Thursday, December 15, 2005

Still things to be found

I spent about three hours at the library today. There are still things to be found.

I went through two reels of microfilm of the Omaha Daily News in search of material on the December, 1922 and February, 1924 Denishawn performances (with Louise Brooks) in Omaha, Nebraska. I found a number of articles and a review. Radio was just coming in around 1922, and the Daily News devoted no less than four articles to a local broadcast on WNAL by Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis. One article, suggesting that Denishawn were hip, began "Old folks won't have a chance at the radio headsets Thursday from 7 to 7:30 pm. Youth will demand a listening, for - Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, among the brightest luminaries in the realm of dance . . . will broadcast their famous 'History of the Dance' lecture." Perhaps it was the modernity or daring of the Denishawn aesthetic that appealed to the younger generation. A review the following day entitled "Ted Shawn Tells Fans Nude Dance Returning," noted that Shawn "declared the undraped dance on the wave of popularity."

These radio broadcasts could be heard far and wide. An article in the Omaha paper related how an earlier broadcast of Shawn and St. Denis from Davenport, Iowa over station WOC could be heard in New York City. "Skeptic Becomes Ardent Radioite" related how a Denishawn manager, listening in the Flatiron building, heard the Denishawn radio lecture. It was the manager's first experience with radio, the article reported.

The February, 1924 Denishawn performance was equally well covered. One article reported that more than 100 people would attend a luncheon for Ruth St. Denis and Denishawn dancer Doris Humphrey at the Fontenelle Hotel. (It wasn't clear if Shawn, Brooks, or the other dancers attended this event - though it did list who from Omaha would be there and were they would sit.) An effusive article in the Omaha Daily News on the day of their program at the Brandeis theater was headlined "Ruth St. Denis Transforms Body Into Flowing Liquid!" The review the following day was titled "Translate Music Into Poetic Motion."

This is the second Omaha newspaper I have looked at. I have also gone through the World-Herald. My next inter-library loan request covering this material will be for the Omaha Evening Bee.

I also went through two months of the Hollywood Citizen News. I have been tracking down a series of near daily advertisements that Louise Brooks' dance studio, the Brooks O'Shea Studio of Distinctive Ballroom Dancing, took out in Hollywood Citizen News and the Los Angeles Times. Today, I collected 42 different ads - each of them different "hints for dancers." Very interesting stuff - though I doubt Brooks had much to do with the dance instructions contained in the ads. Also, I will have to request more microfilm, as the series stopped near the end of the month with the promise to resume later in the year. (I have nearly 100 different advertisements photocopied so far!) Here is a rather little known item I also came across. It dates from 1940. I love finding stuff like this.

And for fun, I requested and searched through nine months of the Fargo Forum. I hadn't looked through any newspaper from this city before, let alone much else from North or South Dakota. And for that reason, I did it. What I found were some brief articles and advertisements for three of Brooks' films. Among them was an October, 1927 screening of The Street of Forgotten Men. Interestingly, Brooks' first film was still being shown in theaters some two years after its release.

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