Tuesday, April 15, 2014

God's Gift to Women - A Round up of Reviews

God's Gift to Women, Louise Brooks' third American talkie, was officially released on this day in 1931. The film is a pre-code romantic comedy - or rather a farce - about a Parisian playboy who falls in love with an American girl, but cannot consummate his love for fear of his life. An eminent cardiologist warned his terrified patient, “No excitement and no women. One kiss and you die!”

The film stars Frank Fay (the Parisian playboy), Laura LaPlante (his love interest), and Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell, Margaret Livingston, and Yola d'Avril (feminine distraction to the Parisian playboy). Charles Winninger plays the father of the love interest. This Warner Brothers film, based on the play called The Devil Was Sick by Jane Hinton, was directed by the great Michael Curtiz.

When first completed, God's Gift to Women included a few musical numbers, but due to growing audience distaste for musicals in the United States, all of the songs were cut in American prints of the film. Frank Fay (then Barbara Stanwyck's husband) sang the film's theme song, which is heard over the credits and is underscored several times throughout the story. As well, there is an elaborate dance number featuring the Sisters "G" (Eleanor and Karla Gutchrlein) in the nightclub sequence at the beginning of the film. The complete film was released intact in other countries; today, however, only the American version sans music is thought to have survived. The Warner Archive Collection released God's Gift to Women on DVD in December 2012.

Despite Frank Fay's then enormous popularity, God's Gift to Women never really caught on. Though an A-list production, the film's silliness garnered it the attention and respect of a B-list flick. [A few songs recorded by Frank Fay can be heard on RadioLulu.] In fact, it was sometimes paired with a lowly instructional golf film featuring golfing star Bobby Jones. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.

anonymous. "Amorous Fluff Amusing at Warner Bros." San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 1931.
--- "The picture is a bit of fluff, but it is amusing and is well produced."

anonymous. "Frank Fay as Don Juan at Warner." San Francisco Examiner, April 19, 1931.
--- "The cast is notable . . . . Joan Blondell, the blonde, and Louise Brooks, the brunette, are prominent among the principals."

anonymous. "Reviews of the New Films." Film Daily, April 19, 1931.
--- capsule review; "Merry French farce with amusing plot and deft comedy work by Frank Fay, fine feminine support and good direction."

Delehanty, Thonton. "The New Film." New York Post, April 21, 1931.
--- "The humor is in the style of the hackneyed French farce, so hackneyed that it is paralyzingly awful."

Mines, Harry. "Bobby Jones Reeler Clicks." Los Angeles Daily Illustrated News, April 25, 1931.
--- "All the girls in the cast have the opportunity to wear beautiful clothes and look their vamnpiest. They are Laura LaPlante, Marguerite Livingston, Yola D'Avril, Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell,, Ethelyn Claire and the Sisters 'G'."

Schallert, Edwin. "First Golfing Picture Clever." Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1931.
--- "Louise Brooks and Yola D'Avril participate zestfully in this conflict."

Starr, Jimmy. "Warner's Hollywood Has F. Fay as Modern Don Juan." Los Angeles Evening Express, April 27, 1931.
--- "Joan Blondell, Louise Brooks and Yola D'Avril are a trio of snappy charmers."

Evans, Harry. "The Movies." Life, May 8, 1931.
--- "These few amusing moments are the film's total assets - unless you haven't seen Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell and Yola D'Avril in their underwear."

Monday, April 14, 2014

More Louise Brooks and Poland - Photography of Piotr Pietryga

While searching under the keywords "Puszka Pandory" (a Polish name for Pandora's Box), I came across an intriguing Polish website devoted to the photographic art of Piotr Pietryga. One series that caught my eye was devoted to images of restaged scenes and characters from silent films, including The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Metropolis, and Pandora's Box. Here are a few images. (See more of this photographer's work on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PiotrPietryga)

Gabinet Doktora Caligari

Gabinet Doktora Caligari

Puszka Pandory

Puszka Pandory

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Imaginary encounter between Fernando Pessoa, Pablo Picasso, and Louise Brooks.

Today in Barcelona, Spain -- an imaginary encounter between Fernando Pessoa, Pablo Picasso, and Louise Brooks.

There will be a staged reading of Imaginary Encontros, the title of a text by Hélder Costa, playwright and Portuguese director - with the participation of 21 players from the Catalan theater scene. This special event takes place at the El Born Centre Cultural (Pl Comercial, 12, Barcelona, 08003).


Els Encontros Imaginaris són set lectures dramatitzades a partir dels textos de l’Hélder Costa, el dramaturg i director portuguès, -excepte una-, amb una senzilla i cuidada posada en escena dins la peculiar atmosfera de la Sala Moragues del Born CC, i que comptarà amb la participació de 21 intèrprets de l’escena teatral catalana.

Als Encontros Imaginaris, diversos personatges històrics universals conversen en format de tertúlia, despertant somriures i complicitats a partir d’uns textos plens d’intel·ligència i d’humor.

En aquesta primera edició al Born CC podrem comptar amb un Encontro Imaginari, l’últim, escrit per Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, que posarà a conversar el gran Àngel Guimerà amb en Frederic Soler (Pitarra) i la Margarida Xirgu!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Law of the Looking Glass: Cinema in Poland

Lately, I've been reading a terrific book, Law of the Looking Glass: Cinema in Poland, 1896-1939 by Sheila Skaff. The book was published by Ohio University Press in 2008. There is nothing specific in the book about Louise Brooks, but there is a lot of useful material about the silent and early sound era in Poland - a country whose history and contribution to world cinema is too little known.

Films from other countries - including American, French, German, Czech and Russian silents, were shown in Poland alongside Polish-made fair. Those imported films included Brooks' American, German, and sole French film. So far, I have been able to document the premieres of both Lulu (the Polish title for Pandora's Box), Prix de Beaute and other films in Warsaw, the capitol of Poland.

I found out, for example, that the Casino theater in Warsaw, the theater where Lulu was shown, was a major cinema in the Polish capitol.

The great thing about Law of the Looking Glass: Cinema in Poland, 1896-1939 is that it offers clues about where else to look for material about Louise Brooks and the reception of her films. Skaff's book discusses the surprising number of film publications (both industry journals and fan magazines) which were issued not just in Warsaw, but also in Krakow and elsewhere. Of course, accessing those publications is the tricky part. Few American libraries have them.

Happily, I was able to search through a couple of Polish publications over the web. Here is a piece about director G.W. Pabst which mentions Lulu. It is from Kino: tygodnik ilustrowany from 1932.

Friday, April 11, 2014


While doing research a few years back, I found this item in an Austrian newspaper dating from 1928. As may be noticed, portraits of each individual are composed of the letters of their name. Pretty cool. Can anyone come up with a similar Louise Brooks name-o-graph?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Louise Brooks Society blog in 2009

Believe it or not, but the Louise Brooks Society started blogging back in 2002. The LBS started on LiveJournal, and moved to Blogger in June of 2009. In the last year or so, the LBS has been migrating many of the earlier LiveJournal posts over to this blog. (The ephemeral ones, about now long-passed eBay auctions, etc..., were not moved.) So far, the 2002 and 2003 posts have been relocated. And just recently, most all of the 2009 posts have also found a home here.

Below are some of the highlights from 2009. It was a great year. Check out these posts, as well as all of the earlier entries in the blog archive located in the column on the right.

Did small pox kill The Canary Murder Case?

David Levine, painter and illustrator, has died

Unusual 1954 Louise Brooks image for sale

A Screen Test for Bobbed Hair

Italian censorship of Louise Brooks' films

Louise Brooks look-alike in new Dr. Who comic

A wow Louise Brooks discovery

What Becomes of the "Follies" Girls

A vintage Russian Lulu - at last

A remarkable 1932 reference to Louise Brooks

A Shakespearean Lulu

Alan Moore on " the delectable Louise Brooks"

Lulu in Calcutta, 1966

Philip Jose Farmer Has Died

Lulu in Hollywood - the Russian Edition

No wonder they complained about nudity

Guy Maddin mentions Louise Brooks

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cool pic of the day: Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box

Cool pic of the day: Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box (1929) . . . . what's interesting about this screen capture of a passing moment in a moving picture is its timeless, almost composed quality.