Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review Round-up: the Louise Brooks inspired film, The Chaperone

Among the Louise Brooks and silent film communities, there has long been interest in the just released film, The Chaperone. Based on the 2012 novel by Laura Moriarty and released by PBS Masterpiece, the film tells the story of the summer of 1922 when the teenage Brooks (played by Haley Lu Richardson) travels to New York City in the company of a chaperone (played by Elizabeth McGovern).

Courtesy PBS Distribution
Over the last year, but especially within the last few weeks, I have posted a number of pieces about the film on this blog. I have also just written my own review, a longer piece which I originally titled  "Louise Brooks, The Chaperone, and the shaping of a legend." My review, which is now titled "Never the Victim: Louise Brooks and The Chaperone," was published by Film International. Please give it a read and let me know what you think. [It was pointed out that my piece contains a factual error, the fact that actress Julia Roberts is not from Kansas, but from Georgia. Mea culpa.]

Courtesy PBS Distribution
With it's Downton Abbey lineage, there were high expectations around the The Chaperone. Unfortunately, those expectations are falling short. Many of the dozens of reviews only give the film a middling review, pointing out its good and not-so-good points. Many of them make similar points. Nearly all of them discuss Louise Brooks. Here is a short list of the interesting reviews and article so-far.

"Haley Lu Richardson on The Chaperone, the Real Louise Brooks, & Getting a Chance to Dance"
by Christina Radish / The Collider 

"Elizabeth McGovern on The Chaperone and women finding happiness on their own terms"
by Maureen Lee Lenker / Entertainment Weekly

"Lawrence author’s tale of famous Kansan is now a movie, with Downton Abbey pedigree"
by Jon Niccum / Kansas City Star

"The Chaperone Is a Sublime Account of Flapper Icon Louise Brooks’ Early Life"
by Rex Reed / New York Observer 
 
"The Chaperone introduces a wild young star, then looks elsewhere"
by Richard Roeper / Chicago Sun Times

"Review: Shades of Downton Abbey color The Chaperone"
By Kenneth Turan / Los Angeles Times

"Enjoy The Chaperone for its strong female leads, but don’t expect it to roar"
by Pat Padua / Washington Post 

"Film Review: The Chaperone - Haley Lu Richardson has the sensual vibrance to play silent screen legend Louise Brooks, but this tale of her first New York visit is a staid tug-of-war"
by Owen Gleiberman / Variety

"With The Chaperone, three Downton Abbey veterans reunite. And, boy, is it ever boring"
by Bill Goodykoontz / Arizona Republic

"Downton Flabby: Period Piece The Chaperone Is A Let-Down"
by Mark Jenkins / National Public Radio

A number of the reviews repeat familiar and not always true notions about Brooks (suggesting she was the It girl, and not Clara Bow), while others get their facts wrong. One review called Elizabeth McGovern by the name Maureen McGovern - of "Morning After" fame. Others confused Wichita, Kansas with Topeka and Cherryvale.

There are more reviews which a Google news search will turn-up. Increasingly, reviewers are turning away from describing The Chaperone as the story of a woman on the road to find out (a story of discovery), to it being about Louise Brooks, which it isn't intended to be but kind of becomes. None, so far, have noticed the historical inaccuracies in the film.

Courtesy PBS Distribution
If you are a Louise Brooks fan and this blog post dampens your interest in seeing the film, don't let it. Go see it if you can. I like it, all-in-all. And I think most fans of Louise Brooks will as well.

The film is in limited release - so you will need to check the thechaperonefilm.com website for locations where it is showing. Strangely, so far, it is not listed as showing in Wichita, Kansas. Though, it is set to open in Rochester, New York on April 19. It is not listed as opening in the town where I live - Sacramento, California.

Courtesy PBS Distribution

Monday, April 15, 2019

RadioLulu back on Tune-In with Louise Brooks & silent film inspired music

Good news! RadioLulu is back on Tune-in with Louise Brooks & silent film inspired music. That's means you can listen to this Louise Brooks Society streaming station across multiple devices - your computer, phone, or even your television. The Tune-In page for RadioLulu can be found at https://tunein.com/radio/RadioLulu-s299232/  Or, listen here and now while you read this incredibly fascinating post! To do so, simply click on the player below.


Want to learn more about RadioLulu? Visit the information page on the Louise Brooks Society website at THIS LINK.

RadioLulu is a Louise Brooks-inspired, silent film-themed internet station streaming music of the 1920s, 1930s, and today. Or in other words, RadioLulu features vintage and contemporary music related to Louise Brooks as well as the silent and early sound eras. Launched in 2002, this unique station features vintage music from five of Brooks’ films....  and so much more.


If you love the films of the silent era, tune into RadioLulu. Among the film stars and Jazz Age personalities heard on the station are

Dorothy Mackaill ~ Helen Morgan ~ Libby Holman ~ Lee Wiley ~ Annette Hanshaw
Paul Whiteman ~ Theda Bara ~ Charlie Chaplin ~ Clara Bow
Fanny Brice ~ Ethel Shutta ~ Rudolph Valentino ~ Marilyn Miller ~ Rudy Vallee
Leon Errol ~ Ramon Novarro ~ Dolores Del Rio ~ Adolphe Menjou 
Al Jolson ~ Lupe Velez ~Noah Beery ~ Lawrence Gray ~ Marlene Dietrich
Conrad Nagel ~ Blanche Ring ~ Janet Gaynor ~ Charles Farrell
Ruth Etting ~ Victor McLaglen ~ Lillian Harvey ~ Pola Negri ~ Blanche Sweet
Harry Richman ~ Brigitte Helm ~ Helen Kane ~ Buster Keaton
Anny Ondra ~ Buddy Rogers ~ Betty Compson ~ Bebe Daniels ~ Ben Lyon
Maurice Chevalier ~ Josephine Baker ~ Kiki de Montparnasse ~ Frank Fay
Norma Talmadge ~ Gilbert Roland ~ James Hall ~ Joan Bennett ~ Jimmie Fidler
W.C. Fields ~ Claudette Colbert ~ Gloria Swanson ~ Joan Crawford 
Alice Faye  ~ Jean Harlow ~ Joan Blondell ~ Russ Columbo ~ James Cagney


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Diary of a Lost Girl with Louise Brooks screens in Brooklyn today

The folks at the Brooklyn Public Library love Louise Brooks and silent film. They have shown Brooks' films a number of times. On Sunday April 14, the library is presenting a matinee screening of Diary of a Lost Girl, the once controversial Brooks' film from 1929. For those just discovering Brooks through her portrayal in the new PBS Masterpiece film, The Chaperone, here's a great opportunity to one of her great films. More information may be found HERE



LOUISE BROOKS: SOULS LOST AND FOUND
Sunday, April 14, 2019   12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Central Library, Dweck Center 

DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (1929) 112 minutes
Germany

Kansas-born Louise Brooks traveled to Germany to collaborate with director Georg Wilhelm Pabst on two movies, Pandora’s Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), which is based on Margarete Böhme’s controversial and best-selling novel. She plays Thymian, the teenage daughter of a middle-class pharmacist, whose swift fall and slow rise begins after she is molested by her father’s assistant, becomes pregnant, is sent to a reform-school, and escapes to find refuge in a brothel in this tragic look at self-righteous bourgeois-hypocrisy, and the price of sexual-freedom, in a male-privileged culture and society.


Directed by G.W. Pabst.
Image courtesy of Kino Lorber, Inc.

Live Piano Accompaniment by Bernie Anderson. Hosted & Curated by Ken Gordon.

All movie start times are 12:00 Noon. Central Library does not open until 1 pm, but patrons attending film screenings may enter the Dweck Center beginning at 11:45 am through the side entrance on Eastern Parkway. Introductions begin promptly at 12:00 Noon. 

Children under the age of six will not be admitted to these shows. Silent Movie Matinee is supported by Los Blancos.

Want to Learn more about Louise Brooks and Diary of a Lost Girl? Check out the Louise Brooks Society website and its Diary of a Lost Girl filmography page.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Charles Van Doren, quiz shows, Louise Brooks, and beauty as fire

Yesterday, obituaries ran in newspapers across the country announcing the death of Charles Van Doren, the "quiz show wiz who wasn't."

Back in the late 1950s, at the height of the popularity of television quiz shows, the distinguished and obviously intelligent Van Doren admitted that the programs were a hoax, that he had been coached and given answers, and the program outcome fixed. It was a major scandal, and even involved a Congressional investigation. Read the New York Times obituary of Charles Van Doren HERE. (Van Doren's role in the quiz show scandal was later turned into the Robert Redford directed film, Quiz Show, from 1994.)

I don't know that Louise Brooks ever watched TV quiz shows (she may have, as she did like watching TV), but I mention Van Doren's passing because of it's admittedly oblique connection to the actress, a connection though tenuous worthy of a quiz show question....

Back in 1929, a syndicated newspaper article noted famed literary critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Carl Van Doren declared Louise Brooks the second most beautiful woman in the world. Carl Van Doren, the brother of the future Pulitzer Prize winning critic and poet Mark Van Doren, was the uncle of Charles Van Doren.

Though this instance of the syndicated newspaper article (shown below) incorrectly pictures Brooks, the end of the article clearly identifies the actress. "Mr. Van Doren considers Hope Williams the most beautiful woman in the public eye today, with Louise Brooks, of movie fame, a close second. Mary Queen of Scots, he says, is the most beautiful woman of all time."


If you think Van Doren's choices a bit eccentric, consider his definition of beauty, which begins the article. "'Beauty' says Carl Van Doren, 'is a divine inner fire. And competition whets the flame of beauty'."

Curiously, this piece was reprinted in a Canadian newspaper as late as 1933, and without any images of either Brooks, Williams, or Mary Queen of Scots (a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead, respectively).

Who was Hope Williams? She lived from 1897 to 1990, and was a stage actress active on Broadway from 1927-1939. Seemingly, her only film appearance was in The Scoundrel (1935), a Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur written and directed film which marked Noel Coward's first screen appearance in a talkie. There isn't much information about her on the interweb. Nevertheless, her is her portrait.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Louise Brooks inspired film The Chaperone shows in Lawrence, Kansas on April 18th

A special preview screening of the new film, The Chaperone, based on the best-selling book by  author Laura Moriarty and adapted by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, will take place at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas on April 18th. [The film opens in Lawrence the following day.]

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Lawrence author Laura Moriarty & moderator Laura Kirk. Books will be available for sale & signing. More information about the event may be found HERE.

This special event marks a return of-a-kind to Lawrence by Louise Brooks. As a member of Denishawn, Brooks danced in Lawrence on Friday, February 1, 1924 at the Bowersock Theatre, which was later renamed Liberty Hall. More background on the book and film can be heard on this Kansas Public Radio program featuring an interview with Laura Moriarty. Click on the LINK to listen.


Synopsis: Louise Brooks, the 1920s silver screen sensation who never met a rule she didn’t break, epitomized the restless, reckless spirit of the Jazz Age. But, just a few years earlier, she was a 15 year-old student in Wichita, Kansas for whom fame and fortune were only dreams. When the opportunity arises for her to go to New York to study with a leading dance troupe, her mother (Victoria Hill) insists there be a chaperone. Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), a local society matron who never broke a rule in her life, impulsively volunteers to accompany Louise (Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer.

Director: Michael Engler
Writers: Julian Fellowes (screenplay by), Laura Moriarty (based on the book by)
Stars: Haley Lu Richardson, Elizabeth McGovern, Miranda Otto
Genre: Drama
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 1h, 43min
Doors open 1 hour prior to showtime.
For  more information on Liberty Hall, visit www.libertyhall.net/about

Liberty Hall (then the Bowersock Theatre) as it looked around the time Louise Brook danced there as a
member of the Denishawn dance Company


Liberty Hall in 1925, which was then showing the Colleen Moore film, The Perfect Flapper


Liberty Hall today, which will host the first Kansas screening of The Chaperone

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Historical inaccuracies in The Chaperone - the new Louise Brooks-inspired film from PBS Masterpiece

The new film from PBS Masterpiece, The Chaperone, is an enjoyable period piece which all fans of Louise Brooks will want to see. I like it, and you may too.

Based on Laura Moriarty’s 2012 novel of the same name, which in turn is based on real incidents in  Brooks’ life, The Chaperone focuses on the fictional story of the woman (played by Elizabeth McGovern) who accompanied the teenage Brooks (played by Haley Lu Richardson) to New York City in the summer of 1922. As most fans know, the future film star left her home in Wichita, Kansas to study dance with Denishawn.



As might be expected of an historical drama from PBS, this production gets a lot of the details right -- especially in regards to costuming and the film's Jazz Age ambiance (vintage cars, vintage interiors, and even vintage attitudes). The film also gets things right in regards to its nuanced depiction of Denishawn,  no doubt due to the guidance of dance historian Suzanne Shelton, author of the excellent Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis, who is listed in the credits.

However, the film stumbles in regards to certain aspects of Brooks and film history. The Chaperone begins and ends with a scene (twenty years later) where McGovern's character visits her now older friend, who is up in her room licking her wounds after her film career has collapsed. As McGovern's character climbs the stairs to the room where the fallen star is hiding out, the camera glimpses walls covered with framed magazine covers, portraits, stills and film posters highlighting Brooks’ meteoric career. According to the film, these were items collected by Brooks’ mother.

Perhaps for the sake of visual consistency, the filmmakers have inserted Haley Lu Richardson’s likeness in place of Brooks - each item nevertheless corresponds to recognizable magazine covers, photographic portraits and film poster from Brooks' career. However, this is where The Chaperone gets it wrong, in that two of the posters shown date from decades later. Those two posters are shown below.



The poster for Pandora’s Box is a nifty fan creation, and is less than ten years old. The French poster for Diary of a Lost Girl (Le Journal d'une fille perdue) dates from the 1980s or 1990s, when the film was revived for the first time.

What’s more, even if they weren't historical anomalies, Brooks’ mother would not have been able to acquire posters of these two films. As most film buffs know, Pandora’s Box was a German release with a troubled history. It was largely considered a flop, received mostly negative reviews, and suffered only limited distribution in the United States. In fact, it was shown on less than ten occasions in the United States, and was certainly not shown in Wichita or anywhere near Kansas until at least four or five decades later, well after this scene takes place. The same goes for Diary of a Lost Girl, an even more problematic release which didn't debut in the United States until the late 1950s. It too did not show in Wichita until many years later.

In that same closing scene, McGovern's character tells Louise not to make light of her accomplishments as an actress, saying “As for the German films, Pandora’s Box haunted me for weeks.” Again, this is an historical little white lie meant to advance the story-line. The chaperone could not have seen either of Brooks' German films -- unless she had traveled to Taliesin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright in southwestern Wisconsin, in May of 1934. That's the closest Pandora’s Box ever came to Kansas back in the day.

The Chaperone's heart is in the right place. It is an otherwise well intended and historically correct tribute to Brooks. One lovely bit that pleased me is the clip of Brooks’ shown dancing a Denishawn routine in Pandora’s Box as The Chaperone credits are set to roll. It’s an appropriate touch.

Go see The Chaperone. And let us know what you think. Here is a slightly different trailer for the film. For information about the film can be found at www.thechaperonefilm.com.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Chaperone plays in Australia, with special guest appearance by Elizabeth McGovern

Thank you to longtime Louise Brooks Society member Camille Scaysbrook who let everyone know that The Chaperone will be playing at the Art Deco Cremorne Orpheum theatre in Sydney, Australia . This special screening takes place on Tuesday, April 9 at 6:45 pm. More information on this special event can be found HERE.


Academy Award Nominee ELIZABETH McGOVERN (Downton Abbey) will be on stage to introduce this very special preview screening! Hosted by Angela Bishop.

The life of a Kansas woman (Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey) is forever changed when she chaperones a beautiful and talented 15-year-old dancer named Louise Brooks to New York for the summer. One of them is eager to fulfil her destiny of dance and movie stardom; the other hopes to unearth the mysteries of her past.

Here is a slightly different, more briskly edited Australian trailer for the film. The Chaperone opens in Australian theaters on May 2.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

TODAY: Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, screens again in Istanbul, Turkey

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 today, April 7th 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.


Pandora's Box was shown at this same location on March 10th and the 24th with great success. Here is the Turkish description of the event.

Almanya / 1929 135’ / Siyah & Beyaz
Sessiz*

*Yiğit Özatalay ve Mustafa Kemal Emirel’den oluşan Yürüyen Merdiven’in canlı müziği eşliğinde.


Yönetmen | Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Senaryo    | Frank Wedekind, Ladislaus Vajda
Oyuncular | Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer

Çekiciliği ile çevresindeki herkesi baştan çıkarıp onları büyük bir trajedinin içine sokan bir dansçının çevresinde gelişen olayları ele almaktadır. Film sinema tarihinde "femme fatale" örneklerinden biri olmuştur.

Back in March, the venue put 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.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

TODAY: Pandora's Box with Louise Brooks screens in Berlin Babylon location


The Metropolis Orchester Berlin in Berlin, Germany will screen the sensational 1929 Louise Brooks' film Pandora's Box at the Theater im Delphi (Gustav-Adolf-Str. 2) on April 6, 2019. This special cinema concert screening will feature live musical accompaniment as well as an introduction by actress Fritzi Haberlandt, who will talk about her relationship with the role of Lulu. Here is your opportunity to see a classic silent film in the city where it was made, as well as one of the shooting locations for the popular television series Berlin Babylon. More information as well as ticket availability about this event can be found HERE.


A few days ago,  Der Tagesspiegel ran a piece on this special event. That piece can be found HERE. [Unfortunately, their lead image is from another Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl. This German publication is not alone in running the wrong film stills, as it is a mistake other publications and venues have repeated.]


According to the event promoters, "BABYLON BERLIN actress Fritzi Haberlandt and the Metropolis Orchestra Berlin present the cinematic masterpiece by GEORG WILHELM PABST. Immerse yourself in a typical Berlin cinema evening in the year 1929!

1929 - a legendary year: The Golden Twenties come to an end and at the same time reach their peak before the world economic crisis comes abruptly. In this last great year of German silent film, known as "The Year Babylon", the former silent movie theater Delphi is opened at the Caligariplatz. In 1929, Louise Brooks becomes the first American actress to star in a German film production: THE BOX OF PANDORA by GW Pabst. Brooks embodies the role of Lulu completely and becomes an icon.

Under the direction of Burkhard Götze, the METROPOLIS ORCHESTRA BERLIN presents the masterpiece in authentic style of a cinema concert of the time, with the great score of Peer Raaben. Original flair is provided by BOHÈME SAUVAGE. The audience is invited to dress and decorate in the style of the time. In addition, you can take time travel to the locations of BABYLON BERLIN before the cinema concert."

Partner: Bohème Sauvage, Zeitreisen, European Film Philharmonic , German Cinematheque


Want to learn more about Louise Brooks and her role as Lulu in Pandora's Box? Visit the Louise Brooks Society website as well as its Pandora's Box filmography page.

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