Monday, January 30, 2006

By the end of the Thirties

                                               

This somewhat common German postcard of Louise Brooks - likely manufactured around 1929 or 1930 - is for sale on eBay. The interesting thing about this particular card is that the Italian seller notes writing on the back of the card is dated 1939. That's kind of a long time for this postcard to have remained in circulation - especially considering Brooks' career had long been in decline by the end of the Thirties.

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.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Speaking of vintage comics

Speaking of vintage comics and silent film . . . . I recently ordered two comics books from Fantagraphics. Each contained 1920's comic strips featuring silent film stars. The two I purchased were Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand and Her Funny Friends. Though their covers feature contemporary artwork, inside these 30+ page comic books is vintage material compiled from early issues of The Kinema Comic, a British publication. Each comic also includes a bonus paper toys drawn by Larry Semon - the silent film actor who started out as a cartoonist. Each comic book retails for $4.95, and can also be purchased directly from the editor.



As a bunch of these strips were published in England in the early 1920's, these two collections are the first in what may be a long series of reissues. Soon after receiving them, I emailed the editor, and she told me that a comic book featuring Ford Sterling (Louise Brooks fellow actor in a couples of films) is due out later this year. Hooray!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some more interesting citations

I went to the library today (as I seem to do every week) to collect my inter-library loans and to continue my (seemingly never ending) search for new material on Louise Brooks. I came up with some interesting citations.

In search of material on the November, 1922 appearance by the Denishawn dance company in Ripon, I borrowed microfilm of the Ripon College Days - whose masthead claims it to be "the oldest college newspaper in Wisconsin." Though only a weekly from a small college, the paper ran an article in advance of the Denishawn appearance, as well as a thoughtful, front-page review afterward. "Storms of Applause Praise Work of Denishawn Dancers," by an anonymous student, is one of more considered and detailed reviews I have come across. It even quotes remarks Ruth St. Denis gave in a talk before a small group who gathered after the performance!

I requested Ripon College Days because it was the only newspaper I could find for this small Wisconsin town dating from the 1920's. I am not sure if there was a city paper. Nevertheless, this review is only the second (or third?) college newspaper review I have so far come across, the other being from the University of Michigan student newspaper. The Denishawn tour took them to a handful of college campuses. I will try to track down other college newspaper reviews, should they exist.

I also looked at the Hamilton Spectator, from Ontario, Canada. I found a number of articles and reviews relating to the March, 1922 and April, 1924 Denishawn performances. In 1924, Louise Brooks and the Denishawn company performed on two consecutive nights in Hamilton. And interestingly, the local paper reviewed each performance. "Denishawn Dancers A Delight to the Eye: They Gave One of the Most Charming Performances Ever Seen on a Local Stage at Grand Last Night" was followed by "Second Evening a Rare Delight: Denishawn Dancers Again Enraptured Audience at Grand Last Night." Together, these clippings make for one of the very few instances I know of when a local paper reviewed each performance of an engagement.

I also borrowed microfilm of the Hamilton Spectator dating from early 1926. And luckily, I uncovered a few clippings regarding the screening of The American Venus at the local Pantages theater. And so, slowly, I am building up the number of film-related clippings from Canada. . . .  Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to head to Sacramento and once again visit the California State Library, where I shall continue my survey of California newspapers. A report will follow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Retrolook

Swiss Louise Brooks admirer and LBS friend Chantal Kury has launched her revamped website at www.retrolook.ch. This stylish site is called "Retrolook," and it highlights Chantal's accomplished work as a stylist, as well as some of the early film stars (namely Dietrich and Brooks) who have inspired her efforts. Chantal, herself, sports an appealing bob. She is pictured here.

            

Included on the site is a page on applying make-up to effect a Louise Brooks look. There is also a pdf of an earlier article featuring Chantal, from the January 2005 issue of Beauty Forum, titled "The Helmet is Back." Chantal's email said there is more in the works for her site, including an English-language version. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Movie-land Puzzle

A vintage puzzle box with Louise Brooks and others has shown up on eBay. A very nifty (though over-priced) item. Brooks is only pictured on the cover - she is not depicted on the puzzles themselves. (Brooks is in the fourth row down and fourth over from the left.) Check it out.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever

Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever, a new pictorial, is set to be published by Rizzoli on October 10, 2006. This new, 240 page book is by Peter Cowie, and features a forward by Daniel Brooks.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A very Louise Brooks-looking comic strip character

Here is something I noticed for sale on eBay, which includes a very Louise Brooks-looking comic strip character. This syndicated comic strip was called "Frank Merriwel." It ran from 1930-1934, and featured a college kid named Frank that got in all sorts of adventures. The artist is Jack Wilhelm. In this particular 1931 strip, Frank is wooing a female character that looks very much like Louise Brooks. Anyone know much about this strip?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Beggars of Life

For a long time now, Beggars of Life (1928) has seldom been seen on the big screen because no 35mm print was available, and some movie theaters could not or would not screen anything less than a 35mm print. Well, rumour has it that a 35mm print is in the works! It will be a "blow-up" of a rather nice 16mm print. Look for a probable 2007 debut.

Friday, January 20, 2006

International Film Festival Forlì

I was sent this link to the SEDICICORTO International Film Festival Forlì in Italy. I am not sure what the focus of the festival is. But I did notice that Louise Brooks is incorporated into their logo. Is anyone familar with this festival?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Waterloo and Mulcahey and Dixie

The Evening Courier and Reporter (from Waterloo, Iowa) was the only ILL waiting for me. I found a couple of Denishawn ads, as well as a review in which Louise Brooks is mentioned. The search goes on.

Since I had a little extra time, I thought to tackle a few miscellaneous tasks on my "things-to-do at the library list." And so, I took a look at the San Francisco newspaper index in hopes of finding something on financier James Mulcahey, who according to online records was born around 1905 here in San Francisco, California. My interest stems from the fact that in 1947 columnist Walter Winchell mentioned that Mulcahey and Brooks would be married. The marriage never took place. And Mulcahey seems to have disappeared. Nothing, really, is known about him. (The San Francisco newspaper index didn't list him.) Barry Paris hit a similar wall: "But nothing more was ever heard of it, and James Mulcahey cannot be found" (page 426). I am curious to see if I can find out anything about this elusive figure. Maybe I will try to track down a relation here in the Bay Area. . . . if there are any relations.

Also on my "things-to-do at the library list" was to check the local papers for the Dixie Dugan comic strip. (There has been some discussion lately about this strip on the LBS message board.) I have copies of the daily strip - which initially was called "Show Girl" - dating from November 2, 1929 through April, 4, 1930. I want to gather some additional examples. I found that the San Francisco News carried the strip - and so, I copied a few more days worth from April, 1930. Next time I return to the library and have some extra time and funds on my copy card, I will photocopy additional strips.

Here is a longer Sunday strip from 1932. (The daily strip was usually only three or four panels.) By this time, Dixie's hair had evolved away from the Brooks-influenced shingled bob depicted in the 1929 / 1930 strips. I like this particular strip because it suggests Dixie/Louise was something more than just a "dumb showgirl" = she read books!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lee Miller and Louise Brooks

Lately, I've been paging through Lee Miller: A Life, a new biography by Carolyn Burke. I was drawn to the book because of my interest in Surrealism, especially Man Ray. For those who may not know, Lee Miller and Man Ray - both photographers - had a brief, but significant and tempestuous affair (around 1930). They also influenced each other's work.

In the introduction, Burke writes: "Mesmerized by her features, we look at Lee Miller but not into her. We think of her as a timeless icon. To this day, her life inspires features in the same glossy magazines for which she posed - articles explaining how to re-create her 'look.' This approach turns the real woman into a screen on which beholders project their fantasies. Looking at her this way perpetuates the legend of Lee Miller as 'an American free spirit wrapped in the body of a Greek Goddess'  . . . . In Lee Miller's time, her admirers were equally spellbound by her beauty, but they also saw her as an incarnation of the modern woman - in the United States of the twenties, as a quintessential flapper; in the Paris of the thirties, as a subversive garconne or a maddeningly free femme surrealiste - one who sparked creativity in others but played the role of muse only when it suited her, and sought, despite her lovers' objections, to keep her energy for herself."

I was struck by how applicable this text is to Louise Brooks - and the way we think about her today. While reading the introduction, I was surprised, as well, to soon come across Louise Brooks herself. Burke writes: "Breaking free of conventional roles for women, whether in traditional or avant-garde circles, Lee Miller stired up trouble for herself and for those who loved her. Like screenwriter Anita Loos and actress Louise Brooks (whose careers she followed), she helped reshape women's aspirations through her embrace of popular culture . . . ." Checking the index, I found this is one of nine references to the actress in the book! Who would have thunk it? Though near contemporaries, I don't think the two ever met - nor does the biographer suggest it - though Lee Miller, apparently, attended a Denishawn performance which included Brooks in Poughkeepsie, New York in January, 1923.

There are other fascinating similarities between the two women, who were born only a year apart. I won't go into them, except to add that I am really looking forward to reading this book sometime very soon. (Does the biographer know, I wonder, that Man Ray was also taken with Brooks? According to Brooks' biographer Barry Paris, "[Man Ray] now lived in Paris and was struck by Brooks's face when he saw it in the magazines during the Prix de Beaute filming. He never forgot her and in the late fifties sent her one of his abstract paintings, which hung thereafter on the wall of her bedroom.")



For those interested, the publisher provides this description of the book.

"A trenchant yet sympathetic portrait of Lee Miller, one of the iconic faces and careers of the twentieth century. . . . Carolyn Burke reveals Miller as a multifaceted woman: both model and photographer, muse and reporter, sexual adventurer and mother, and, in later years, gourmet cook - the last of the many dramatic transformations she underwent during her lifetime. A sleek blond bombshell, Miller was part of a glamorous circle in New York and Paris in the 1920s and 1930s as a leading Vogue model, close to Edward Steichen, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Picasso. Then, during World War II, she became a war correspondent - one of the first women to do so - shooting harrowing images of a devastated Europe, entering Dachau with the Allied troops, posing in Hitler's bathtub. . . . Burke examines Miller's troubled personal life, from the unsettling photo sessions during which Miller, both as a child and as a young woman, posed nude for her father, to her crucial affair with artist-photographer Man Ray, to her unconventional marriages. And through Miller's body of work, Burke explores the photographer's journey from object to subject; her eye for form, pattern, and light; and the powerful emotion behind each of her images. . . . A lushly illustrated story of art and beauty, sex and power, Modernism and Surrealism, independence and collaboration, Lee Miller: A Life is an astute study of a fascinating, yet enigmatic, cultural figure."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Louise Brooks & John Striebel

Check out this sketch of Dixie Dugan by John Striebel. It's part of an eBay auction which includes some letters and notes between Louise Brooks (the inspiration behind the long running comic strip) and Striebel (the artist who drew the strip). Very nifty!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Paper of Record

Today, I renewed my subscription to Paper of Record, a searchable online database featuring lots of old newspapers. This particular database is especially rich in Canadian and Mexican papers, but it also has a few American papers. I found a couple of advertisements and a review of the March, 1924 Denishawn performance in Galt, Ontario in the Galt Evening Reporter. A nice find! (And now I won't have to do an inter-library loan request for this performance.) I also found some ads and a couple of articles in the Drumheller Mail (from Drumheller, Alberta). Nothing too special, but its always nice to have more Canadian clippings. I also searched El Informador, from Guadalajara, Mexico. I only came up with a bunch of plain advertisements - though in Spanish and featuring the Mexican titles. Except with Mendigos de vida, where she was listed as Louise Brooks, our favorite flapper was listed as Louisa Brooks.

Among the American papers, I found some film advertisements and brief mentions in the Lock Haven Express and the Williamsport Grit (both from Pennslyvania). The Grit was a weekly newspaper, with both a local and national edition. On July 1, 1928 the national edition of the Grit carried a small, captioned photo of Louise Brooks on the front page. The item was titled "Star Gets Divorce." Paper of Record also had a long run of the Afro American. This newspapers was the leading news provider for African-Americans in the Baltimore / Washington, DC Metropolitan area as well as being the longest running African-American, family-owned newspaper in the nation. My search under "Louise Brooks" turned up little, which is not surprising. However, I did find a brief write-up regarding Beggars of Life (1928). The paper noted the important role Edgar "Blue" Washington (and African-American actor) had in the film.

Citations have been added to the respective bibliographies.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A number of new citations

A number of new citations have been added to the various Louise Brooks Society bibliographies. . . . As this week's trip to the library turned-up a bit more material. I looked through the Fairbault Daily Times (from Fairbault, Minnesota), and found some articles and advertisements related to the Denishawn performance there in March, 1924. I also went through a few more months of the Hollywood Citizen News, and found a single captioned photo of Louise Brooks and Barrett O'Shea. . . . This week, I have also been scouring some online newspaper databases, and scored some interesting Denishawn clippings from the Davenport Democrat & Leader (from Davenport, Iowa). As well, I also found some small town clippings relating to screenings of Brooks' films in The Bee (from Danville, Virginia) and the Circleville Herald (from Circleville, Ohio) and Daily Courier (from Connellsville, Pennslyvania).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prix de Beaute on DVD



Kino will be releasing Prix de Beaute (1930) on DVD on March 7, 2006. Run time is 88 minutes. (Black & White, Subtitled, NTSC, Region 1.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Aileen Pringle comic strip

Speaking of comic strips, here is a curiousity I recently came across. It dates from September, 1931.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Diana Serra Cary: The million dollar baby

There is an article in today's London Independent newspaper about Baby Peggy. Its worth reading. According to the article, "Baby Peggy was able to reinvent herself. As Diana Serra Cary, she has become a respected journalist and film historian, often mining her own past in her work. She is not the last living silent movie star (fellow child actor Frank "Junior" Coghlan is still alive, as is the silent actress Barbara Kent) but she is the only one still seen regularly in public."

Cary's memoir What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy? is quite good. I read it and "fell in love" with this adorable and talented child star. Her life, however, was something of a tragedy. Cary is very nice in person. I had a chance to meet her a few times, and even hosted her for an event at the bookstore where I work. She was also a guest at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival a few years back, where her four books set a record for most sold during her booksigning. Cary's groundbreaking book on fellow child star Jackie Coogan is also recommended . . . . Somewhere I have some snapshots of Cary and I . . . . (And of course, I asked her about Louise Brooks. Cary never met her, but knew of her. Cary starred in a film with Clara Bow, Helen's Babies, and had much to say about the IT girl.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Atlantic City Pageant march

I just got a CD of John Philip Sousa's music for wind bands. The disc contains a track of some interest, The Atlantic City Pageant March (1927). According to the linear notes, "During Sousa's final years, beginning in 1926, the band often played summer engagements at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. The Atlantic City Pageant March was written at the request of the city's mayor, and honoured the famous Atlantic City Beauty Pageant." That's a little less then two years after Louise Brooks and Famous Players-Lasky were in Atlantic City filming The American Venus, whose story centered on the Pageant.



Curiously, this is not the first time I have come across an instance of Sousa "shadowing" Brooks . . . . I recently noticed - while looking in the Independence Daily Reporter - that Sousa and his band performed in Independence, Kansas just a week or so after Brooks and Denishawn had danced there in January, 1924. (The paper reported that the band concert was the next big happening in town after the dance recital.) Another time, I came across a screening ofEvening Clothes in Chicago. At that 1927 event, Sousa's band performed onstage prior to the film being shown.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Lulu in Berlin

A mini website devoted to Louise Brooks' work in Germany can be found at www.louisebrooks.de.vu/   There is some nifty stuff to be found there. Check it out.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

LA Time article on bizarre pre-Kong movie

The Los Angeles Times has a long, interesting story about a bizarre gorilla movie that pre-dates King Kong by three years, called Ingagi. This earlier film has many scenes similar to those in King Kong, but it contains even more racist and lurid human-ape sexual innuendo than the more famous movie that followed. Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Paramount Pictures cardboard fan

This nifty Paramount Pictures cardboard fan (the handle is not pictured) dates from the late 1920s, and measures  8" x 9". It likely was given away at a theater, as few were air conditioned back then. This promotional fan pictures Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Pola Negri, Florence Vidor, Bebe Daniels, Esther Ralston and Lois Moran. [For sale on eBay - at a premium.] Cool.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Ron Goulart's Comics History Magazine

Help! I am looking for issues #1 (winter 1996), #2 (Spring 1997), and #3 (Summer 1997) of Ron Goulart's Comics History Magazine. This little known periodical features a three part article on Dixie Dugan which I would like to read. ( Inspired by Louise Brooks, Dixie Dugan was a popular comic strip which began in the late 1920's.) I am having a bit a trouble trying to track down copies of Comics History Magazine. The only library in the country which seemingly owns this publication is Michigan State University, but these copies reside in their special collections. And thus, cannot be loaned. I would happily accept photocopies of the articles. Does anyone have copies of the magazine?

Monday, January 2, 2006

Collegeville fifth-graders present 20th Century showcase

Louise Brooks as an historical figure . . . . An article in the today's Benton Courier (from Benton, Arkansas) reports that local fifth graders recently dressed-up to celebrate the 20th century. "Students dressed in costumes representing celebrities of the decade or in costumes reflecting the popular dress, jewelry and hairstyles of their decade. Celebrities included Wilbur and Orville Wright, Woodrow Wilson, Charlie Chaplin, Al Capone, John Dillinger, Greta Garbo, Louise Brooks (a flapper), Dorothy from the Wizard of OzLittle Orphan Annie, Andrew J. Moyer, Uncle Sam, General Mark W. Clark from World War II, Audrey Hepburn, Rosa Parks, Amy Carter, Richard Nixon, Coretta Scott King, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton."
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