Sunday, February 27, 2005

Torrent

Just returned from today's Garbo Festival, where I saw Torrent (1926), which was Garbo's first American film. It co-starred Ricardo Cortez, and also featured Gertrude Olmstead and Lucien Littlefield, who would later be seen in It Pays to Advertise (1931) with Louise Brooks. Torrent was just ok, and I think is largely of interest today as a Garbo film. To me, Garbo still seemed more like the European actress seen in The Saga of Gosta Berling or G.W. Pabst's Joyless Street rather than the American actress she would become in Flesh and the Devil.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Exploring a Library of Congress collection

             

The Library of Congress has an extraordinary collection of images available on-line through its Prints and Photographs division. This database is searchable by keyword, and some of the images are available in high-resolution scans. A search for "Louise Brooks" only turned up one (rather unusual) result. Nevertheless, fans of silent film, theater, dance, etc.... will certainly find other fascinating and seldom seen images. There are thousands of scans available from more than four dozen collections. Try searching under keywords or names such as "actress," "Ziegfeld," "Ruth St. Denis," "Rudolph Valentino," "Charlie Chaplin," etc....

                                  

Friday, February 25, 2005

Garbo Festival

Just back from the opening night of the Garbo Festival at San Francisco's Balboa Theater. I saw Queen Christina, which I enjoyed a great deal. It was a satisfying film on so many levels. Garbo was terrific - and lovely throughout. John Gilbert was good. Lewis Stone was good. The cinematography / art direction was good. And Adrian's costumes were fabulous. Also in the film, in a small role, was Gustav von Seyffertitz - who acted in The Canary Murder Case. (As well as Akim Tamiroff in an uncredited role - he acted in King of Gamblers.) Film critic David Thomson gave a short, insightful introduction -recounting the time when he was teaching film history at Dartmouth and one of his students discretely revealed that his great aunt was the reclusive actress! (My wife has convinced me that we should attend the Sunday afternoon screening of Torrent, which coincides with the Balboa's 79th anniversary celebration. So, I will be there !)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Maria Tatar - myth, mayhem, and murder

A professor of German at Harvard University, Maria Tatar is also a scholar and writer whose unusual books include Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature and Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany. (This later book discusses Wedekind's Pandora's Box and the films of Fritz Lang, but curiously, not Pabst's Pandora's Box.)  Tatar is also the editor of two recent volumes, The Annotated Brothers Grimm and The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.

I spotted the author's name again in another recently released title, A New History of German Literature, edited by David E. Wellbery. In this new book, Tatar authored a very interesting essay on Frank Wedekind entitled "Eroticism and the Femme Fatale." What caught my eye was Tatar's discussion of Louise Brooks, her role as Lulu, and the "powerful afterlife" of Wedekind's play. Tatar comments, "Though Pabst's film was not a commercial success, it came to occupy a central position in the iconography of feminine evil and fed into discourses on sexual cynicism in Weimar Germany. . . . In crafting a tragedy of monsters and a monster tragedy, Wedekind was able to disclose phobic anxieties and desires that would lead to a broader understanding of what was at stake in cultural conflicts, large and small." Tatar's five page essay makes for interesting reading. Anyone interested in its subject matters might want to check it out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lulu a Hollywood

Today, a book I had purchased over the internet arrived in the mail . . . . I received a copy of Lulu a Hollywood, by Louise Brooks. This is the Italian edition ofLulu in Hollywood. This book was first published in Italy in 1984. My copy was issued by the publishing company Ubulibri in 2003. The book was translated from English to Italian by Marcello Flores d'Arcais.

This edition is pretty similar to the three American editions with which most fans are familiar. Except for a one-page "Scritti di Louise Brooks" (or "Writings by Louise Brooks") added to the end of the book, this Italian edition features the same content as the English-language editions. Interestingly, the portraits of Garbo and Gish included at the beginning of Brooks' essay in the English-language edition have been substituted with different images of the actresses. Otherwise, all of the images included in the English-language editions are included in this Italian edition, though this copy also includes additional images from Capitan Barbablu (A Girl in Every Port) and Lulu (Pandora's Box). The book - which sells for 16 Euros - also has a different cover. The black-and-white front cover is the Eugene Richee portrait of Brooks wearing pearls. The rear cover is its mirror image.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante

The LBS marks the passing of the writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929 - 2005). This Cuban-born novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, journalist and translator was regarded as one of the original voices in contemporary Spanish literature. He was also a devotee of film, and of Louise Brooks. He mentioned the actress at least a few times in his various writings.

One newspaper account stated: "Cabrera had long been lauded for his experimental use of language in his novels, essays and cinema criticism, and he won the 1997 Miguel de Cervantes prize for literature, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world. 'Perhaps his greatest originality was to turn cinema criticism into a new literary genre,' said the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who served on the jury that awarded the prize." For more on Cabrera, check out Google News.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Greta Garbo Festival

There is a Greta Garbo festival taking place at the Balboa Theater in San Francisco. To celebrate what would have been the actress' 100th birthday, the theater is screening nine of her films starting February 24th. The festival concludes March 3rd. (The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about Garbo and the festival, "Seductive Garbo Still Enchanting" on February 20th.) Film critic and author David Thomson (author of the essential New Biographical Dictionary of Film) will be on hand to introduce the opening night's film. San Francisco Chronicle film critic and author Mick LaSalle (author of the excellent pre-code study Complicated Women) will introduce the March 1st screening. I will be attending each of these nights (as staff of The Booksmith), where I will be selling books by these authors in the lobby. We will also have copies of the Barry Paris bio of Garbo for sale. Come see a film, buy a book and get it signed, or say "hello." 

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Milestone Collection: Silent Shakespeare

Tonight, I watched The Milestone Collection: Silent Shakespeare. This disc features seven short films based on plays by William Shakespeare. Included areKing John (Great Britian, 1899), The Tempest (Great Britian, 1908), A Midsummer Night's Dream (USA, 1909), King Lear (Italy, 1910), Twelth Night (USA, 1910), The Merchant of Venice (Italy, 1910), and Richard III (Great Britian, 1911).



This glimpse into a cinematic past was somewhat interesting. Half of these films featured hand-tinting, which was very well done. The costuming, luxurious throughout, was of particular note. However, most of the movies appeared to be little more than filmed stage plays. And the acting was often theatrical, exagerated. It was remarkable to see something like King John (though extremely brief), because of its age.  A Midsummer Night's Dream was also of note, as it featured Maurice Costello and his two daughters, Dolores and Helene.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Raymond Griffith

Bruce Calvert, a longtime contributor to the LBS message board and a dedicated fan of silent film, has written a fine article on the silent film comedian and actor Raymond Griffith. This illustrated profile appears in the February, 2005 issue of Classic Images magazine. (The text of the article can be found online at the Classic Images website.) Do check it out. . . . I liked the article, but was a bit surprised Bruce didn't mention Griffith's connection to Louise Brooks. Griffith co-authored the screenplay to God's Gift to Women. And he and Brooks, according to the Barry Paris biography, had an encounter in the 1930's (see pages 384 - 385).

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A couple of new items

Lately, I have been adding scans of bookcovers (of titles not otherwise pictorially represented) to the amazon.com database. (Don't ask me why. I can't help myself.) And, while doing so, I came across a couple of newly-listed items which may be of interest to fans of Louise Brooks. Each is an article fromContemporary Authors, a series of reference books found in libraries. Each can these articles can be purchased and downloaded as an e-document.

Contemporary Authors : Biography - Brooks, (Mary) Louise (1906-1985) [HTML]
--- a 12 page biographical article 
the Gale Reference Team

Contemporary Authors : Biography - Paris, Barry (?-) [HTML]
--- an 8 page article by the Gale Reference Team

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Art and Beauty

An issue of Art & Beauty Magazine - dating from November, 1925 - is currently for sale on eBay. (The sellers are asking a large opening bid.) This is one of the earliest magazine covers to feature Louise Brooks. And remarkably, it predates her movie career.


I have come across only two earlier magazines which featured Brooks. Her first ever appearance may well have been on the cover of the April 24, 1925 issue of the Police Gazette, which was pblished in New York CitySome four months later, on August 16, 1925, Brooks appeared on the cover of the Town Crier, the Sunday magazine of the Wichita Beacon. Does anyone know of any other pre-1926 magazine covers?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

They are large and dark brown in color

"Louise Brooks' eyes are marvelous. They are large and dark brown in color. They fascinate me." So, supposedly, stated Ronald Colman in the November, 1929 issue of  Screen Secrets. This quote appears in an article entitled "Ronald Colman's Dream Girl," by Bob Moak, which appears in an issue of the magazine currently for sale on eBay.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Immortal Count

This week I finished reading The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi, by Arthur Lennig. (Earlier, I had read Lennig's biography of Erich von Stroheim.). I liked The Immortal Count a great deal. Lennig's book is very well researched, full of detail, written in a readable prose, and sympathetic to its subject. Lennig's account of Lugosi's early life is especially interesting. And his account of Lugosi's last years are nearly tragic. Lennig's own encounters (as a boy, and later as a young man) with the actor are especially poignant. Lennig has written the definitive account of Lugosi's life, as well as "A moving, lively, witty, sad book that revives once more the long dead Count Dracula." It is in the words of one publication, "An example for future writers of show business biographies." I would recommend this book.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Music by Clifford Vaughan

Lately, I have been wondering if there are any films or recordings of Denishawn from the period Louise Brooks was a member of the dance company. I have also been exploring the music of  the dance company - the music played while Denishawn danced. . . . This week, I acquired a somewhat obscure CD entitledMusic by Clifford Vaughan. I have listened to it once, and like it a good deal. The disc features work by Vaughan (1893 - 1987), a now little known musician who had a long career as composer, pianist, organist and conductor. (Issued on the Cambria label in 1997, this disc may be out of print. After some searching, I was able to purchase a second-hand copy online.)

What brought my attention to this recording were eight short works on the disc entitled "Oriental Translations for Denishawn." As it turns out, in 1925, a year after Louise Brooks left Denishawn, Ruth St. Denis engaged Clifford Vaughan as musical director of the dance company. (Vaughan replaced Louis Horst, who reunited with Martha Graham.) The composer accompanied Denishawn on their triumphant, twenty-month tour of Asia, Canada, and the United States. And while on tour, he absorbed the musical traditions of Japan, China, India, Burma, Java, Ceylon and other cultures. As a result, Vaughan composed the "Oriental Translations for Denishawn." (Included among them is "White Jade," which would become one of Ruth St. Denis' most famous solos.)

The recordings of "Oriental Translations for Denishawn" included on Music by Clifford Vaughan date to 1941, and were performed by the Vaughan Ensemble conducted by the composer. They are the most direct musical link to Denishawn (in the form of audio recordings) I have been able to find.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Recent three disc Louise Brooks DVD set

This French language page has some text (synopsis, content details, reviews) and images concerning the recent three disc Louise Brooks DVD set released in France. The Mozilla Firefox browser translation module creates a readable text. Check it out.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

An email from Canada

Last week, I received an email from Mario Bergeron, a novelist and historian who lives in Quebec. To date, Bergeron has had six novels published in Canada - each of them was written and published in French. Bergeron wrote to tell me that his 1999 novel, Perles et Chapelet, contains a mention of Louise Brooks! (Here are links to the chapters.indigo or amazon.ca pages on this book.)

Perles et Chapelet is Bergeron's second novel. In his email, the author described the book this way. "My novel Perles & Chapelet is about the every day lives of two young women of the 1920's, in my home town of  Trois-Rivieres (Quebec, Canada). Jeanne is a French Canadian and a painter. Sweetie is from New York and works as a pianist in a movie theatre. The two girls loves the flapper life: rolled stockings, smoking in public, drinking, jazz music and the young female stars of the screen. They really admire Colleen Moore and decided to adopt her hair style (which is the same as Louise Brooks). As the years go by, Jeanne slowly falls in love with Sweetie. These feelings trouble her, and she begins to drink. Sweetie has noticed the feelings of Jeanne for her, though she prefers men. Sweetie returns to the USA, and Jeanne has troubles with alcohol and sadness.... In 1930, Jeanne gets a letter from Sweetie, who plays piano in a movie theatre in Paris, saying she regrets what she has done. She invites her to come to Paris, where artists live more freely than in North America, and perhaps there, she can accept her love."


                           

In Perles et Chapelet, Louise Brooks is mentioned in a scene where a young man is flirting with Jeanne, saying things he hopes may attract her to him. The young man talks about his favorite movie stars, and mentions Joan Crawford, Nancy Carroll and Louise Brooks by name. According to the author, the book sold nicely when it was first released, and was well-received by women readers.

Has anybody out there in LBS land read this book?

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

1) Miami Herald, 2) Cleveland Press, 3) Atlanta Constitution

Went through March, 1926 of the Miami Herald in search of a film review, but found nothing. (Ever so slowly, I have been making my way through this Florida newspaper. It's a slow process because the lending institution will only loan two reels at a time, and is somewhat slow to fill loans - not that I'm complaining, mind you . . . . ) Also went through a month of the Cleveland Press, where I excavated a few articles and advertisements for the Denishawn performance there in November, 1923. (Curiously, this is one Ohio newspaper that the Ohio Historical Society - which I visited - does not have on microfilm, and so, I must request it via inter-library loan from an Ohio university.)  I also had the opportunity, last night, to go through a couple years of the Atlanta Constitution, where I uncovered a few articles and advertisements regarding the Denishawn performance there in January, 1923. All together, this week's collecting may not have been a down pour, but rather a gentle spring rain.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Beautiful you are

This beautiful colorized portrait of Louise Brooks is for sale on eBay. What is more lovely, the subject or the painting?

Monday, February 7, 2005

RadioLulu

Every month, I receive statistics for RadioLulu - the Louise Brooks-themed radio station I set-up on Live365.com  Here are this month's stats for the station (located at www.live365.com/stations/298896 )

Total Listening Hours
Last Month: 146
This Month: 142

Total Station Launches (the number of times individuals clicked on the listen button)
Last Month: 485
This Month: 361

Station Presets (the number of individuals who chose to bookmark RadioLulu)
Last Month: 389
This Month: 403

Favorite Station Designations
Last Month: 15
This Month: 15

Sunday, February 6, 2005

All Hail Gianluca !!!

Gianluca Chiovelli, a longtime correspondent, a devoted Louise Brooks researcher, and the author/editor of a superb Italian website devoted to the actress, has done a great thing! Gianluca sent me photocopies of what are among the scarcest Louise Brooks-related item I have ever come across.

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, Gianluca managed to convince an European library to make photocopies of two books - novelizations of the Louise Brooks films, La Vie d'une Fille perdue (Trois Pages d'un Journal), and Prix de Beaute. The first book, based on the Pabst film The Diary of a Lost Girl, was written by Rene Wild and published in France in 1930. The second book, based on the French film of the same name, was written by Boisyvon and published in 1932. [ I haven't been able to find out anything about Rene Wild, except that he may have contributed the scenario to a 1932 French film, Le Triangle de feu. Boisyvon, I believe, went on to write a number of books on film in later decades.]

Up until now, I knew very little about these ephemeral items. But from what I can deduce, each of these titles were inexpensive, softcover books (hence their ephemeral nature), and each were part of a series of novelizations published by Editions Jules Tallandier. (The series featured mostly French titles, though it did include a few German and American releases.) Each book features Louise Brooks on their pictorial cover, and each contains numerous scene stills scattered throughout the book. (In this regard, they remind me of the the early American photoplay editions.) Each also contains an advertisement in the back of the book listing other titles in the series.

Gianluca and I have long sought after Prix de Beaute. He and I searched the catalogs and records of libraries and bookdealers worldwide. I listed it on the LBS Help Wanted page, and sent queries to knowledgeable individuals. Nothing happened. We both thought we might be chasing a phantom reference. Until one day, I received an anonymous email stating that a certain library held this rare book. Gianluca, an Italian devotee of Brooks, wrote to the library and asked for a loan or copy. The library declined. Some time passed, and he wrote again. This time, the library said yes.

Gianluca received the prize, and emailed me with the good news. However, when scanning the advertisement of earlier books in the series printed in the back, he realized that another novelization of a Louise Brooks' film also existed! Gianluca wrote to the library, and acquired a photocopy of La Vie d'une Fille perdue.  And now, generously, he has provided photocopies of these items to the LBS. Thank you Gianluca Chiovelli.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Photoplay Edition (a review)

Recently, I wrote and posted online this review of Photoplay Edition, by Emil Petaja. My review follows.

"A pioneering guidebook for lovers of old movies and books"
by thomas gladysz

Throughout his life, the acclaimed fantasy & science fiction author Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) was an avid film buff and collector of movie memorabilia. As a writer, he was especially interested in the literature of film. Petaja had a large collection of books about the movies, as well as an even larger collection of so-called photoplay books - movie tie-in editions dating from the silent film and early sound era. (Then, like now, novels that served as the basis for a film were republished with a scene or film star on the cover. Many also had stills from the film interspersed within the book. Film buffs, collectors, and bibliophiles have long sought out these variant editions - especially if they involved a particular actor, like Rudolph Valentino or Louise Brooks.)

Published in 1975, Photoplay Edition was the first ever book on the subject. Petaja based the book on his personal collection of photoplays, which at the time of publication, numbered more than eight hundred! (Petaja owned many rare examples, including a few autographed by film stars.) Photoplay Edition is composed of a checklist of books, with each entry detailing the book's movie title (which sometimes differed from the title of the novel), as well as it's author, publisher, date of release, the motion picture company which produced the film, it's leading actors, and the number of illustrations included within the book. Illustrating Petaja's guide are dozens of dustjackets and scene stills, each of which graced the original editions. Petaja also offers a short prologue, as well as a longer history of photoplay books. Another delightful, anecdotal chapter tells the story of the author's involvement in collecting these books.

Photoplay Edition has been surpassed by later guides. Nevertheless, this pioneering bibliographical study is a valuable testament to a by-gone era. Anyone interested in old movies or old books will want to own a copy.

Friday, February 4, 2005

When it rains it pours . . . .

When it rains it pours . . . . Five inter-library loans were waiting for me at the library this week! I found articles, reviews and advertisements for Love Em and Leave Em (1926) and Just Another Blonde (1926) in the Bridgeport Post (from Bridgeport, Connecticut). I also found a whole bunch of Denishawn material in the Baltimore American (Baltimore, Maryland), as well as in the Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), Pine Bluff Commercial (Pine Bluff, Arkansas), and Kewanee Star Journal (Kewanee, Illinois). Citations for all of this material have been added to the LBS bibliographies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Ayn Rand

According to an article about Ayn Rand in today's New York Times, today is the centennial of her birth. I don't own or haven't read any of her books, except for Russian Writings on Hollywood, which was published by the Ayn Rand Institute Press in 1999. 

Rand was born in czarist Russia in 1905, witnessed the revolutions of 1917 from her St. Petersburg apartment, and managed to make her way to the United States in 1926. Early on, she was something of a film buff, and at one time, Rand aspired to work in the film industry. (A couple of her novels would later be made into films.) The above mentioned book brings together early articles on the movies, along with other miscellaneous writings. Of note is the fact that Rand records having seen American Venus (1926) prior to her departure from the Soviet Union.
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