Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chantal Kury

I recently received a delightful letter from Chantal Kury, a Swiss make-up artist. Not only is Chantal a gifted and very accomplished make-up artist (check-out her website at www.positivelook.ch), but she is also a "big, big fan of Louise Brooks." To show her affection, Chantal made herself up as Thymain, the character played by Brooks in Diary of a Lost Girl. I think you will all agree she did a great job!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 8 - 10th at the historic Castro Theater.  (This is the 10th annual festival -  I've been to every one.) This year's festival includes films starring Clara Bow, John Gilbert, Harold Lloyd, Gloria Swanson and Lillian Gish (as well as San Francisco's own Lawrence Gray). There will also be rare screenings of silent films from India and Brazil, and a program of animation rarities. Every film is accompanied by live music. I would encourage everyone to attend ! It is THE outstanding silent film festival in the United States.

I will be there all three days, working the book table in the Castro lobby. (I also hope to catch a film or two!) Among the authors who will be signing books at the festival are Leatrice Fountain (daughter of silent film stars John Gilbert and Leatrice Joy and author of Dark Star, the outstanding biography of her father),Anthony Slide (the author and editor of more than 50 books whom Lillian Gish called "our preeminent historian of the silent film"), John Wranovics (author of a fascinating book - the just released Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay), Wendy Marshall (author of William Beaudine: From Silents to Television), Suzanne Lloyd (granddaughter of Harold Lloyd and author of Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian), and others. The book table will be featuring lots of new releases, autographed titles, sale books and more.

Check out the festival website for further info including a complete description of programs (there are also a number of short films being presented), ticket information, etc.... And if you make it to the festival, please come say "hello."

SPECIAL OFFER: I just thought of this. Anyone who reads this blog and stops by the book table to say "hello" (there must be at least three or four of you!) will receive a FREE Louise Brooks pinback button or refrigerator magnet AND a copy of  Photoplay Edition by Emil Petaja while supplies last. Please mention you saw this offer posted in the Louise Brooks Society blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Four word film review

There is an amusing website called The Four Word Film Review. What is it ? "The fwfr is a film review site like no other - an ever expanding collection of extremely brief film reviews and summaries. Submissions are welcomed from anyone - the only condition being no more than four words may be used." To date, there 127,201 reviews of 12,422 films. I have contributed one review, for Pandora's Box, which reads "Femme fatale finds fate." (My review, and another for the film, can be found on this page.) Pandora's Box is the only Louise Brooks' film so far reviewed, though a handful of other silent movies have been written-up. Check it out, or better yet, contribute a four word film review.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Marion Davies

Last night I watched The Patsy on TCM. Marion Davies was terrific! This King Vidor directed film also featured a wonderful Marie Dressler and the mostly bland Lawrence Gray. Did anyone else see it ? I also watched once again the fine Marion Davies documentary by Hugh Munro Neeley (who did Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Another Louise Brooks film festival

Lulupalooza is not the only Louise Brooks festival taking place this Summer! Word comes from LBS correspondent Pascal that another Louise Brooks film festival will be taking place in France. The Festival International du Film de La Rochelle is presenting a retrospective of the films of Louise Brooks (who appears on the festival poster). The retrospective includes 10 films and the documentary Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu. For more information, including a long essay by Bernard Chardère, see this page on the festival website.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

And newspapers from Davenport, Syracuse and Oakland

One of the other databases I have been exploring lately is NewspaperArchive.com. This website houses a massive array of scanned newspapers, mostly from small towns and smaller cities across the United States. So far, they claim to have accumulated 21 million pages of searchable newspapers! I have subscribed in the past, but decided to take out another one month subscription (at $24.95 for 30 days) in order to explore new material.

I am in the middle of my search, but so far have found a bunch of material from two newspapers I have not looked at before, the Syracuse Herald (from Syracuse, New York) and the Davenport Democrat and Leader (from Davenport, Iowa). I scored film reviews, articles and advertisements. I was especially happy to get at these two papers, as Syracuse and Davenport each hosted the Denishawn Dance company during the time Louise Brooks was with the group. Resultingly, I found a few more articles. Here is a nifty little piece I uncovered from the Syracuse Herald from March, 1926.



NewspaperArchive.com has also added the Oakland Tribune (from Oakland, California) to its holdings. Though I have previously gone through this newspaper on microfilm at the Oakland Public Library, I took the opportunity to search this database by keyword. And I came up with a handful of new items, including a few film reviews dating from the 1920's which I had missed before. One particular item which caught my attention was the mention of a 1974 screening of Prix de Beaute in San Francisco put on by Kenneth Anger. (The famed author, actor, and filmmaker used to live in San Francisco, and had known Brooks in Paris in the 1950's.) This screening was certainly one of the earliest in America - as the film was reportedly not shown in the United States in the 1930's. When I next visit the San Francisco Public Library, I will search the San Francisco papers for anything additional about this event.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dallas Morning News

I have been waiting a long time for the Dallas Morning News to put their archive online. Early last year, I came across a webpage announcing a searchable archive of the newspaper (dating back to 1885) would be made available by the end of 2004. And so, I waited, and waited, and waited. And then last night, much to my bibliographical glee, I found that the archive was online.

I spent $29.95 for a one month / 200 page view subscription to the DallasNews.com Historical Archives, and then spent most of the day searching for and downloading material related to Louise Brooks. (These sorts of databases are sometimes tricky. One has to search for things at least two different ways.) I found a few articles about the January, 1924 Denishawn performance in Dallas. I also found ten film reviews, and a half-dozen other short articles about various Brooks' films. And, I found another half-dozen articles which were partly or in whole about Brooks. All of this is new material, as I have not been able to explore other Dallas newspapers. (The Dallas Herald Tribune is unobtainable via inter-library loan. Seemingly, it doesn't exist on microfilm.) Here is a typical find from February, 1926 - most likely a syndicated bit that would have appeared in other newspapers around the country.



There were also a number of other syndicated columns and articles which mentioned the actress. One of the most unsual was a 1934 piece on G.W. Pabst. The article mentioned some of the earlier efforts by this "genius director" - including "Pandora's Box with Louise Brooks." This passing reference to Pandora's Box is an exceptionally rare one. The film was rarely mentioned in the American press in the 1930's. I only know of one other instance from the 1930's.

All-in-all, I was pleased with what I had found - and felt that my subscription to this database was worthwhile (despite the expense). I got a lot of stuff. Citations for all of this material have been added to the appropriate LBS bibliographies.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New Louise Brooks novel

I have just recieved word that a new Louise Brooks-inspired novel has been published in France. Le Manuscript Louise B, by Matthieu Baumier, is as best I can tell a thriller / mystery which centers on Brooks' time in Germany while working with director G. W. Pabst. This 244-page novel was published in April by Editions des Belles Lettres. The author, who has a handful of books to his credit, is editor of the journal Sœur of the Angel. A page on the book from the publisher can be found here. More about the author can be found here.

Has anyone read this book, or know anything more about it?. For those interested in reading it in French, it can be purchased through amazon France or amazon Canada.



Here is the descriptive text from the publisher.

Pourquoi la star hollywoodienne Louise Brooks arrive-t-elle à Berlin sous la botte nazie ? Uniquement pour tourner un film que doit diriger Pabst, réalisateur aussi génial qu’inquiétant ? Ou serait-ce, sans qu’elle s’en doute, à cause du grain de sa peau ?
Et qu’est exactement ce cadavre d’un disciple d’Hermès que découvre au Caire Anton Voïdius, journaliste trop curieux et exalté ?
Quel lien entre la vedette dont sont amoureux des millions de spectateurs et la dépouille d’un vieil occultiste ?
Pour tenter de le découvrir, aventuriers et illuminés politiques vont se lancer dans une frénétique course-poursuite de l’Égypte à l’Allemagne, de Milan à Paris, pour enfin traverser l’Atlantique par un moyen de transport insolite, et arriver en Amazonie, là où, depuis des temps immémoriaux se dissimule un secret, qui pourrait être celui de la vie même...
Romancier (Les Apôtres du néant), essayiste, directeur de la revue La Sœur de l’Ange, Matthieu Baumier nous livre, avec Le Manuscrit Louise B, un thriller ancré dans une réalité historique demeurée cachée et ici dévoilée, unissant mythes du cinéma et mystères ésotériques en une quête échevelée dont le dénouement apporte une réponse à la plus ancienne question que se posent les hommes...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

ILL windfall

A whole bunch of inter-library loans arrived this week . . . . I found a bunch of Louise Brooks-era Denishawn material in the Houston Chronicle (from Houston, Texas), Lynchburg News (from Lynchburg, Virginia), and Daily Graphic (from Pine Bluff, Arkansas). A Denishawn visit to these towns was big news in the early 1920's, and each local newspaper ran a series of articles or captioned pictures prior to the performance - as well as a substantial review afterword. I copied as much as I could (some of the pictures were too dark to be of much good), and have added citations to the Denishawn bibliography.

(Recently, prior to my visit to NYC, I printed out my Denishawn bibliography in order to have it handy in case I needed to refer to it while researching the dance company. And much to my surprise, the bibliography came to more than 40 pages! It is the largest of the bibliographies on the LBS website. I estimate that in total, the various Louise Brooks-related bibliographies on the LBS site would come to more than 400 pages if printed out.)

At the library, I also found a bunch of film reviews, some articles, and a whole lot of rather nifty advertisements related to the films of Louise Brooks. I went through a couple of Hearst-owned newspapers - the Baltimore Post (from Baltimore, Maryland) and Albany Times-Union (from Albany, New York). The Hearst-owned papers were usually not very substantional publications, though they did have a modest amount of coverage devoted to motion pictures (with lots of Marion Davies news, naturally). I came across material on American VenusLove 'Em and Leave 'EmThe Canary Murder Case and other films. Additionally, I went through some more microfilm of the Nashville Tennessean and the weekly London Observer (from London, England). This was my second round of microfilm loans for each paper. I only found one brief write-up in the London Observer (for A Girl in Every Port), though the Nashville paper yielded a few reviews.

One of the more curious items I found was this November, 1927 advertisement for the Belmont theater in Nashville. The Belmont, seemingly, was a second-run theater which, as this ad shows, featured three films over the course of a week. What was interesting about the week's line-up is that it featured two films with Louise Brooks. Now We're in the Air had been screened in Nashville in mid-October (in what local ads then billed as it's premiere in the South), while Rolled Stockings had been in circulation for some five months. I wonder how many Nashville residents in 1927 started and ended their week watching Louise Brooks on the silver screen ? How lucky they were - as each of these films are now lost.



Yesterday's trip to the San Francisco Public Library was my last this month, as the inter-library loan system is off-line for the time being. (It seems to be down for all libraries which subscribe to the Millenium system.) I shall return in July, and hopefully some of my outstanding loan requests may have arrived by then.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Press release for Lulupalooza

Here is the May 19, 2005 press release for Lulupalooza:
Lulupalooza 2005: A celebration of the cinematic life of Louise Brooks  --   She was a rocker before there was  rock – July 23-24, 2005 at the Firehouse Theater, Richmond, Viriginia – lulupalooza.org
The Firehouse Theatre Project and Yellow House  of Rich-mond, Virginia, are in collaboration presenting Lulupalooza 2005, July 23-24, with nine films and other events, celebrating the cinematic life of 1920s film star, memoirist and cultural icon, Louise Brooks (1906-1985).
A highlight of the Saturday, July 23-Sunday, July 24, 2005 festival is the presentation on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., of her best known film, Pandora’s Box, at the Byrd Theater movie palace, 2908 W. Cary St. (http://members.tripod.com/~g_cowardin/byrd/), accompanied live by Richmond’s own Los10Space (los10space.com). 
Saturday night at 7 p.m. features a staged reading of Janet Munsil’s Smoking With Lulu, presented in association with Michael White and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd. (UK).
Many people know Brooks now not necessarily by name or even her movies but as an emblem of the Jazz Age and an Art Deco symbol. A familiar image of her turned in profile, holding a string of pearls, is sold on postcards today.
She is notable for her characteristic black bobbed hair, expressive dark eyes and a natural quality in front of the camera that wasn’t seen again for decades. Brooks was from Cherryvale and Wichita, Kansas, and as a teenager left home as a member of the modern Denishawn dance troupe with Martha Graham. This led to the Ziegfield Follies and a wandering into movies.  She made only 24 films between 1925 and 1938 before quitting Hollywood, disgusted by its assembly line approach and Hollywood, for its part, was fed up with Brooks and her headstrong notions of independence.
Brooks could be a regular Kansas twister; tempestuous and exasperating at one turn, adorable and witty at another, though always smart, and often smart alecky. She hung out with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and George Gerswhin, played tennis at William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon estate, engaged in a passionate dalliance with Charlie Chaplin (among others), and she brought The Charleston dance to London. She did most of this, and much more, before the age of 21.
Her best films, ones in which the director knew what to do with her, are foreign and silent, though Prix de Beauté was dubbed into French. She walked away from what could’ve been a promising  career to spend almost 50 years in self-exile, drinking too much gin, smoking too many cigarettes and learning to write. Her essays were ultimately collected as Lulu In Hollywood, a classic account of Hollywood’s early days. She was “found” by theater critic Kenneth Tynan whose New Yorker profile “The Girl in the Black Helmet” returned her to the popular imagination. And she never really left.
A recent Vogue Magazine portrait series of actress Natalie Portman featured the actress dressed and styled resembling similar photographs of Brooks. The titular character of the 2001 film Amélie bore physical affinity to Brooks and her alluring on-screen impishness (though little of Brooksie’s sometime off-screen spitefulness).
Lulupalooza ’05 is presenting nine Brooks films and excerpts from several others primarily using DVD projection, although Pandora’s Box, through arrangement with Kino International, will be shown in 35 mm on the big movie palace screen of the Byrd Theater. The festival’s primary location is the Firehouse Theater, an alternative performance space housed in a century-old fire station.
Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets for the entire festival are $37.50 and may be purchased online through PayPal.
For further information about the festival, see lulupalooza.org and about Brooks, go to the Louise Brooks Society site, pandorasbox.com, the absolute go-to source on the Internet. For other questions, call the Firehouse Theater at (804) 355-2001. Both the Firehouse Theatre Project and Yellow House are non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organizations. See also firehousetheatre.org and yellowhouseva.org.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What I did in NYC


Recently back from a very hot and humid New York City, where I spent three days searching for yet more material on Louise Brooks. Despite the expense, this trip was worthwhile. I acquired nearly two inches of photocopies, which included many new articles, images and clippings!

The bulk of my time, about two-and-a-half days, was spent at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (which is located at Lincoln Center). I looked through an amazing range of material including clipping files, scrapbooks, bound volumes of old periodicals, collections of movie stills, pressbooks, programs and even some microfilm. I found reviews and articles in magazines I had never before had the opportunity to examine, such as Film ProgressCanadian Moving Picture DigestThe Exhibitor, Pictures, and Cinelandia (a Spanish-language film magazine published in Hollywood). These publications are exceedingly hard to find - and this library / archive holds some of the few remaining copies.

I also went through some bound issues of Filmkunstler und Filmkunst, a German film periodical. In it, I found an article on Brooks and the making of Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) which included a small drawing by Louise of her friend Lothar Wolff - "Woofie", who served as G. W. Pabst's publicist. Very rare indeed! Another unusual publication I looked through was Mensajero Paramount, a Spanish-language "house organ" published by Paramount. (I would guess it was meant for Spanish speakers in the United States, or perhaps Mexico and Latin America.) In it I found four-page illustrated articles on four of Brooks' films, including La Ciudad del MalReclutas por los AiresMendigos de Vida, and El Crimen de la Canaria. (Can you guess their English-language titles?)

I also went through two scrapbooks, each filled with clippings, devoted to the actors Neil Hamilton and William "Buster" Collier, Jr. Hamilton, who went on to fame as Commisioner Gordon in the Batman TV series, had a important role in The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), Brooks' first film. The Hamilton scrapbook contained many articles, reviews, advertisements and other clipping related to that film. The Collier scrapbook was not a fruitfull, but I did acquire a few clippings related to Just Another Blonde (1926).

As well, I was able to examine original programs from the NYC screenings of Brooks' films. Back in the 1920's, motion pictures were usually shown along with a live stage show which might include music and a variety act. The program for The American Venus (1926) at the Rivoli Theater, for example, contained a fashion show and appearances by some of the original 1925 Miss America contestants. The program for Rolled Stockings (1927) at the Paramount Theater contained an appearance by the great stage singer Gertrude Lawrence (who can be heard on RadioLulu). I was also able to look at the press books for A Girl in Every Book (1928), It Pays to Advertise (1931), God's Gift to Women (1931), Windy Reilly Goes Hollywood (1931) and Empty Saddles (1937). Press books, sometimes called campaign books, were the studio-issued press packets sent to theaters and newspapers to promote a film.

I didn't find as much Denishawn material as I had hoped at Lincoln Center. The Denishawn clippings and programs - dating to the time Louise Brooks was a member of that dance company - were not very numerous, but I did acquire photocopies of a few items. 

I had hoped to spend a full day at the New York Public Library (located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street), but because I had mixed up its hours with the mid-town Manhattan branch across the street, I was only able to spend about four hours over two days at that research branch. (My priority was Lincoln Center.)

Nevertheless, I found some interesting material. I went through the Brooklyn Daily Times, one of the leading NYC newspapers. In it, I found articles and reviews for each of Brooks' American silent films. This was my second trip to that library, and on this trip I had intended to look for Denishawn reviews in the various New York papers. In a rush, I was able to get about a dozen more - but I just didn't have the time to make a thorough search for reviews of each performance in each newspaper. (The library itself was just a couple of blocks away from Town Hall, where Brooks and Denishawn performed on a couple of occassions.)

I left New York feeling I got a lot done, but also knowing there is still more to be found. One day, I will have to return . . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Composer David Diamond (1915 - 2005)

Composer David Diamond, "one of the most gifted and prolific American composers of the 20th century," died on Monday at his home near Rochester, New York. He was 89. There are a couple of notable passages about the friendship between Diamond and Louise Brooks in the Barry Paris biography. Diamond also appeared in the documentary, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu. In that film, he spoke of Brooks' affection for The Journal of Eugenie de Guerin. He also relayed Charlie Chaplin's unforgettable comment about Brooks' "breasts like little pears."

Here is a link to a rather interesting Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article on the composer. Diamond's life was really quite remarkable, and this particular piece is worth checking out. Also, here is the obituary from the New York Times. The NPR website has a couple of audio pieces on this significant artist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Quick notes

Quick trip to the library, where a couple of inter-library loans where waiting. I dug out some nice Denishawn material from the Sentinel (from Lewiston, Pennslyvannia) and the American-Press (from Lake Charles, Louisiana). The Denishawn performance in Lewiston was the very first with Louise Brooks as a member of the company. And the review in the October 3rd issue of the Sentinel, which ran on the front page of the paper, referenced Louise Brooks - making it one of the very earliest instances of Brooks' name appearing in any publication. I wonder if she knew - I wonder if she was a bit pleased with herself?.

And yesterday, I recieved a couple of packages in the mail; each were proxy research requests. From them, I got some hard-to-get-at 1924 Denishawn reviews from the Syracuse Herald (from Syracuse, New York) and the Springfield Union (from Springfield, Massachusetts). Each of the papers referenced Louise Brooks, while the Springfield Union singled out the future actress for praise when it noted "All of them charmed, particularly the Siamese interpretation, and the Japanese lantern dance by Louise Brooks."
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