Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Besides the USC and UCLA libraries, my wife and I visited some film-related sites during our recent trip to Los Angeles.
We took the Sony Pictures studio tour, which led us around the old MGM lot in Culver City. There were a number of historic buildings still standing on the lot, and the tour guide knowledgeably filled us in on what building related to Irving Thalberg, Buster Keaton, etc.... The tour was worthwhile, and comparable to the Paramount Studio tour - which we had taken a few years earlier. We also visited the site of the old Hal Roach studio (now a movie production facility), where my wife's sister was working on Team America, a forthcoming film. We got to see the film's sets, as well as a scene being shot. Nifty. Later, we stopped in front of the old Chaplin Studios - now home to Jim Henson Productions.
We spent a few hours walking around downtown Hollywood, where we once again visited the Roosevelt Hotel (home to the first ever Academy Awards), Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theater (new home to the Academy Awards), and some of the memorabilia shops and bookstores which line Hollywood boulevard. Unfortunately, Larry Edmunds bookshop was closed.
A highlight of our time spent in Hollywood was our first ever trip to the Hollywood Heritage Museum (located across the road from the Hollywood Bowl). Over the years, we have tried to visit this little museum on at least three occassions, but could never make it when the building was open. (The building is currently open on weekends from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.)
"The Hollywood Heritage Museum is housed in the beautifully restored Lasky-DeMille Barn (c. 1895). The Museum features archival photographs from the silent movie days of motion picture production, movie props, historic documents and other movie related memorabilia. Also featured are historic photos and postcards of the streets, buildings and residences of Hollywood during its heyday." Louise Brooks' name and image can be found on at least four or five pieces of memorabilia inside the museum, including a rare image of Brooks and Adolph Menjou standing outside of the building, circa January, 1927. In this photo, a bearded Menjou is seen observing Brooks, who has climbed up a ladder leaning against the "old barn". Supposedly, these two Paramount stars are helping paint the building. If you are a silent film buff, the Hollywood Heritage Museum is well worth a visit. There is a lot of really cool stuff inside - as well as a gift shop!
Another memorable visit was to the Hollywood Forever cemetery. We have been there a few times, but this visit coincided with the annual Rudolph Valentino memorial service - which is held every year on August 23. About a hundred people gathered for the service this year, which was set up inside the mausoleum where the Valentino is laid to rest. The speakers included the "lady in black," musician Ian Whitcomb - who performed a couple of vintage songs about Valentino, film historian Annette D'Agostino Lloyd (author of the just published Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia), and Tracy Ryan Terhune - author of a new book called Valentino Forever - The History of the Valentino Memorial Service. This was the first time we have attended the memorial service. Perhaps we shall go again some year.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Short vacation to Los Angeles. Spent one day each in the special collections departments of the libraries at USC and UCLA, where I uncovered a bunch of new material - including previously undocumented articles and reviews from a smattering of American, British, German, French, and Spanish publications.
I was able to look through about four years worth of bound volumes of Picturegoer, the British fan magazine. Also examined vintage copies of two very rare trade journals, The Film Mercury and Hollywood Filmograph. Each was based in Los Angeles, and each offered a somewhat different perspective on the film world than East Coast trade journals like Variety and Film Daily. Also looked at individual issues of other American fan publications, such as Movie Monthly. One very cool find was an illustrated fictionalization (in short story form) of The American Venus.
The most significant item I looked at was a book about the films of G.W. Pabst published in Moscow in 1933. (That's just four years after Pabst made his two films with Louise Brooks!) I have known of the existence of this book for some time - but have been unable to examine it. USC is, seemingly, the only library in the United States which owns a copy of this very rare item - and its rarity and fragility prevents them from loaning it.
And so, as I sat in "the cage" - the special collections viewing room - I was nearly trembling with excitement. Finally, resting on the desk before me was a copy of this elusive book. I paged through it ever so slowly, and though I don't read Russian, I found an entire chapter devoted to the two Brooks films. (There was also an image of the actress.) Certainly, this is the earliest chapter in any book ever devoted to Louise Brooks.
My thanks to the special collections staff at UCLA and USC for their help. I especially want to thank Ned Comstock of USC, who more than went out of his way to help me with my research. Thank you Ned!
Friday, August 27, 2004
Thursday, August 26, 2004
There is a new anthology of mostly contemporary crime fiction called The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits. The book is edited by Mike Ashley and features a cover image obviously based on Louise Brooks.
Book description: "In Chicago and New York, in sleazy speakeasies and on Easy Street, to the strains of jazz and the beat of the Charleston, the twenties roared. The horrors of the Great War behind it, the decade went mad with abandon-and mad over the movies, radio, telephones, and the motorcar. But beneath the froth and the folly, the razzle and dazzle, lay a darker world, a hard and often violent world, for the twenties belonged as much to the gangster as they did to the flapper. The stories in this vastly entertaining collection of whodunnits crafted by talents like Amy Myers, Robert Randisi, Jon L. Breen, Edward D. Hoch, Marilyn Todd, and Mike Stotter reflect the allures - and the deadly dangers - of both those worlds."
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Finally finished reading Chaplin, the 1985 biography by the British film historian David Robinson. (This book served as the basis for the biopic of Charlie Chaplin.) What a large life! The author - who I had the pleasure to meet and chat with a number of years ago - did a tremendous job. There is a ton of information here, with emphasis given to the films rather than the personal life of the "little tramp." Nevertheless, its a good read.
Sunday, August 8, 2004
Sunday, August 1, 2004
This month, the Louise Brooks Society celebrates its 9th year on the internet. Since its humble beginings as a "fan page," the LBS has received approximately 1,000,000 hits. Not bad for a website about a silent film star.
The Louise Brooks Society is a "virtual fan club" in cyberspace. At last count, its 1000 members hail from 46 countries on six continents! From Canada to Argentina, from the Canary Islands to Hungary, from Australia to Zimbabwe, LBS members comprise a truly world wide web of Louise Brooks fans and silent film enthusiasts.