Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Street of Forgotten Men

While visiting the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., I took the oportunity to see The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), the first film in which Louise Brooks had a role. Wow - I really liked it. It is a fine film - and despite the fact that it is incomplete, it is worthy of commercial release. I didn't have any trouble following the story.

The LOC has six of seven reels. The second reel is apparently lost. Brooks single scene takes place in the seventh reel, somewhat near the end of the film. According to the LOC catalog, the library has a 35mm print of The Street of Forgotten Men, which was directed by Herbert Brenon. (Brenon, who the year before directed Peter Pan, would go on to oversee such well regarded silents as Beau GesteThe Great Gatsby, andLaugh, Clown, Laugh.) I was able to view a 16mm copy print. I took a bunch of notes.

Louise Brooks looked dishy in her broad-striped jacket, sleek bob and cloche hat adorned with a question mark pin. (Barry Paris describes it as a question mark feather.) And though she is only on screen for about five minutes, she certainly made an impression. She comes off as cunning, and quick. Brooks is first seen sitting and talking with her con artist companion, Bridgeport White-Eye, a professional beggar who pretends to be blind. They are conspiring to extort money from the character played by Neil Hamilton (the future Police Commissioner Gordon from the 1960's television series, Batman). Brooks and Bridgeport are approached by Easy Money Charlie (played by Percy Marmont), and a fight breaks out between Bridgeport and Charlie. The two slug it out while Brooks is jostled about in the crowd gathered around the two brawlers.

Brooks' role was slight  - she was even not listed in the credits. Nevertheless, her brief appearance was memorable and would draw the attention of at least one reviewer in 1925. The Los Angeles Times singled out the actress when it noted, "And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed." It would be her first film review. Eighty-one years later, that review and Brooks role still hold up.

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