Saturday, July 14, 2018

Guest Post: "Louise Brooks Makes The Grade" part 2

Philip Vorwald has come up with another fascinating guest post here on the Louise Brooks Society blog: it's about Louise Brooks' childhood and where she went to grade school. This post is in two parts -- the first part ran yesterday.








Friday, July 13, 2018

Guest Post: "Louise Brooks Makes The Grade" part 1

Philip Vorwald has come up with another fascinating guest post here on the Louise Brooks Society blog: it's about Louise Brooks' childhood and where she went to grade school. This post is in two parts, so be sure and check back tomorrow.















Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Celebrating Charlie Chaplin - the "Guy with the Feet" - in comics and in Niles, California

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, California is celebrating Charlie Chaplin with their annual Charlie Chaplin Days event, July 13 - 15. This weekend long happening is filled with screenings, presentations, walking tours and special guests (Dan Kamin, John Fawell, Jeffrey Weissman, Jason Allin, Steve Massa, Paul Mular, Nigel Dreiner, John Bengtson, Marc Wanamaker, and David Totheroh). There is even a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. More information may be found HERE.


And in honor of the great comedian, with whom Louise Brooks had a brief affair in 1925, is one of the rarest bits of Brooksiana and Chapliniana you are likely to see . . . . the four panel comic strip "history" of the summer-long affair between the then little known showgirl and international film star. Tongues were wagging in 1925.



Gossip made the news. The related feature photo below was syndicated across the country. I have found many instances of this captioned image in newspapers from across the United States. (Despite Chaplin's denials, in later years he did vividly describe Brooks' breasts as being like "little pears.")



Comic strip representations of silent films stars, especially Chaplin, were quite common place. Here is a rare 1915 newspaper page which introduces the “Charley Chaplin’s Comic Capers.”

Monday, July 9, 2018

Louise Brooks and It's the Old Army Game (1926) in Florida

As promised, here are some additional clippings from the time It's the Old Army Game (1926) was being made in Florida.

It’s the Old Army Game is a comedy about a small town druggist (played by W.C. Fields) who gets involved with a real estate scam. Louise Brooks plays the druggist’s assistant. The film was Brooks’ fourth, and it reunited her with the Fields, the film’s star. The two had worked together in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925.

The film, especially its interiors, were shot at Paramount’s Astoria Studios on Long Island, with some additional shots taken in Manhattan. Location shooting, including exteriors, was done in Ocala and Palm Beach, Florida in late February and during the first three weeks of March, 1926.  (Ocala is an inland farming community near Gainesville, Florida.)
It’s the Old Army Game received mostly positive reviews, though some critics noted its rather thin plot. Algonquin Round Table playwright Robert E. Sherwood (who would go on to win four Pulitzer Prizes and an Academy Award) was then writing reviews for Life magazine. His pithy critique read, “Mr. Fields has to carry the entire production on his shoulders, with some slight assistance from the sparkling Louise Brooks.” Ella H. McCormick of the Detroit Free Press countered with “Fields scored a splendid triumph in this picture. A great part of the success of the offering, however, is due to Louise Brooks, who takes the lead feminine part.”

Today, It’s the Old Army Game is largely remembered as a starring vehicle for Fields — a comedic great. It is also remembered for the fact that not long after the film wrapped, Brooks married the film’s director, Eddie Sutherland.

Recently, while researching the film, I came across a few related clippings of interest. Each date from around the time the film was in production, February and March of 1926. The first, whose title I have omitted, is titled "Florida Made Films Are Helping Make State Famous."






The clipping below, which dates from the same day as the clipping above, erroneously states that Thomas Meaghan is to star in It's the Old Army Game. Obviously, a reporter got their facts mixed up.





James Curtis’ 2003 biography of W. C. Fields contains valuable background on the making of It’s the Old Army Game, as does Barry Paris’ 1989 biography of Brooks. See also James Neibaur’s 2017 book, The W.C. Fields Films. For more on Brooks’ recollections of the Fields and the making of It’s the Old Army Game, see “The Other Face of W.C. Fields” in Brooks’ 1982 memoir, Lulu in Hollywood.

Silent film historian John Bengston has written a series of posts on his Silent Locations website looking at various scenes from the film. Each are well worth checking out. They include "W.C. Fields in Palm Beach – It’s the Old Army Game" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks Bring Magazines to Life" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks in Ocala Florida – Part One". Be sure and check 'em out!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Louise Brooks dancing in Palm Beach, Florida in 1926

In "The Other Face of W.C. Fields," one of the essays that make up Lulu in Hollywood, Louise Brooks wrote about the time she danced at Palm Beach Nights, a nightclub (named for its show) located in Palm Beach, Florida. Brooks was in the state filming It's the Old Army Game, and at nights, when everyone was done working, the cast and crew retreated to the nightclub for fun. (Brooks and others involved in the making of It's the Old Army Game were in Florida from about February 22 through March 23, 1926.)

Brooks writes: "Palm Beach Nights . . .  was housed in an old assembly hall transformed by the famous Viennese designer Joseph Urban into a nightclub with a full stage. Ziegfeld provided a choice selection of Follies girls, including Paulette Goddard, who later married Charlie Chaplin, and Susan Flemming, who later married Harpo Marx. And now, every night at the conclusion of Palm Beach Nights, our company (minus Bill Fields) contributed a floor show. Blanche Ring sang "Rings on My Fingers," Mickey Bennett sang ballads in a piercing tenor, I danced, Eddie [Sutherland] did pratfalls, and Billy Gaxton starred as a comedian. He and Rudy Cameron did an old vaudeville act of theirs, singing and dancing and telling bum jokes...."

[I might also mention that Blanche Ring, a popular stage entertainer who happened to be Eddie Sutherland's aunt, can be heard singing "Rings on My Fingers" on RadioLulu.]

One thing that stands out in the above passage is the mention of Rudy Cameron, who I assume to be Rudolph Cameron, an actor active between the years 1916 and 1948. But what was he doing there? I am not aware that he was involved in It's the Old Army Game, though from what I found, Cameron and Gaxton had formed some sort of song and dance team at one point, and knew each other professionally. I also found a handful of clippings which mentioned that Cameron in local society columns, which suggests he was living in the area.

Brooks' mention of Palm Beach Nights, and the fact she danced there, got me wondering about the nightclub itself. Admittedly, I didn't know anything about it, and wondered what I might find out....

.... What I found is that in early 1926, Florenz Ziegfeld opened the Club de Montmartre restaurant-theater, with financial backing from Paris Singer and Anthony Biddle, Jr. During its first year, Ziegfeld staged Palm Beach Nights at the club; it was the only Follies not to originate on Broadway. (Palm Beach Nights later reopened in New York as No Foolin’.) The show's hit song, "Florida, the Moon and You," became Palm Beach's theme song, and the club remained popular until the Depression.


The venue opened on January 14, 1926. It was designed by Joseph Urban, head designer of the Ziegfeld Follies, and was a local sensation. Everybody who was anybody in the area turned out for opening night, including Mrs. Edward T. Stotesbury, the grounds of whose El Mirasol estate were trashed by W.C. Fields and the the cast of It's the Old Army Game. Providing entertainment between shows was Art Hickman and his Orchestra, from San Francisco. (Art Hickman also can be heard on RadioLulu.) Performing, as part of the cast of  Palm Beach Nights, was the great Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards!


I searched as best as possible to find some sort of reference to Louise Brooks and the Montmartre theater, but didn't find much. The show and club were popular, and local society columns reported that Mrs. Stotesbury and Mrs. Florenz Ziegfeld (Billie Burke) were present on a few occasions, once to judge a contest. I did find this clipping, which references The Old Army Game.


Future posts here on the Louise Brooks Society blog will include some additional clippings from the time It's the Old Army Game was being made in Ocala, Florida.

James Curtis’ 2003 biography of W. C. Fields contains valuable background on the making of It’s the Old Army Game, as does Barry Paris’ 1989 biography of Brooks. See also James Neibaur’s 2017 book, The W.C. Fields Films. For more on Brooks’ recollections of the Fields and the making of It’s the Old Army Game, see “The Other Face of W.C. Fields” in Brooks’ 1982 memoir, Lulu in Hollywood.

Silent film historian John Bengston has written a series of posts on his Silent Locations website looking at various scenes from the film. Each are well worth checking out. They include "W.C. Fields in Palm Beach – It’s the Old Army Game" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks Bring Magazines to Life" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks in Ocala Florida – Part One". Be sure and check 'em out!

Monday, July 2, 2018

It's the Old Army Game screens in Niles, California July 21

It's the Old Army Game, the entertaining 1926 silent comedy starring W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks, will be shown July 21, 2018 in Niles, California at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. More information about this event may be found below as well as HERE.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Looking into the 1926 Louise Brooks film It's the Old Army Game, with John Bengtson

Earlier this year, Kino Lorber released the 1926 W.C. Fields / Louise Brooks film It's the Old Army Game on DVD / Blu-ray. It is a lot of fun, not only for Fields delightful performance, but also for Brooks' youthful charm. Except for Brooks' uncredited and atypical bit part in The Street of Forgotten Men, this is the earliest surviving film staring the actress. I recommend every fan get a copy.

Directed by Brooks' future husband, Eddie Sutherland (they married a few months after filming completed),
It’s the Old Army Game is an "uproarious silent comedy in which the inimitable W.C. Fields finds it impossible to get some sleep. It was the fourth film in which Fields appeared, but the first over which he had some control, as it was adapted from his own stage play. Co-starring Louise Brooks (also in her fourth feature), and directed with verve by A. Edward Sutherland, It’s the Old Army Game is a non-stop comedy of errors. Fields plays Elmer Prettywillie, a druggist kept awake by clamorous garbage collectors, a nosy woman seeking a 2-cent stamp, bogus land deals, and phony fortunes."

The new Kino Lorber release has been mastered in 2K from 35mm film elements preserved by The Library of Congress, and features a new score by Ben Model and an audio commentary by film historian James L. Neibaur, author of  the 2017 release The W.C. Fields Films.

My longtime friend John Bengtson, who's been called an archeologist of early cinema, has been looking into the film, and has dug up a bunch of new information which will be of interest to fans of Brooks, Fields and silent film.

Bengtson's 2013 post, W.C. Fields in Palm Beach – It’s the Old Army Game, looks at the estate seen in the film, which was shot mostly on location in Florida. His newest post, It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks Bring Magazines to Life, from June 29th, looks at the one particular film in the comedy. I encourage everyone to check out these two posts, as well as John's three fabulous books on Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.


It's the Old Army Game was officially released on May 25, 1926, though screenings of the film took place prior to that date in Florida. Here is one, for example, in West Palm Beach on May 18 & 19. For more on the film, be sure and check out the Louise Brooks Society filmography page on It's the Old Army Game.


The film also screened early in Miami, Florida -- this time at the Community theater on May 26 & 27, where the newspaper got the stars of the film all mixed up! Clara Bow was to have starred in the film, but was replaced by Brooks. (Bow did play in the 1927 Fields film, Runnin' Wild, which has also just been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.) Eugene Fields was a popular, sentimental poet of the time, not an actor.


The Miami News still couldn't get the stars right when the film moved to the Olympia theater, starting May 30th, despite the fact that the Paramount supplied advertisement which sat just inches away from the listing on the page correctly named Louise Brooks.



Nevertheless, there was a bit of local pride in the fact that It's the Old Army Game was a "Florida Made Picture". The newspapers took notice.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

Stanley Mouse portrait of Louise Brooks up for auction

A portrait of Louise Brooks by Stanley Mouse will be up for auction next month. The portrait is being sold by Heritage Auctions as part of their Movie Posters Signature Auction (Dallas #7181) being held July 28-29. More information HERE.

From the auction site: Louise Brooks by Stanley Mouse (2000). Signed Original Oil Portrait Painting (30" X 30").
Known for his psychedelic artwork of the 1960s and 1970s, Stanley Mouse has created a vast arsenal of images that moved beyond the popular artwork for such bands as the Grateful Dead and Journey over his forty years as an artist. He was a long time collaborator with The Family Dog and Bill Graham productions, as well as coming together with other artists of that movement such as Alton Kelley, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, and Wes Wilson to create the Berkeley Bonaparte Distribution Agency. This beautiful portrait of actress Louise Brooks in black and white acrylic paint captures the iconic image of the actress as the symbol of the flapper girl of the 1920s and her popular bobbed haircut. The canvas stretched painting is in fantastic shape with only the faintest of edge war from being handled. A great unconventional collectors item for fans of Stanley Mouse. Mint.


Estimate: $2,500 - $5,000.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Another post-1929 Pandora's Box screening is found!

When I wrote in my last post that I hoped the record of additional post-1929 screenings of Pandora's Box would be found one-day, I didn't suspect another would be found so soon.

The 1929 Louise Brooks film debuted in Germany at the beginning of the year, and eventually made its way to the United states by the end of the year.

As I noted in that previous post, "The Lost History of Pandora's Box in the United States," newspapers didn't list every film showing every day, and some theaters -- especially smaller theaters -- didn't advertise every day or even at all. Accordingly, exhibition records, which are often incomplete and inexact, sometimes need to be pieced together through various sources.

What I found was the record of another showing of Pandora's Box in New York City which, in all likelihood, could be the first post-1929 screening in NYC. I found the record of its happening in an unlikely publication, which all things considered, makes perfect sense. That publication was New Yorker Volkszeitung, a German language newspaper serving the city. This screening took place at the Acme Theater on Times Square on May 10, 11, and 12, 1930.

Here is the advertisement, and the "proof" of yet another post-1929 / pre-1958 screening of Pandora's Box.


p.s. I emailed the staff of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin house asking about the screening of films there in the 1930s, in particular their 1934 screening of Pandora's Box. They emailed back saying they would look into it!
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