A POINT comes in the afterlife of an artist when, for the time being, biography has pretty much done its work. The essential history is known; the ambience is broadly understood; the relationship between the life and the work has yielded its chief mysteries. Barring bombshells any future surprises are apt to be minor: not revelations, just minutiae.Sometimes, that's the situation I find myself in regarding Louise Brooks. There may not be all that much left to find out. Critics of the Louise Brooks Society - and there are a few - have complained that my efforts are too much focussed on picking through the scraps. Well, that's all I have access to. Sometimes, I find something interesting. . . like the unlikeliness of G.W. Pabst having seen A Girl in Every Port before he decided to cast Brooks in Pandora's Box, or the fact that Pandora's Box was screened in Newark, New Jersey in 1931 with sound effects! These simple facts may not be revelations, only minutiae. But they do alter some long held believes in the story of the actress.
My hunt goes on.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been back to the San Francisco Public Library looking at inter-library loan material. More microfilmed newspapers had arrived. I got a bit of Denishawn material and a few film reviews from the Bangor Daily News (Maine), Reading Times(Pennsylvania), Louisville Post (Kentucky), Virginian-Pilot and Norfolk Landmark (Norfolk, Virginia), and Montreal Gazette (Canada). My request for the Milwaukee Herold (a German-language newspaper from Wisconsin) was rejected as "title not on shelf." Oh well, that sometimes happens. Likewise, nothing turned up in the Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon), though I did find a short article and a large advertisement forBeggars of Life in some January, 1930 issues of the North China Daily News (Shanghai). Bad luck sometimes runs with good.
One unusual source I also examined was the New York Commerical. This New York City financial paper was something like today's Wall Street Journal. (Like so many other publications I have looked at, the Commerical is no longer published. I believe it either folded or merged with another paper in the late 1920's.) Anyways, somewhere along the line I had come across a reference to a Denishawn article appearing in that publication. So, I figure I would request some key dates and see what I could find. As it turns out, I found that review and bit more. Happily, the Commercialran a small amount of "entertainment news" pretty much every day - mostly reviews of New York happenings.
Along with the Denishawn dates, I also requested microfilm for the period when the George White Scandals opened in NYC in 1924. And lo and behold, I came across a June 30th article referencing Brooks as a performer in the Scandals. Wow, she was hardly a principal - but there was her name in an article in a newspaper. That article ran before the show opened. I also came across a interesting review titled "George White Excels His Best Scandals" after the show's debut. Brooks was not mentioned in it.
My luck with the Commerical convinced me to request additional microfilm.Thus, on the docket are microfilm requests for the period covering the opening of "Louie the 14th," the 1925 Ziegfeld Follies, and even the NYC openings of Brooks' early silent films. You never know what you may find. . . . Speaking of things found, here is a nice advertisement I came across in the Evening Bulletin (Providence, Rhode Island).
Last week, I also spent a little time organizing my projected inter-library loan requests. I have pending requests for some additional issues of theEvening Bulletin, as well as the New Orleans States (Louisiana), Hagerstown Morning Herald (Maryland), Evening Telegram (Superior, Wisconsin), and a few other papers. From here on out, I plan on putting in probably no more than two ILL requests per week till I am through. It should take me less than a year to get through all of those.
** Trivia buffs: which silent film star with whom Brooks was acquainted did Rudolph Nureyev play in a film?