled. Linda invited me to her San Francisco home and we chatted about Brooks and her life and films for nearly an hour. We talked about Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora's Box, and which we liked the best and how they effected us. We talked about how we first came across the actress, and the remarkable telling of her life story in the Barry Paris biography. I told Linda about the Louise Brooks Society, and about some of my related projects and some of the people I have met, like Barry Paris and filmmaker Hugh Munro Neeley (Louise Brooks Looking for Lulu). She told me about a NYC friend of hers who was writing a play based on Brooks, and about how she wore her hair in a bob inspired by the silent film star (see the portrait above), and how on Halloween she would sometimes dress up like a flapper a la Brooks! As comes across in Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, the singer is someone keenly interested in the world and culture, be it in music, art, people, or film. Linda told me she had seen other silent movies, and had even once met Lillian Gish.

Eager to see other Brooks' films and learn more about the actress, Linda asked to borrow a few DVDs as well as Peter Cowie's then out-of-print and somewhat hard-to-find coffee table book, Louise Brooks Lulu Forever. I loaned her some silent film DVDs, as well as the Cowie book. Linda liked the latter so much she asked me to track down a copy for her, which I did.

In the years since, Linda and I visited a couple more times, and have exchanged emails on a few other occasions. It has been a great pleasure to know her, if only just a bit, and to share a mutual enthuisism. That's is what the "Society" in Louise Brooks Society is all about. If you haven't seen Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, I encourage everyone to do so. It is terrific, entertaining, rather interesting, and even inspiring. In the words of the Hollywood Reporter, it "will make you fall in love with [Linda] all over again" and "will delight the singer's old fans and likely make her many new ones as well.” I really enjoyed it. And I think you will too.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society ( )
featuring pictures of the actress in The American Venus
(Be sure and check out the previous blog post for
even more images from The American Venus.)

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society ( )

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society ( )


Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society ( )

(Be sure and check out the previous blog post for even more images from The American Venus.)

Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year's Eve in the film career of Louise Brooks

December 31st, or New Year's Eve, is a significant date in the career of Louise Brooks, especially in regards to her now lost 1926 film, The American Venus. (Be sure and check out the next blog post for even more images from The American Venus.)

(Left) Fay Lanphier adorns one if the film's original posters. (Right) As does Louise Brooks, though she is not named.
As most fans know, The American Venus is a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a beauty pageant, namely the actual 1925 Miss America contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The 1925 contest was won by Fay Lanphier, the first Miss California to claim the crown. After winning Miss America, Lanphier was selected to appear in The American Venus, part of which were shot at the Atlantic City event. The film is the second in which Louise Brooks appeared, and the first for which she received screen credit.

The film was officially released on January 25, 1926. However, as far as I have been able to determine, The American Venus was publicly shown for the FIRST time almost a month earlier, on December 31, 1925 at the American theater in Oakland, California (Fay Lanphier's hometown) as the centerpiece of a special New Year’s Eve benefit screening.

The secondary headline in the hard-to-read article above notes "American Bills First Eastbay Showing of Picture for New Year's Eve." It is suggested that one of the stars of the film, local celebrity Fay Lanphier, would make a special appearance at the benefit event. However, four days later, the local press announced that Lanphier would not be present, as she had been selected Rose Bowl Queen**, and would instead be taking part in the annual Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year's Day. Nevertheless, the screening still took place.

The American Venus proved popular upon release, and continued to be shown around the United States for an unusually long two plus years. Though largely eye-candy, many fans and at least a few critics responded positively to the numerous scantily clad bathing beauties, elaborate tableaux and fashion show, as well as the film’s pioneering use of Technicolor. The critic for the Boston Herald wrote, “The scenes made at Atlantic City and during the prologue are artistically done in Technicolor. Comedy relief in abundance is furnished by a wild automobile chase replete with giggles and thrills. The picture on the whole is entertaining.”

As far as I have been able to determine, one of the very LAST public screenings of The American Venus also took place on New Year's Eve when the Ramona theater in Phoenix, Arizona showed the film on December 31, 1927 at a midnight matinee. This pair of advertisements comes from the Arizona Republic newspaper and is dated Friday, December 30, 1927. Notably, The American Venus wasn't the only Brooks' film showing in town. On New Year's Eve, the Rialto was opening the recently released Now We're in the Air.

As mentioned earlier, The American Venus proved popular, enough so that it continued being shown into the early sound era. The last showings I have been able to find include one in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in March, 1928 and another in Billings, Montana in August, 1928. The "Today" advertisement below comes from Billings.

** To date, Fay Lanphier is the only person to hold both titles -- Miss America and Rose Bowl Queen -- at the same time. (Be sure and check out the next blog post for even more images from The American Venus.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Happy Christmas from the Louise Brooks Society


Happy Holidays from the Louise Brooks Society. Here follows a snapshot of the Louise Brooks bulb which hangs on my X-Mas tree. It is handmade, and crafted by a fan; I believe I purchased it on eBay a number of years ago -- perhaps as long ago as ten or fifteen years ago. Does anyone else have hand made Louise Brooks ornaments?

On Christmas Day in 1927, according to various press accounts, Louise Brooks was a guest at the home of Wallace Beery.

Irene Thirer wrote in the New York Daily News about celebrity plans for celebrating Christmas. Among the guests Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Beery are expected to share the holiday are Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Hatton and "Eddie Sutherland and his lovely wife, Louise Brooks." Other newspapers across the country report the same. Rosalind Shaffer's syndicated Chicago Tribune piece, "Lavish Entertainments Mark Christmas in Hollywood," notes "Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Beery have a venison feast off a dear that Wallace killed for their day's feature. Raymond Hatton, Mrs. Hatton, Louise Brooks and Eddie Sutherland, her husband, dine with the Beerys."

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