Friday, August 5, 2005

This week's library report

Three more inter-library loans were waiting for me at the San Francisco Public Library. I went through microfilm of the News-Sentinel (from Ft. Wayne, Indiana) where I got some Denishawn material regarding their March, 1924 appearance. Along with a review, which referenced Louise Brooks, I found a earlier article which featured a group photo of the Denishawn dancers, including Brooks! I also looked through some later issues of News-Sentinel, where I found a rather nice advertisement for a screening of Beggars of Life dating from March, 1929 (some six months after it was released). And I found reviews and ads forThe Street of Forgotten Men and The American Venus in the Hartford Daily Courant (from Hartford, Conneticut).

Another publication at I looked at was Germania, a daily newspaper from Berlin. Looking through microfilm of this publication was certainly the highlight of this week's trip, as the Berlin newspapers are dificult to get ahold of. I have been trying to find Germania for some time. My efforts paid off, as I found short reviews for Blaue jungens, blonde MadchenDie Buchse der Pandora, and Tagebuch einer Verlorenen. These reviews got me to thinking. . . .

It is commonly reported that G.W. Pabst cast Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box after having seen her in Blaue jungens, blonde Madchen (aka A Girl in Every Port). Looking at Brooks' list of films, this assumption makes sense, as the release of the Howard Hawks' buddy film (in which Brooks play a kind of temptress, not unlike Lulu) preceded the start of production on Pandora's Box.A Girl in Every Port, was released in the United States on February 20, 1928. Pabst was attempting to cast Lulu in the Spring or Summer of that same year.

The claim that Pabst cast Brooks in Pandora's Box after having seen her in A Girl in Every Port was made by James Card in "Out of Pandora’s Box: Louise Brooks on G. W. Pabst," an article published in 1956. And it was repeated by Brooks herself in the 1970's in filmed interviews. Why? I wonder why? As newspaper reviews show, Blaue jungens, blonde Madchen didn't screen in Berlin until the first week of December in1928, after production work on Pandora's Box was finished!

Could Pabst - largely an independent filmmaker - have seen the Hawks' film at a private screening? Or could Pabst have noticed Brooks through her roles in earlier films such as Die Schonste Frau der Staaten (The American Venus), Die Braut am Scheidewege (Just Another Blonde), or Ein Frack Ein Claque Ein Madel (Evening Clothes) - each of which was shown in Berlin and received significant press coverage. It's a tidy assumption to believe Brooks' role in the Hawk's film struck Pabst's fancy. I wonder if it weren't another.


Tomorrow, I head over to the East Bay, where I will once again spend some time exploring the microfilm collection at the University of California, Berkeley. The microfilm collection at the Bancroft Library numbers in the thousands of rolls. Such riches! I've kept notes, and plan to pick-up where I left off last time. This trip, I plan to look at some more South American and European newspapers. It's slow, tedious work - but I occassionally uncover a gem or two. (Like the review of Pandora's Box I found in a Buenas Aires newspaper from 1929; and the movie ads I found in newspapers from Mexico City, also dating from the 1920's; and the other clippings I uncovered in French, German, Polish and Russians newspapers and magazines from the 1920's and 1930's.) This is one of three or possibly four trips to Berkeley I plan to take this month before the microfilm collections is closed. The library is set to undergoe a seismic retrofit. An article recently appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle about this historic library and the challenges it faces.

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