Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Enduring Modernity: The Transcontinental Career of Louise Brooks - retrospective begins October 23

The Melbourne Cinémathèque in Melbourne, Australia is putting on a major film retrospective titled "Enduring Modernity: The Transcontinental Career of Louise Brooks." The retrospective runs October 23 through November 6. More information may be found HERE.

According to the Cinémathèque site:
“An actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality, and a beauty unparalleled in film history” is how film historian Kevin Brownlow described Louise Brooks (1906–1985), whose short but iconic career was almost lost to history.

Brooks signed her first contract with Paramount Pictures in 1925, but her ultra-modern style, jet-black bob and inscrutable expression made her an actress out of time. After three years and 14 films, Brooks, fed up with Hollywood, left the US for Germany, where she made two seminal films with G. W. Pabst in 1929 – Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. She subsequently returned to Hollywood but languished in obscurity, quietly retiring in 1938.

All but forgotten for the next two decades, interest in her career was rekindled by the Cinémathèque Française’s “60 Years of Cinema” exhibition in Paris in 1955, which featured a giant portrait of Brooks mounted above its entrance. Asked why he had chosen the relatively obscure Brooks over Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich for such prominent placement, exhibition director Henri Langlois exclaimed, “There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!” Aesthetic tastes had caught up to her onscreen persona, and Brooks was finally recognised as a magnetic screen presence and, in the words of French critic Ado Kyrou, “the only woman who had the ability to transfigure no matter what film into a masterpiece”. Now recognised as an icon of the Jazz Age, Brooks’ intense femininity, flapper style and coyly ambiguous sexuality have made her one of the era’s brightest and most enduring stars.

This season includes the majority of her iconic performances in both Hollywood and Europe and profiles her collaborations with key directors such as Pabst, Wellman and Hawks.
The schedule features seven of Louise Brooks silent films, including the recently found fragment of Now We're in the Air. The Louise Brooks Society had a hand in the preservation of Now We're in the Air, and no doubt, this screening marks the first time the popular comedy has been shown in Australia in nearly 90 years.

October 23

6:30pm – PANDORA’S BOX
G. W. Pabst (1929) 136 mins PG

Screen goddess Brooks burns up the screen as the sexually energised and self-destructive Lulu in Pabst’s most celebrated film. A complex reflection on the sexual pathology and social hedonism of Weimar Germany, Pabst and Brooks’ exciting and provocative partnership created one of silent cinema’s most enduring, liberating and strangely moving works, with critics and audiences still waxing lyrical about its smoky sensuality today. David Thomson claimed it as “among the most erotic films ever made” and praised the “vivacious, fatal intimacy” of Brooks’ magnetic performance.
Courtesy of The British Film Institute

Malcolm St. Clair (1929) 82 mins Unclassified 15+*

Brooks features as The Canary, an audacious nightclub singer whose penchant for blackmail and two-timing leaves no shortage of suspects after she falls victim to foul play. This tantalising whodunit was originally completed as a silent picture, but Paramount insisted on converting it to a “talkie”. Already ensconced in Berlin, Brooks refused to return to the US to complete any voice work, so her role was dubbed (and partly reshot) by Margaret Livingston (the Woman From the City in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans). With William Powell, Jean Arthur and Eugene Pallette.

October 30

G. W. Pabst (1929) 113 mins Unclassified 15+*

The second collaboration – after Pandora’s Box – between Brooks and German director Pabst is a frank and revealing look at male chauvinism and bourgeois hypocrisy in Weimar Germany. Based on the controversial bestselling novel by Margarete Böhme and filmed in the social-realist style of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, it was considered pornographic on its release, touching on rape, lesbianism and prostitution. Brooks expressively plays an innocent girl cast adrift in a world of lecherous and predatory men, a victim of circumstance doomed to a life of ill repute.

Howard Hawks (1928) 78 mins Unclassified 15+*

Since last screened by the Melbourne Cinémathèque in 2002, the seismic shifts in societal perceptions of gender representation have made Hawks’ rambunctious late silent perhaps even more fascinating. Brooks’ character has been praised as an embryonic Hawksian woman – strong-willed, independent, sexual – but her depiction as a grasping schemer threatening the purity of the sailors’ masculine bond is as revealing and provocative as it is problematic. This key early Hawks’ film co-stars Victor McLaglen and Robert Armstrong. Print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive. Preceded by

Now We’re in the Air
Frank R. Strayer (1927) 23 mins (fragment).

Louise Brooks makes a memorable appearance in this newly discovered fragment of a World War I aviation comedy. 35mm print courtesy of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Library of Congress, Washington.

November 6

William A. Wellman (1928) 100 mins Unclassified 15+*

This gritty study of hobo life on the rails is based on the novelistic memoir of the same name by real-life vagabond Jim Tully. Brooks expert Thomas Gladysz holds that while Wellman’s “artfully photographed, morally dark tale of the down-and-out” gives future Oscar winner Wallace Beery top billing for “an especially vital performance”, it is Brooks who “dominates the screen in what is arguably her best role in her best American film”. With its provocative themes of sexual abuse and murder, the film presents a truly transgressive view of the US just before the Great Depression.
Courtesy of The George Eastman Museum.

Augusto Genina (1930) 93 mins Unclassified 15+*

Not widely seen for decades after its production, and only available in an incomplete form until recently, Genina’s dynamic movie is notable for being Brooks’ final lead performance. The film blends stark neo-realism and elaborate fantasy in its exploration of a young woman’s rise to fame and her discomfort with the social expectations of the female sex. Cinematographer Rudolph Maté’s extraordinary treatment of light and dark beautifully complements Brooks’ sparkling onscreen presence. Screenplay by René Clair and G. W. Pabst.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Upcoming silent films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival December event

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has announced the schedule of films for it's upcoming December event, which is set to take place on Saturday, December 7th. Among the films is one which every Louise Brooks will want to see. It is a film that Louise Brooks quite nearly appeared in. In fact, she went on location, was fit for a costume, and started work on the film, only to be pulled from the production in order to star in another film in which she wears feathers. Can you guess which film it is?

Here are all the details for our annual holiday show—A DAY OF SILENTS—at the beautiful Castro Theatre on Saturday, December 7. Five programs with musical accompaniment by the great Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, and Berklee Silent Film Orchestra! TICKETS are now on sale. Don’t miss a thing and save money with the all-day PASS. More information HERE.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle discovered Buster Keaton and these three sparkling shorts demonstrate the striking chemistry between the two geniuses. The program includes THE COOK (1918), GOOD NIGHT, NURSE (1918), and THE GARAGE (1919).
Navajo Wing Foot navigates between his western education and the traditions passed down by tribal elders. Shot in breathtaking two-color Technicolor at locations in New Mexico and Arizona (including Acoma Pueblo and Canyon de Chelly).
French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché got into the movie business at the very beginning—in 1894! One of the very first directors to make narrative films, her work is marked by innovation—she experimented with color-tinting, and special effects. The program includes six of her shorts.
Ernst Lubitsch works narrative magic with knowing looks and subtle gestures in this superb comedy centering around two couples—the sublimely-in-love Monte Blue and Florence Vidor, and the less-so Adolphe Menjou and Marie Prevost. 
The very first film version of Phantom stars Lon Chaney—the Man of a Thousand Faces—in his most celebrated role, the disfigured, cloaked “phantom” who haunts the Paris Opera House and will do anything for his beloved Christine. With original Technicolor and hand coloring!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Silent films at the Brooklyn Public Library, series turns 18

This year marks the 18th year in which the Brooklyn Public Library shows silent films for FREE. The series is curated and hosted by Ken Gordon, a big fan of Louise Brooks and a supporter and member of the Louise Brooks Society. Congratulations Ken and the BPL on turning 18! (They are a bit older than that, actually.) More information on the current series, which features live musical accompaniment by Bernie Anderson, can be found HERE.

Though there not showing a Brooks' film, this season looks appealing. The BPL will be showing The Phantom of the Opera (1925), starring Lon Chaney, The Extra Girl (1923), starring Mabel Normand, and The Informer (1929), a British silent directed by Arthur Robison.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Greetings from a Rochester Louise Brooks Fan

The other day, the Louise Brooks Society received an email from Tim Madigan, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. Aside from his academic interests, Tim is also a self-professed major fan of Louise Brooks. On October 2, spoke about Louise Brooks at the Rochester Public Library (see previous post).

Tim wrote, "Many thanks for giving my October 2nd talk about Louise Brooks at the Rochester Public Library a shout-out on your website. I have long been an admirer of your work on Brooks and I had some fear and trembling giving a talk about her at the Rochester Public Library, knowing that at least some of the people attending would be far more learned about her life and career than I am. But it turned out to be a nice gathering and I actually reconnected with some folks I hadn’t seen in several years. I also met with Tim Moore, who filled me in on local Brooks activities I was unaware of."

Tim continued, "There was some method to my madness in giving the presentation. At its end I made a modest proposal that the Rochester Public Library have an annual Louise Brooks Event (or Happening), of which mine could be the first. I’d also like to see the library have a dedicated Louise Brooks Room, with photos and other memorabilia (perhaps including, in a case, some of the library books she annotated).... As I mentioned in my talk, like many others I’ve been obsessed with Brooks for decades and often teach about her in my Philosophy through Film courses at St. John Fisher College. I also held a 100th birthday party for her in 2006, complete with a cake with her image on it. And as the attached photo demonstrates, her image can be found throughout my office, including a photo of me visiting her grave at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery."

"I think there were about 40 or so folks in attendance, some of whom remembered seeing Louise when she was still able to walk the streets of Rochester. At some point I hope to type up the remarks I made."

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Reminder - Reluctant Icon Louise Brooks event set for Wednesday, October 2

A reminder that the upcoming Louise Brooks event at the Rochester, New York Public Library. The event, "Reluctant Icon: Louise Brooks (1906-1985)" is set to take place on Wednesday, October 2 in the Kate Gleason Auditorium in Rochester's Central Library. Start time is 6:00 pm, and the event is expected to run one hour.

Rochester resident Tim Moore took these pictures of the some of the library's in-house promotion for the event.

According to the library website: "2019 marks the 90th anniversary of Louise Brooks’ most famous film, Pandora’s Box, a print of which has been newly restored. In this presentation, Tim Madigan will discuss how a young girl from Kansas came to Weimar, Germany to play the iconic role of Lulu in that movie, as well as how she later moved to Rochester, where she spent the rest of her life, becoming a noted chronicler of Hollywood and a figure of mystery. He’ll also discuss her depiction in the 2012 novel The Chaperone and its 2018 movie version, and why she lives on as a modern-day muse.

Tim Madigan is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at St. John Fisher College where he regularly discusses Pandora’s Box in his “Philosophy through Film” course." The event is free and open to the public. More information may be found HERE.

As many Louise Brooks fans should know, Louise herself visited this library on many occasions. She was a great reader of books, and at least a few of the books she checked out (and even annotated) still resides on the library shelves. The Central library also has a small collection of books and movies related to Brooks, including copies of some of the publications of the Louise Brooks Society.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Louise Brooks in second edition of Perfume Legends

Fragrance expert Michael Edwards has revised and updated his highly regarded reference work Perfume Legends. First published in 1996, Edwards' book is now considered one of the most significant books written on modern perfumery. His new book, Perfume Legends II, has recently been released, and includes a reference to Louise Brooks in describing Loulou, a Louise Brooks-inspired  scent created by Jean Guichard for Cacharel in 1987. (A container of this perfume, in its box, is in the collection of the Louise Brooks Society.) The Loulou perfume is also depicted on the cover of the book.

The following two paragraphs are excerpted from Perfume Legends II. "By the mid-eighties, competition in the French fragrance market had become brutal. In just one year, more fragrances were launched than in the entire 1960s. Loulou was a sequel to 1978’s Anaïs Anaïs and inspired by silent film star Louise Brooks. 'In France, people say that a young girl’s skin smells of caramel. That is the smell of toffee,' says Guichard. 'So we started working around the vanilla-toffee notes.'

In Tahiti he came across the beautiful tiare flower, which had a freshness he needed to balance the 'gourmand' flavours. 'We associate vanilla with something very agreeable, because, as children, we were spoiled by cakes and ice cream. More than that, it’s a scent that men find sexy'."

It is interesting to note that the script font used to spell out the word Loulou is the same used on the Dutch edition of Loulou in Hollywood.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Louise Brooks film Beggars of Life shows in England

The 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life, will be shown on Sunday, October 6th in Dorset, England. More information can be found HERE.

According to the venue: The Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand play live to a screening of the classic 1928 silent film Beggars of Life. Renowned film critic Mark Kermode - who plays bass and harmonica - will be joining his bandmates and acclaimed composer Brand for a musical accompaniment to the seminal 1928 silent movie featuring Wallace Beery as a rail-riding hobo and Louise Brooks as a girl on the run. The Dodge Brothers (Mike Hammond, Mark Kermode, Aly Hirji and Alex Hammond) play an exuberant hybrid of country blues, rockabilly, jugband and skiffle. 

“Never has a film and a band been more perfectly matched than ‘Beggars of Life’ and the Dodge Brothers – deep dish Americana, rail-riding hoboes and Louise Brooks – they were made for each other.” – Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film, British Film Institute.

The performance has been met with glowing reviews following London shows, and the band became the first ever to accompany a silent film at Glastonbury Festival in 2014. Tickets: £17.50, Concessions £15.50 (including 50p Regent Centre Development Fee)


 Want to learn more about Louise Brooks and Beggars of Life? My book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, as well as the DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber, are the perfect compliment to one another. And what's more, the DVD, featuring the best copy of the film available anywhere, includes an informative commentary by yours truly!

My 106-page book on 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 (played by 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.” This first ever study of Beggars of Life includes more than 50 little seen images, a mention of the Dodge Brothers, and a foreword by actor and author William Wellman, Jr. (the director's son).

If you haven't secured a copy of either the book or the DVD / Blu-ray, why not do so today? Each is an essential addition to your Louise Brooks collection, and EACH IS AVAILABLE IN BOTH THE UK AND THE USA via

SEARCH this Blog