Thursday, December 12, 2019

Lulu - The Louise Brooks Story now set to debut in 2020

In March, 2020 a new musical titled Lulu: The Louise Brooks Story will debut in Doncaster, England. (The musical had been set to debut in October of this year, but was seemingly postposned.) The musical is being presented by a group called 1928 Limited. No author is given. A bit more information as well as ticket availability may be found HERE. Additional, this production has a Facebook page.


Lulu: The Louise Brooks Story is described as "A new musical, set in the glamorous excess of the 1920s, telling the story of iconic movie star Louise Brooks. We join Louise on location during the making of the 1928 movie Pandora’s Box, a movie in which there are uncanny parallels between the life of Lulu, the main character in the movie, and Louise, the actress. A tempestuous star with a reputation as an unrepentant hedonist, Louise harbours a secret which holds the key to her apparently self destructive behaviour. A secret well hidden in a whirlwind of sexual adventures, and a party lifestyle which defined the roaring 20s."


Lulu: The Louise Brooks Story plays at the Doncaster Little Theatre, 1 King Street - Off East Laith Gate, DN1 1JD Doncaster in Doncaster on March 5, 6, and 7. Tickets are £10. (For those unfamiliar with Doncaster, it is a large town in South Yorkshire, about 17 miles (30 km) north-east of Sheffield in the north of England.)


According to its website, the Doncaster Little Theatre is a small community-focused theatre supporting all of the arts. The 99-seat community theatre, which produces 12 of its own theatrical performances a year, is run largely through volunteers. The DLT is also open to other shows, companies and performers, including rock bands and comedians, as well as films, which is shows during the day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

New edition announced of book on Louise Brooks film Pandora's Box

UK author, film critic and friend to the Louise Brooks Society friend Pamela Hutchinson has announced that a second edition of her BFI Film Classics title, Pandora's Box, will be released next year. Though the book itself is the same, it will feature a new cover! The LBS is pleased to have a signed first edition in its collection, but plans on acquiring a new edition with the new cover. More information about the book can be found HERE.



In this compelling study, Pamela Hutchinson traces Pandora's production history and the many contexts of its creation and afterlife, revisiting and challenging many assumptions made about the film, its lead character and its star. Analyzing the film act by act, she explores the conflicted relationship between Brooks and the director G.W. Pabst, the film's historical contexts in Weimar Berlin, and its changing fortunes since its release.

Back in 2017, I wrote about the book's first release and spoke with the author. Here is an excerpt from that interview, which appeared on PopMatters:

TG: Was it challenge to write an entire book on a single film? I suppose some might wonder how much there is to say.

PH: There is far more to say about Pandora's Box than I could fit into this book! I had to edit judiciously. The book combines history and criticism, as well as talking about how the film endures. I wanted to give as full a picture as possible of how the film came to be made, from Frank Wedekind writing his plays to the careers of G.W. Pabst and his crew and actors.

Also, I walk through Pandora's Box act by act, drawing out more of the film's meaning. There were so many questions about the film that intrigued me—and I wanted to answer them all. Why does Dr Schön drop his cigarette? Why is there a menorah in Lulu's apartment? What does the letter K stand for? Then I gave over some space to talking about the film's legacy, and what the image of Louise Brooks as Lulu stands for now.

TG: The book's description states that you "revisit and challenge many assumptions made about the film, its lead character and its star." How so?

PH: Louise Brooks is the voice of Pandora's Box—she has written about the film and been interviewed about it more than anyone else involved in the production. This delights me, and I have a huge respect for her intellect, and her analysis of the film. But I wanted to dig deeper. Much of what she has said about the film has been taken as gospel, but there is often another side to the story.

I'm especially thinking about the character of Countess Geschwitz, and Alice Robert's performance. I wanted to reclaim the Countess as a passionate, heroic character. And there's a lot of criticism from elsewhere that I think confuses what Pabst is trying to do in his adaptation and he and Brooks are doing in the portrayal of Lulu. It's always good to look at an old film with fresh eyes, but still with an understanding of the circumstances in which it was made.

TG: What did you discover in writing the book that surprised you, or might surprise readers?

PH: Well, there's a credit on the film that always looked wrong to me, and I wanted to investigate that. In the end I discovered quite a lot about the man credited with editing the film—including the fact that he almost definitely had nothing to do with cutting Pandora's Box. He was a fascinating character, though, and while he didn't edit the film, he did have an important role to play in its reception. In America, at least.

TG: What does your book reveal that someone who has seen the film might not realize?
 
PH: Lots, I hope! For example, did you know that Pabst nearly made the film with Lili Damita as Lulu in 1926? I tried to cram as much information and informed critical thinking into the book as possible. I have covered the production history, and looked at the contribution of each actor and each key member of the crew, but I have trawled the imagery, too. It's almost impossible to tear your eyes away from Brooks when watching Pandora's Box, but if you do, Pabst is telling you the whole story in his design for the film, from the lighting, to all those ominous objects in the background.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Louise Brooks and Redskin part two

On Saturday, December 7, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will screen the 1929 Paramount film, Redskin. This second blog explores the little known connection Louise Brooks had with the film. More about the 2019 SFSFF "Day of Silents" may be found HERE.


Shot partly in early Technicolor, Redskin tells the story of a Navajo man named Wing Foot who was taken as a child to a government boarding school, where he is forced to assimilate. The film explores the damage done by prejudice as it explores issues of racial identity and cultural insensitivity in telling Wing Foot’s story. This June 1928 newspaper article suggests the film's topicality, while noting Louise Brooks' role in the production.


The film, directed by Victor Schertzinger and described by critics as one of the most visually beautiful films of the late 1920’s, was produced and released by Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. Following her widely acclaimed role in the gritty Beggars of Life, Brooks was next assigned to The Canary Murder Case, a widely celebrated murder mystery. It was a plum role for which Brooks was well suited. However, before work began on The Canary Murder Case, Brooks was suddenly reassigned to Redskin, another important Paramount film also set to go into production. In her nationally syndicated column, Louella Parson wrote in August, 1928:


Brooks’ role went beyond merely being cast as a a Pueblo Indian named Corn Blossom. Paramount records show the actress was paid for three weeks' work on Redskin. According to press reports from the time, Brooks reported to Gallup, New Mexico at the end of August, 1928, where the cast and crew gathered before heading out to camps near the location shoot.



In early September of 1928, Brooks was called back to Hollywood, where she replaced Ruth Taylor in The Canary Murder Case. No one knows why for sure. Some reports had it that Taylor fell ill, while others claim Brooks was temperamental and unsuited to a film like Redskin. But there is certainly "more to the story".... *


When Louise Brooks left the cast of Redskin, she was replaced by Gladys Belmont, an otherwise unknown actress whose first and only starring role would be in the Native American drama.


* That "more to the story" likely includes studio politics, Brooks' resentment in having been denied a role in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, which starred Ruth Taylor, Brooks' dissatisfaction over her contract with Paramount, and a power play by Paramount in replacing her in a prestige production opposite a major star with an unknown actress.



Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Louise Brooks and Redskin part one

On Saturday, December 7, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will screen the 1929 Paramount film, Redskin. This blog explores the little known connection Louise Brooks had with the film. More about the 2019 SFSFF "Day of Silents" may be found HERE.

Redskin tells the story of a Navajo man named Wing Foot who was taken as a child to a US government boarding school and forced to assimilate. The film explores the damage done by prejudice as it explores issues of racial identity and cultural insensitivity in telling Wing Foot’s story, the story of  a Native American navigating between his western education and the traditions passed down by the tribal elders. Today, the film’s title is considered a racial slur; in the 1920s when Redskin was made, it was used against the film's protagonist to illustrate intolerance, not endorse it.


The film, directed by Victor Schertzinger, was produced and released by Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. The story and screenplay is by Elizabeth Pickett. Julian Johnson, who penned the titles for Redskin, had also written the titles for a couple of Louise Brooks' films, including Beggars of Life (1928). Shot in two-color Technicolor at locations in New Mexico and Arizona (including Acoma Pueblo and Canyon de Chelly) — the film changes from color to black-and-white (sepia-toned in the original projection prints) when it leaves Navajo and Pueblo lands. And like Beggars of Life (1928), the film was originally released with a synchronized score and sound effects.

Louise Brooks' connection to Redskin goes beyond these few coincidences. After completing work on Beggars of Life, Brooks was next assigned to The Canary Murder Case. However, according to numerous press reports, before work would begin on the celebrated detective story, Brooks was suddenly reassigned to Redskin, another important Paramount film also set to go into production. Eventually, Brooks was withdrawn from Redskin and reassigned once again to The Canary Murder Case.


Harkening back to the studio’s earlier big-budget films set in the West, Redskin was an ambitious film focusing on Native Americans. The film was directed by Victor Schertzinger, a noted film-score composer who later helmed the Oscar-winning Grace Moore vehicle, One Night of Love (1934). Shot on location and largely in Technicolor, Redskin has been described by critics as one of the most visually beautiful films of the late 1920’s.

Typical for the time, the leads in Redskin are played by non-Native Americans, with Navajo and Pueblo acting only as bit players and extras. In what would have been one of the more unusual roles of her career, Brooks was set to play a Pueblo named Corn Blossom, a Native American character described in the Los Angeles Times as an “Indian flapper.” One Hollywood columnist thought the role Brooks’ “greatest opportunity to date.” Another reported Brooks’ screen test revealed a “striking resemblance to our conception of Romantic Indian heroines.”

This spectacularly photographed film — shot in the American southwest on historic tribal lands — centers on Wing Foot, Corn Blossom’s love interest and a Navajo caught between two tribes and two cultures. Wing Foot is played by Richard Dix, a major star of the time. Pueblo Jim, the rival suitor for Corn Blossom, is played by Noble Johnson, the pioneering African American film producer and longtime character actor.

Brooks’ role went beyond merely being cast. Paramount records show the actress was paid for three weeks' work on Redskin. She was photographed in costume, though without the make-up used on her successor (Gladys Belmont) to affect a Native American appearance. According to press reports from the time, Brooks reported to Gallup, New Mexico at the end of August, 1928, where the cast and crew gathered before heading out to camps near the location shoot.

Gladys Belmont (left, in the arms of Richard Dix) replaced Louise Brooks
in Redskin. The film was Belmont’s first and only starring role.




In early September of 1928, Brooks was called back to Hollywood, where she replaced Ruth Taylor in The Canary Murder Case. The reason given for the switch was that Taylor was ill. Reportage of the time stated, "No one knows why Louise Brooks, a perfect Indian type, was taken out of the picture after working for two weeks, but the rumor is it was another case of temperament — a dangerous experiment for stars these days when so many potential rivals are hanging around in the extra ranks! All the studio gave 'gave out' was that Miss Brooks' thorough knowledge of Broadway and its life suited her so perfectly for the role of Canary in The Canary Murder Case, that she had been selected. Ruth Taylor, formerly cast, fell ill."

However, despite rumors of temperament, studio executives may well have felt Brooks was miscast in the Native American drama. Brooks had been a well known NYC showgirl, and her “thorough knowledge of Broadway and its life” indeed “suited her perfectly to the role” of the feathered showgirl in The Canary Murder Case.


The original score for Redskin was composed by J.S. Zamecnik. The December 7th presentation of the film at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will feature live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (longtime interpreters and champions of Zamecnik's scores).

More on Louise Brooks and Redskin follows in the next post.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Day of Silents on December 7

SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES

A DAY OF SILENTS 2019   

December 7, 2019
Castro Theatre, San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A DAY OF SILENTS takes place at the beautiful Castro Theatre on Saturday, December 7. Five programs with live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, and Berklee Silent Film Orchestra; this is a day of stunning silent cinema and thrilling live music not to be missed!  The day begins with three comedy shorts by the endlessly entertaining duo of Fatty + Buster. “Fatty” Arbuckle discovered Buster Keaton, and these three sparkling shorts demonstrate the striking chemistry between the two geniuses. The morning laughs are followed by more serious fare. In Redskin, Navajo Wing Foot navigates between his western education and the traditions passed down by tribal elders. The film was shot in breathtaking two-color Technicolor at locations in New Mexico and Arizona (including Acoma Pueblo and Canyon de Chelly). Our third program, "Woman with a Movie Camera," brings French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché to the Castro screen. She 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. At 5pm, Ernst Lubitsch works narrative magic with knowing looks and subtle gestures in The Marriage Circle. 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. We close out the day with the oldest surviving film version of Phantom of the Opera. Starring Lon Chaney—the Man of a Thousand Faces—in his most celebrated role, the disfigured, cloaked “phantom” who haunts the Paris Opera House will do anything for his beloved Christine. With original Technicolor and hand coloring! Tickets/Passes/Information: http://bit.ly/ADOS2019
 

FATTY + BUSTER
11:00 am | $17 general / $15 member
Live Music by Donald Sosin
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was the preeminent film comedian of the 1910s. From the age of eight he appeared on stage as an acrobat and a clown and started his film career in 1913. By 1914, he had not only appeared in hundreds of Keystone comedies, but began directing the one-reelers. In 1917, he and producer Joseph M. Schenck formed the Comique Film Corporation—whose films were released through Famous Players—and Arbuckle became one of the highest-paid men in Hollywood. Arbuckle mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton, but his comedic brilliance has been overshadowed by the scandal that ended his career. These three sparkling shorts demonstrate a striking chemistry between Arbuckle and Keaton. Watching the two geniuses collaborate: a thing of beauty. The program includes THE COOK (1918, d. Roscoe Arbuckle), GOOD NIGHT, NURSE (1918, d. Roscoe Arbuckle), and THE GARAGE (1919, d. Roscoe Arbuckle).



REDSKIN
1:00 pm | $17 general / $15 member
Live Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
The story of a Navajo man, Wing Foot (Richard Dix), who was taken as a child to a US government boarding school and forced to assimilate resonates with contemporary headlines. Victor Schertzinger’s film explores the damage done by prejudice as it brings up issues of racial identity and cultural insensitivity to tell Wing Foot’s story. The film’s title acknowledges a racial slur used against its protagonist and it is used to illustrate intolerance, not endorse it. Wing Foot navigates between his western education and the traditions passed down by the tribal elders. Shot in breathtaking two-color Technicolor at locations in New Mexico and Arizona (including Acoma Pueblo and Canyon de Chelly)—the film changes from color to black-and-white when it leaves the Navajo and Pueblo lands.




WOMAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA
3:15 pm | $17 general / $15 member
Live Music by Donald Sosin
French filmmaking pioneer Alice Guy got into the movie business at the very beginning—in 1894, at the age of 21. Two years later, she was made head of production at Gaumont and started directing films. One of the very first directors to make narrative films, her work is marked by innovation—she experimented with color-tinting, special effects, and sound! In 1910 she and her husband moved to the United States and she founded Solax film studio. But a series of reversals—a severe bout of Spanish flu, a nasty divorce, the loss of her studio to creditors—forced Guy out of business and she returned to France with her two children in 1922. Through her own efforts—lecturing at universities and politely correcting historians’ mistakes—along with the efforts of diligent archivists, she has been rescued from unwarranted obscurity. Ninety-nine years after the opening of Solax, Alice Guy remains the only woman to have ever owned a movie studio. The program includes MIDWIFE TO THE UPPER CLASS (1902), THE RESULTS OF FEMINISM (1906), THE DRUNKEN MATTRESS (1906), MADAME HAS HER CRAVINGS (1906), THE GLUE (1907), and THE OCEAN WAIF (1916).


 

THE MARRIAGE CIRCLE
5:00 pm | $17 general / $15 member
Live Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Ernst Lubitsch’s adaptation of the play Only a Dream was his second American film and would set the tone for all his sparkling comedies to follow. The titular “circle” alludes to the ring of infidelities that animate the plot—and while the story is exquisitely plotted with headlong narrative twists and sophisticated intelligence, it’s the intricacies of human behavior that concern Lubitsch. An expert at adapting dialogue-ridden theater to silent films with few intertitles, Lubitsch works narrative magic with knowing looks and subtle gestures—his characters are brimming with humanity ... and hilarity. Set in Vienna, “the city of laughter and light romance,” The Marriage Circle centers on two couples—the sublimely-in-love Monte Blue and Florence Vidor, and the less-so Adolphe Menjou and Marie Prevost. The New Yorker’s Richard Brody writes, “Ernst Lubitsch turned a drawing-room farce into bittersweet chamber music.”




THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
8:00 pm | $24 general / $22 member
Live Music by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
The oldest surviving film version of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel 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 (Mary Philbin). Universal’s opulent set design replicates the palatial interior of the actual Paris Opera and the Phantom’s residence—the subterranean catacombs beneath the Opera—have inspired generations of horror sets. The print features the original tints and Technicolor of the 1929 theatrical version, restored by Film Preservation Associates, as well as the meticulously hand-colored sequences that reproduce the Handschiegl Color Process. Chaney’s self-designed make-up was kept a studio secret until the film’s premiere in 1925. The famous unmasking scene when Christine unfastens the Phantom’s mask, revealing his grotesque disfigurement remains one of the most shocking moments in cinema history.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Louise Brooks Society - Black Friday #silentfilm specials

Looking for something good to read? In search of that special gift for the Louise Brooks or silent film fan on your holiday shopping list?

The Louise Brooks Society is pleased to let everyone know that for a limited time (Thanksgiving Day, November 28 through Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019) each of the following titles are available at a special discounted price. And what's more, the LBS will ship the book for free within the United States. Send an order via email to silentfilmbuff AT gmail.com. The LBS accepts major credit cards through it's safe and secure PayPal account. Want a special inscription? Send a note along with your order, and we'll be happy to oblige.

Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz
-- This new 296 page book brings together 15 years work by the Director of the Louise Brooks Society. Gathered here are the author's best articles, essays, reviews and blogs about the silent film star and her films: Beggars of Life, Pandora’s Box, and Diary of a Lost Girl are discussed, as are many other little known aspects of Brooks’ legendary career. With dozens of illustrations, many rare.  AUTOGRAPHED by the author.


Regular price $22.50 // now just $19.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

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Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz
-- This first ever study of Beggars of Life looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. With more than 50 little seen images, and a foreword by William Wellman, Jr. A must have addition to your library, and an essential companion to the KinoLorber DVD/Blu-ray. AUTOGRAPHED by the author.


Regular price $13.50 // now just $10.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)


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Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz
-- This first ever study of Beggars of Life looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. With more than 50 little seen images, and a foreword by William Wellman, Jr. A must have addition to your library, and an essential companion to the KinoLorber DVD/Blu-ray. AUTOGRAPHED by the author AND BY WILLIAM WELLMAN JR. (Limited availability, limited time offer.)


Special price, $75.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

With the DVD of the film, featuring audio commentaries by Thomas Gladysz and William Wellman Jr., only 1 available $100.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

With the Blue-ray of the film, featuring audio commentaries by Thomas Gladysz and William Wellman Jr., only 1 available $100.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

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Now We're in the Air (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz

This companion to the once "lost" 1927 film tells the story of the film’s making, its reception, and its discovery by film preservationist Robert Byrne. With two rare fictionalizations of the movie story, more than 75 little seen images, detailed credits, trivia, and a foreword by Byrne. AUTOGRAPHED by the author.


Regular price $17.50 // now just  $14.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)


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Now We're in the Air (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz

This companion to the once "lost" 1927 film tells the story of the film’s making, its reception, and its discovery by film preservationist Robert Byrne. With two rare fictionalizations of the movie story, more than 75 little seen images, detailed credits, trivia, and a foreword by Byrne. AUTOGRAPHED by the author AND BY ROBERT BYRNE. (Limited availability, limited time offer.)


Special price, $25.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)


Looking for more great reads and more great deals?
Check out the "Related Books for Sale" Page.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Thanksgiving themed post from the Louise Brooks Society

Louise Brooks shows on Thanksgiving Monday

In Canada in 1927, the Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated on different days on a regional and even local basis. Nationally, the holiday was set to take place on July 3rd. But as the above advertisement from Nanaimo, British Columbia shows, a special showing of Rolled Stockings was announced for the local Bijou theatre on an alternate holiday – Monday, November 7th. (... Some thirty years after this Thanksgiving Day screening, the Governor General of Canada issued a proclamation stating the Thanksgiving holiday would henceforth be observed throughout the nation on the second Monday in October.)

In the United States, Thanksgiving takes place on the last Thursday in November. And south of the border on November 24, 1927, the popular Louise Brooks comedy Now We're in the Air was showing in Appleton, Wisconsin. The film, which the Appleton Post-Cresent described as a "nonsense opera", was going over "big," according to the local newspaper. The advertisement for Fischer's theatre proclaims "After that Thanksgiving Day Dinner Come on Down," noting Brooks is the "leading lady and how she leads." Notably, the accompanying short film is Love Em and Feed Em (starring Max Davidson & Oliver Hardy); its title is a take off on Brooks' 1926 film, Love Em and Leave Em.


Appleton moviegoers who couldn't get enough of Louise Brooks could return to Fischer's the following Saturday or Sunday, where another 1927 Brooks film, The City Gone Wild, was showing. How's that for a cinematic feast? Elsewhere around the United States in 1927, The City Gone Wild was showing on Thanksgiving Day in Cincinnati, Ohio at the Walnut theatre, while Now We're in the Air was showing in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the Strand. (If you live in either of those towns, get in your time machine and travel back to catch a screening of these now "lost" films.) Or, if you live in Bloomington, Illinois, you can take in The City Gone Wild at the Irvin theatre, as the turkey bordered advertisement below shows. (It remarkable that the local Bloomington newspaper had enough turkey dingbats to set a border.)


On Thursday, November 29th - Thanksgiving Day in 1928, the recently released Louise Brooks film Beggars of Life was showing in Hartford, Connecticut. The Hartford Courant newspaper ad below notes the "special holiday bill" at the Central theatre would be shown at 2:30, 6:30, and 8:30 pm, but incorrectly states the film stars Noah Berry. In actuality, the film starred Noah Beery's younger brother, future Oscar winner Wallace Beery!




In traditional clothing in Beggars of Life
Wherever you live in the United States or Canada, and however you celebrate the holiday, happy Thanksgiving from the Louise Brooks Society. And don't forget, the Louise Brooks inspired film, The Chaperone, will be shown on Thanksgiving afternoon on PBS. Check you local TV listing for the time and channel.


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