Thursday, December 30, 2004

Research trip notes (part two - Ohio)


I have finally had time to sort through all of the material I brought back from my research trip, and am now ready to write a few notes about what I accomplished in Ohio. I have already entered annotated citations in the various LBS bibliographies for all of the reviews and significant articles I found in the Buckeye state.

I spent three days in Columbus, Ohio. One day - about seven plus hours - was spent at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, where I went through microfilm of the three major Columbus newspapers. I searched the Columbus DispatchColumbus Citizen, and Ohio State Journal, and managed to find at least 15 or more articles / film reviews in each paper. I also found some Denishawn material, and a few nice movie advertisements. There was an index - incomplete, as it turned out - to the early years of the Ohio State Journal, and this lead me to about half-a-dozen film reviews. (See "Motion Pictures - Reviews.") Otherwise, I was searching blind, but managed to come up with a bunch of good stuff.
Regarding It's the Old Army Game, the Columbus Dispatch critic stated, "Louise Brooks, a dainty little brunette, with cute girlish ways, a way of flirting, a way of kissing and with a figure that formerly earned Ziegfeld or Carroll honors, looks like a good screen personality. If properly handled, she will be a real comer."
And not unlike other newspaper critics of the 1920's, the reviewer for the Columbus Citizen seems to have been rather fond of Brooks. In reviewing The Show-Off, John McNulty wrote, "Louise Brooks (the bold thing) is as luscious as can be." And in reviewing Rolled Stockings, he noted ". . . the provoking presence of Louise Brooks." About Now We're in the Air, he stated "Louise Brooks, a pretty thing, has little to do but walk around and show her legs, which are pretty and [the] only amusing things in the picture." A year later, while writing about Beggars of Life, the same critic commented, "Miss Brooks only needs remain as warm to look upon, and she can have any role she wants as far as we're concerned."

The next two days - eight hours each, from open to close - I spent at the Ohio Historical Society. For me, Ohio has been a somewhat problematic state from which to borrow materials, so I was really glad to be able to visit this midwest archival motherlode.
At the OHS, I was searching for articles, reviews and advertisements for the many Denishawn performances in the state. I looked through microfilm of newspapers for Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Akron, Youngstown, Canton, Sandusky, Steubenville, Ashland, Alliance and Springfield - and managed to find articles or reviews in each one. Some mentioned, or even pictured, a very youthful Louise Brooks. What a delight.
When microfilm was lacking, I requested massive bound volumes of the Cincinnati Times-StarCanton NewsAkron Times, and Cleveland News. (These crumbling bound volumes - containing a month or more of a newspaper - were about 8 to 10 inches thick and weighed 20 or 30 pounds.) Since photocopies could not be made from these oversized volumes, I took notes when I found material. I also looked at loose issues of the Hamilton Daily News (which were wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string), and found a rather interesting review of which I was able to obtain a photocopy.
Seemingly, the OHS doesn't have microfilm or bound volumes of newspapers from Aurora, Findlay, Uniontown or Newark. Each were Ohio towns in which Denishawn performed. I will have to search for those papers elsewhere.
Along with Denishawn material, I was eager to obtain film reviews and other articles. To that end, I looked at microfilm of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland Press (representing the sixth largest city in the United States in the 1920's), as well as the Cincinnati Post and Cincinnati Enquirer (representing the seventeenth largest city in the United States in the 1920's). I also made a comprehensive sweep through the three Toledo newspapers (the Toledo BladeToledo Times, and Toledo News Bee), the two Youngstown papers (the Youngstown Telegram and Youngstown Vindicator), the Akron Beacon Journal, and Dayton Journal. I also went through a few months of Canton Repository and Sandusky Star Journal. And then I ran out of time.
Here are two rather nifty caricatures of Louise Brooks which I came across while searching for film material. The one on the left was tied in with Now We're in the Air. The one on the right was part of a three panel comic strip featuring Brooks, Wallace Beery and Richard Arlen in Beggars of Life. The text on the right-hand caricature reads "Louise Brooks was the heroine and she caused most of the trouble."
                                  
Before I left the OHS - an impressive, modern facility with clean microfilm and working microfilm readers - I took a few minutes to look at the records of the Ohio Division of Censorship. I examined the handwritten records (a so-called Book of Rejections) of this state organization, looking at their list of censored films for the 1920's and 1930's. These records contained "Daily lists from the time period when film censorship was done by the Industrial Commission, and later, 'Certificates of Censorship- Rejected' from the Department of Education. The reports list state, film number, title, a brief description of eliminations, class, action, number of feet, fee, and filmmaker." I noticed Birth of a Nation, and films by Buster Keaton and Eric von Stroheim, but alas, not any featuring Louise Brooks. I was a bit surprised, as I know that some of Brooks' films were subject to censorship in both Kansas and New York state.
Despite the hundreds of dollars I spent on airfare, hotels and a rental car - I feel that my trip to Ohio and Michigan was well worth the expense. I obtained a massive amount of new material. I am a geek, and I love the challenge and experience of doing research.

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