Friday, July 15, 2005

Reading around


Since finishing A Beautiful Fairy Tale: the Life of Lois Moran, by Richard Buller, I have been reading around. I have been dipping into three books of late, skimming or reading chapters or chunks of the book that interested me. One of them is Allan Dwan: the last pioneer by Peter Bogdanovitch. (Yes, that Peter Bogdanovitch. The acclaimed movie director started his career in film writing books.) Though not so well known today, Dwan made many highly regarded films in the silent and early sound era. Among his silents are Robin HoodStage StruckManhandledTin GodsThe Iron Mask, etc.... Dwan worked with Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies, and others - and Bogdanovitch's book is an interesting, quick survey of his accomplished career. Another book I've been reading from is Malcolm St. Clair, by Ruth Anne Dwyer. Clair was responsible for such hits as Are Parents People?The Grand Duchess and the WaiterGentlemen Prefer Blondes, as well as three films featuring Louise Brooks, A Social CelebrityThe Show-Off and The Canary Murder Case. The extensive material from Dwyer's book on The Canary Murder Case is especially interesting.

The book that I have been looking at most recently is Hollywood and the Culture Elite, by Peter Decherney. Published by Columbia University Press, this somewhat academic book takes a look at the little known connections between the film industry and various professors, academic institutions, museums and other members of the so-called cultural elite. "Peter Decherney explores the development of a symbiotic and unlikely relationship between the film industry and America's stewards of high culture. Formed during Hollywood's Golden Age (1915-1960), this partnership ultimately insured prominent places in American culture for both the movies and elite cultural institutions. As the book delves into the ties between Hollywood and various cultural institutions, an intriguing cast of characters emerges, including the poet Vachel Lindsay, Hollywood producers Adolph Zukor and Joseph Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, and film curator Iris Barry."  I'm skimming this book for factual material regarding the beginnings of film criticism / film history. (The book is not bad.)

I recently scored an inexpensive copy of An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930, by Denise Lowe. The book is worthwhile as a reference work (if gotten cheap), as it brings together much information. I immediately checked out the entry on Louise Brooks, however, and discovered a factual error. (Brooks' second husband was identified as "Deering Doyle.") There were a few other slight mistakes in the Brooks' entry, and I ran across typos in other entries. Nevertheless, it is a 623-page book I am glad to have. Has anyone else checked out this book ? Opinions ?



And today I received in the mail a copy of Lina: DeMille's Godless Girl, by Lina Basquette. I hadn't even known this book existed until a week ago, when I was scouring the bibliography of 
An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films. I immediately ordered a used copy - the book was published by a small press in 1990, and is scarce. (I managed to get a signed copy - and paid dearly for it.) Basquette is an interesting figure in 1920's film history. She was married to Sam Warner (of the Warner Bros.), and appeared in some 50 motion pictures includingCecil B. DeMille's sensational The Godless Girl (with Marie Prevost). I first became aware of Basquette through the Barry Paris biography. Basquette and Brooks appeared together in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1925. Basquette writes of that time, "Louie the Fourteenth did not have a long run and after it closed Ethel Shutta and I were put in the current edition of the Follies at the New Amsterdam. To bolster publicity for the show, we arrived at the theater in taxies accompanied by sirens and motorcycle police. Then as now, publicity stunts were used wherever possible." I am looking forward to reading more from this book.

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