Thursday, April 28, 2005

European Libraries Fight Google-ization

Here is an interesting article on an European project which will be an alternative to Google's online library. I am excited about this project, and Google's project, because they may uncover new material (depending on the cut-off date of the material scanned) on early film, expressionism, Frank Wedekind, Ruth St. Denis and other interesting topics. You never know what you will find . . . .

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Went through three scattered months / At the library today / This week

Went through three scattered months of the World-Herald (from Omaha, Nebraska), and found some miscellaneous clippings (articles, pics of Brooks, and some advertisements) relating toThe Canary Murder Case (1929). Depicted below is one of the items I uncovered,  a typical newspaper display ad for the film. Notice that the film was paired with live entertainment (headlined by Jay Mills), which was also typical of the time in larger cities and towns.



At the library today, I also went through microfilm of the Greensboro Daily News (from Greensboro, North Carolina) and found a bunch of material on the 1923 Denishawn performance in that town. One advertisement for the engagement read "At Milwaukee hundreds turned away. Return date March 12th. At Kansas City, November 15th. Theatre full. Firemen closed the doors. At Atlanta, January 25. Audience of 4,000 biggest event of the year." (Though the Denishawn Dance Company performed in many smaller towns, they just as often performed before audiences numbering in hundreds and even thousands!) The most interesting item was an article, "Orchestra Lost and Audience was Frozen," which appeared the day after their engagement. Subtitled, "St. Denis Glow and Shawn's Fire Failed to Overcome The Handicap," the article related how the dance company's orchestra failed to show up for the first half of the program, and as a result, the audience never really warmed up to the performances. 

This week, I also came across a recently published book, Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Completing the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, 2004). The book has a striking image on ex-Denishawn Dancer Martha Graham on the cover, as well as a one-and-one-half page entry on Louise Brooks. The entry was written by Amelie Hastie, a scholar who has written on Brooks in the past.

Monday, April 25, 2005

1920's Berlin & Vienna

Here is a useful page of links on the 1920s, the Weimar Republic, and Berlin. Does anyone know of any others ?

Also, for those who read German, here is a website which has scans of Austrian newspapers. The site is a little hard to navigate and the papers a little hard to read, but the diligent might be able to dig out some G. W. Pabst (he was Austrian) or Louise Brooks material.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Local treasure troves

A number of city libraries around the country have begun to put parts of  their unique collections on-line. These digitized collections include photographs, sheet music, and other documents (usually) related to some aspect of local history. One such library is the San Francisco Public Library, which now has a large treasure trove of historical photographs on the web. While browsing the collection, I came across 43 images related to Roscoe Arbuckle and his infamous San Francisco trial! Some of these fascinating images picture the comedian, while others depict individuals related to the trial, as well as photographs of evidence. (Arbuckle would go on to direct Louise Brooks in Windy Riley Goes Hollywood.)



Along with the Arbuckle pics, I also came across images of dancer Sally Rand (who had appeared with Brooks in A Girl in Every Port), other personalities from the 1920's, and architectural images of local movie theaters - some of which no longer exist. The San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection is well worth exploring. Perhaps your local library website has a similar collection.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Utah Digital Newspapers project

I recently came across the Utah Digital Newspapers project, an on-line collection of digitized newspapers. So far, the project has scanned a bunch of mostly small town Utah newspapers dating from before and around the turn-of-the-century. There are also a handful of digitized papers dating from the 1920's and 1930's. I did a search under "Louise Brooks" and found a dozen ads for different films. These simple text advertisements, which are akin to listings, are typical of small town ads I have seen in newspapers from other states. In themselves, they are not very interesting, except as a record of which film showed where and when.

The most interesting was an 1929 ad for Just Another Blonde, which ran in the Murray Eagle. The film was being screened, for one day only, on Sunday, May 19th at the Gem Theatre. (The ad described the film as "a thrill packed story of a Romance that was made in heaven - and remade on Earth!") Just Another Blonde, a silent film, was first released in December of 1926. It's intertesting that it was still being screened some two-and-one-half years later, and once talkies had come arrived.

Along with the Utah Digital Newspapers project, I have also looked through similar efforts, including the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection and the Missouri Newspaper Archive.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Some new citations

A few interlibrary loans arrived this week. Each were for newspapers I had not yet begun to explore. I dug some Louise Brooks / Denishawn material out of the Alexandria Daily Town Talk(from Alexandria, Louisiana) and the Joplin News Herald (from Mark Twain's boyhood home of Joplin, Missouri). Also found a few film reviews and advertisements in the Oregon State Journal(from Portland, Oregon) and the Green Bay Press Gazette (from Green Bay, Wisconsin). All together, a scattered but good haul.

Also, via Google Scholar, I recently came across this academic paper which may be of interest. It is titled "The Overcoming of Desire: Prostitution and Contract in Pandora's Box (1929)" by Helen Miller. The link to this paper in .pdf format can be found here.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Women Men Yearn For (Germany, 1929)

Just came across this interesting article on European film. It begins, "Something about 1929 in Europe stimulated a half-dozen masterworks of erotic cinema . . . ."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Doris Eaton Travis

There is a wire service story ( "At 101, Former Ziegfeld Girl Plans Return" ) circulating about Doris Eaton Travis, a dancer and showgirl and contemporary of Louise Brooks who is making an appearance on Broadway.

"
Part of a show business family, she began performing with her brothers and sisters at age 5. She was hired by the legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld in 1918 and danced with the troupe for several years before heading to Hollywood, where she appeared in a number of films. In 1926, she was back on Broadway, starring with Jolson in Big Boy. In 1929, she was a featured dancer at the Music Box Review Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, where she first introduced the song Singin' in the Rain."

Travis also published a memoir a couple of years ago, which is still available. "With memories that span almost a century, Doris recalls the state of the American theater during World War I, the "roaring twenties," the Great Depression - as well as the legendary names of the rich and famous celebrities with whom the Eatons worked and played."

Friday, April 15, 2005

20th Century American Culture links

Here's a page of links on 20th Century American Culture, including a section on the 1920's.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Scotsman

I just read that a searchable archive for The Scotsman, the leading Edinburgh newspaper, is now on-line. The archive contains most all issues of the paper dating from 1800 - 1950. And so, I purchased a subscription to see what (if any) Louise Brooks material I could find. My approach in searching this archive is similar to the way I approach other on-line databases. First I try searching under "Louise Brooks." Then I try each individual film title. Then I try other keywords and names, such as G.W. Pabst, Frank Wedekind, or Lulu.

What I found this time were listings/plain text advertisements for screenings of a half-dozen of Brooks' American silent films. Among them were American VenusLove Em and Leave Em, and The City Gone Wild. Each showed in Edinburgh about a year after it's American release. I also uncovered an advertisement for a recording of Beggars of Life, by the Troubadours, which noted that it was the theme song to the film of the same name. Among these listings, the only one which named Brooks was that for The Canary Murder Case. Brooks and William Powell were given top billing. I had hoped to find something about Pandora's Box, but came up empty. The only full-fledged review I found was for King of Gamblers, which screened in Edinburgh in September, 1937.

One interesting, related article I uncovered reported on a 1929 lawsuit brought against actor Percy Marmont. The article stated that he had been accused of abandoning his wife in 1903. Marmont, it was claimed, was then known as Garland Scholes, and one day, he simply dissappeared. Some twenty years later, the women said that an actor she saw in the movies was her long missing husband! At the trial, the woman went on to say that she had seen her husband in a film in which he played a blind man - The Street of Forgotten Men.

I think I found all of the Brooks-related material there was. I did notice a bunch of other articles about G.W. Pabst (he was referred to time and again as one of the world's great directors), as well as Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, etc.... I hope to return to The Scotsman  archive sometime in the future in search of other interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A visit to an archive

As there were no inter-library loans waiting for me at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), I decided to walk over to the near-by San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum (SF-PALM). I had been there once before (perhaps two or three years ago?) to research Louise Brooks, when I looked through their clipping files and books. At that time, I came away with copies of a few choice items.

This time, I had it in mind to browse dance magazines from the 1920's. Like most libraries and archives, this institution has scattered holdings. I looked through actual issues (not microfilm) ofDance Lovers and The Dance - as these were the only periodicals which they had from the 1920's. I had hoped to find three particular articles, and ended up with two. One of them, "The Rhythmic Road to Hollywood" from 1927, was about film actresses who got their start as dancers or showgirls. It featured a portrait of Brooks as well as a paragraph of text about the actress which noted her apprenticeship with Denishawn and experience with the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies. The other, a two-and-a-half-page article from 1928 entitled "The Wichita Wow," was all about Brooks and her beginnings as a dancer. This is one of the most interesting early pieces I have ever read about the actress. Especially since the author seemed to have actually interviewed Louise Brooks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Copyright Reform to Free Orphans?

Wired News has an interesting article on copyright reform. I would encourage everyone to read it, as it is relevant to anyone interested in silent film and early 20th century culture. There are also links on this page to other interesting, related articles.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Brick collectors

Did you know that there are people out there who collect old bricks for their decorative or historic value? And I am now one of them. . . .  How could I pass up this vintage sidewalk brick from Cherryvale, Kansas - Louise Brooks' hometown.



I found this item on eBay, of course. The seller has another brick for sale, a nifty one with a double sunflower design. (Kansas is the sunflower state.)

Saturday, April 9, 2005

The Lawless Decade

The Lawless Decade: a somewhat sensational, though nifty website about the 1920's. This website is based on a book (which I have), and which you may also find interesting.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Notes on a marathon session

Yesterday's visit to the San Francisco Public Library resulted in a marathon session. After a long drought, a whole bunch of inter-library loans had arrived! And so, I spent about five hours pouring over microfilm of newspapers from the United States and Canada. What fun . . . . 

Based on the dates of film reviews I had found earlier in the Toronto Sun, I was now able to uncover a few more reviews in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Among the films I found articles and reviews for was Rolled Stockings (1927), which the Globe and Mail  advertisements amusingly described as "The Romance of a Collegian and His Girl Friend" and "A Fast Stepping Romance of the Varsity Schockers." I also went through a couple of months of the Duluth News Tribune (from Duluth, Minnesota), where I found a couple of film reviews. As well, I scanned theCharlotte News from February, 1923 and found an article, a couple of advertisements, and a review for the Denishawn performance in that North Carolina university town. The Denishawn Dance company, which the paper had described as "home brew dance," drew a "good crowd" according to the review.

The Hartford Daily Times (from Hartford, Connecticut) and Illinois State Register (from Springfield, Illinois) both yielded a bunch of interesting Denishawn material and film reviews. . . . The sold out Springfield performance took place on New Years day at the state arsenal, and many of the articles about the performance published prior to the event were placed on the newspaper's society pages. A December 31st article entitled "One of the Largest Audiences Ever Assembled in Arsenal is Expected for Denishawn Dance Monday Night," stated "Coming on the opening day of the year, the Denishawn local engagement will assume many of the atributes of a holiday social function, the Illini Country Club, the Sangamo club and several other prominent organizations having arranged their New Year's night programs so that they will follow the arsenal performance." Some of the articles were focussed on those who were lucky enough to be chosen as an usher for the performance, while others detailed after-event parties and dances which were planned. I am not sure if Louise Brooks and the Denishawn dancers attended any of these parties, though they may have. (Articles found in other small town newspapers indicate that the Denishawn dancers did attend local society gatherings and parties given in their honor.) The Springfield performance was well reviewed. Brooks was referenced in the review, which claimed that the dancers "captivated the city with their art."

I also went through eight reels of the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph, one of the lesser papers from this large industrial city from the time when most major urban areas had three or more newspapers. (And of course, Pittsburgh is also the future home to Brooks' biographer Barry Paris). I found a review of the December, 1923 Denishawn performance entitled "Pantomine Artists Give Pleasing Performance," as well as reviews for six of Brooks' films.

All together, it was a good haul. Despite my bleary eyes and stiff back,  I ended up with some 75 copies. I plan to add citations for much of this material to the LBS bibliographies within the next few days. (I have recently revamped this page, and retitled it "Bibliographies and Documentation.")

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Diary of a Lost Girl screening

Diary of a Lost Girl will be screened at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York on April 10th. Here are the details.
DIARY OF A LOST GIRL Sun. April 10 With live piano accompaniment by Ben Model.
G. W. Pabst. 1929. 116 m. NR. Germany. Silent. Kino International.
Twenty-two-year-old Louise Brooks, from Kansas, plays an unwed teenage mother who is cast out of her bourgeois home and sent to an exceptionally creepy reformatory - from which she escapes to a high-class brothel. This was the second and last film Brooks made under the sensitive direction of G. W. Pabst (the first was Pandora's Box, also 1928), who knew a great camera subject when he saw one: He just keeps gazing at his young star and she rewards him with a cooly radiant performance.
3:00: Q&A with film critic Terrence Rafferty
from the "JBFC Program Notes by Terrence Rafferty"
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
A hyperventilating French critic once wrote, "Louise Brooks is the only woman who had the ability to transform no matter what film into a masterpiece." Her filmography doesn't support that claim, but when you watch her in Diary of a Lost Girl you can see what that panting Frenchman meant. Although the film is beautifully directed by G.W. Pabst, it's the coolly compelling presence of Brooks that raises the rather ordinary material above the level of well-mounted soap opera and turns it into something memorable. The screenplay (based on a popular novel by Margarete Böhme, which had already been filmed once before) follows the fortunes of a teenaged unwed mother who is exiled by her loathsome bourgeois family to a school for wayward girls--a place of such Dickensian awfulness that even a life of prostitution looks like an improvement. Brooks had herself turned her back on a middle-class upbringing (in Kansas) at 15 and had knocked around Broadway and Hollywood for six or seven years until, at the age of 22, she was invited by Pabst to come to Germany and play the demanding leading role-also a "fallen woman"-in his 1929 Pandora's Box. She was lucky because Pabst was, of all the German filmmakers of his time, by far the best director of actors. He was luckier because Brooks proved to be an extraordinarily subtle artist: an actress who could embody women's suffering without descending to self-pity-neither standing on her dignity nor ever, for a moment, surrendering it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Mary Pickford on PBS

Did anyone catch the Mary Pickford documentary on PBS last night? I thought it pretty good. There seemed to be a fair amount of fresh footage. Louise Brooks (along with Clara Bow, Greta Garbo and one or two others) was pictured briefly when the narrator mentioned the rise of new types of film stars during the Jazz Age. And Kevin Brownlow was included as an interveree.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Beyond the Rocks

There is an interesting article about film preservation and the discovery of a previously lost Rudolph Valentino film in today's New York Times. The restored print of Beyond the Rocks (1922), starring Valentino and Gloria Swanson, will be shown in NYC (tonight?) and screenings and film festivals around the United States in the fall.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Two by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Alfred Cheney Johnston was certainly one of the most gifted photographers working in New York City in the 1920's. As the official photographer of the Ziegfeld Follies, he created lush portraits of many of the featured performers and showgirls who appeared in that revue. And among his subjects was Louise Brooks, who posed for Johnston on one or two occasions. Besides Follies girls, Johnston also shot portraits of other aspiring performers - actresses, showgirls, performers. Some would go on to achive fame in the film world.  Two such images - youthful portraits of Paulette Goddard and Clara Bow - have just shown up on eBay. [ And don't miss this remarkable semi-nude portrait by A.C. Johnston.]
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