Thursday, March 31, 2005

New DVD of It's the Old Army Game


I have watched the new Sunrise Silents DVD release of It's the Old Army Game (1926), and think it is splendid. This color-tinted, 90 minute print is crisp and clean and contains a jaunty, syncopated score. I have seen the movie before on video, and never really cared for it all that much. This time round, however, I found that I really liked the film. Louise Brooks and W.C. Fields are both enjoyable to watch. And the story holds up better than I remember. It's the Old Army Game is no masterpiece, but is well worth watching.



IT'S THE OLD ARMY GAME (1926)
Cast: W.C. Fields, Louise Brooks, Blanche Ring, William Gaxton, Mary Foy, Mickey Bennett
Directed by Edward Sutherland.
In this epic of the American druggist, Elmer Prettywillie (Fields) is an apothecary and humanitarian, ever ready to administer to those in distress. He also likes "the old army game" and believes in never giving a sucker an even break. Contains a number of classic Fields routines as he encounters his usual adversaries. It is fun to watch Louise Brooks laughing as she observes Fields doing some of his comedy routines in this film.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Mary Pickford

The next episode of American Experience on PBS will be devoted to Mary Pickford! This next episode is scheduled to air on April 4th - however, individuals should check their local listings for exact times and dates. For more information on this episode, check out the PBS webpage devoted to Pickford and silent film. There is extra material (a timeline, photo gallery, teacher's guide, etc...) scattered about the pages of this mini-site. You can even screen an entire early Mary Pickford film, plus excerpts from two later films.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

David Levine caricature

Back in 1982, the renown artist David Levine drew a caricature of Louise Brooks which ran in the New York Review of Books. That well know caricature is currently for sale through this publisher's website. I bought one of these a number of years ago. They are very nifty!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

SF PALM sale

Just got back from the annual duplicates sale at the San Francisco Performing Arts Museum & Library. I have been to this sale a few times in the past, and have also done some reseach at SF PALM and seen a few exhibits there as well. The sale features books, sheet music, programs, posters, record albums, etc.... There is not very much film-related stuff to be found, but the sale is a lot of fun and most everything there is cheap!

This year I spent $24.00 and came away with some treasures. Among the items I picked up was nice hardback first edition of Donald Spoto's biography of Lotta Lenya, which was signed by Spoto ($1.00). I also picked up The Alice Faye Movie Book, signed by Alice Faye ($3.00)! Most of the books I looked at were not signed, but I guess I just happened to find a few that were. . . . I also score a very nice hardback first edition of Ted Shawn's illustrated autobiography, One Thousand and One Thousand Night Stands, which was signed by Shawn ($8.00). Another Denishawn item I came across was The Story of Louis Horst and the American Dance by Ernestine Stodelle. Horst was the musical accompaniest for Denishawn in the early 1920's, including the years Louise Brooks was with the company. I hadn't known about this interesting booklet. I also found a hardback copy of The Story of Dance, by John Martin ($2.00). Martin was the dance critic of the New York Times, as well as an early champion of both Ruth St. Denis and of dance as a serious art form deserving newspaper coverage. This 1946 pictorial survey includes a chapter on Denishawn which includes a picture of the company which includes Brooks. I hadn't ever seen this particular image before! So, all together, it was a good haul.

Friday, March 25, 2005

German and Austrian Glamour Before World War II

There is an article in today's New York Times about an exhibit which has just opened in New York City. The article begins "Picture a glamorous gala attended by beauties, uglies, writers, thinkers, artists, loners, actors, dancers, politicos, social swans and maybe a dash of royalty, from the eventful years in Austria and Germany between the turn of the last century and the Anschluss that preceded World War II. . . . The feast of guests might include the very people depicted in 'Portraits of an Age: Photography in Germany and Austria, 1900-1938' at the Neue Galerie."

Among those depicted in the show is the silent film star Asta Nielsen - "in the kind of close-cropped haircut that signaled women's emancipation," as well as Francis Lederer - pictured below. Nielsen played Lulu in 1923 an earlier film version of Wedekind's play, while Lederer co-starred with Louise Brooks in G.W. Pabst's 1929 film of Pandora's Box. I am not sure if there is a catalog to the exhibit. But if there is, it might well be worth looking at.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A new Lulu

A new production of Alban Berg's Lulu will take the stage in England in April and May, 2005. The role of Lulu will be performed by soprano Lisa Saffer. The production is being put on by the English National Opera.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I recently came across

I recently came across this sentence from a novel by Salman Rushdie. "To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world." I feel it explains my approach to Louise Brooks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

John Decker

Back in 1925, the New York Evening World ran a review of the just opened Ziegfield Follies. The review stated " . . . a distinct hit was made last night by Louise Brooks, who is dancing in several numbers." The review also included a caricature of Brooks and her fellow Follies performers Dorothy Knapp and Ray Dooley (see page 91 of the Barry Paris biography).

The caricature was drawn by John Decker, the subject of a just published biography. According to the publisher "With all of his amazing talent - and scandalous exploits - it's surprising that the name of John Decker isn't more familiar today. In Bohemian Rogue: The Life of Hollywood Artist John Decker, author Stephen C. Jordan seeks to resurrect this forgotten figure of 20th century art. Jordan delves into the mystery of a man who overcame a difficult childhood and notorious apprenticeship to become a respected artist (and outrageous party-giver) in Hollywood. Bohemian Rogue chronicles the relatively brief - but eccentric - life of this neglected painter, caricaturist, and sculptor." Along with his caricature of Brooks, Decker also drew many of the stars of the silent film era. Though only a few are shown in this new book, it looks interesting.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Where and Why Miss Brooks Draws the Line

ON THIS DAY IN 1926: Newspapers around the country ran an illustrated article on the draped nudes scandal entitled ''Where and Why Miss Brooks Draws the Line.'' This widely syndicated article ran in the Sunday supplement / Sunday magazine section of various papers including the Philadelphia Inquirer,Washington Post, and Sacramento Union. For a larger scan of the article, see  www.cartoonretro.com/louise/brooksmodestysm.jpg.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Adventures in Sacramento

On Friday, I ventured to Sacramento (a two hour drive) and the home of the California State Library. This is my 15th trip to the State Library, which is located around the corner from the State Capitol and the offices of California's increasingly unpopular Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the last few years, I have been surveying California newspapers, of which the State Library has an extensive collection on microfilm. So far, I have looked through various Los Angeles area papers - including those from Hollywood, Pasadena and Santa Monica. Earlier, I had also gone through microfilm for papers from other California cities and towns, such as Santa Barbara, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, etc....

This time, I continued my search through the Hollywood Citizen News. This "small town" newspaper has proven rich in material relating to Louise Brooks. (Hollywood is a company town, and it's local paper, naturally, devoted considerable coverage to movies and the movie industry.) So far, I've found movie reviews, brief news items, miscellaneous articles, advertisements, and mentions in the "local" society and gossip columns. I've also found recipes ascribed to Brooks on the food pages, and a special bridal section once featured the actress modelling wedding gowns for a local store! Brooks' name started showing up in the paper with regularity once the actress moved to Los Angeles in 1927. And on earlier trips, I had gone through every day of the paper for that year. It is tedious work - but occassionally, some exceptional material turns up! This time, I went through the last six months of 1926, and found a few minor items. On my next trip to Sacramento, I plan to tackle 1928.

Like Hollywood, nearby Glendale was also something of a company town. Though I don't think any studios were located there, the local Glendale Daily Pressdevoted near daily coverage to the movies. I found that film companies - such as Paramount and MGM - held regular sneek previews of new films in Glendale. These sneek previews were intended to guage public reaction, and the studios would sometimes reshoot or recut a film based on audience response. (I had recently read about this practice in Gavin Lambert's biography of Norma Shearer.) In a couple of instances, I came across screenings of Brooks' films which were paired with sneek previews. From what I found, the preview film was never announced and only rarely reviewed. Thus, I wasn't able to determine which film was shown along with the Brooks film. Nevertheless, my quick search through nearly three years of the Glendale Daily Press proved fruitful. I found a slew of articles about Brooks' films. I plan to add citations to the LBS bibliographies later today.

With my remaining time at the library, I decided to take a peak at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper from UCLA. I didn't expect to find much of anything, as most of the college newspapers that I have looked at in the past yielded little. I was surprised! I came across original articles reporting on lectures and talks at UCLA by movie directors and producers, interviews with the stars, and reviews of new films by student reporters. Daily Bruin coverage of the movies, including reviews of films opening in Los Angeles, really picked up starting in late 1926. With what time I had, I was able to uncover  reviews of Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (1926) and Evening Clothes (1927). On my next trip to the State Library, I plan to finish going through this notable student newspaper.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lulupalooza

Something everyone will want to know about - a Louise Brooks film festival. Announcing Lulupalooza '05. Check it out at http://www.lulupalooza.org/

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Willem Frederik Hermans

I recently received through the mail a copy of a novel by Willem Frederik Hermans. The book, written in Dutch and published in Amsterdam in 1988, is titledEen Heilige Van De Horlogerie. Louise Brooks is pictured on the cover.

From what I have been able to find out, Hermans is a noted literary novelist, and is considered one of the three most important authors in the Netherlands in the period following the second World War. His style is described as bleak - at times existential, surreal and satirical. A Google search reveals many pages in Dutch, and only a few in English. Not being able to read Dutch, I don't know much of anything about this novel, except that Louise Brooks may have inspired a character in the novel. I have an image of another version of this book (published the previous year), and the actress is also pictured on the cover of that edition. Here is a scan of the reverse of my recently acquired softcover copy. As can be seen, Louise Brooks is mentioned in the text on the back of the book. Can anyone provide a translation of this text, or some sort of approximate meaning regarding what is stated about Brooks?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A very cool web thingy

AmazType uses Amazon Web Services to render an authors' names in type that's composed of collages of their book covers, which are pulled from Amazon's databases. The collages can be based on either a title or author. I created a "Louise Brooks" collage (with the search terms in quotes). Clara Bow and Buster Keaton title collage results are especially nifty. All together, a very cool web thingy - check it out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A bit of trivia

A bit of trivia: San Francisco has three bookstores whose names are taken from the titles of films by Charlie Chaplin, 1) City Lights, 2) Modern Times, and 3) Limelight.  //// City Lights is the world famous home to the Beats. (Store owner / poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti once remarked to me how much he like Louise Brooks!) Modern Times is a progressive bookstore whose logo features gears, just like the Chaplin film. Limelight is a theater and film bookstore. I have shopped there many times.

Monday, March 14, 2005

On this day in 1927

ON THIS DAY IN 1927: The Cedar Rapids Republican notes in an article, ''Louise Brooks, who is said to be Clara Bow's only rival as cinema's most ravishing flapper, is a convincing argument in favor ofmodernism.''

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Popular Front Paris

I've received an advance copy of Popular Front Paris and the Poetics of Culture, by Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar. I've only skimmed the book so-far, but this interesting academic work (published by Harvard University Press) seems quite promising. From the publisher . . . .

"The story of Paris in the 1930's seems straightforward enough, with the Popular Front movement leading toward the inspiring 1936 election of a leftist coalition government. The socialist victory, which resulted in fundamental improvements in the lives of workers, was then derailed in a precipitous descent that culminated in France's capitulation before the Nazis in June 1940. In this book, Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar apply an evocative 'poetics of culture' to capture the complex atmospherics of Paris in the 1930's. They highlight the new symbolic forces put in play by technologies of the illustrated press and the sound film - technologies that converged with efforts among writers (Gide, Malraux, Celine), artists (Renoir, Dali), and other intellectuals (Mounier, de Rougemont, Leiris) to respond to the decade's crises. Their analysis takes them to expositions and music halls, to upscale architecture and fashion sites, to traditional neighborhoods, and to overseas territories, the latter portrayed in metropolitan exhibits and colonial cinema. Rather than a straight story of the Popular Front, they have produced something closer to the format of an illustrated newspaper whose multiple columns represent the breadth of urban life during this critical decade at the end of the Third French Republic."

Film in general, and Prix de Beaute (1930) in particular, are discussed. Louise Brooks is pictured (page 268), and is described as "the sensational Art Deco film idol who changed styles of hair, couture, and behavior in France and around the world." Anyone interested in the cultural history of this time and place might want to check out this new book.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Doors of Perception

There's a story in the news today about a previously unknown film by Jim Morrison having surfaced. One article stated "Before The Doors' Jim Morrison made it as a rock singer, he wanted to make films. Now, 34 years after his death, the state of Florida has found and restored what it believes to be the earliest film of Morrison, shot in the early 60s when he attended Florida State University. It was discovered when the Department of State went through 1,000 films in its archive . . . . " The article went on to reference the Department of State website where one can view the Morrison film. That picqued my interest. I visited the website, and began exploring its photographic archives in hopes of finding something about you know who. It's the Old Army Game (1926), which starred W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks, was filmed in part in Ocala, Florida. (This Florida town, as it turns out, was also the setting for The Creature from the Black Lagoon.) A few scenes of  The American Venus (1926) were also filmed in the state.

Sadly, my search through the Florida Photographic Collection didn't turn-up any Brooks material. However, I did find a few images of movie stars (such as Evelyn Nesbit and Lupe Valez), and a few images of film companies on location in the state during the silent film era. The image below depicts Theda Bara shooting a scene on a beach in Florida.



A keyword search under "motion pictures" will lead you to relevant categories under which to browse or search for images. I will continue to poke around the website in hopes of finding other related material. Perhaps something related to Brooks' time in Florida as a nightclub dancer will turn up.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Louise Brooks: Portrait of an Anti-Star

I saw a copy of Louise Brooks: Portrait of an Anti-Star for sale on eBay. No one has placed a bid on this item, which has a very modest opening price of $9.99. I am not the seller (and don't know the seller), but wanted to bring this item to the attention of anyone who might be looking for a copy of this increasingly scarce book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Strange days

I like to listen to music while I am blogging, crawling the web, or working on the LBS website. Today, I played  The Best of Dave Edmunds and Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe. Hadn't listened to either in long time. The Nick Lowe CD contains such great songs as "Cracking Up" and "Cruel to Be Kind" - as well as "Marie Provost." I hadn't really realized that song is actually about Marie Prevost (though Nick Lowe misspells her name). It's lyrics read in part: "Marie Provost was a movie queen / mysterious angel of the silent screen / And run like the wind the nation's young men steamed / When Marie crossed the silent screen." Lowe's lyrics also recount the rather morbid circumstances around Prevost's premature death. Don't know why this English pop musican wrote a song about a long forgotten movie actress, but he did. . . . And then a few hours later, reading while riding the bus to work, I once again come across the rather morbid circumstances surrounding Prevost's death in Gavin Lambert's excellent biography of Norma Shearer. Strange days are here . . . .

Monday, March 7, 2005

"Norma Shearer" by Gavin Lambert

God, I wish I could write as well as Gavin Lambert. . . .  I just finished reading his biography of the actress Norma Shearer (1902-1983), and was impressed by his telling of her life story - from her humble beginnings in Canada, to her ascent to movie stardom, marriage to Irving Thalberg, worldwide fame, and then slow withdrawal from Hollywood. The last chapter, describing the actress' final years, was moving. Shearer's life was opaque, and Lambert (who is a novelist and screenwriter) manages to envision a kind-of story arc in the telling of this life. That effect, I think, gives us insight into the woman. And for that reason,Norma Shearer, by Gavin Lambert, is recommended.

[ Only while scribbling this mini-review did I come to realize that there was another Shearer biography. In it's review of Lambert's 1990 book, Library Journalsaid, "In comparison to Lawrence J. Quirk's Norma: The Story of Norma Shearer (St. Martin's, 1988), Lambert's book is more detached, although both authors interviewed Shearer. Quirk comes across as more of a fan and features more quotes from Shearer's coworkers. Lambert's book has more insight. Each book has information not included in the other; both are worthwhile." I will have to try and track down Quirk's book, provided I can find a cheap copy. ]

Sunday, March 6, 2005

March 12th happenings

Looking for something to do on Saturday, March 12th ? Check out either of these happenings:

The Archive Hour on BBC Radio Four
Date: Saturday 12th March 2005
Time: 20:00 to 21:00
"To produce his landmark book on the art of the silent movie, The Parade's Gone By, Kevin Brownlow interviewed many of the leading figures including directors Henry King, Alfred Hitchcock, Lewis Milestone and Garbo's favourite Clarence Brown, as well as stars such as Mary Pickford, Louise Brooks, Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton and Boris Karloff. In conversation with Kevin Brownlow, Michael Pointon explores a fascinating archive, voices from a now almost forgotten era. The programme also includes contributions from Sir Jeremy Isaacs, who helped to promote the silent film during his tenures at Thames TV and Channel 4, and film music composer, Carl Davis." Individuals can listen to this program for a week afterwards via the following link: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/archivehour.shtml   [ Radio, and on-line radio archives such as the BBC, are a great unexplored domain for fans of silent cinema. For example, follow this link to listen to a September 11, 2004 program on Buster Keaton.  ]

Also on March 12th, the wonderful William Wellman film, Wings, which won the first Best Picture Oscar, will be shown with live organ accompaniment in Wichita, Kansas.

Silent Movie Night: Wings (1927)
Century II Exhibition Hall, 7 PM
Tickets: $12 and $6 for students
Century II, Wichita's main convention center, houses the 1926 New York Paramount Theatre Wurlitzer organ. Music from this one-of-a-kind instrument will accompany the film and will be performed by Clark Wilson.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

"Lulu" by Frank Wedekind


Lulu
Ich liebe nicht den Hundetrab
Alltäglichen Verkehres;
Ich liebe das wogende Auf und Ab
Des tosenden Weltenmeeres.
Ich liebe die Liebe, die ernste Kunst,
Urewige Wissenschaft ist,
Die Liebe, die heilige Himmelsgunst,
Die irdische Riesenkraft ist.
Mein ganzes Innre erfülle der Mann
Mit Wucht und mit seelischer Größe.
Aufjauchzend vor Stolz enthüll' ich ihm dann,
Aufjauchzend vor Glück meine Blöße.
by Frank Wedekind

Friday, March 4, 2005

Free pens in the mail

Because the Louise Brooks Society is considered an organization (of sorts), I am on various mailing lists and occassionally receive free sample pens in the mail. The nifty red pen pictured top is a LBS "10th anniversary" pen.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

NYPL Digital Gallery

From today's New York Times . . . "Let the browser beware. The New York Public Library's collection of prints, maps, posters, photographs, illuminated manuscripts, sheet-music covers, dust jackets, menus and cigarette cards is now online (www.nypl.org/digital/digitalgallery.htm). If you dive in today without knowing why, you might not surface for a long, long time. The Public Library's digital gallery is lovely, dark and deep. Quite eccentric, too. So far, about 275,000 items are online, and you can browse by subject, by collection, by name or by keyword. The images first appear in thumbnail pictures, a dozen to a page. Some include verso views. You can collect 'em, enlarge 'em, download 'em, print 'em and hang 'em on your wall at home."

A search under "Louise Brooks" brought up eight results, including two cigarette card images of the actress and six images from her days with Denishawn. Oddly enough, the NYPL has especially strong holdings in these two areas - cigarette cards and Denishawn. Scans of some 21,206 cards are online now. While a search under "Denishawn" brought up 78 pages of results. I did a few other random searchs. "Clara Bow" brought up seven results. "Rudolph Valentino" two results. "Charlie Chaplin" three results. "Buster Keaton" four results. If you are looking for something, it seems best to search under different keywords. A search under "Ziegfeld Follies" brought no results. While "Ziegfeld" brought four results.

The database seemed slow to respond (and display), but I am sure it is being overrun with search queries. Also, I wasn't sure if more than thumbnail images were displayed for any given entry. I couldn't get larger scans of the Louise Brooks thumbnail images to show. Here is a link to the New York Times story on the debut of the collection. Happy hunting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

2 x 2 x 2

My last two trips to the library (over the course of the last two weeks) left me empty handed. No new microfilm had arrived. . . . This week, however, two loans were waiting for me. I looked at February, 1923 issues of the two newspapers from Vicksburg, Mississippi - the Vicksburg Herald and the Vicksburg Evening Post. And in each I found articles and advertisements related to the Denishawn performance at the Walnut St. Theater.

In his review, George W. Crock of the Vicksburg Evening Post reported that "The audience was not as large as such a super-attraction deserved but the heavy sleet fall and bitter winter weather is largely responsible for that. The extreme cold also prevented the theatre heating plant from doing it's full duty, too and it was somewhat uncomfortable for the dancers in their diaphanous draperies." Nevertheless, by all accounts, the Denishawn dancers went over quite well. TheVicksburg Herald wrote, "The dancing of Miss St. Denis is too wonderful for words. It is the poetry of motion, the art of arts. Ted Shawn is also a wonderful dancer, and is superior to any of the men whom Russo has sent here." The article went on to state in somewhat purple prose, "The young ladies of the company - Martha Graham, Betty May, May Bennett, May Lynn, Lenore Schaeffer, Mary Brooks, are truly exquisite, beautiful fairies, light as thistle-down, living and breathing the dance they interpret." [It's curious that the author of this article refers to Brooks by her given name. Or perhaps they got it wrong. I can't think of another instance when a reviewer referred to "Mary Louise Brooks" throughout her various careers as a dancer, showgirl and actress.]

I also looked at two months of the St. Louis Star, one of the lesser newspapers from the midwestern metropolis. I was hoping to find something on the Denishawn performances in that Missouri city in late 1922 and early 1924. However, all I came up with was brief article and a tiny advert. The St. Louis Stargave extensive coverage to the movies and local theater - but didn't seem concerned about dance. (The Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch are the "papers of record" for St. Louis - and were far superior in their coverage of the arts. I have already gone through each.)

I did notice, however, that the December 2nd Denishawn performance at the Odeon Theater in St. Louis quite nearly overlapped with a December 3rd engagement by Rudolph Valentino at the Delmonte Theater (see advertisement below). Despite legal threats against him, "The Shiek" did appear onstage, where he spoke for six minutes "before a worshipping throng" and denounced Brooks' future employers, the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. The members of the Denishawn Dance Company most likely missed the event, as they had a December 4th engagement in Indianapolis. (See Emily Leider's fantastic biography of Valentino, Dark Lover, for the story behind this incident.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

A Woman of Affairs

Just returned from seeing A Woman of Affairs (1928), with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. (This is the third Garbo film I've seen at the Garbo Festival here in San Francisco.) Also in the cast were Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Dorothy Sebastian, Lewis Stone and Johnny Mack Brown. I thought the film started slow, but it steadily picked up and finished with a bang. Garbo was lovely once again - a pleasure to watch. Fairbanks Jr. was also good - and his death scene was extraordinary in the way it was shot. William Daniels camera work was quite fine. The film was based on Michael Arlen's once controversial novel, The Green Hat. Local film critic Mick LaSalle - who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and authored Complicated Women (a study of pre-code film) gave some interesting opening remarks.

------

A somewhat reworked Louise Brooks Society homepage is now on-line. Mainly, the page has been redesigned so as to accomodate higher screen resolutions used by the majority of visitors. (Nearly 58% of all visitors use settings of 1024 x 768 or higher. That wasn't the case a year or two ago, when the majority of viewers used 800 x 600.) The HTML on the homepage has also been cleaned-up, some images changed, and other things neatened and straightened. A "this day in history" javascript has also been added (thanx to Christy), which will change ever day. I hope to rework the rest of the site in the coming months. Comments? Questions?
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