Sunday, January 29, 2006

Back from Sacramento

Back from Sacramento, where I spent 5 hours on Friday at the California State Library looking through microfilm of various California newspapers. My search goes on . . . . My first task was to look through the Los Angeles Evening Herald. I've scoured this paper before - for film reviews, but this time I wanted to check for news items like Louise Brooks' marriage, divorce, bankruptcy, etc . . . . Unfortunately, I didn't turn up anything, though I did track down a long missing review of It's the Old Army Game. Regarding this film, the critic for the paper gushed, "Louise Brooks, who has the feminine lead, is pretty and attractive to an amazing degree and one becomes so interested in watching her pouts and baby smiles that it is difficult to remember afterwards just how good an actress she is. Her scenes with William Claxton - of All for You fame - furnish the few tears of the feature and in one or two situations both reach unexpected dramatic heights."

I also went through a long run of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, where I turned up articles, reviews, stills and advertisements on twelve of Brooks' films. Curiously, the longer my search went on, the more familar the Santa Monica material seemed. At first, I thought I might be duplicating some earlier efforts. I checked and rechecked my notes. I hadn't looked at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook before - that was for certain. But still, the material I had come upon was like something I had seen before. Finally, it dawned on me that Santa Monica was next door to Venice Beach, and I had gone through the Venice Evening Vanguard. As it turns out, the two cities shared movie theaters. And their coverage of local screenings was somewhat similar. Both papers, for example, noted that election results would be broadcast to patrons who were attending the screening of Beggars of Life on the night of the1928 Presidential election.

Here is a nifty 1927 illustration I came across.



I spent about three hours going through the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, and I feel like I got some good stuff. The same cannot be said for the Vallejo Evening News and the Ventura County Star. I was hard pressed to find any movie coverage in these two small town newspapers, and so gave up looking after scanning a few months. There just wasn't much going on there, then. I also went through a few reels of the Santa Cruz Sentinal and the Daily Humbolt Times. I did find some movie coverage in these two small town papers, but seemingly, each town had only two or three theaters, and none of them seemed to show Paramount films. Back in the 1920's, local theaters were tied to the national studios. Some theaters would only show MGM or Fox films, and thus wouldn't show films from other competing studios. And, since the majority of Brooks' silent films were made for Paramount, her movies just weren't screened in some small towns and cities. That seems to be the case with Santa Cruz and Humbolt, California.

I am drawing to a close of my California newspaper survey, though I may return to the California State Library in a few months to tie up some loose ends - bibliographically speaking. I need to finish looking through the Bakersfield Californian for film reviews, and perhaps pick through the available Los Angeles newspapers for news items or bits in the local film, gossip and society columns. I like to be thorough . . . . and heck, you never know what you may find.

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