Friday, December 31, 2004

Lulu and Spike (BTVS)


I'm a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so much so that I own the entire series on DVD and even attended a Buffy convention earlier this year. Thus, I was amused to come across a piece of "fan-fic" which contains a lengthy passage referencing Louise Brooks.
Written in the form of an academic study of William the Bloody (a.k.a. the character known as Spike), author Lydia Chambers (herself the name of the minor character) has fashioned a "thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Watcher's Diploma." If you are familar with the Buffy-verse, you shouldn't have any trouble following this story-line.
Chapter seven of this cleverly written work, devoted to the sexual idiosyncrasies of the romantic vampire, suggests that Spike (then going under the name of Wicked Wills) and Brooks met at least once over the years. Why didn't Spike - then a rather merciless vampire - turn the actress? You will have to read this faux thesis to find out.
On a not unrelated note, here is an image of a bob-haired Buffy (actress Sarah Michelle Geller) taken from the season four, Twin Peaks flavored episode, "Restless."
Anyone know of any other overlap between the worlds of Lulu and Buffy?

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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

This week at the SFPL


Two inter-library loans were waiting for me at the San Francisco Public Library. I looked through the Charleston Evening Post, where I found articles and advertisements for three of Louise Brooks films, as well as an article on the 1923 Denishawn performance in that South Carolina town. I also scanned a few months of the Buffalo Courier-Express, where I found three film reviews. This article also turned up in Courier-Express.
A couple of years ago, I went through back issues of Time magazine, which the SFPL has on microfilm. Back then, by scrolling through the years, I was able to uncover a few film reviews. Recently, however, Time put their archives online. These archives, which are searchable by keyword, date back to 1923. I took the opportunity to search for "Louise Brooks," "Denishawn," "George White Scandals," "Zeigfeld Follies," and various film titles. After noting the results (one has to pay to read the articles at the Time archive), I returned to the SFPL microfilm where I found a few more articles and reviews which were unknown to me. Among the more interesting items was a 1979 article regarding the Santa Fe Opera staging of Alban Berg's Lulu, which noted that "During rehearsals, the cast screened Louise Brooks' Lulu in the 1928 silent film of Wedekind's Pandora's Box."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Research trip notes (part one - Michigan)


My recent trip to the midwest (a combined visit home / mad dash from library to library) was the most complicated research trip I've ever taken. Over the course of six days, I visited five libraries in two states, while driving hundreds of miles and suffering freezing temperatures. (One day, the wind chill reached 15 degrees below zero!) All the while, I was terribly sick with an awful head cold. Nevertheless, except for getting lost on a couple of occassions while trying to make my way from city to city, things went off without a hitch. I hit all my marks - unearthing at least two hundred clippings - and returning home with a three-inch stack of photocopies! (I spent about $90.00 on copies.)
My first stop in Michigan was in a cold Ann Arbor, where temperatures were in the teens. I made my way to the University of Michigan's Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, and on the way, walked past Hill Auditorium - site of two Denishawn performances during the years Louise Brooks was a member of that pioneering dance company.
                                        
At the library, I spent about four hours in the microfilm collection. First, I looked through Detroit Saturday Night, a hard-to-get-ahold-of weekly entertainment paper published throughout the 1920's and 1930's. (This is the only city-based entertainment publication I know of - except for those published in New York. Does anyone know of others?) At the time, Detroit was the third largest metropolitan area in the United States, and Detroit Saturday Night covered the city's lively music, stage, and film happenings. I managed to find a bunch of brief articles about Brooks' films at the time of their Detroit showings.
Next, I dipped into the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Michigan. The Michigan Daily was a goldmine of articles, reviews and advertisements for the two Denishawn performances. I was stunned by the extensive coverage - including front page articles, long reviews, and large, quarter page advertisements. Denishawn was big news in Ann Arbor in the early 1920's, and Brooks herself was mentioned in a few pieces. I have looked at a few other student papers from the time, and never found too much. However, this unearthing of valuable material will lead me to look more closely at other such periodicals.
The University of Michigan library also has a couple of French publications. The Petit Parisian was a Paris newspaper which yielded vintage articles on Diary of a Lost Girl and Beggars of Life from the time of their first French screenings in 1929 and 1930, respectively.
                                     
I also looked at more than a years worth of Cinematographie Francaise, a French trade journal. This weekly film magazine also turned out to be a goldmine of articles, images, and advertisements regarding Pandora's Box and Beggars of Life. There was a stunning full page advertisement for Diary of a Lost Girl, as well as numerous articles on Prix de Beaute. Brooks was on the cover of this publication on May 11 and June 8 of 1929.
Because I had run out of time (and needed to drive to Lansing that night), I was not able to sift through three German newspapers the U-M library has on microfilm. One day, hopefully, I will be able to return and look through the Kolnische VolkszeitungWeimarische Zeitung, and Leipzieger Volkszeitung for material on the two Pabst films.
This was my second Louise Brooks-research trip to Lansing. Last year, I visited the State Library of Michigan, where I gathered articles and reviews on all of the Denishawn performances in that state. I had, at the time, also scoured the leading Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Flint and Kalamazoo newspapers for vintage film reviews. This time, I concentrated on the Grand Rapids and Battle Creek papers, with a quick look through the Saginaw paper. I found a bunch of material in theGrand Rapids Press and the Battle Creek Enquirer and Evening News. However, I was not so lucky with the Saginaw Daily News, where I only managed to turn up some nifty advertisements. Here is a typical example.
                                     
I spent more than four hours at the State Library of Michigan, and now feel that I have largely completed by survey of major Michigan newspapers.
From Lansing, I made my way to the suburbs of Detroit, where a couple days later I took the opportunity to visit the Royal Oak Public Library. This suburban library holds the Daily Tribune - a typical small-town paper "serving Detroit's progressive suburbs." I didn't expect to find much, perhaps just some brief articles or advertisements. I found those, but was even more delighted to find an article on Brooks entitled, "Will Follies Grad Act with Funny Man." This March, 1926 article, if it can be believed, quotes Brooks as saying she didn't want to appear with W. C. Fields.
"Recently Paramount announced she was to have the feminine lead opposite W. C. Fields, also late of the Follies, in The Old Army Game. When interviewed, Louise flashed those eyes of her and said, 'They may think I'm going to do the part, but I won't. I'm not going to play around with a funny man.'" The articles goes on. "When, if ever, Pola Negri, Lya de Putti from Hungary, exploited as the 'rage of Europe' and the exotic Louise go to work on the same lot, there might ought to be no dearth of excitement around the Famous Players studio."
This unattributed article was not the only gem found. I also came across a syndicated March, 1928 feature photo of Brooks wearing clothes of 1900, 1912 and 1928. This is one item I have never seen before! Which goes to show, you'll never know what you'll find . . . .
                  

Friday, December 24, 2004

Referenced in Le Temps

Yesterday, the Louise Brooks Society was referenced in an article, "Louise Brooks, l'adoration perpétuelle," in Le Temps, a Paris newspaper. The reference reads "La Louise Brooks Society en ligne: http://www.pandorasbox.com."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Divine Dancer


Finished reading Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis by Suzanne Shelton. I really liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in Denishawn or early 20th century cultural history. Shelton's book is certainly is one of the most enjoyable biographies I have read in some time. It is well written, well researched, and full of interesting information.
St. Denis had an incredible life, and was acquianted with, or knew, many of the leading personalities of her day. St. Denis once performed on the same bill as W.C. Fields, danced for the painter John Singer Sargeant, and was friendly with the Nobel Prize winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. Rodin once sketched her, and she danced for King Edward VII. St. Denis had "special relationships" with the architect Stanford White (famous for his own special relationship with Evelyn Nesbit), the showman David Belasco, and the German writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It was also rumored she had an affair with the painter Egon Schiele. In 1906 (the year Louise Brooks was born), St. Denis toured Germany, where she met the dramatist Frank Wedekind, author of the Lulu plays!
All of that is background to her incredible achievements as a dancer. She was a contemporary of (and personally knew) Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavolva, Maud Allan, and Loie Fuller. Both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the Denishawn dance company, St. Denis - perhaps more than anyone else - helped introduce modern dance to America. Hers was a truly singular life.
A footnote: my copy of Divine Dancer once belonged to the composer Lou Harrison. Like St. Denis, Harrison had a great interest in Asian culture. Whereas St. Denis was drawn to Indian dance (her nautch dance was well known), Harrison was drawn to the music of the Indonesian gamelan. I do not know that St. Denis and Harrison ever met, but I would not be surprised if they had, as their circles of friends may well have overlapped. Besides his considerable accomplishments as a composer, Harrison was also a music critic and calligrapher. My copy ofDivine Dancer bears Harrison's calligraphic ownership signature.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Return of the weekly research report


Yesterday, I returned home from my trip to Michigan and Ohio, where I had spent the last six days driving from library to library in search of Louise Brooks material. Research-wise, it was a very successfull trip! I unearthed at least two hundred clippings - all sorts of articles, reviews and advertisements related to Brooks' career and films as well as her time with Denishawn. I returned home with a three-inch stack of photocopies. Now, I'm in the middle of processing this new material. I will write detailed reports about what I found in the coming days.
(As I write this journal entry I am listening to Stare Kino, a CD I picked up while visiting a Detroit area gift shop which features Polish products. The compact disc, an import, features songs from Polish films of the 1930's. It's pretty good, though it does not feature my favorite Polish singer of the interwar period, Ordonka, aka Hanka Ordonowna.)
Today, not having to go into work, I ventured over to the San Francisco Public Library, where a few inter-library loans awaited me. I found a long Denishawn review which referenced Louise Brooks in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (from Fort Wayne, Indiana), as well as an article and some advertisements in the Greensboro Daily News (from Greensboro, North Carolina). I also dug through a couple of months of the Peoria Transcript (from Peoria, Illinois), where I found a bunch of advertisements, short articles and reviews for the two Denishawn performances in that mid-west town.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Off to the Midwest

I'm off to the midwest for six days, where I will be driving from library to library, from city to city, in search of yet more Louise Brooks material. Probably won't be able to post from the road. So, I will record the results when I return. In the meantime, Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Louise Brooks gift items


Looking for that special holiday gift for that special Louise Brooks fan? Might we recommend the merchandise pages of the Louise Brooks Society, where you can find an amazing assortment of Louise Brooks DVD's, videos, and books (including hard-to-find foreign editions).
Also, be sure and check out the LBS gift shop at Cafepress.com, where you can find an equally amazing assortment of LBS merchandise including shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, postcards, tote bags and more. This unique shop features a "Diary of a Lost Girl" blank book (perfect for keeping notes or a journal), as well as a "Pandora's Box" wooden keepsake box with tile lid.
                                  
Other popular items include the LBS tote bag and sticker.
                                  
There is lots to be found at the Louise Brooks Society Gift shop. There are travel mugs, tile coasters, messenger bags, mouse pads, sweatshirts and other unique items. And what's more, use coupon "CPFESTIVE" to receive $10.00 off orders of $50.00 or more. (Offer expires December 20, 2004.)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Denishawn bibliography updated

I've updated the Denishawn bibliography. Citations were added - mostly from the New York Times and Washington Post - for a bunch of brief articles. Among the material added was a small article mentioning a previously unrecorded Denishawn performance in New York City. The performance (which was not part of their 1922-1923 tour) was a benefit, and took place in May, 1923. The article did not mention Louise Brooks by name, only that Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn and the Densiahwn dancers would be present.

Friday, December 10, 2004

In world news . . .


The Belfast Telegraph reported on December 3rd that Neve Campbell is still hoping to make a film about Louise Brooks. In an article about Campbell's recent activity, the Irish newspaper stated "Campbell produced as well as starred in The Company, and this is an experience she's keen to repeat. She plans to make a film about the silent-film icon Louise Brooks, and is keeping her fingers crossed over a project entitled The Mermaids Singing."
And in yesterday's Cape Times (from South Africa), film critic David Thomson wrote, "this is clearly Natalie Portman's breakthrough film - she is enchanting and lethal, childlike and eternal, in ways that made me think of Louise Brooks." While a day earlier in an article about the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the New York Times also evoked the actress: "Olivia Bowman wears a Louise Brooks-style wig and is the loner."
As did numerous other publications across the United States which carried a recent Associated Press review of Eve Ensler's new theatre piece, The Good Body. "The actress, sporting a Louise Brooks bob and a billowy, sleeveless pants suit, takes the audience on a 90-minute journey through her own and other women's observations about their bodies."  This sentiment was echoed by Newsday back in November, which stated in an article about Ensler, "She still has her shiny Louise Brooks hair . . . ."
(Louise Brooks trivia: Back on November 11, 2000 - both Eve Ensler and Louise Brooks biographer Barry Paris were guests on West Coast Live, a syndicated radio program from San Francisco. For a while, audio of the show was archived on the net, but no longer appears to be.)

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Weekly research report (warning: dull redux)


Received a call from Ron at the SFPL, who telephoned to tell me there were problems with some of my just-arrived inter-library loan requests. Four ILL requests arrived today, but three of them were either missing reels or contained the wrong reels. These sorts of mix-ups are not uncommon. And in the case of the requests which were missing reals, the lending institutions offered no explanation.
Sometimes, I request too many reels of microfilm. Every lending library or historical society has a different ILL policy. Some will only lend two reels at a time. Others will lend as many as six or nine reels. I try to keep track of where things come from, who are the likely lenders, and what their policies are so as to make my search as efficient as possible. (I have quite an extensive log detailing my hundreds of requests.) Sometimes, things go wrong. In these instances, I will have to request the missing microfilm at a later date.
Despite these hurdles, I did find a couple of brief reviews and advertisement for The American Venus (1926) in the Cleveland Press and Trenton Times (from Trenton, New Jersey). I also came across this curious February, 1927 advertisement for A Social Celebrity (1926) in the Green Bay Press Gazette. Notice that this second run screening of the Adolph Menjou-Louise Brooks film is part of a bill that includes vaudeville acts as well as Marjah & Co., "The Mental Marvels of India Exponents Yogi Philosophy and Occult Sciences.
                    
The Green Bay Press Gazette turned-out to be a gold mine of all kinds of clipping - including more than two dozen articles, captioned photographs, advertisements and reviews of the two performances Denishawn gave in that Wisconsin city during the two years Brooks was a member of that pioneering dance company. In the week leading up to a performance, this newspaper ran one or two (and sometimes three) items about Denishawn per day. That is remarkable coverage. I even came across this rather sexy front page photograph of Ruth St. Denis, which is titled "Will Do Her Famous Dances For Green Bay Folk Tonight."
In addition to the Green Bay material, I also found a score of Denishawn articles and reviews in the Trenton Times and Cleveland Press, as well as the Waterbury Republican (from Waterbury, Connecticut). It was a good day for Denishawn research!

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Weekly research report (warning: dull)


Went to the library today to do research. No interlibrary loan material had arrived, so I ventured home to write this post about nothing. . . .
Earlier this week, I had received word that four of my ILL requests were rejected. I had been hoping to borrow copies of the Jacksonian (Jackson, Tennessee),Morgantown Post (Morgantown, West Virginia), Orlando Morning Sentinal (Orlando, Florida), and Ponca City News (Ponca, Oklahoma), but the institutions which have these newspapers on microfilm apparently won't loan the material. Oh well. I was hoping to gather articles or reviews on the Denishawn performances in those four cities. If anyone reads this and lives near one of those four cities and would be willing to do an afternoon's research tracking down those reviews, please email me at thomasg AT pandorasbox DOT com  Thanx as always!

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Wicked Joys in Weimar Berlin


Interesting article in today's Guardian about life in Berlin during the Weimar period. The article can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1360663,00.html
This passage struck me as especially noteworthy."Among much else that marks Weimar Berlin out as a quintessentially modern metropolis was its cultural bustle and its critical media. During the 1920s the city's publishing industry burgeoned and, books apart, produced some 150 daily and weekly papers - right and leftwing, highbrow and popular." That could mean there is a lot more coverage of Louise Brooks and the making of Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl then I might have suspected. Oh, what wicked joys await me.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Overland Stage Raiders


Louise Brooks' last film, Overland Stage Raiders (1938), will be broadcast in the United States on the STARZ Westerns cable station on December 8th at 1:15 pm, and again on December 21st at 4:30 pm and December 28th at 4:00 am. It will also be shown on the MOVIEplex cable station on December 8th at 2:15 pm. Consult your local listing for further deatils.
Overland Stage Raiders (1938) is not a great film, but is worth seeing because Louise Brooks is featured in it. Though she then sported a brushed-back 1930's hairstyle (and not her trademark bob), she still looked quite lovely at age 31. The film is approximately 55 minutes long, and is considered part of the "Three Mesquiteers" series. Brooks co-stars along with John Wayne, Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune.
Interestingly, because it starred John Wayne (before he made it big in the movies), this otherwise b-grade picture has occassionally been shown theatrically in the United States in the decades since its release. These screenings tool place in the 1940's and 1950's. The film was also shown on television in the 1970's. I wonder how many viewers then recognized the once and future Lulu?

Sunday, December 5, 2004

New web page

MovieMaidens.com is a somewhat curious website "dedicated to the most beautiful classic actresses during the first 50 years of Hollywood...remembering them when they were young and attractive." The site goes on to state, "These actresses burst onto the Hollywood scene as beautiful young women, and they should be remembered as the gorgeous girls that they were. . . . We are so sick of seeing history's most beautiful actresses portrayed as old women." The site has pages (largely composed of a picture gallery, biographical text and links) devoted to Vilma Banky, Clara Bow, Joan Blondell, Anita Page, Kay Francis, Mae West and others. The site also has a page dedicated to Louise Brooks, who was "young and sexy between the ages of 18-35."

Saturday, December 4, 2004

New web address

One of the best Louise Brooks websites comes out of Italy. It is chock full of interesting material in both Italian and English. That site recently obtained a new web address, and is now located at http://xoomer.virgilio.it/louisebrooks/. Check it out!

Friday, December 3, 2004

German silent films with a gay theme on sale at Kino

"Kino proudly presents a truly eye-opening collection of gay-themed German silent films, available for the first time on DVD.  Richard Oswald's Different from the Others (1919), Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael (1924), and William Dieterle's Sex in Chains (1928) are all landmarks in the cinematic depiction of homosexuality.  And -- no surprise -- all three pictures were variously banned, censored, or purposely removed from the public eye.  But now they're out of the closet and on DVD in restored versions." Also included in this special offering is G.W. Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), which is available available on DVD and VHS.

These "Gay-themed Silents" are available at a hefty discount from Kino. For further info and to order, see http://www.kino.com/video/results.php?featured_id=33

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Portland Film Censors Busy


Yesterday at the library, I found this interesting wire-service article, which is subtitled "Fans Driven to Suburban Houses by Official Cutters." It is interesting in that it details censorship practices of the time, practices which were certainly applied to the films of Louise Brooks when they were shown in Portland, Oregon. The article dates from December, 1927.
Portland Film Censors Busy
Spicy bits on the legitimate stage are quite all right, but the same scene in the movies in Portland constitutes a grave error and calls for drastic scissor action. Portlanders must not look upon movie kisses which are too long. Similar restriction, however, is not placed on movie fans of villages of the "back country."
Such is the status of censorship in Oregon.
There is no state censorship law, so the villagers escape the penalty of seeing only that which censors rule is nice. Portland, the one large city in the state, has a censor board which leaves no doubt as to its willingness to function.
But, strangely enough, the powers of the Portland Board of Motion Picture Censors appears to be limited to the silver screen. Ten nude girls may not appear in films exhibited here. But 10 nude girls could appear on the stage and never a word would the board say, although the police might say and do considerable. Not that 10 undressed bits of femininity have ever appeared on a local stage, but 40 one-quarter clad girls have, and any mathematician knows that they are equivalent to10 entirely disrobed flappers.
Portland is only one of several large cities having a picture censor board, but perhaps no similar group has commanded the same degree of publicity.
For example, there is the time the board ruled that a drawing of a nude girl on a theater program was improper and ordered the management to cover her rawness before circulating the programs.
Vainly theater men protested that she was a reproduction of Spanish art, but they were told no bull fighters were in Portland. And so the entrancing curves of Spain's best was wasted behind the blankness of thick bond paper which was pasted over all but the figure's head.
The censor board is composed of three members, one of whom represents the movies. The other two do not. They are appointed by the mayor and are assisted by a staff of 70, mostly women, viewers. These viewers are given monthly assignments and scan every picture before it is exhibited. Presumably they say: "Cut that kiss by eight feet," or "undressed chickens are limited to fowls."
And that is the reason why, as frequently happens, a rabid fan will journey to Gresham or other nearby village when the film makes what apparently is a broad jump.
But the cutting board and its viewers go on cutting and in most instances a cut stays out. The city council, however, is the board of appeal, and upholding the censors is infrequent. As a rule, however, the cutting goes on without interference, for it is easier for an exchange man to cut out footage than to wade through an official council hearing.
I did a quick Google search on the Portland Board of Motion Picture Censors and found this link, their annual report from 1921.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

This week at the SFPL


Three interlibrary loans arrived this week. And so I spent an enjoyable morning - some two hours of time and some seven dollars for photocopies - going through microfilm at the SFPL. . . . I looked through a few months worth of the Toronto Globe & Mail, where I found film reviews of The American Venus (1926) and A Social Celebrity (1926). I also looked through the Springfield Republican, a Masschusetts newspaper, where I gathered a slew of material on the Denishawn performance there in 1924. (One of the articles mentioned Louise Brooks.) I also got an advertisement and review of The City Gone Wild (1927). And then from the now defunctPittsburgh Press I found material on The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), Now We're in the Air (1927), The Canary Murder Case (1929), and It Pays to Advertise(1931). All together, it was a good haul.
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