Monday, September 17, 2018

Louise Brooks and Radio: a fascinating discovery

In the United States, radio was a new and somewhat primitive medium in the 1920s. It was also exciting. Early stations, some of them experimental, were started by just about everyone - from local newspapers and local businesses to small communications companies and Hollywood movie studios - even department stores got in on the act.

The first commercial broadcasts in the United States were thought to have taken place in 1920 (there is some debate on who exactly was first). According to Wikipedia, in early 1922, there were fewer than forty commercial stations broadcasting in the country. But by mid-1922, when the so-called "radio craze" began, several hundred new stations took to the airwaves as thousands of Americans bought or built their own radio sets. In a sign of the times, President Warren G. Harding had a radio installed in the White House.

By the mid-1920s, radio and the motion picture industry (then other dominant form of popular entertainment) came to intersect. Movie stars, especially those with musical talent, appeared on radio programs, while a few shows were given over to talking about the movies. Over the years, I have found a couple of such intersections involving Louise Brooks. And now, I have come across another.

More than a few years back, I came across a small article in a small New York City newspaper mentioning that Adolphe Menjou had been a guest on WGBS, the Gimbel Brothers radio station located in atop the Gimbel Brothers department store in NYC. The article states that while the 1926 Adolphe Menjou - Louise Brooks film, A Social Celebrity, was playing at the Rivoli theater in New York, Adolphe Menjou was heard on WGBS, the Gimbel Brothers radio station in NYC. According to this newspaper report, Menjou spoke about the film and the scenes shot locally on Long Island. 

In 2016, I came across an intriguing letter to the editor published in Variety in 1937. In the letter, E.M. Orowitz states that Brooks was one of a number of film stars who appeared on the radio in the 1920s. Orowitz doesn't state when, but I would guess it was most likely in 1926, while she was still a resident of NYC. (It's possible she appeared on the radio in 1927, or even 1928, as Brooks was known to criss-cross the country during that time, and may well have taken the time to do a bit of publicity -- and appear on Emo's Movie Broadcast.) Here is that article.

Added to those two earlier discoveries is a new find (shown below), a listing for a December 1926 radio show out of New York City based on the First National production, Just Another Blonde. That film starred Dorothy Mackaill, Jack Mulhall, William "Buster" Collier Jr., and Louise Brooks. I don't know much of anything about this show except that it aired.... I don't know if Brooks was involved, or if the show was about the film (like Menjou's appearance on WGBS to talk about A Social Celebrity), or if it was a dramatization of the Just Another Blonde story. My bet is on the latter.

The show, which usually ran thirty minutes, was called "Voices of the Silent Drama." I could find very little about it except that it first aired on Thursday nights starting in January of 1926, and seems to have focused on First National films. A Baltimore, Maryland newspaper described the show to its readers as a "radio presentation of a forthcoming photoplay." Malcolm La Prade and Col. C.T. Davis worked on the adaption of screen scenarios, and someone named Gross was credited as announcer.

In looking through newspapers of the time, I also found listings for programs devoted to Subway Sadie, Ladies at Play, Puppets, It Must Be Love, The Blonde Saint, and Ella Cinders, the latter famously starring Colleen Moore. Most listings I came across simply stated that the program was a "First National Presentation." The listing for The Duchess of Buffalo added "cast," which is intriguing as that film starred Constance Talmadge. In January of 1927, the show moved to Friday nights, and then suddenly disappeared.

Though broadcast out of New York City, "Voices of the Silent Drama" had a large, regional audience. The listings I found came from newspapers scattered across the Eastern seaboard, from Hartford, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts -- from Wilmington, Delaware to Baltimore, Maryland. I even found listings further afield: "Voices of the Silent Drama" on WJZ was seemingly being picked up in Indianapolis, Indiana and Green Bay, Wisconsin, as well as Lincoln, Nebraska and Miami, Florida. The listing depicted above, mentioning Just Another Blonde, is from Montreal, Canada. WJZ could also be heard in Ottawa. ("Voices of the Silent Drama" was also "hooked-up," or syndicated, over two other stations, WGY (out of Schenectady, New York) and WRC (out of Washington D.C.)

Just Another Blonde opened under the title The Girl from Coney Island at the Strand Theater in New York City on December 12, 1926. Four days later, WJZ broadcast its radio show on the film. Was Brooks involved? We don't know, and may never know, but it is possible. Louise Brooks was in New York City at the time. In fact, she was present at a ceremony laying the cornerstone of the new Ziegfeld Theater in New York on December 11th. According to newspaper reports from the time, Will Rogers acted as Master of Ceremonies, and Billie Burke officiated. Also present among a crowd estimated at 1,500 were William Collier Jr. (named next to Louise Brooks in an article), Lois Wilson, Thomas Meighan, Mary Brian and others.

Radio was an exciting new format in the 1920. Newspapers across the country ran listings for stations scattered across adjoining states, suggesting transmissions were heard far and wide. There was so much interest that some newspapers even carried radio columnists, while others reported on what their local correspondent could pick-up on any given night. Check out this front-page item from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It begins with what the local reporter heard the night before, and concludes with a paragraph on "Voices of the Silent Drama," evidently a popular show.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Louise Brooks Society blog selected by Feedspot as one of Top 20 Silent Movies Blogs

Good news! The Louise Brooks Society blog has been selected by FEEDSPOT as one of the Top 20 Silent Movies Blogs. As a matter of fact, the LBS blog was chosen as the 4th "best" silent film blog. Check out the entire list HERE. There are some great blogs ahead and behind the Louise Brooks Society blog. And for more good reading, be sure and check out the BLOGS WORTH READING list on the lower right hand side of this page. There are lots of silent film and early film resources listed and linked.

According to Feedspot, the LBS blog has 2,820 Facebook fans and 4,781 Twitter followers. These blogs are ranked based on following criteria
  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
 Lulu Forever!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Louise Brooks Stars This Weekend in the UK

Three of Louise Brooks' best films will be shown in England in mid-September. The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks films, Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora's Box, will be shown in England on September 14 and 16. (More information about this special double bill may be found HERE.)  Also showing on September 16th is Beggars of Life, with live musical accompaniment by The Dodge Brothers. (More information about this latter event may be found HERE.)

Friday 14th September 2018: Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) + Live Music by Jonny Best 
Cube Cinema, Dove Street South , Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD
Tickets: £8 (full) / £7 (concession) / 8:00pm 

A masterpiece of the German silent era, Diary of a Lost Girl was the second and final collaboration of actress Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst a mere months after their first collaboration in the now-legendary Pandora’s Box (1929). Brooks plays Thymian Henning, a beautiful young woman raped by an unscrupulous character employed at her father’s pharmacy (played with gusto by Fritz Rasp, the degenerate villain of such Fritz Lang classics as Metropolis, Spione, and Frau im Mond). After Thymian gives birth to his child and rejects her family’s expectations of marriage, the baby is torn from her care, and Thymian enters a purgatorial reform school that seems less an institute of learning than a conduit for fulfilling the headmistress’s sadistic sexual fantasies. The screening will have a specially recorded audio intro by author and critic Pamela Hutchinson with live music on piano by Jonny Best (Yorkshire Silent Film Festival).

Sunday 16th September 2018: Pandora’s Box (1929)
Curzon Cinema & Arts, Boathouse 6, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ, UK
Various Ticket Prices / 4:30pm

G.W. Pabst’s 1929 silent masterpiece Pandora’s Box stars Louise Brooks in the role that secured her place as one of the immortal goddesses of the silver screen. This controversial, and in its day heavily censored, film is regularly ranked in the Top 100 films of all time (including Cahiers du Cinema and Sight & Sound). Brooks is unforgettable as Lulu (Louise Brooks), a sexy, amoral dancer who creates a trail of devastation as she blazes through Weimar-era Berlin, breaking hearts and destroying lives. From Germany, she flies to France, and finally to London, where tragedy strikes. This stunning photographed film is loosely based on the controversial Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind, and also features one of the cinema’s earliest lesbian characters. New 2K DCP of the 2009 restoration of Munich Film Museum’s definitive cut, with score by Peer Raben. Showing as part of this year’s Heritage Open Weekend which celebrates Heritage sites all over the UK.

But wait, there's more....

The Louise Brooks film Beggars Of Life (1928) will be shown on September 16 at the Bridport Electric Palace in Bridport with live musical accompaniment by The Dodge Brothers. Following the film, there will be a Q&A with Mark Kermode (The Observer chief Film Critic, BBC TV Presenter), Neil Brand (writer & presenter BBC 4 series ‘Sounds of Cinema : The Music That Made The Movies’) and Dr Mike Hammond (Associate Professor, Film Department, University of Southampton). More information about this event can be found HERE.

Following his Best Picture win at the inaugural Academy Awards, William A. Wellman made Beggars of Life, an adaptation of Jim Tully’s best-selling hobo memoir. This gripping drama casts Brooks as a girl on the lam after killing her lecherous step-father. Dressed in boy’s clothes, she navigates through a dangerous tramp underworld with the help of a handsome and devoted drifter (Richard Arlen) and encounters the dangerous, but warm-hearted hobo Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery). 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.

The Dodge Brothers have played to silent films at the finest venues in the land, The Barbican, The National Film Theatre, BFI, The National Media Museum and anywhere that the high art of playing live to silent film is appreciated. In 2014 The Dodge Brothers were the first band to accompany a silent film (Beggars of Life) at Glastonbury Festival.

Want to learn more about the film? Last Spring saw the release of my well reviewed new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, and last Summer saw the release of a new DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber. (The DVD features a commentary by your's truly, Thomas Gladysz. If you haven't secured your own 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 both are available on amazon.UK

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Book: The Rocky Twins: Norway's Outrageous Jazz Age Beauties

There is a new book out which should be of interest to many interested in Louise Brooks. It's The Rocky Twins: Norway's Outrageous Jazz Age Beauties. If they seem familiar, that because I have written about them earlier on this blog. What follows is some information from the publisher.

Admired for being stunningly handsome, the Norwegian Rocky Twins were dancers who had a ten-year career in Europe and America appearing on stage and in film during the Jazz Age between 1927-1937. Their beauty, their androgynous looks and their outrageous antics imitating the Dolly Sisters in drag made them legendary

The Norwegian Rocky Twins (born Leif and Paal Roschberg) were deliciously handsome, outrageous and lived life to the full. They made a name for themselves as dancers in the Paris music hall in the late 1920s at the tender age of eighteen. Their act took Paris by storm because in one of their numbers, they dressed up in drag and imitated the famous Dolly Sisters, who had just retired.  Their unique performance enabled them to star on the stage and in film across Europe and America (Paris, London, Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York and Los Angeles) and at the same time their good looks became highly sought after by connoisseurs of the body beautiful of either sex.

Gary Chapman's new book is:

The first illustrated biography of the dancing Norwegian Rocky Twins who were stars of film and stage in the Jazz Age on both sides of the Atlantic.

Based on extensive research over 30 years.

Includes 114 black and white photographs.

Insight and detail about nightlife and the entertainment world in London, Paris, New York, Vienna, Scandinavia, New York and Hollywood in the golden age of stage and screen.

Exposes some of the secrets of pre-code Hollywood in the early 1930s.

Explores the secret gay world on both side of the Atlantic and the ‘Pansy Craze’ in America in the early 1930s.

They were regarded as two of the best dressed and most handsome men in the world.

Their impersonation in drag of the Dolly Sisters became legendary.

A colourful life story that has made them ‘gay legends.’

They were once called ‘The Black Orchids of the North.’

Covers their career as the Rocky Twins and their later life during and after World War Two.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Louise Brooks autographed coat circa 1929

Where is it now?

In 1930, a German magazine ran a piece on an autographed coat signed by various German film personalities, among them four associated with the 1929 classic Pandora's Box. Director G.W. Pabst signed the coat, as did actors Fritz Kortner and Franz Lederer and Louise Brooks. The Kansas-born actress who played Lulu -- one of the few non-German's to add their autograph -- signed the coat on the bottom right panel, and added "Hollywood" beneath her name.

Among the other well known names asked to autograph the coat are Lilian Harvey, Ivan Mosjoukin, Harry Liedtke, Henny Porten, and Werner Krauss. The latter starred in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as well as the earlier version of The Diary of a Lost Girl (1918). I wonder, where is that coat now?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Follow-up post: A Romanian take on the "Cutie Complex"

Here is something of a follow-up to yesterday's "Cutie Complex" post. This one features two clippings from Romanian magazines. The first is a 1930 "Modern Women" advertisement with a strikingly Louise Brooks / Lulu look-alike image, and the second is a 1928 article & diagram explaining what makes the "ideal woman" - in movie star terms.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

That Cutie Complex ... featuring Louise Brooks, Colleen Moore, Clara Bow etc.....

How could I resist? How can anyone resist... that cutie complex.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Chaperone debuts at Los Angeles Film Festival on September 23

The Chaperone is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on September 23. More information about this special event -- including ticket availability -- can be found HERE.

Haley Lu Richardson, who plays Louise Brooks in The Chaperone, was recently quoted in Indiewire about the 103 minute film.
“I’d never played a real character, and she’s pretty iconic,” Richardson said. “And I don’t look anything like her! But what we did have in common is her moving from a small town to New York when she’s 15, 16 years old to pursue dancing. A chaperone, who’s Elizabeth McGovern, comes with her and it’s the story about how they affect one another. That resonated with me, because I moved to LA from Arizona when I was 16 to dance and act and my mom came with me and [we have] this bond and we learned from each other.”
About The Film
Against the backdrop of the tumultuous times of the early 1920’s, a genteel Kansan named Norma decides to break out of her comfort zone and visit the city of her birth. She offers her services as a chaperone to a beautiful and talented 15-year-old dancer named Louise Brooks, and the two head to New York City for the summer. One of them is eager to fulfill her destiny of dance and movie stardom; the other is on a mission to unearth the mysteries of her past.

Based on Laura Moriarty’s best-selling American novel, The Chaperone reunites the writer, director and star of Downtown Abbey. Scripted by Julian Fellowes with an eye toward personal details, and enhanced by Michael Engler’s direction, offering up moments effortlessly shifting between introspection and wonder. Elizabeth McGovern brings charm and a welcome spark to a fish out of water, while Haley Lu Richardson radiates as the effervescent Louise Brooks.

- Drea Clark, Senior Programmer

  • Michael Engler
  • Elizabeth McGovern
  • Victoria Hill
  • Rose Ganguzza
  • Kelly Carmichael
  • Greg Clark
  • Luca Scalisi
  • Andrew Mann
  • Elizabeth McGovern
  • Haley Lu Richardson
  • Campbell Scott
  • Victoria Hill
  • Miranda Otto
  • Blythe Danner
  • Julian Fellowes

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Bring a gun... the long night of Louise Brooks

Details are still emerging about this new play.... 

On Thursday, September 27, there will be a voice reading of Bring a gun... the long night of Louise Brooks, by Jim Piazza and Sondra Lee. This benefit event is being put on by the Episcopal Actors Guild (EAG) in New York, who describe the work as "A woman in her 70s tells her tale of the roaring 20s in this reading of Sondra Lee's and Jim Piazza's new play about a night in Hollywood you will never forget!"

This presentation features Victor Slezak as Richard Leacock, Keith Herron as Kenneth Tynan, and Sondra Lee as Louise Brooks.

This special event takes place in Guild Hall, located on the second floor of The Little Church at 1 East 29th Street (between Madison and Fifth). Interestingly, The Little Church, which is also known as The Little Church Around the Corner, is the site of a couple of scenes from Louise Brooks' first film, The Street of Forgotten Men. Brooks wasn't in those particular scenes, but film stars Percy Marmont, Mary Brian, and Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series of the 1960s) were. More information and ticket availability may be found HERE.


Thanks to Tim Moore for the heads-up!
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