Sunday, October 31, 2004

Thomas Dixon biography


Finished reading American Racist, by Anthony Slide, a recently published biography of the novelist and film-maker Thomas Dixon. I was surprised at how interesting I found this book - a testament, no doubt, to Anthony Slide's talents as a film historian.
Thomas Dixon has a notorious reputation as the author of The Klansman, the book which served as the basis for D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation (1915). Dixon has been, rightly so, branded an arch-conservative obsessed with what he viewed as "the Negro problem." However, as American Racist shows, Dixon was also a complex and talented individual who, as well as writing a few of the more popular novels of the early twentieth century, was involved in the production of some eighteen films. (Dixon had a knack for leveraging the stories found in his books into stageplays and films.)
Thomas Dixon used the motion picture as a propaganda tool for his opinions on race, communism, socialism, and feminism. His most spectacular cinematic production, The Fall of a Nation (1916), argues for American preparedness and boasts a musical score by Victor Herbert, making it the first American feature film to have an original score by a major composer. (Like the majority of Dixon's films, The Fall of a Nation is now lost.)
Anthony Slide examines each of the author's films and discusses the novels from which they were adapted. Slide chronicles the Dixonr's transformation from a supporter of the original Ku Klux Klan in his early novels to an ardent critic of the modern Klan in his last film, Nation Aflame. Slide's book is the first work to discuss Dixon's work as a film-maker. Especially interesting was the book's final chapter, "Raymond Rohauer and the Dixon Legacy," which details the modern-day fight over the rights to The Birth of a Nation.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Harold Lloyd event


Though they were both associated with Paramount in the late 1920's, I am not aware that Louise Brooks and Harold Lloyd were acquainted. Nevertheless, silent film fans may want to attend this event.
Suzanne Lloyd
talk, slideshow & booksigning for "Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D!"
Friday, November 19 at 7 pm
Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of silent film great Harold Lloyd, will speak about Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D!, the sensational new book of 3D photographs by the late comedic actor. (Each book comes with a pair of 3D glasses.)

Devotees of Hollywood glamour, collectors of movie memorabilia, lovers of photography, and fans of comic icon Harold Lloyd are all in for a surprise with the release of this newly published book. Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D! is retro chic at its best. From the late forties to the early sixties, Lloyd snapped close to a hundred thousand photographs of  women, many of them in 3D. These gorgeous models and starlets all posed for the camera in various states of undress. Lloyd's granddaughter and manager of his estate, Suzanne Lloyd, has collected 200 of Harold's best photographs in this delightful collection.

Some of the notable starlets who are featured include Bettie Page, Dixie Evans - who became the proprietor of the Exotic World Burlesque Museum, and Tura Satana, the exotic beauty of such film classics as Russ Meyer's  Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! In addition to the nudes, Lloyd took some exquisite photos of Marilyn Monroe, which also appear in the book.

This new book is edited by Suzanne Lloyd, and features a foreword by Robert J. Wagner. Suzanne Lloyd will present a slide show and talk. A booksigning will follow. This event will take place at The Booksmith, which is located at 1644 Haight Street in San Francisco. For further information, please call 415-863-8688. If you can't attend an event and would like to purchase an autographed book, please telephone or email the Booksmith.

Friday, October 29, 2004

American Venus trailer on TCM


A coming attractions trailer for The American Venus (1926) will be shown on Turner Classic Movies during the evening of Sunday, November 21st. Consult your local listings or the TCM website for the exact time.
This trailer is included on the recently released DVD, More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931. TCM will be showing parts of this new release on the first three Sunday evenings in November. 

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Remarkable eBay item for sale


There is a remarkable item for sale on eBay - a poster (seemingly on board) for the 1928 film A Girl in Every Port. I have never seen anything like this before. It may be unique, in that it was created by a local artist for a specific theater. The seller offers no information except that it is "huge."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Weekly trip to the library


Weekly trip to the library to go over newly arrived inter-library loan material. . . . Today, I looked at the Baltimore Post, and managed to turn up a Denishawn review, and a review of the Ziegfeld Follies production of  "Louie XIV." (Louise Brooks was in the company of each of these productions at the time of their Baltimore appearance.) Also found a review of The Street of Forgotten Men at the time it was screened in Baltimore in August, 1925. I was lucky to find what I did, as theBaltimore Post was one of the worst big city newspapers I have ever encountered. It was little more than a tabloid, and an uninteresting and un-fun one at that.
Also went through a couple months of the Chicago Daily News from 1934, where I managed to find an article and some advertisements for the dance team of Dario & Brooks and their appearance, along with torch song singer Helen Morgan, at the Chez Paree - "Chicago's Smartest Supper Club." There was no cover charge - and dinner was only $2.50. Can you imagine?
[ BTW: If you are not familiar with Morgan, do check her out - she is terrific: "Her small, pale appearance and her sweet, artless, and blues-tinged voice made her the ideal performer of the new sort of popular song that was being written in the 1920s and '30s: ironic, sometimes bitter, distinctly urban, and full of the disappointment, loneliness, and joyless hedonism that filled the smoky clubs."]
The day's biggest haul came from a newspaper from the smallest city - Cumberland, Maryland. I looked through about a month worth of the Cumberland Evening Times, where I found a bunch of articles, advertisements, feature photos and a review of the 1923 Denishawn performance in that town. Louise Brooks was mentioned in one of the advertisements, and was twice pictured in group photographs of the Denishawn company.
A footnote: there are interesting happenstances I run across while looking for Brooks material. For example, when Brooks and the Ziegfeld Follies appeared in Baltimore in February of 1925, also in town for a performance was the Denishawn Dance company. Brooks had been ejected from Denishawn less than a year before. Did she notice the Denishawn performance? . . . . And in Chicago, when she was performing with Dario at a supper club, the Chicago Daily News ran a big feature on movie stars (such as Clara Bow and Raymond Hatton) and their failed attempts at a comeback. Did Brooks notice this article? One can only wonder.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Image search


Yahoo announced recently that the search engine at Yahoo Images  ( http://images.search.yahoo.com ) now has over a billion images on record. That's a lot! Google Image Search ( http://www.google.com/imghp ), by comparison, counts itself as having over 880 million images.
Either search engine will turn up hundreds of images of Louise Brooks. Many of the results come from the Louise Brooks Society or the handful of other websites and webpages devoted to the actress. However, a thorough look through the search results will turn up some little seen and otherwise unusual images, including examples of "fan art" and other pictorial representations of the actress. Here is one that I find somewhat striking.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Chanteuse and the Crooner


There is a new book out called Chanteuse in the City: The Realist Singer in French Film, by Kelley Conway. This study "provides a genealogy of realist performance through analysis of the music hall careers and film roles of Mistinguett, Josephine Baker, Frehel, and Damia. Above all, Conway offers a fresh interpretation of 1930's French cinema, emphasizing its love affair with popular song and its close connections to the music hall and the cafe-concert." Fittingly, there are a handful of references to Louise Brooks and Prix de Beaute (which is depicted three times) in this new book. I have read parts of this book, and found it interesting. You may too.
On a not unrelated "note" . . . .
Did anyone catch today's installment of Fresh Air, which featured rock guitarist Lenny Kaye? He spoke about his new book, You Call it Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon, which chronicles the male singers of the 1920's and 1930's - such as Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo - who were known for their suave, sophisticated and romantic interpretations of song. Kaye's book looks quite worthwhile.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Emil Petaja "Photoplay Edition"


I have a few copies of  Photoplay Edition, by Emil Petaja, which I would like to sell. This collectors guide was the first book on the subject of photoplay editions, the movie tie-in books of the silent and early sound era. This heavily illustrated, 200 page bibliography contains a delightful introductory essay and a checklist of hundreds of titles. It is also illustrated with dozens of rare book covers and black-and-white stills. I am selling these softcover books for $10.00 each (which includes shipping). Personal checks or PayPal accepted. Contact me via email at thomasg at pandorasbox.com to arrange payment and shipping.
                                            
Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) was a friend of mine, and I knew him during the last half dozen years of his life. Though an accomplished author in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, Emil is best known to movie lovers as the author of Photoplay Edition (SISU Publishers, 1975). Petaja based this book on his personal collection, which at the time of publication, numbered more than eight hundred books. He loved film, and was a life-long movie buff and collector of movie memorabilia. He had a large library of film-related books, owned hundreds of 16mm films and videotapes, and enjoyed recounting stories about classic films, actors and actresses. What always impressed me about Emil was his remarkable mind for recalling plots, the stars of films, and even the authors whose books were made into movies. Occasionally, we would take in a movie together. And I enjoyed many conversations with him about the movies. Emil was a gateway to the past.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Freckles and His Friends


Here is an amusing item I came across the other day while looking though old newspapers on microfilm. This comic strip dates from 1923, and features Buster Keaton as a character (in this day's strip). Other strips I noticed featured Mary Pickford and Constance Talmadge. Does anyone know anything more about "Freckles and His Friends," or the cartoonist, Blosser?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Research notes


There were five boxes of microfilm waiting for me at the library this morning. Such excitement . . . . I spent four hours looking through the Cincinnati Enquirer (found reviews and articles on four films) and Phildadelphia Inquirer (found a couple of brief articles and advertisements for Denishawn performances). One of the articles in the Philadelphia newspaper told how the Denishawn performance was cancelled because a train wreck had prevented the costumes for the dance company from arriving at the same time as the dancers themselves. (Apparently, the costumes and the dancers travelled on different trains.) "There was a dissapointed audience hanging about the doors," the article stated. Tickets had to be refunded. And the performance was rescheduled for a month later.
Also looked through the Muskogee Daily Phoenix (found lots of Denishawn material and an advertisement for American Venus in this Oklahoma newspaper), theCedar Rapids Republican (found Denishawn articles and advetisements, as well as a few film reviews in this Iowa newspaper), and Pittsfield Advertiser (this small town weekly newspaper from Maine did not yield any Denishawn material).
Some time in the next few years, I plan on writing a narrative history of Louise Brooks' two seasons spent with the Denishawn dance company. This account will be based on the hundreds of articles and reviews I have already collected (and will collect) covering the hundreds of performances Brooks and Denishawn gave across the United States. This account will follow their two tours of the United States and Canada.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Broadway: The American Musical

Tonight, I watched the first two hours of "Broadway: The American Musical" on PBS. It was great to hear recordings and see film clips from the late 1920's and early 1930's. (Or were all the film clips from the early 1930's? It was hard to tell. Were any of the Ziegfeld Follies stage shows of the 1920's ever filmed?) I have also taken a look at the companion book, Broadway: The American Musical, in hopes of finding at least a reference to Louise Brooks and her time with the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies. But, alas, there were none. Except, perhaps, for the image on the back of the book which depicts the Follies of 1925. Is Brooks included in that shot?

Monday, October 18, 2004

New DVD release in France


Various news sources, including Le Monde, have recently mentioned the upcoming release in France of a 3-DVD box set featuring Loulou (aka Pandora's Box),Diary of a Lost Girl, and Prix de beauté. This set from Carlotta Films will also offer the documentary Looking for Lulu and considerable bonus material (commentary by film critics, etc....), along with musical accompaniment. This looks like a must have. Two sources for purchase include fnac.com and amazon.fr
                             

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Online photo archives


New to the web is an archive of images from the New York Times. "The New York Times Photo Archives contains historic images carefully preserved over the past 100 years - one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of photographs in the world." Obviously, only a fraction of the images from this collection are online. Nevetheless, it's worth a look. The archives are searchable by keyword or browsable by category. No Louise Brooks images turned up, but I did come across interesting results searching under "Chaplin," "Fairbanks," "Valentino," etc.... This new site is set up as a store, but its still fun to browse.
Also online, courtesy of the Library of Congress, is an archive of images from the Chicago Daily News. "This collection comprises over 55,000 images of urban life captured on glass plate negatives between 1902 and 1933 by photographers employed by the Chicago Daily News, then one of Chicago's leading newspapers. The photographs illustrate the enormous variety of topics and events covered in the newspaper . . . . In addition to many Chicagoans, the images include politicians, actors, and other prominent people who stopped in Chicago during their travels . . . ." Again, no Louise Brooks images turned up, but other interesting (silent film) search results did! 

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Now on DVD

Two Louise Brooks films are now available on DVD-R through Sunrise Silents. They are Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (1926) and The Canary Murder Case (1929). If you haven't seen Love 'Em and Leave 'Em - in which Brooks plays the 'bad' younger sister - you should! Brooks was only 20 years old when she made this delightful dramatic comedy. And she is terrific!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Research notes


Weekly trip to the San Francisco Public Library. No microfilm had arrived, so I spent an hour surveying Variety for additional material on Louise Brooks' appearances as a nite club dancer. I already had one citation - from April 17, 1934 - but managed to find another, an excellent short review from November 13, 1934!
Heard back regarding my inter-library loan request for the Sioux Fall Press. The South Dakota State Historical Society will loan microfilm of this publication, but charges the curious amount of $6.36 per reel. That's kinda steep. Most libraries don't charge the individual who makes the request. Other libraries charge $3.00 per roll; one or two charge $5.00 per roll. Nevertheless, I will go ahead with this request as I am attempting to track down articles and reviews for each of the Denishawn performances while Brooks was a member of that dance company. So far, I have more than one-hundred, as well as scores of newspaper advertisements and other miscellaneous clipping.
My ILL requests for two other newspapers came back negative. I was not able to get copies of the January 27, 1923 Evening Reporter-Star (from Orlando, Florida), nor the December 15, 1923 Daily Kentucky New Era (from Hopkinsville, Kentucky). Seemingly, no Florida universities nor the Florida Newspaper Project (an archive) have copies of the Evening Reporter-Star from the month when Denishawn performed in Orlando. The only holder of the Daily Kentucky New Era from late 1923 is the Hopkinsville Community College Library, and they apparently don't do inter-library loan.  I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who lives near Hopkinsville, Kentucky and would be willing to spend an hour at the library looking for Denishawn clippings. The same goes for anyone who lives in Orlando, Florida - as I would suspect the local city library has the local papers available on microfilm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Meredith Lawrence

Today, here in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of meeting longtime LBS member and supporter Meredith Lawrence. Meredith, who lives in England, is here in California on vacation. We spoke of many things, of cabbages and kings . . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931


Have heard that the recently released DVD, More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931, contains a trailer from the now lost 1926 Louise Brooks film,The American Venus. I have not yet seen this for myself. Here is the description of the DVD.
"Like the first Treasures from the American Film Archives produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation, More Treasures takes as its starting point the preservation work of our nation's film archives. More Treasures covers the years from 1894 through 1931, when the motion pictures from a peepshow curio to the nation's fourth largest industry. This is the period from which fewest American Films survive. Five film archives have made it their mission to save what remains of these first decades of American film: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, The Library of Congress, The Museum of Modern Art and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. More Treasures (made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities) reproduces their superb preservation work-fifty films follwed by six previews for lost features and serials."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Somewhere in Time

Christopher Reeve has died. And as I write this entry I am watching, for perhaps the tenth time, his 1980 film Somewhere in Time. I know this film is sentimental, and some of the acting in it akward. And I know that some will balk at the notion that Reeve's character can, literally, will himself back into the past. But how I love this film. It has long been one of my favorites. I feel that if time travel ever does become feasible, it will be achieved not through some mechanical device, but as a result of sheer will power. Wishful thinking . . . .

Sunday, October 10, 2004

New play about Kenneth Tynan


Amanda sent word about a new play based on the life of the acclaimed British critic Kenneth Tynan. (Tynan had interviewed Louise Brooks, and wrote the famousNew Yorker essay "The Girl in the Black Helmet.") An article appeared in Guardian newspaper.
"Kenneth Tynan has inspired one play in Smoking With Lulu. Now he is the subject of a one-man show, adapted from his diaries by Richard Nelson and Colin Chambers, and immaculately performed by Corin Redgrave. Presented as part of the RSC's New Work Festival, it reminds us that, even when overcome by ennui, melancholy, and emphysema, Tynan wrote with a precision and grace that most journalists would give their eye-teeth for."
There was a review in the Guardian a few days later. As well as this article in the Telegraph. Thank you Amanda.

Saturday, October 9, 2004

Le regard de Buster Keaton

The other day on eBay, I won a copy of Le regard de Buster Keaton by Robert Benayoun. I already own a copy of this book in English, but was pleased to acquire this inexpensive softcover French edition because it contains Louise Brooks' brief piece on Keaton translated into French.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Blog search


Came across a few different 'meta" weblog / blog search engines, including Bloogz and Technorati and BlogPulse . A search for "Louise Brooks" turned up a handful of results on each search engine, though some of the results turned out to be broken links.
I wonder how extensively blogs (LiveJournal, Blogger, Movable Type, etc...) are indexed? And how long lasting are the entries? Will someone be able to read this entry in ten or twenty years?
(Two other blog search engines worth checking out are are Blogdex and Popdex.)

Thursday, October 7, 2004

More Jewish Daily Forward


While looking at microfilm of vintage newspapers and magazines, it's not unusual to run across nifty material about other film stars. (Though I try to stay focussed on Louise Brooks, I have somehow managed to acquire thousands of photocopies of interesting articles, interviews, clippings, magazine covers, etc...... relating to other actors and actresses. What I will do with all this stuff, I do not know.)
Here are a couple of interesting things I copied from December, 1929 issues of the Jewish Daily Forward. The one on the left pictures a captioned photo of Clara Bow on the front page (top fold) of the Forward ! The one on the right is a feature photo of Anna May Wong, with its caption in both Yiddish and English. The English text reads "CHINESE ACTRESS CANNOT KISS ENGLISHMAN IN FILM  -  Anna May Wong, the charming Chinese motion picture star, who must not kiss John Longden, English actor, co-starring with her in a British talkie, according to a ruling by the English film censor."

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Jewish Daily Forward


My weekly trip to the San Francisco Public Library yielded some rather interesting and unusual results. I visit the library once a week to place inter-library loan requests, and to go through what ever material has arrived from earlier requests.
This week I went through microfilm of the Buffalo Evening News and New Orleans Item-Tribune dating from the 1920's. I found a few more reviews, articles and advertisements in those publications for films featuring Louise Brooks.
The rather interesting and unusual items I found were advertisements, an image of Brooks, and what might also be an article about Pandora's Box dating from 1929 - all of which came from the Jewish Daily Forward, the Yiddish language newspaper from New York City. That metropolis was alive with non-English language newspapers in the 1920's and 1930's. And the Jewish Daily Forward, like the New York Times, Daily News, etc.... ran material on movies showing in town. Pandora's Box had its American debut in New York City in December, 1929.
Now, I can add this bit of Yiddish perspective to similar material I have already excavated from other New York-based German and Russian language newspapers of the period. (I have also looked at Italian and Polish language newspapers from NYC, but without finding anything regarding Pandora's Box.)
Does anyone read Yiddish? I don't, so I may well have missed some articles. However, I made photocopies from the microfilm of what seemed like relevant material. Here is the advertisement for the film's showing at the 55th Street Playhouse.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

"Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart"


Just came across a book entitled The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart: The Early Years (1899 - 1931), by Darwin Porter. (The book was published in 2003 by Georgia Literary Association.) This book is an account of Bogart's early life, especially his years as a Broadway and Hollywood actor. Porter claims to base much of the book on the papers of Bogart's friend, actor Kenneth MacKenna (who had a part in The American Venus), as well as interviews with various Hollywood actors of the twenties and thirties.  Despite these claims, the book has no footnotes, no noted sources, and no bibliography - just acknowledgements.
I haven't read the entire book, but only skimmed it for material on Louise Brooks, of which there is more than a few pages. The author claims to have interviewed Louise Brooks, but does not say when. (The back of the book depicts a number of actresses, including Brooks, and next to an apparent quote by Brooks, it reads "as told to the author in Rochester, NY.")
Personally, I have a hard time believing this book. It just doesn't seem to ring true. For me, the best thing about this book was its selection of images, including this portrait of Brooks.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Ohio / Michigan research trip


Finalized my travels plans for mid-December. I will be travelling to Ohio and Michigan where I will be visiting family and doing some research.
While in Ohio, I plan to visit the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Ohio Historical Society. At these two Columbus-based institutions I hope to gather reviews, articles and advertisements for the numerous Denishawn performances throughout Ohio for the two years Brooks was a member of that dance company. I also plan to gather vintage newspaper reviews of Brooks' films from major Ohio cities, such as Cleveland, Cinncinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton and Akron. Until now, I have had a hard time borrowing material from libraries and archives in Ohio. This two day venture should fill in many gaps in my research. (Time permitting, I may also poke around the library at Ohio State University.)
From Ohio, I will travel north to the University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor. That institution has a handfull of otherwise scarce German and French periodicials in which I will search for reviews and articles concerning Brooks' European films. The University of Michigan Library also has a weekly publication called Detroit Saturday Night which was published throughout the twenties and thirties. I don't know much about this very hard-to-find serial, but I am hoping that it may include coverage of Brooks' two week stint as a ballroom dancer in Detroit in 1934.
I plan to spend half a day in Ann Arbor. From there I drive to Lansing, where I return to the Library of Michigan. There, I plan to finish my survey of major Michigan newspapers in search of vintage film reviews. Still on the to-do list are newspapers from Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo and Port Huron. I figure I may spend up to eight hours at the Library of Michigan.
From there, I return to the Detroit area. I will be visiting with family, but hope to make a quick visit to the Royal Oak Public Library where I will be looking at microfilm of the Royal Oak Tribune. I'll be scanning this surburban newspaper in the slim hope of catching an article or advertisement from the period of the mid- to late 1920's.
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