Monday, May 30, 2005

Cinema of Josef von Sternberg

I've finished reading The Cinema of Josef von Sternberg by John Baxter. I liked it, and would like to read more about this fascinating director. It is one of the few books on this gifted and somewhat tragic figure. Sternberg is, of course, best known for his cinematic collaborations with Marlene Dietrich. Besides the Blue Angel, he also directed such noted films as Shanghai Express (with Dietrich and Anna May Wong), Morroco, Underworld (an early gangster film), and The Last Command.

While reading Baxter's book, I was struck by a passage which noted the similarities between the Blue Angel (1930) and the earlier Pabst production, Pandora's Box (1929). "Sternberg's concept for Lola was, as one might expect, an eclectic one, combining elements from other artists with aspects of his own life. Ignoring contemporary Germany, of which he knew little, he returned to the period of [Heinrich] Mann's book, the late Nineteenth century, and to another writer whose influence on German thought had been explosive, the playwright Frank Wedekind. To replace Mann's name for the heroine, Rosa Frohlich, Sternberg adapted 'Lola' from 'Lulu" of Wedekind's plays Earth Spirit (1895) and Pandora's Box (1905), but he also borrowed so heavily from Wedekind that in many ways The Blue Angel is a fantasy on the playwright's themes. Lulu, like Lola, is a dancer exercising a cold fascination over an older man, who sacrifices his reputation for her. She is surrounded by her past and future lovers . . . ."

Wow! Such similarities have occurred to me in the past, but I have not really seen them spelled out so succintly. And so early on - Baxter's book was published in 1971. Has anyone else ever seen an articles or books linking the films?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sacramento

Just back from Sacramento, and my research trip to the California State Library . . . . I went through a few more reels of the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA. Impressively, this college newspaper ran signed reviews of then new films by student-journalists. These pieces were pretty good - extensive and thoughtful, and the equal of reviews found in many other big city newspapers. I scavenged three reviews, as well as a smattering of articles on other films. About Louise Brooks, UCLA student Louise Kreisman declared "she excells in flippancy and heartlessness" in her write-up of the Menjou vehicle, Evening Clothes.While Doris G. Taylor described the actress as sleek and graceful - but only adequate in her role of the Canary in the murder mystery based on the van Dine novel. And interestingly, the piece on Now We're in the Air has a bit of an interview with Wallace Beery about the role he plays in that film! Another curiousity I noticed was a May, 1931 advertisement for the nearby Beverly theater, which on a particular Saturday was running an odd double bill of It Pays to Advertise and White Hell of Pitz Palu (the German mountain film directed by G.W. Pabst and featuring Leni Riefenstahl). And yet another curiousity was the fact that the great Jazz pianist Art Tatum was one of the opening stage acts for When You're in Love, the 1937 Grace Moore musical in which Louise Brooks had a bit part.

I also looked as the Venice Evening Vanguard (from Venice Beach), which proved to be a goldmine of articles, reviews and advertisements. I found something on every American Brooks' film from The American Venus (1926) to It Pays to Advertise (1931). There was a nifty caricature of the actress from Love Em and Leave Em, an article about director Alfred Santell which noted the recognition he received for his work on Just Another Blonde, an unusual staged portrait of Brooks, James Hall and Richard Arlen from Rolled Stockings, and an article about Beggars of Life which mentioned that live election results (for the 1928 Presidential race) would be announced during the screening. One other article I found was a ridiculous puff piece, "Miss Brooks Almost Inspiration for Popular Song," which tried to associate the actress with the song with the refrain "five foot two, eyes of blue, and oh, what those eyes can't do . . . ." The author of the article, however, admitted that Brooks' eyes were in fact dark brown.

Besides the Daily Bruin and Venice Evening Vanguard, I also continued my day-by-day look though the film and society columns of the Hollywood Daily Citizen. I managed to get through a few months, but didn't find anything mentioning Brooks - this time. I will continue my survey on my next visit to Sacramento, July 1st. (Then, I also plan to tackle the Bakersfield newspaper and perhaps the Riverside newspaper.)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Clara Bow beats eggs with anticipation dreaming of a rarebit fiend

As I have written before, I often come across interesting articles while looking through microfilm for Louise Brooks material. I came across a couple of such items today, while looking through the Capital Times from Madison, Wisconsin. One of them was an Associated Press piece entitled "Lita May Drag 5 Stars Into Chaplin Case." The January, 1927 article noted that Lita Grey Chaplin, who was divorcing Charlie Chaplin, was threatening to reveal the names of "five prominent motion picture actresses" who "publically and privately" associated with the comedian. The actresses were not named - but I wondered if one of them would have been Brooks. (I once came across a 1925 article in which Chaplin denied having an affair with Brooks - which they in fact did, during the Summer of 1925 . . . . )

Another delicious piece I came across featured my other favorite flapper in the kitchen, "Clara Bow Is Happiest When Playing Host." As I adore Clara Bow (and have a strong interest in Winsor McCay), I was very amused by her recipe for Rarebit!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bibliographical notes

There was a single inter-library loan waiting for me at the SFPL this week. I went through some four months of microfilm of the Capital Times from Madison, Wisconsin. And I found a review of A Social Celebrity (1926), and brief write-ups and advertisements for Love Em and Leave Em (1926) and Just Another Blonde (1926). The Blonde ads came out especially nice. Though they were typical, studio supplied newspaper ads (like others I have seen in reproduced in newspapers across the USA), these particular pieces photocopied nice and clean. That is often not the case when it comes to making copies from microfilm. . . . I had also requested microfilm from 1922 covering the period when Denishawn visited Madison, but the lending institution sent the wrong month. I will have to rerequest the right roll.

One interesting item I stumbled across was a wire service article entitled "Movies of 1926 Were Disappointing." The author, Gene Cohn, began his piece by lamenting the general decline in films for the year. Cohn went on to add, however, "of the new reputations made within the past year, the parade seems to be headed by that inimitable clown, Harry Langdon, who gave us Tramp, Tramp, Trampand The Strong Man. . . . There is Noah Berry brutal captain in Beau Geste; Greta Garbo's rise as chronicled by The Temptress; the alluring arrival of Clara Bow, and hints of considerable promise in Louise Brooks' bit in Love 'Em, and Leave 'Em." That is remarkable praise - being paired with Garbo and Clara Bow.

Due to changes in the way inter-library loans are handled at my local library, there has been something of a slow down in my research efforts. Now, I am only able to have a maximum of ten ILL loans outstanding at any one time. And since a loan can take anywhere between three and eight weeks to process and receive, the number of citations I have been able to add to the various LBS bibliographies has also slowed.

To make up for this slowed pace, I have taken to emailing / writing to libraries and researchers across the country in an attempt to gather additional material. As of now, I am focussing on obtaining articles and reviews of the Denishawn / Louise Brooks performances in newspapers which I had not able to obtain via ILL. (In general, my loan requests were rejected because no lending institution could be found.) So far, there have been about 15 such rejected requests. And of those 15, I have been able to obtain material from four "proxy researchers" - either small town librarians or individuals I found over the internet who perform "random acts of geneological kindness." Two more are outstanding, and three were declined because the local library didn't have microfilm of its own local newspaper. (It's sad to think that these little pieces of history are lacking, or lost.)

So far, I have had success in obtaining material from theFindlay Morning Republican (from Findlay, Ohio), Meridian Star (from Meridian, Mississippi), Ponca City News (from Ponca, Oklahoma), andRockford Daily Register-Gazette (from Rockford, Illinois). The three newspapers from which material was unobtainable (due to lack of holdings) are the Jacksonian (from Jackson, Tennessee), Macon News (from Macon, Georgia), and Findlay Daily Courier (the other paper from Findlay, Ohio). My thanks go to those kind individuals who took the time to look up the material I asked for. The search goes on . . . .

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Summer plans

On Friday, I'm heading back to the California State Library in Sacramento (about a two hour drive from where I live). There, I plan to continue my survey of various California newspapers. I am especially looking forward to digging through past issues of the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper from UCLA. When I looked through this paper on my last visit, I found a few student-penned reviews (dating from the 1920's) of Brooks' films! Wow. I hope to find a few more this time. I will also continue my day-by-day look through the Hollywood Citizen News, a "local" newspaper which has proven rich in material relating to Louise Brooks. And as well, I will begin a search for film reviews in the Venice Evening Vanguard, another Los Angeles area newspaper.

This weekend trip to Sacramento is one of three I have mapped out for the Summer. I am also planning as many as six trips across the Bay to Berkeley, where I will once again visit the huge microfilm collection at the University of California. I have made about two or three dozen trips there over the last few years, and have found an amazing assortment of material - articles, reviews and miscellaneous clippings from newspapers, magazines and film journals from around the world. I am anxious to finish my work there as the microfilm room will be closing at the end of August for earthquake retrofitting.

Next week, I am travelling to New York City. It's a work related trip, but I plan on staying an extra three days to do (guess what?) research! I will be spending one full day (from open to close) at theNew York Public Library, where I hope to look through microfilm of various New York and Brooklyn newspapers. This will be my second trip to the NYPL microfilm collection. Earlier, I scoured the various papers for film reviews as well as articles about Brooks' appearances with the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies. Then, I returned home with nearly two inches of photocopies!

This time, I shall again look at the New York City newspapers - such as the Evening MailDaily Mirror, and Morning Telegraph - in search of Denishawn material as well as any articles I might be able to uncover regarding Brooks' 1930's appearances as a ballroom dancer. I will also be looking for articles on the draped nudes scandal of 1925, Brooks' marriage to Eddie Sutherland in 1926, their divorce in 1928, and Brooks' bankruptcy proceedings in 1932. There were some ten different newspapers being published in New York City during the 1920's - and their coverage varied. So, there is lots of microfilm to search through. (Generally speaking, these papers are not available through inter-library loan. They are also not indexed . . . thus, one must go to the libraries or arhives which house them and search through reels and reels of microfilm for any desired material. )

While at the NYPL, I also plan on going through the various Brooklyn newspapers - such as the Brooklyn Daily Times and Brooklyn Citizen - in search of reviews and whatever else I can find. Through inter-library loan, I have surveyed the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and found dates when Brooks' films were reviewed in that paper. The other Brooklyn papers likely reviewed the films at the same time.

Additionally, I will also be looking through various German language newspapers - like the New Yorker Herold Abend Zeitung and New Yorker Staats-Zeitung - which were published in New York City in the 1920's. I have already found articles about Pandora's Box in these German papers from the time it debuted in New York in 1929. This time, I will be searching for film reviews of Brooks' American silent films. And time permitting, I will take a peek at the Russian, Italian and Jewish newspapers. You never know what you might find.

My two other days for research will be spent at Lincoln Center, where the performing arts collections of the NYPL are housed. This library / archive is amazing! And their collection is huge! I have a long list of material I hope to look at - including everything from bound issues of old film magazines to microfilm of 1920's Paramount press books to clipping files on various Brooks' films to actor's scrapbooks to Ruth St. Denis' journals to Denishawn programs. Over the last month, I have been preparing extensive notes on what I hope to look through in order to get through as much material as efficiantly as possible. (This material is generally not available via inter-library loan, so again, one must go to the source.)

Some of the publications I expect to look at include Canadian Moving Picture DigestHollywood Daily Screen WorldGreater Amusements (which billed itself as "America's first and only regional motion picture trade newspaper"), Cine-mundial (a Spanish-language film magazine published in New York City), Cinelandia (a Spanish-language film magazine published in Hollywood), Film ProgressThe Film Mercury and other motion picture publications from France, Germany and Italy. I will also take a look at the New York Star, which covered stage acts and vaudeville, in hopes of finding reviews of Brooks' appearances with the Scandals and Follies.

I should be able to get through much of this material. I will take notes, gather citations, and obtain as many photocopies as possible. Some material can't be copied, because of its condition and other restrictions. Nevertheless, if I am as successful in my hunting and gathering as I was last time I visited these two libraries, it should be a good trip. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

von Dutch

I am always looking for newspaper and magazine articles about Louise Brooks. And occassionally, I search the internet for databases or archives that are new or new to me. And recently, I came across the website for the Koninklijke Bibliotheek - the National library of the Netherlands. This excellent site contains a keyword searchable archive of four Dutch newspapers dating from 1910 - 1945.

Once I figured out what button or link meant what (I don't read Dutch), I did a keyword search and managed to find a handful of brief articles and movie advertisements mentioning Brooks. As it turns out, a number of the actress' American silent films showed in Dutch cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Here is a typical newspaper ad, for It's the Old Army Game, dating from January of 1930. The Brooks-W.C. Fields film was part of a double bill with Beau Sabreur.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Beggars of Life book report

Last week, I finished reading Beggars of Life, by Jim Tully. It was ok - a quick read. I felt it was something of a period piece, and somewhat slight in its effect. Tho I am glad I read it. I was surprised at how little the book had to do with the film! Two or three individuals, and the character of the young woman who had been molested by her father (whom she kills), is about all that I recognized in the book as having ended up in the movie. Has anyone else read the book and seen the movie?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

LBS gift shop at Cafepress.com

The LBS gift shop at Cafepress.com has been updated. A few items have been dropped or discontinued, and a few items (and new designs) have been added. Among the new items are a Loulou postcard, pinback buttons and magnets. Check it out! The shop is located at http://www.cafepress.com/louisebrooks

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Dylan connection and other bibliographic tidbits

There were a few inter-library loans waiting for me this week. . . . For the first time, I looked at microfilm of the London Observer, a weekly (?) newspaper from England. I had based my loans requests on the handful of screening dates I had already uncovered in the London Times. I was hoping to find film reviews. However, most every London newspaper I've looked at from the period gave scant attention to the "pictures" - as they usually were termed. The London Observer was no different. All that I was able to find was a brief summary of The Canary Murder Case(1929) from October, which the paper described as "One of the best of the talking thrillers."

I also went through a couple of months of the Chicago American from 1934, the period when Louise Brooks was dancing in nightclubs as part of "Dario and Brooks." I was hoping to find some textual material (such as reviews or a mention in a column), but all I did uncover were some advertisement for the Chez Paree, a Chicago nightclub where Brooks and her partner were appearing. The ads noted the dance team, who were supporting two bigger name acts, torch singer Helen Morgan and the comedic Ritz Brothers.

I also went through a couple of months of the Hibbing Daily Tribune, from Hibbing, Minnesota. (This small town is perhaps most famous as the childhood home to Robert Zimmerman - a.k.a. the folk singer Bob Dylan.) The Hibbing Daily Tribune gave up a slew of material on the March, 1924 performance the Denishawn dance company. I found five article and a review! One of the articles, which were little more than program notes, mentioned Brooks - while another pictured her and other members of the Denishawn company. The review which ran the day after their performance also mentioned the future actress. "One of the most attractive numbers of the evening was the Music Box with Georgia Graham, Doris Humphrey and Louise Brooks."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Louise Brooks / Dixie Dugan

A rather interesting letter from, and picture of Louise Brooks, has shown up on eBay. "These items were acquired with a collection of Brooks items saved by Fritzi Striebel who was the wife of John H. Striebel (artist and illustrator) who used Louise as his model for Dixie Dugan -  famous comic strip character he created in 1928."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New book on Lois Moran

There is a new book out on the silent film star Lois Moran, a contemporary of Louise Brooks. The book is A Beautiful Fairy Tale: The Life of Actress Lois Moran by Richard Buller.  Here is some descriptive text from the publisher. "Coming of age in Paris in the 1920s, film and stage actress Lois Moran was a rumored paramour of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and the inspiration for the character of Rosemary in his Tender Is the Night

As a young girl, Lois moved to Paris with her mother and thrived in the artistic and literary glow of the city. She danced with the National Paris Opera at age 14 and also was cast in two French films. Samuel Goldwyn, on a European tour in search of new talent, saw her work, was impressed, and cast her in what would become one of the best-known films of the era. With her performance as Laurel, the emotionally conflicted daughter in Stella Dallas, Lois Moran became an overnight sensation and took Hollywood by storm, and on her own terms. 

She appeared in more than 30 Hollywood movies, from silent films to early talkies, and was in one of the first dramatic television series, Waterfront. She starred in two of the Gershwins' original Broadway musical productions, Of Thee I Sing and Let 'Em Eat Cake. Her circle of friends and acquaintances ranged from Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh to Al Jolson, John Gilbert, and Man Ray. 



The author, Richard Buller, corresponded with Lois Moran during the last five years of her life. He had full and exclusive access to her journals, scrapbooks, and photos. In telling the Lois Moran story, Buller illuminates the history of film, theater, and television. He also includes a thorough and unique account of the actress's relationship with Fitzgerald." I hope to get a copy and check it out.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A package from France

I received a package from France. It contained a letter from Rene Clementi-Bilinsky, who was enquiring if any "members of the Louise Brooks Society have ever encountered an illustrations of the couple of posters designed by my grandfather, Boris Bilinsky (1900 - 1948), for the movie I recieved a package from France. It contained a letter from Rene Clementi-Bilinsky, who was enquiring if any "members of the Louise Brooks Society have ever encountered an illustrations of the couple of posters designed by my grandfather, Boris Bilinsky (1900 - 1948), for the movie Prix de Beaute." Rene writes that he is certain these posters exist, but he has yet to see them. If you are familiar with them, please post a comment.

Rene also printed out my bibliography of articles and reviews of Prix de Beaute (1930), on which he pointed out a number of typos and errors. I have made corrections, and have posted the revised bibliography to the web.

Rene also sent along a newly published article about Prix de Beaute which appeared in April, 2005 issue of 1895, a French journal focussing on film history. This long article, by Davide Pozzi, was followed by a second piece which contained Rene Clair's original outlines and synopsis for the film. There were also some swell pics of Louise Brooks. Thank you Rene." Rene writes that he is certain these posters exist, but he has yet to see them. If you are familiar with them, please post a comment.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Buster Keaton

There is big article about Buster Keaton in today's Los Angeles Times. The article mentions a lecture on Keaton by John Bengston as well as some screenings of Keaton films. "Buster Keaton’s doleful face and agile antics are as delightful today as in the ’20s. His comic mastery is honored at UCLA. . . ."



BTW: There is a new book about Keaton being released in the United States. It is called Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat, by Edward McPherson. The book releases in May.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Louise Brooks group on tribe.net

There is a Louise Brooks group on tribe.net.  It is located at http://ladivinelouise.tribe.net/  Check it out.

Monday, May 9, 2005

An early movie ad

I was digging around the website of the Lansing State Journal, the major daily in Lansing, Michigan. (I went to school at Michigan State University in nearby East Lansing. . . and still have a lingering interest in that part of the world.) And I noticed an historical feature on the website entitled "Looking Back 150 Years: A decade-by-decade look at the history of Lansing." The feature is broken down into decades, with a timeline and photo gallery for each decade. In the decade devoted to the Jazz Age - "1920s - A time for 'wonderful nonsense' " - I found this nifty image of an advertisement on the side of a street car (today's equivalent of ads on the sides of buses). Notice that the screen attraction is Norma Shearer in The Demi-Bride.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Censorship of films

One of my areas of interest regarding Louise Brooks (and silent film) is censorship. Anyone who has read the Barry Paris biography knows that her two German films were subject to censorship in Europe. As well, Pandora's Box was heavily censored when shown in the New York City in 1929. 

What few people know is that some of Brooks' American films were also censored. The American Venus (1926) was criticized in Chicago because of "nudity." The City Gone Wild (1927) andKing of Gamblers (1937) were cut because of violence. God's Gift to Women (1931) was reproached because of its suggestive nature. During the 1920's and 1930's, some cities and states had their own censorship boards - and each ruled over the exhibition of motion pictures.

Some time ago, I came across a massive bibliography devoted to freedom of the press. This online bibliography, by Ralph E. McCoy, was published in 1967 and covered censorship of ideas in all forms - including books, newspapers, radio, television and film. I have gone through it and extracted (for my own reference)  the many citations pertaining to film censorship in the United States during the teens, twenties and thirties. Here are a few articles and books that stand out:

Abbott, Clarence M. "How They 'Censor' the Films at the National Board of Censorship." Motion Picture Magazine,  September 1917.
Ames, Hector. "Censoring the Film Kiss." Motion Picture Magazine, December 1916.
Beman, Lemar TSelected Articles on Censorship of the Theater and Motion PicturesNew York, Wilson, 1931. 

Chase, William S. The Case for the Federal Supervision of Motion PicturesWashington, D.C., International Reform Federation, 1927.
Clements, Traverse. "Censoring the Talkies." New Republic, 5 June 1929.
De Mille, William C. "Bigoted and Bettered Pictures." Scribner's Magazine, September 1924.
Ernst, Morris L., and Pare Lorentz. Censored: The Private Life of the Movies. New York, Cape & Smith, 1930.
Howe, Frederic C. "What To Do With the Motion-Picture Show; Shall It Be Censored?" Outlook,  20 June 1914.
Inglis, William. "Morals and Moving Pictures." Harper's Weekly,  30 July 1910.
Lawson, W. P. "How the Censor Works." Harper's Weekly, 9 January 1915.
MacCulloch, Campbell. "How Free Is Speech?" Motion Picture Classic, September 1920.
 
McGuire, W. D., Jr. "Censoring Motion Pictures." New Republic, 10 April 1915.
McKeown, E. J. "Censoring the Moving Picture." Common Cause, July 1913.
McMahon, Charles A. "Inviting Motion Picture Censorship." Child Welfare Magazine, September 1924.
Oberholtzer, Ellis P. "Censor and the 'Movie Menace.'" North American Review, November 1920.
Peet, Creighton. "Our Lady Censors." Outlook, 25 December 1929.
Poffenberger, A. T. "Motion Pictures and Crime." Scientific Monthly, April 1921.
Quirk, James R. "The Wowsers Tackle the Movies." American Mercury, July 1927.
Rorty, James. "It Ain't No Sin!" Nation, 1 August 1934.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Prix de beauté photoplay

It case you haven't seen it, there is an extraordinarily rare novelization of Prix de Beauté for sale on eBay. Curiously, this softcover, French photoplay edition was published two years after the movie was released. (Usually, such tie-ins are timed to coincide with the release of the film.) The story is by Boisyvon, who would go on to write a handful of books on film.

Friday, May 6, 2005

For the Lulu in your life

gift suggestion for the Lulu in your life. "Launched in 1987, this FLORAL/ORIENTAL was inspired by the legendary child-woman actor Louise Brooks, whose heyday was the roaring Twenties. Like Brooks, it is tempting and provocative, yet innocent and sensual. It was created by Jean Guichard.

Lou Lou blends ylang ylang with orange flower, jasmine and iris with base notes of sandalwood, vanilla and bergamot. It is an intriguing fragrance, a soft-oriental-floral that caresses and envelops the skin with vanilla, incense, and sandalwood. Floral top notes evoke the tender unforgettable scent of the exotic tiare flower."

         

I have a bottle of this French perfume. It's not bad, but a somewhat strong and a bit floral for my tastes. Perhaps it would make a nice gift for one's mother. (Notice how the font on the front of this 1989 Dutch version of Lulu in Hollywood copies the font from the perfume box.)

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Odds 'n ends from the web

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes, the acclaimed Mexican writer (author of The Old Gringo, etc...), has a new book out called This I Believe: An A to Z of a Life. In it, he writes about many things. On cinema, Fuentes offers a paean to beauty as reflected in the faces of film's leading actresses: "[W]hat would our... lives be without the beauty, illusion, and passion granted us by the faces of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks and Audrey Hepburn, Gene Tierney and Ava Gardner?"
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