Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A few thoughts on the Louise Brooks-inspired PBS Masterpiece film, The Chaperone

I've seen The Chaperone, and I like it. It's a good film, and its heart is in the right place. I could well imagine watching it again in the future when I want a dose of Haley Lu Richardson's charm: she is the young actress who plays a young Louise Brooks. I think fans of Louise Brooks will also like it. Except for a few historical gaffs (all of which are subtle, and only one of which is a bit egregious), it is faithful to what we know about Brooks and her times. I won't say anymore about the film while I compose my thoughts for a proper review.



The Chaperone -- the first theatrical release from PBS Masterpiece -- will have only a limited theatrical release. That's unfortunate, because I think this film has the potential to help swell the ranks of Brooks' many fans. It should also draw new readers to Laura Moriarty's novel of the same name, on which the film is based.

The Chaperone opens March 29th in New York City. It opens on April 5th in Los Angeles, and then in other select cities throughout April and May. Those cities include Washington D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon. It also opens in April in Philadelphia, a city mentioned in the film. One city also mentioned in the film where no opening date has yet been set (at least according to the film's website as of today) is Wichita, Kansas -- Brooks' hometown and the setting for some of the early and late scenes in the film. The cities and theaters where the film is set to open can be found at www.thechaperonefilm.com I encourage everyone to check whether The Chaperone is showing in a theater near them.

Much has been made about the connections between The Chaperone and Downton Abbey, the wildly popular PBS series. It's been something I've been talking about (see this 2012 Film International interview) and blogging about (see this 2013 Louise Brooks Society blog) for more than a few years. The film's website www.thechaperonefilm.com reveals even more.

The Chaperone audiobook,
read by Elizabeth McGovern
Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern is also the star of The Chaperone; she plays the title character and also produced the film. According to www.thechaperonefilm.com, "McGovern came to produce and star in an adaptation of Laura Moriarty’s acclaimed eponymous novel in an unlikely fashion—she was hired to read it aloud as an audio book." McGovern recalled, "It was the first time in my life I’ve ever had that moment where I read a book and thought to myself, ‘this would be a fantastic film.’ I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I should be on the lookout in books for great parts, but that never connected for me until I was sitting at a microphone recording an audiobook."


Eventually, McGovern approached Downton Abbey screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who had his own connection to Louise Brooks through his mother. According to www.thechaperonefilm.com, Fellowes recalled, “When my mother was a girl, she used to be mistaken for Louise Brooks, because, in those days, with silent pictures, nobody knew what their voices were like. So, the fact that my mother was English didn’t put fans of the real Louise Brooks off. After a bit, she started signing autographs as if she were Brooks." [See the previous blog for other candidates for the Louise Brooks look-alike hall of fame.]

Fellowes added, "I am very interested by Louise Brooks, who is the central character in both the book and the film. She was a silent film star and rather unusual .... She wasn’t just a kind of Hollywood cutie. She was rather more than that. So, I became very intrigued by this idea of tracing her origins."

Fellowes' efforts in tracing Brooks' origins are affecting. The Chaperone should be of interest to fans of Downton Abbey. Besides its website, there is also a Facebook page and Twitter account and Instagram account to follow the latest on this new film release.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Beatriz Corta, a striking Louise Brooks look-alike from Portugal

This striking Louise Brooks look-alike is Beatriz Corta. I came across this magazine page while researching my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brook. The image is dated 1933. It caught my eye for reasons which may well be evident.... Unfortunately, I couldn't find out much about this Portuguese actress, except that starred in a small number of Portuguese films, including A Minha Noite de Núpcias (1931) and A Canção de Lisboa (1933). Both are referenced in the caption below the portrait. The author of the caption thinks her talent was wasted in the former film, and hopes she will shine in the latter film. Like Louise Brooks, she was, apparently, an under valued talent. Her last film appearance was in 1939, though according to IMdB, she appeared as herself in three early 1980's television shows in Portugal.

Otherwise, IMdB says this about her: "Beatriz Costa was born on December 14, 1907 in Charneca, Milharado, Mafra, Portugal as Maria da Conceicao Costa. She was an actress, known for Aldeia da Roupa Branca (1939), A Song of Lisbon (1933) and O Trevo de Quatro Folhas (1936). She died on April 15, 1996 in Lisbon, Portugal." Might you, dear reader, know more?



Sunday, March 17, 2019

New French comic features a Louise Brooks-inspired character

Thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society member Vanwall Green for sharing this graphic announcing a new Italian comic featuring a Louise Brooks-inspired character. The 304 page comic, Hollywoodland, is by Michele Masiero and Roberto Baldazzini.


[The black-and-white drawing at the bottom of the graphic above resembles, methinks, Haley Lu Richardson, the young actress playing Louise Brooks in the forthcoming PBS masterpiece film, The Chaperone. What do you think?]

Roberto Baldazzini is a well know Italian comix artist. He has drawn many published works, many of which are erotic in nature. Baldazzini has also previously depicted Louise Brooks. (see below) Michele Masiero is also an Italian graphic novelist, which a number of publications to his credit.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Beggars of Life with the Dodge Brothers in Nottingham, England on March 17

Thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society member Meredith Lawrence for letting us know about this Sunday, March 17th screening of Beggars of Life at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham, England. The acclaimed 1928 silent film will be shown with live musical accompaniment by acclaimed The Dodge Brothers together with acclaimed musician Neil Brand. More information on this can be found HERE.


From the venue website:

BEGGARS OF LIFE WITH LIVE MUSIC BY THE DODGE BROTHERS AND NEIL BRAND
Presented in partnership with the Royal Concert Hall

BEGGARS OF LIFE is an intense and entertaining story about oppressed and desperate people on a dangerous journey through the dark underworld of pre-depression America. Cinema icon Louise Brooks plays a girl on the lam after killing her lecherous adoptive father. Dressed in boy's clothes, she navigates through the dangerous tramp underworld with the help of a handsome drifter and encounters the hobo legend, Oklahoma Red. Loaded with stunning visuals and empathetic performances, this dark, realistic drama is Brooks' best American film and a masterpiece of late-silent era feature films. All aspects of his rollercoaster of a story are enhanced by the live soundtrack, composed and performed by skiffle/bluegrass combo The Dodge Brothers, together with silent film pianist Neil Brand.

Tickets: £15 full / £13 memb+conc

This event takes place as part of Soundstage, Nottingham's Festival of Music and the Moving Image.

**PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT WILL START PROMPTLY AT THE ADVERTISED TIME**

Want to learn more about this acclaimed silent film, one fo the best of 1928. Check out the Beggars of Life page on the Louise Brooks Society website, or check out Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, an illustrated and informative book by Louise Brooks Society director Thomas Gladysz. The book is available at both amazon USA and amazon UK.

This first ever study of Beggars of Life looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. Based on Jim Tully’s bestselling book of hobo life—and filmed by Wellman the year after he made Wings (the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar), Beggars of Life is a riveting drama about an orphan girl (screen legend Louise Brooks) who kills her abusive stepfather and flees the law. She meets a boy tramp (leading man Richard Arlen), and together they ride the rails through a dangerous hobo underground ruled over by Oklahoma Red (future Oscar winner Wallace Beery). Beggars of Life showcases Brooks in her best American silent—a film the Cleveland Plain Dealer described as “a raw, sometimes bleeding slice of life.” With more than 50 little seen images, and a foreword by the director's son, actor/author William Wellman, Jr.



Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lotte Eisner in Germany (1980), speaking on Louise Brooks, G.W. Pabst and others

In this short 1980 documentary by Mark Horowitz, the pioneering film archivist and historian Lotte Eisner (1896-1983), who fled Nazi Germany for Paris where she helped establish La Cinémathèque française and rescue numerous prewar films, shares anecdotes about her extraordinary life, including meetings with Louise Brooks, G.W. Pabst, Sergei Eisenstein, Bertolt Bretch and others. 



Monday, March 11, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks - Paramount in the Middle East

A follow-up to last week's blog about how and where Paramount films were distributed, as well as Paramount's presence in the Middle East in the late 1920's and early 1930s, at the height of Louise Brooks' career.

As I also noted earlier, fourteen of the twenty-four films in Brooks' filmography were Paramount productions, which leads me to wonder if and when and where some of those fourteen films might have been shown anywhere in the Middle Eastern. Of course, much has changed since the 1920s, cities have changed names and new nations have arisen, but then - as now - major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem, Beirut, Damascus, and others all presumably had movie theaters.


According to the "List of Paramount Offices Around the World" reproduced in my March 6th post, the Italian office was responsible for distribution of Paramount films into Turkey, and the French office was responsible for distribution into Egypt, Algeria, Tunis, and Morocco. Back in the 1920s' and 1930s, film distribution and which theaters showed which films was a territorial affair, and one wouldn't - generally speaking - find an MGM or Warner Bros film playing in a Paramount house. I haven't been able to find information about how Paramount films might have found there way to those countries named above, nor have I been able to find clippings, advertisements or even reviews of any of Brooks' films in the Middle East, with only a few exceptions.

I know The Canary Murder Case was shown in Cairo, and I have found listings for most all of Brooks' Paramount films in French-controlled Algeria. All these clippings date to around the time of the film's first release. As reproduced in the March 6th post, I have also found an advertisement for Prix de beaute in Turkey in 1931. And, I have found listings for the Buck Jones western Empty Saddles (which featured Louise Brooks) showing in Jerusalem in 1937 - and the John Wayne western Overland Stage Raiders (also featuring Louise Brooks) showing in Haifa and Jerusalem in 1942, during the second World war and some four years after it was first released.

I have a feeling other of Brooks' films were shown in Arab speaking countries, either in the Middle East or North Africa - but I haven't been able to explore newspapers from those regions. What few publications I have been able to look at "operate" differently from American or European newspapers, in that their entertainment listings and coverage is sparse. Documentation is a challenge.

The in-house publication, Paramount Around the World, ran material on the film company's operations overseas. For example, there was a piece when the Paramount smash hit Beau Geste received it's first Arabic review.

Here is an interesting clipping on the distribution of Paramount films into Egypt and beyond. It notes, among other things, that there were only 30 theaters in Egypt, and only 27 in both Syria and Palestine. It also notes that those theaters ranged from movie palaces in Cairo to "desert shacks that are a long way removed from even the nickelodeon of yore." Lastly, it mentions that the exhibition of films lagged behind the United States, and that Middle eastern audience preferred outdoor action films, which likely explains why the non-Paramount productions Empty Saddles and Overland Stage Raiders were shown in Palestine.


If you are reading this post and know of instances of Louise Brooks' films being shown anywhere in Middle East or North Africa, please let me know! I would love to get clippings from Tunis or Casablanca or Cairo or Amman or Ankara. [With the use of the word legionnaire, I realize all this has the whiff of cultural imperialism about it, but nevertheless, this is interesting stuff and well worth diocumenting. I'll finish with the prerequisite picture of Louise Brooks, here dressed in vague Arabesque costume.]

Friday, March 8, 2019

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, to show in Istanbul, Turkey on March 10

The Kundura Cinema in Istanbul, Turkey will screen the internationally acclaimed Louise Brooks' film, Pandora's Box (1929). The film, titled locally as Pandora’nın Kutusu’nun, will be shown on March 10th with live musical accompaniment by Yiğit Özatalay and Mustafa Kemal Emirel (Yürüyen Merdiven). This presentation is open to those 18 years and older. More information as well as ticket availability can be found HERE.


According to the Daily Sabah newspaper, "Kundura Cinema's most anticipated screenings with live music takes its place in the March program. Georg Wilhelm Pabst's silent film Pandora's Box, produced in 1929, focusing on a free-loving, status-climbing dancer who murders her rich paramour in Berlin, then takes up with a succession of other lovers. Pandora's Box will meet with audience in Turkey for the first time in Kundura Cinema. After many years of neglect, Deutsche Kinematek has restored the film with the supervision of Martin Koerber. The restoration is considered to be a great advertisement for what can be achieved in film industry through new digital techniques."

[UPDATE & CORRECTION: I received an email from the International Istanbul Silent Cinema event in Turkey which informed me that Pandora's Box was first screened in that country at the 3rd International Istanbul Silent Cinema Days in 2016, with the introduction by Deutsche Kinematek's director Martin Körber, who restored the film. That event took place on December 15, 2016. More information about that event can be found HERE.]

The venue puts a bit of a new twist on the film by describing it this way: "A free-loving, status-climbing dancer murders her rich paramour, then takes up with a succession of other lovers, gradually descending to the streets as a hooker. Pandora's Box is an acknowledged masterpiece and example of a 'femme fatale'."


The Kundura Cinema, housed in a former shoe and leather factory, began showing classic films late last year. The cinema is housed in the Beykoz Kundura building in an old industrial part of town that is fast becoming an artistic and cultural hub. (A film studio was also opened in the complex.) Kundura Cinema has transformed the building's boiler room, in the heart of the old factory, into a movie hall (seen below). Dating back to the 1800s, the Beykoz Kundura building was in use until the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

courtesy Kundura Sinema

According to The Guide Istanbul website, "What makes Kundura Cinema distinct from other movie theaters is its specially curated film programmes; the opening season presented a selection of old movies set in various cities. According to Yıldırım, their audience is mostly comprised of cinephiles, students, young professionals, and locals in Beykoz who enjoy some nostalgia. New and old, mainstream and independent—the selection of screenings aims to keep a diverse balance between canonical and noncanonical films from around the world."

An earlier article in the Daily Sabah newspaper noted, "The movies to be screened by Kundura Cinema in the 2018-2019 season are focused on cities. From the first modern cities to our age, from giant metropolitans to dystopian cities of the future, from New York to Paris, from Berlin to Mexico, from Tokyo to Istanbul, the selection takes viewers on a one year journey to different geographies all over the world. Continuing to look at the past, present and future from cities located all around the world, Kundura Cinema is introducing great movies, documentaries and short movies that have been prominent since the beginning of the history of cinema in an enchanting atmosphere. From fiction to experimental movies, from dramas to comedy, from film noir to science fiction, viewers will get the chance to watch movies from different genres, as well as films that have not been screened at movie halls before."

courtesy Kundura Sinema
I am not sure when Pandora's Box was first shown in Istanbul or in Turkey, but it is known that at least some of Louise Brooks films were shown back in the day. Here, for example, is a rare 1931 newspaper advertisement for the 1930 French production, Prix de beaute.


If you having similar clippings or know of other screening of Brooks films in Turkey, please let the Louise Brooks Society know. We would also love to hear from anyone who attends the Pandora's Box screening at the Kundura Sinema.


How to get there: The Kundura Sinema is located at Yalıköy Mahallesi, Süreyya İlmen Cd. No:1, 34820 Beykoz/İstanbul, Turkey. Phone: +90 216 323 31 30. Movie goers can use a private boat service that runs in accordance with the screening schedule and departs from İstinye to Beykoz Kundura’s port. A one-way ticket costs 5 TL. For public transportation—plus a little walk—take the Yeniköy-Beykoz or İstinye-Çubuklu ferry line. You can also catch a bus or dolmuş to Beykoz in Üsküdar and Kadıköy.

courtesy Beykoz Kundura

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks : Where and how her films were distributed


Fourteen of the twenty-four films in Louise Brooks' filmography were Paramount productions. That includes all of her American silent films except Just Another Blonde (1926) and A Girl in Every Port (1928); for those two productions, Brooks was loaned out to other studios. Just Another Blonde was a First National production, while A Girl in Every Port was a Fox production.

After her return from Europe, where Brooks made three films for a three different European studios, Brooks more-or-less returned to work in Hollywood, where she appeared in films for Warner Bros. Educational, Universal, Colombia, and Republic. Only two of her seven later sound films, It Pays to Advertise (1931) and King of Gamblers (1937), were Paramount productions. The former was done to complete her Paramount contract. Her role in the latter was small, and her part was eventually cut in it's domestic release.

[As is known, the domestic and foreign prints of films sometimes differed - even substantially, both in content (camera shots and plot points) and length. As is revealed in my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks, there is some evidence that the actress' role in King of Gamblers may have been retained in some copies of the film's overseas release.]

As my forthcoming book shows, Brooks' films were shown all around the world, even in regions and countries where one might not think American films would have drawn much interest. As a powerhouse American studio, Paramount films were especially well distributed around the globe. In fact, it was something of which the studio was quite proud; over the years, they even published a few in-house journals showing just how far and wide their films were seen. Publications like Paramount Around the World and Paramount International News gathered news and publicity for Paramount films from far and wide. There were even nation specific publications, like Australia's Paramount Punch.

What's interesting is how Brooks was promoted in other countries. Combing through these and other publications, I came across some remarkable material. Did you know, for example, that giant roadside billboards promoted Brooks' Love Em and Leave Em in Australia? Or that crowds lined-up around the block to see The Canary Murder Case in Japan? (Brooks had a substantial following in Japan.)



The page reproduced below notes the many countries where Paramount films were shown. Notice, for example, how the office in Japan was also responsible for distribution to Korea, China, and the Philippine Islands. How the office in Cuba was also responsible for distribution to Porto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the West Indies. And how the office in Italy was also responsible for distribution to Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria.


This post will be continued, and will look at Brooks' and Paramount's presence in the Middle East.  .....

Monday, March 4, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks : Paramount's KNX Radio Station in Los Angeles

Who might know more about the Paramount radio station, KNX in Los Angeles? Is it the same, or related to, the KNX super-station currently heard in the LA area? Is there a history of the station or of broadcasting in the LA area that might be consulted? Are there records as to what was broadcast in the late 1920s? (I have looked at old newspaper listings, and they don't reveal all that much.)

I am wondering if Louise Brooks was ever heard on the station, or were one of her films featured? The microphone below pictures Clara Bow and two of Brooks' two-time co-stars, Adolphe Menjou and Wallace Berry.

The other day, I came across a few clippings about the station, which according to the second clipping went on the air on Armistice Day in 1928. These clipping seem to be somewhat at odds with the Wikipedia history of the station in that the station went on the air before 1928 and they don't mention the Paramount connection. Might Paramount have leased air time, or only broadcast at certain times? I would like to learn more. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Here is a clipping which notes the stations 1927 debut, and what was heard on that day.

And here is an article from the San Bernadino County Sun newspaper about the station's launch. There is only little mention of Paramount.

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