Sunday, January 30, 2005

Some research notes

Weekly visit to the SFPL to look at my inter-library loans. I looked through three months of the San Antonio Express in hopes of finding some film reviews, but found nothing in Texas. Sometimes there just ain't nothin' there. . . . I am sure I will have better at the library luck next week.

Also, I spent a day in the microfilm room at the University of California, Berkeley. I have been there three or four dozen times over the last few years, and have come away with quite a lot of material. They have a huge collection of newspapers and magazines on microfilm, including a number of German, French and South American publications. I was prompted to return to this library because the microfilm room will be closed later this year for earthquake retrofitting. I figured I had better make a few trips before then.

On this visit, I continued my survey of La Prensa, one of the leading newspapers from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I managed to look through two years of La Prensa, where I found a review of Now We're in the Air (1927), or Tiburones en el aire as it was referred to in Spanish speaking South America. I also uncovered four portraits of Louise Brooks, a small mention of Just Another Blonde (1926) - which La Prensa referred to as The Charleston Kid, and a captioned scene still from The City Gone Wild (1927), or La ciudad del mal. All together, not a bad haul. Now, I just need look through a few months from 1929 and my survey of La Prensa should be complete. (It was at this library, while searching through La Prensa on an earlier visit, that I uncovered a review ofPandora's Box from the time it first screened in Buenos Aires in November of 1929. And I wondered if Brooks'  admirer Adolpho Bioy Casares, or his friend Jorge Luis Borges, saw the film during the week it played in the Argentine capital. . . .)

Though I took two years of Spanish in high school, I don't speak the language. I barely remember numbers, days of the week, and a few phrases. "Hablo usted un muy poco Espanol?" Nevertheless, I was able to navigate La Prensa by figuring out how the newspaper "worked." Most every Sunday, in the features section, the paper had a full page devoted to the cinema. I would skip ahead from Domingo to Domingo in search of the cinema page, and then scan it for pictures or mentions of  Louise Brooks or her co-stars. A large, comic portrait of Wallace Beery in avaitor goggles (just like the publicity pictures in American newspapers) tipped me off to a showing of Now We're in the Air. Two days later, the newspaper ran a review under "Notas Cinematograficas."

This survey method serves well enough, though I am sure I miss material. Looking through non-English newspapers (especially when I don't find that much stuff) can be very tedious. I fidget. And start to loose concentration. Thus, once I finished off La Prensa for 1928, I decided to change course and look through a small town California newspaper. The UC Berkeley microfilm collection, naturally, has lots of Northern California papers.

I chose the Selma Irrigator (what a wonderful name for a newspaper!), though I had never heard of this small agricultural community located in Fresno county. I zipped through three or four months, and only came up with an advertisement for a single day screening of A Social Celebrity(1926). Selma, seemingly, only had one movie theater in the mid-1920's - and no room for any kind of editorial comment about the movies in the local paper. And so, I switched to the Chico Daily Enterprise. (Chico is a college town located to the north of San Francisco.) I managed to get through one year - 1926 - of this small town paper. I came up with brief articles (supplied by the Publicity Bureau of the National Theaters Syndicate) regarding four of Brooks' films. As time was running out, I decided to stop there. I will finish my survey of this paper on my next visit.

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