Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Rare early portrait on eBay


A previously little seen portrait of a young Louise Brooks, most likely taken in 1925 by M.I. Boris, has shown up on eBay. The auction page can be found here. Along with some hand-written notations refering to Pandora's Box (which perhaps dates the use of this image for publicity purposes to late 1928 or early 1929), stamped on the back of the image is "Louise Brooks appearing in Paramount Pictures" and "From    Dept. Foreign Publicity and Advertising    FAMOUS PLAYERS LASKY CORPORATION    485 Fifth Avenue New York City    O.R. Geyer Manager".
 
The Louise Brooks Society webpage devoted to this singular photographer can be found here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Zine article


Yesterday, I won an copy of Debris, issue nine. This scarce British music 'zine from late 1985 (?) contains a one page article about Louise Brooks. Along with later issues of Stained Pages - a Canadian zine, and Telegraph - a music 'zine devoted to the band OMD - this is one of only a few articles I have collected about Brooks from which originally appeared in a 'zine.
Zines are ephemeral. Does anyone know of any other articles about Brooks which appeared in a 'zine? If so, please email the LBS.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Robert Olen Butler


A few nights ago, I had a chance to chat with Robert Olen Butler, the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. He has a new book called Had a Good Time, a lyrical collection of short stories inspired by turn-of-the-century postcards - especially the sentiments written on the back of the cards. I would highly recommended this new book to any fiction readers in the crowd.
As it turns out, Robert Olen Butler collects many things - old postcards, vintage fountain pens, old-time product cards, etc .... The author said he has a few British cigarette cards depicting Louise Brooks. "I love her. She is a wonderful actress," declared Butler.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Oh, Canada"


Canada is one area of research I have been pursueing as it relates to Louise Brooks.
The Denishawn Dance company performed in a handful of Canadian cities during their 1922/1923 and 1923/1924 tours - the two seasons Brooks was a member of that dance group. Over the last year and a half, I have managed to acquire a few reviews of performances in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec. I hope to acquire more, but the process of obtaining microfilm of newspapers from north of the border is slow and a little complicated. Few American libraries, seemingly, own Canadian newspapers on microfilm from that time period. (Any Canadian citizen who reads this and wants to help is encouraged to send me an email.)
I have also, slowly, been collecting reviews and articles about Brooks' films which appeared in Canadian papers in the 1920's and 1930's. So far, I have managed to gather a handful of reviews from each of the following periodicals: Calgary HeraldManitoba Free PressToronto StarToronto GlobeMontreal Gazette, and Ottawa Citizen. And again, I have plans to acquire more in the coming year.
It's interesting to get the Canadian perspective! A brief write-up in the Toronto Star from 1931, for example, is one of the very few newspaper items I have ever found regarding Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, then and now one of the most obscure films in which Brooks appeared.
Perhaps the most intrigueing item I located was an article in the Toronto Star from 1927 which told the story of a young Canadian swimmer - a star athlete - who went to Hollywood to test for motion pictures.
He recounted his experiences - visiting the studios, having make-up applied, the glare of the bright lights, etc... and, his chance encounter with a friendly young actress named Louise Brooks. Two long paragraphs are then given over to their meeting, his observations of her character and appearance, and the "love scene" he had to play with her. From the description of Brooks' hair as being in ringlets, I assume their encounter took place at the time of Brooks was making Evening Clotheswith Adolphe Menjou.
That article, and others from Canada, are cited in the various bibliographies on the LBS website.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Roger Ebert articles on-line


The Chicago Sun-Times has put thousands of Roger Ebert's film reviews and articles on-line. They can all be found in a searchable database at the Sun Timeswebsite. Ebert really loves "the movies," and he is an advocate for the greats of the silent film era, i.e., Charlie Chaplin, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish, and Louise Brooks, among others. (See "Star Ranking Really Rankles.")
Included among the Ebert archive is a long article from 1998 on Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box (which quietly alludes to the LBS - "she is the most popular dead actress on the Web.") Another interesting item is a question and answer exchange from "Movie Answer Man."
"Q. I've been attending a series of silent films by the German director G.W. Pabst. While watching Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), I recognized a camera shot that is most often attributed to Conrad Hall (that of a face next to a window during rain, making it appear as if the raindrops are tears). Hall's use of that shot in In Cold Blood is certainly amazing, but it seems that the origin of that shot should be credited to the cinematographers Sepp Allgeier and Fritz Arno Wagner. I was amazed to find such a shot in a German film from the '20s.  --- Charles Modica Jr., Los Angeles
A. There are more amazing shots in German films from the 1920s than in most new releases. That film and Pandora's Box made Louise Brooks a movie immortal. Thanks for the insight; Bertolucci's new The Dreamers quotes the shot, and I credited Hall."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Louise Brooks of Kansas


Just out from the University of Nebraska Press is The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, edited by David J. Wishart.
"With 1,316 entries contributed by more than one thousand scholars, this groundbreaking reference work captures what is vital and interesting about the Great Plains - from its temperamental climate to its images and icons, its historical character, its folklore, and its politics. Thoroughly illustrated, annotated, and indexed, this remarkable compendium of information and analysis will prove the definitive and indispensable resource on the Great Plains for many years to come."
This nearly 1000-page reference work also contains a short entry (by yours truely) on Louise Brooks, who was born and raised in Kansas.
I haven't seen a copy, but am curious to hear from anyone who does if the editors chose to include the picture of Louise Brooks I submitted with my entry.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Louise Brooks and Lemony Snicket . . .


Came across these interesting references to Louise Brooks in the works of the popular writer known as "Lemony Snicket." 
In the "A Night at the Theatre" section of Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, the author refers to the "Brooks-Gish Award for Best Actress."
And in The Carnivorous Carnival, which is part of the author's A Series of Unfortunate Events series and which contains other cinematic and literary references, there is a mention of Lulu.
What does it all mean? Is Lemony Snicket a fan of Louise Brooks? Someday I will have to ask Daniel Handler . . . .

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Louise Brooks mention on NPR

I was listening to National Public Radio while driving home from a research trip to the University of California, Berkeley. On the radio was a program called "Artists At Work." The artists featured were French song composer Dominique Cravic and artist Robert Crumb, members of the musical group Les Primitifs du Futur. While highlighting the group's music and past cd's, the program host mentioned their song for Louise Brooks, "Chanson pour Louise Brooks," and then played an excerpt.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Silent film analyzes battle of the sexes

A review of Diary of a Lost Girl appeared in yesterday's Grand Rapids Press. The article, by John Douglas, was entitled "Silent film analyzes battle of the sexes." The article concludes " . . . The print of "Diary of a Young Girl" on this DVD has been restored, and much of the footage deleted by the early censors has been restored. So it is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with this film starring a true talent few people remember."

Monday, September 13, 2004

Lulu play

This brief article, by Wally Rubin, appeared in the September 10 issue of Variety.

"Presented by Fearless Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC, Aug. 24-28.

Lulu is a new musical by two graduates of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, based on two plays by German Expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind. The plays were also the basis for an opera by Alban Berg and a 1929 silent movie starring Louise Brooks, famed for her bobbed hairstyle. It is the story of Lulu, a young, amoral man killer, and of the unbidden effects of love, how passion and lust can overrule rational impulses.
Composer-lyricist Adam Gwon and Courtney Phelps, who wrote the book with Gwon and directed, have set this Lulu against the backdrop of the roiling 1920s, when jazz, booze, and silent movies were all the rage. Think La Ronde meets The Wild Party, which, not so incidentally, are both works that have been musicalized by Michael John LaChiusa, who is clearly on influence on Gwen. The style (if not the effect) of the writing is similar, with the same penchant for a restless sound that distrusts melody, and an arch tone that is equal parts bitter and wistful. Gwon shows potential, but he needs to find his own voice and allow his characters greater specificity, giving us reasons to care more about them. At the moment, they seem like ideas culled from other sources.
Broadway veteran Brooke Sunny Moriber was Lulu. She has the perfect 1920s face, with a small mouth and pale porcelain skin, and is gifted with both a distinctive belt and soprano. Jessica Morris, Selby Brown, Daniel C. Levine, and Maggie Letsche all have strong voices, and it was a treat to hear them unmiked. Kevin Kern as a young screenwriter with sunken cheeks and curly blond hair had a melancholic manner that appropriately set him apart. Trevor McGinness' costumes were impressively all of a piece."

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Calgary Herald

Another newspaper achive I've come across is that for the Calgary Herald, which is part of the early Alberta newspaper collection. Unlike other newspaper archives, this collection is not searchable by keyword. Instead, the archive contains rather large images of individual pages from the newspapers in its archives. I went through months and months of the Calgary Herald, and managed to find a bunch of articles, reviews and advertisements from the 1920's. (Citations have been added to the appropriate bibliographies on the LBS website.) Does anyone know of any other Canadian publications with searchable on-line archives?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Harvard Crimson


While crawling around the world wide web, I ran across the website for the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard University. That publication has put its archive, dating back to 1873, on the internet. My search under keywords "Louise Brooks" only turned up a few minor mentions, including this brief review of A Girl in Every Port.
Does anyone know of any other student publications with searchable on-line archives?

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Rare Louise Brooks soundtrack

Yesterday, I won an eBay auction for a contemporary soundtrack recording for Le Journal dUne Fille Perdue, or The Diary of a Lost Girl. Brooks is pictured on the front and back of the record sleeve. This rare French LP (PSI / Musimage 20716) was released in 1981, and contains original music for String Quartet by Robert Viger and Solo Piano by Alain Bernaud. I assume this soundtrack recording accompanied the film at some time during its then recent rerelease by Connaissance du Cinema.
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