Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Richmond in Ragtime: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex & Murder

Longtime Louise Brooks Society member and contributor Harry Kollatz, Jr. has a new book out. It's titled Richmond in Ragtime: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex & Murder. The book covers three rambunctious years, 1911 - 1914, in the life of the southern city. It's a narrative, bricolage style, of a Richmond you may not recognize - full of corruption, murder and flying machines. I haven't got a copy yet - I plan to, but from all reports, it looks great. Here is the link to its amazon.com page.



Harry Kollatz Jr., as many of you may know, was the organizer of the Lulupalooza festival in 2006. He loves, film and theater and is a great student of history. We have swapped many an email over the years.

More info on the book can be found on the author's blog. And here is the publisher's description: "The three years from 1909 to 1911 were busy ones in Richmond, what with the misadventures of Adon A. Yoder, a muckraking pamphleteer who gets beaten up, sued and thrown in jail; the organizing of women like Lila Meade Valentine to fight for their right to vote; the art of sculptor Ferruccio Legnaioli; the novels of Ellen Glasgow, Mary Johnston and James Branch Cabell; increased restrictions against African Americans; a public spectacle surrounding the murder trial of Henry Clay Beattie Jr.; exotic flying machines and automobile endurance contests; and the recording of Polk Miller and his Old South Quartette. Join local author Harry Kollatz Jr. (True Richmond Stories) as he revives the city of a century ago for a tour of Richmond in ragtime."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Two Louise Brooks films to screen in Germany


I don't speak or read German, but from what I can figure, two Louise Brooks' films from 1929, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown with live music in January in Germany, perhaps as part of a festival honoring director G.W. Pabst. That according to the following article:

Stummfilmtage mit Live-Musik - 22.-25. Januar 09 
 
Die Schauspielerin Asta Nielsen und der große Regisseur Georg Wilhelm Pabst stehen im Mittelpunkt der 7. Karlsruher Stummfilmtage, die vom 22.-25. Januar im ZKM und im Studentenhaus stattfinden. Damit setzt der neu gegründete Verein „Déjá Vu – Film“, der aus den Stummfilmtagen hervorgegangen ist, die erfolgreiche Kooperation mit dem ZKM fort.
Über die Jahre hinweg gleich geblieben ist das von Josef K. Jünger entwickelte Konzept, die Verbindung von alten stummen Filmen mit live gespielter Musik. Zur Eröffnung (22., 20 Uhr, StH) gibt es gleich drei (kürzere) Filme mit Asta Nielsen zu sehen. Die Dänin mit der androgynen Gestalt und den ausdrucksstarken dunklen Augen war der wohl größte weibliche Star des europäischen Stummfilms. Ihre eindrucksvollsten Darstellungen lieferte sie im deutschen Film, der in 20er-Jahren Weltgeltung hatte.

In „Abgründe“, „Die arme Jenny“ und „Vordertreppe und Hintertreppe“, die noch vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg von ihrem damaligen Ehemann Urban Gad gedreht wurden, spielt sie ihre Paraderolle als Frau, die die Konventionen sprengt. Frieder Egri, Ilmar Klahn, Eva Chahrouri und Shakya Grahe machen eine angemessen unkonventionelle Musik dazu.
In der Komödie „Engelein“ ( 25., 18 Uhr StH) gibt sie als Dreißigjährige einen achtzehnjährigen Teenager, der so tut, als wäre er ein 13jähriges Mädchen. Dazu gibt es noch den grotesken Kurzfilm „Zapatas Geist“. Für die musikalische Untermalung sorgt die Capella Obscura unter Leitung von Cornelia Brugger.

Zu dem Film „Nach dem Drama“ von Frank Wedekind drehte der Theatermann Leopold Jessner „Erdgeist“ (23., 18 Uhr ZKM/24., 18 Uhr StH) mit Asta Nielsen als Femme Fatale, die mehrere Männer ins Verderben reißt. Dieser Film, der schon einige Patina angesetzt hat, erstrahlt in neuem Glanz durch die Musik, die Luke Styles, ein Schüler von Wolfgang Rihm, eigens für diesen Film für ein Streichquartett komponiert hat.

Die gleiche Rolle als verführerische Lulu spielt Louise Brooks in „Die Büchse der Pandora“ (23., 20.30 Uhr ZKM/24.,20.30 Uhr StH) von G.W. Pabst, einem der faszinierendsten deutschen Filmklassiker. Das Stummfilmensemble Frieder Egri macht die Musik dazu.

“Tagebuch einer Verlorenen“ (25., 20 Uhr ZKM), ebenfalls mit Louise Brooks, war eine Art Fortsetzung dieses skandalumwitterten Films und wurde wie dieser von der Zensur heftig gezaust. Matthias Graf, Holger Ebeling und Ilmar Klahn sorgen für den musikalischen Teil der Aufführung der weitgehend rekonstruierten Originalfassung. 


Mit sozialen Realismus schockierte Pabst das Publikum bereits mit seinem dritten Film „Die freudlose Gasse“, in dem neben der Nielsen Greta Garbo zu sehen ist. Gespannt darf man sein, was sich die Karlsruher Band Kammerflimmer Kollektief dazu an Klängen und Geräuschen einfallen lässt. „Geheimnisse einer Seele“ (24., 18 Uhr ZKM) ist Pabsts ehrgeiziger Versuch die damals noch neue psychoanalytische Methode von Sigmund Freud an einem Fallbeispiel plausibel zu machen. Das Karlsruher Improvisationsensemble illuminiert musikalisch den Weg ins Unterbewusste.

Ein junges Publikum ab 10 Jahren versuchen die Stummfilmtage mit der Aufführung von „Der Dieb von Bagdad“ (25., 15 Uhr, ZKM) anzusprechen. Den großen Stummfilmstar Douglas Fairbanks, der akrobatische Körperbeherrschung mit einem umwerfenden Charme verband, über die Leinwand toben zu sehen, macht auch 80 Jahre nach der Entstehen des Films Laune. So flott wie der Held ist dann wohl auch die Musik, die das Ensemble von Holger Ebeling dazu macht.
Im Rahmenprogramm stellt Elisabeth Bronfen ihr Buch „Tiefer als der Tag gedacht. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Nacht“ vor (23., 16.30 Uhr, ZKM) und hält den Vortrag „Psychoanalyse und Filme“ (24., 16.30 Uhr, ZKM), und Christoph Köhler liest mit Klavierbegleitung von Axel Weinstein Texte von Frank Wedekind (17., 20 Uhr, Prinz-Max-Palais, Karlstr. 10)

22.-25. Jan., Festsaal Studentenhaus und ZKM

:: Festsaal im Studentenhaus
Adenauerring 7
76131 Karlsruhe

:: ZKM - Karlsruhe
Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie
Lorenzstraße 19
76135 Karlsruhe
Fon: 0721-81001200
Fax: 0721-81001139

Sunday, December 28, 2008

re: Lulu in Marrakech

Back on October 30th, I blogged about Diane Johnson's new novel, Lulu in Marrakech. Then, I wrote "Recently, the New York Times ran a couple of reviews of the new Diane Johnson novel, Lulu in Marrakech. I haven't read the book, but it's title caught my attention because of the name of its title character. (Johnson's novel is described as a social comedy about a clueless young American woman named Lulu.) What also caught my attention was the newspaper's suggestion that the novel's main character has some connection to Louise Brooks and the character she once played, also named Lulu."

Today, the Boston Globe ran a review of the book by Elizabeth Hand, the critically acclaimed fantasy author. Hands' review is a good one, and like the New York Times reviews, it picks up on some of the thematic / mythological tropes employed in the novel. In her review, Hand writes

The greatest irony, of course, is that the emotionally detached Lulu is as expendable to her government, and others, as suicide bombers are to their terrorist cause. Despite a passing reference to Mata Hari, she has far more in common with her namesake: the blithely amoral, guileless, and ultimately doomed femme fatale Lulu, embodied by Louise Brooks in G. W. Pabst's great film "Pandora's Box." At the end, Diane Johnson's Lulu is being coolly reassigned from Marrakech to London with the prospect of a posh new flat and another man's bed to warm as she goes about her business.
 
Hand's appreciation of Brooks' is not a surprise. Hand has mentioned Brooks before in her prose. In her World Fantasy Award-nominated short story, Cleopatra Brimstone (2001), Hand mentions the actress, " 'Did you do something different with your hair?' She nodded once, brushing the edge of her bangs with a finger. 'Yeah.' 'Nice. Very Louise Brooks.'"

[A number of other fantasy / horror writers have also referenced Louise Brooks in their work, Most famously and most prominently among them are Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. I have spoken to each of them about their appreciation of the actress. Other genre writers who have given a shout our to Lulu are Fritz Leiber, Jr. and Peter Straub. For more, see "Louise Brooks in Contemporary Fiction" on the LBS website.]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks first encountered F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood. According to the Barry Paris biography, they first met in 1927 in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel. In letters and in interviews, Brooks recounted their one or two additional meetings over the years. What Fitzgerald and Brooks shared was a dislike of Hollywood. Despite its reputation as a dream factory, both the writer and the actress were profoundly unhappy during their tenures in Tinseltown.

I was reminded of all of this while reading David Wiegand's article about Fitzgerald in today's San Francisco Chronicle. The article, which looks at Fitzgerald's relationship with Hollywood and the films made from his books, was prompted by the forthcoming release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett star in this adaptation of one of the writer's most unusual short stories. [It's a film I am looking forward to seeing, as I am a BIG Fitzgerald fan.]

Weigand raves over Bernice Bobs Her Hair, a 1976 film written and directed for TV by Joan Micklin Silver and starring Shelley Duvall. Has anybody seen this particlur work?

Curiously, Weigand fails to make note of some earlier films based on Fitzgerald's work. Most important among them is The Great Gatsby, a now lost 1926 film directed by Herbert Brenon (who directed Brooks in her first film, The Street of Forgotten Men). Check out the article. It is worth reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Early Modern Dance: The Denishawn Collection


There is a real nice collection of Denishawn images on Flickr ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/nypl/sets/72157610902043629/ ) . These images are exotic, erotic (at least I think so) and visually so very interesting. God, how I wish someone would publish a pictorial book devoted to Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and the Denishawn Dance Company. And by the way, Louise Brooks can be seen in at least two of the images gathered on Flickr.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Chaplin bio


It seems as though there is a new book or two out on Charlie Chaplin every few years. Forthcoming from Faber and Faber isChaplin: The Life and Times of a Tramp, by Simon Louvish. That should be good. I have a couple of other film books by this noted British film biographer, and each is worthwhile.

Just released is Chaplin: A Life, by Stephen Weissman, M.D. What makes this book stand out among the dozens of earlier books on the actor is the fact that it is not by a film historian or biographer, but a medical doctor. And what's more, the book is endorsed by Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie's daughter. Geraldine (who will always be favorite of mine because of her role as Tonya in Dr. Zhivago) wrote an introduction to the book, and a quote from that short piece graces the cover. "Always provocative and at times heart wrenching . . . An important addition to an understanding of my father's genius and art."

As every Louise Brooks fan knows, Chaplin had a brief but intense affair with then 18 years old Brooks in the summer of 1925. The affair is detailed in Barry Paris' outstanding biography of the actress. In his new book, Weissman cover the same ground in a few paragraphs over the course of a couple of pages. Weissman notes "Looking back on their amorous interlude many years later, Louise recalled with good-natured amusement Chaplin's odd habit of painting his penis with iodine to protect himself from contracting a venereal disease. As she put it, 'Charlie came running at me with his little red sword'."

Seemingly, this is a new source for this particular anecdote. The red sword-iodine detail is attributed to an "Unpublished letter from Jan Wahl to the author" dating from 1989. Today, Wahl is a well-known children's book author. But in the 1950's, as a young man on a Fullbright in Denmark, he met and befriended the then middle-aged actress. Brooks and Wahl corresponded for years afterword.



Chaplin: A Life, by Stephen Weissman, M.D., looks like a good read. It takes a psychoanalytical approach to the Chaplin's life and films. Thank you to my longtime friend Tom McIntyre - publisher sales rep extraordinaire - who alerted me to this new book. Thanx Tom! You are a gentelman and a scholar.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

100 Most Influential People in Fashion

The editors of Zimbio.com have named the 100 people who they think have made the greatest impact on the way we dress - from Coco Chanel to Andre 3000. Louise Brooks comes in at #83, in between Gwen Stefani at 82 and David LaChappelle at 84. The complete list, for those curious to know who made the list (and who didn't), can be found here.

Our favorite silent film star also got her own facile Zimbio.com page outlining her career and contributions to 20th century fashion. (Hey - it's Kenneth Tynan, not "Kenneth Tyman.")

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Victor Fleming book

There is a new book out on director Victor Fleming. The book is called Victor Fleming: American Movie Master, and it is by Michael Sragow, film critic for the Baltimore Sun and a contributor to the New Yorker.  The book - which looks like a great read - received a nice review by Jeanine Bassinger in today's New York Times.

Fleming, for those not familiar with his name but undoubtably familiar with his work, was active during the silent film era. He directed Clara Bow in Mantrap, but is best known today for two later films, The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Fleming and Bow also had an affair.  Though they never worked together, Louise Brooks is referenced a few times and quoted twice in this new book.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Louise Brooks in Vanity Fair

Thanks to film and magazine maven Jim Barter, who pointed out that Louise Brooks is included in an image in the January 2009 issue of Vanity Fair.

The magazine, which has just hit newsstands, includes a picture of the exterior of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which in turn features some of the images included in a traveling photography exhibit, "Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008." Louise Brooks, Gloria Swanson, Jean Harlow and Leslie Howard are among those seen on page 45 of the magazine. Check it out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Prix de Beaute in Pittsburgh tonight!

Prix de Beaute will be shown in Pittsburgh tonight! An article in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes
 
A little-seen Louise Brooks film called "Prix de Beaute" will screen tonight at 8 at the Andy Warhol Museum. It's part of an "Unseen Treasures From the George Eastman House Film Series."

Tickets, $7.50, will be available at the door.

Brooks plays a French typist who wins a Miss Europe beauty contest, only to find it complicates her life. Dialogue is in French, with no subtitles, but Cecile Desandre will speak Brooks' lines in English.

PG film critic Barry Paris, author of a biography on Brooks, will introduce the 1930 film directed by Augusto Genina. Go towww.warhol.org for directions and other details.

Additional information about this 8:00 pm screening can be found on the Warhol Museum website. I wish I could be there!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pandora's Box popular again

According to an article in today's Capital Times, a 1929 Louise Brooks film is proving to be popular once again, at least in Madison, Wisconsin. The article, "Local stores have the best flicks you've never heard of," starts by declaring "Three of Madison's independent video stores take pride in their eclectic selections." The article then goes on the note a few of the more in-demand though lesser known titles in the area.

At Video Station, manager Jerry Shank takes some glee out of the fact his store carries "Tuya's Marriage."

Haven't heard of it? "Who has?" he said. "It's a Mongolian comedy about sheep herders."
Shank is also proud of the restored silent version of "The Passion of Joan of Arc" the University Avenue store carries. Another silent film, "Pandora's Box" with Louise Brooks, has been a popular rental lately.

"The Chicago Lyric Opera was doing 'Lulu,' and 'Pandora's Box' is based on that," Shank said. "I guess people who were going to Chicago were renting it."

Let's hear it for Madison, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Did they ever meet?

Just recently, Google announced that they were incorporating magazines into their book search. So, being the dutiful bibliographer, I spent the afternoon searching on Louise Brooks at http://books.google.com/

The program is new, and apparently there aren't too many magazines so far indexed. And the ones that have been indexed, like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics and the Bulletin of Atomic Sceientists, aren't likely to turn up results of interest to me. However, one periodical that did yield some worthwhile results was New York magazine. Searching under "Louise Brooks" turned up a couple or three articles I was already familiar with, as well as numerous listings for screenings of Brooks' films (especially Pandora's Box) throughout the 1980's and 1990's.

The most unusual material I came across using this new keyword search ability was a couple of classified advertisements from 1995. The first dates from August, and the second from October, of that year. I wonder, did these two lonely souls with a penchant for Lulu ever meet?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Have you seen?

As I mentioned in my previous post, a large number of images featuring Louise Brooks are for sale on eBay. (A search under the actress' name should reveal the auctions in question.) On each auction page, individuals may view nice big scans of the prints for sale; and what's more, there are a some scarce images to be found. Here is a particularly nice example. The photo is by Nishiyama.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Go look, go look

Go look, go look. A bunch of portraits of Louise Brooks have just shown up on eBay. They are part of a lot being auctioned by Profiles in History auction house. The opening bids for each item is $100.00 - though I am sure each will go for a lot more. (Curiously, the estimates are only in the $200.00 to $300.00 range! How cheap!)

Interested individuals can view nice big scans of the prints for sale, and what's more, there are a some scarce images. I had not seen a few of these before - including a one or two by George P. Hommel and Otto Dyer. There is also a lovely example of a Eugene Richee image.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"It Pays to Advertise" screens in NYC

It Pays to Advertise, a now rarely screened 1931 comedy featuring Louise Brooks, will be shown tomorrow at Film Forum in New York City. Film historian William K. Everson described this film as "A surprisingly sprightly comedy, starting off with a bang and maintaining a much slicker pace than was common in 1930 comedies." Wow! I wish I could be there - as I have never had the chance to see this delightful film on the big screen. And what's more, the copy being shown is a new 35mm print. Show times are at 3:55 and 8:10 pm.


It Pays to Advertise (directed by Frank Tuttle)

"When soap king Eugene Pallette kicks out son Norman Foster for planning to marry secretary Lombard, that’s the last straw—dammit, he’ll get a job! And in the soap business! Then things get sudsier amid clan conniving, business backstabbing, and romantic rhodomontade. With an appearance by silent movie siren Louise Brooks and credits listing "Carol" Lombard."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yesterday's screening


The TCM blog ( at http://moviemorlocks.com/2008/11/26/a-gratitude-list-cinematically-speaking/ ) had this to say about yesterday's George Eastman House screening of Diary of a Lost Girl.
"I’m filled with gratitude for a rare opportunity to see Louise Brooks on the big screen in Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), her second collaboration with G.W. Pabst after Pandora’s Box. That chance came along last night at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where a packed Dryden theater was the setting for the seduction of an entire audience of diverse people by an eighty year old silent movie just last night. A crowd for Louise in Rochester is not that unusual. Thanks to the nurturing friendship she maintained with Eastman House curator James Card, Louise spent her final years in the city, a semi-recluse."

"It’s only some time after seeing this relatively simple story of a young girl’s initiation into the grim, class ridden world around her that the film seems to leave a mark. The sordid adults populating this lurid celluloid Weimar Republic use, abuse and judge young Thymiane Henning (Brooks) in this film. But those adults, with a few exceptions, are alternately appalling and amusing in a revolting, almost Heronymus Bosch way. There was surprisingly much laughter and, if I detected it correctly, actually hissing by audience members of the lechers and losers during this melodramatic movie–though never at the vibrantly suffering and ultimately triumphant Brooks, only her oppressors. The compelling direction of Pabst conveys so much about the people and the world they live in with just a few brief scenes, very few titles, and, of course, the vital quality of Louise Brooks‘ presence on film, which reverberates in memory long after the end. Her languid, natural dancer’s grace is celebrated throughout this film, particularly noticable in one brief moment of film when we don’t even know for sure that we are looking at her–she’s simply a flying figure running away from the camera across a beach, her lithe feet barely touching the sand. Yet, her intense physicality is balanced by something magnetic and unknowable inside her, which comes through most forcefully in her small, dark eyes. As Barry Paris, the author of Louise Brooks (Knopf) wrote in 1989, “With the advent of talkies, her name would largely dsappear, but her face would not: a girl in a Prince Valiant bob, with electrifying eyes that drilled straight to the heart from the silent screen and left you weak when you met their gaze. Eyes that beckoned not so much ‘come hither’ as ‘I’ll come to you.’” Her ability to communicate didn’t need words, though she wrote well, but, on film, particularly with Pabst, they were superfluous to her art. One thing I know for sure. Seeing Louise Brooks on a small home screen doesn’t compare with the effect she can still have on an audience in 2008."

Friday, November 21, 2008

New article on Louise Brooks

An article about Louise Brooks ran in today's Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Jack Garner's excellent article,  "Louise Brooks, star of the silent era, made plenty of noise in Hollywood," looks at Brooks' life in Rochester, New York and notes that  next week the George Eastman House will be screening a couple of Brooks' most celebrated films, Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) and Prix de Beaute (1930).

The article begins: ""There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks!" That's what famed French film curator Henry Langlois once put on a giant banner to welcome Brooks to a Paris tribute. And, indeed, there are people who credit Brooks with being among the first great naturalistic actors in film history, as well as one of the most utterly sensual, even by today's standards."

It's a good newspaper article. Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading


Recently, I finished reading Richard Schickel's D.W. Griffith: An American Life. Its a large biography - and deservedly so. Griffith had an amazing life. As Peter Bogdanovich noted in the New York Times Book Review, "Mr. Schickel's excellent and important biography makes it clear that when the movers of our century are tallied, D.W. Griffith, flawed genius that he was, can never lose his eminent position."

I am not sure what led me to decide to read this book. I am not fond of Griffith's films. I am aware of his historical importance, but I have never been drawn to his movies. They seem old fashioned, somewhat Victorian. As far as silent films are concerned, I prefer works from the 1920's. Nevertheless, I was really impressed by Schickel's biography. He tells the story of Griffith's life - his struggles as an actor and writer, his triumphs as a filmmaker, and his decline as an artist. And all of this is set against the backdrop of the emergance of film as an art form - of which Griffith was a leading pioneer.

Schickel's D.W. Griffith: An American Life is a great read. It is full of detail, balanced, and sympathetic. I would recommend it. I even found myself saddened by the end of the book. One day, I also hope to read Arthur Lennig's massive biography of Griffith, which is still in the works and is yet unpublished.



Currently, I am reading Marion Meade's biography of the writer Dorothy Parker, which is titled Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? I am about a third of the way through, and am enjoying it a good deal. This is the third Marion Meade book I will have read. The other two are Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties and Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase (a biography).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Margaret Livingston

Found on eBay:  A vintage postcard of actress Margaret Livingston, the actress who dubbed Louise Brooks' voice in The Canary Murder Case (1929). This image has its exotic attractions. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

RadioLulu



 
RadioLulu is a Louise Brooks-inspired online radio station broadcasting music of the Twenties through today. Listen by visiting here. Its free and fun.

What does RadioLulu play? This unique station features rare recordings from six of the actresses' films - including the haunting themes from Prix de Beaute and Beggars of Life. There's Maurice Chevalier's much-loved 1929 recording of "Louise," as well as other vintage tracks associated with the actress. RadioLulu also plays Brooks-inspired songs by contemporary artists such as Soul Coughing, Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (OMD), Marillion, Ron Hawkins, and Sarah Azzarra.

Brooks co-stars and contemporaries are included among the rare recordings of silent film stars heard on RadioLulu. Interspersed throughout the more than 7 hours of programming are tracks by the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Adolphe Menjou, Ramon Novarro, Dolores Del Rio, Lupe Velez, Bebe Daniels and others!

You'll also hear torch singers, Jazz Age crooners, dance bands, show tunes, and some real hot jazz! And there are tracks featuring the great Polish chanteuse Hanka Ordonówna (who brings to mind Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich), the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht (singing "Mack the Knife" in 1929), and the cartoonist Robert Crumb (playing on "Chanson por Louise Brooks").

And, you're unlikely to find a station that plays more tracks with "Lulu" in the song's title than the always eclectic and always entertainingRadioLulu! Give it a listen by visiting RadioLulu today!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Vintage fashion photograph

Found on eBay: "A STUNNING original vintage portrait fashion photograph of Louise Brooks circa 1927."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Louise Brooks


Dancer, writer, and silent film star Louise Brooks was born on this day in 1906 in Cherryvale, Kansas. Happy Birthday, Louise !

Joel from Amherst, New York emailed to let me know that Brooks' birthday was an "entertainment alert" from the History channel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films

Another new book which references Louise Brooks is David Thomson's "Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. In this just published work, the internationally acclaimed British-born film writer (whose many books include the classic Biographical Dictionary of Film) offers cinephiles and film novices alike a comprehensive yet personal list of 1,000 must-see films. One of the films Thomson writes about (each film gets a page) is Brooks' sensational 1929 silent film, Pandora's Box.

Thomson's inclusion of Pandora's Box is no surprise. As any reader of this blog knows, Thomson has written a handful of articles about the actress over the years. And she is referenced in other of his journalism and books. Its evident the film writer has an appreciation for the film star. In his new book, Thomson declares Pandora's Box Berlin premiere in February, 1929 to be one of the"turning points in cinema."

I have been acquainted with David Thomson for many years. And I will be hosting him for an author event on December 4 at 7:30 at the Booksmith in San Francisco. David will be discussing his new book, showing a few brief film clips, and signing books. I would like to encourage anyone interested in film to attend. David is a fascinating speaker (I have hosted him on a number of occasions) and he truly loves movies.

Some more information, from his publisher, about David Thomson's new book:  "In 1975, David Thomson published his Biographical Dictionary of Film, and few film books have enjoyed better press or such steady sales. Now, thirty-three years later, we have the companion volume, a second book of more than 1,000 pages in one voice — that of our most provocative contemporary film critic and historian.

Juxtaposing the fanciful and the fabulous, the old favorites and the forgotten, this sweeping collection presents the films that Thomson offers in response to the question he gets asked most often — “What should I see?” This new book is a generous history of film and an enticing critical appraisal written with as much humor and passion as historical knowledge. Not content to choose his own top films (though they are here), Thomson has created a list that will surprise and delight you — and send you to your best movie rental service.

But he also probes the question: after one hundred years of film, which ones are the best, and why? “Have You Seen . . . ?” suggests a true canon of cinema and one that’s almost completely accessible now, thanks to DVDs. This book is a must for anyone who loves the silver screen: the perfect confection to dip into at any point for a taste of controversy, little-known facts, and ideas about what to see. This is a volume you’ll want to return to again and again, like a dear but argumentative friend in the dark at the movies."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Speaking of Chicago

Speaking of Chicago, there is another review of the Chicago production of Alban Berg's Lulu. "Lyric Opera's Lulu a Lavish, Sensual Epic" appeared in yesterday's Chicago Examiner. The article references Louise Brooks.

John Boesche’s haunting black and white video projections – often ingeniously incorporated into the very sets – are little less than astounding. In one segment, a flickering melodrama unspools in silvery black and white as Lulu is arrested for murder, tried, convicted, imprisoned, stricken with some sort of near-fatal disease, hospitalized and caught up in an elaborate plot involving mistaken identities, daring escapes and Joan of Arc-worthy martyrdom. It’s a gorgeous silent film-in-an-opera, backed by Sir Davis’ impeccable orchestra and evocative of “Pandora’s Box,” the 1930 Louise Brooks classic that inspired Berg.

The article also contains some nifty images from the Lyric Opera production, including one of the Lulu character sporting a Brooks-ish bob. Check out the article and images here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age

A remarkable new book,  The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age (University Of Chicago Press), has just been released. Its a book every fan of the Roaring Twenties should know about. It is impressive to say the least - and quite stunning to look at.

I don't own a copy (yet), and have only been able to briefly scan this new book. But, as I was flipping through it I quickly spotted a reference to The City Gone Wild (1927), the Chicago-inspired gangster film featuring Louise Brooks.


 

Here is some additional information from the publisher about this new book.

"While browsing the stacks of the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago some years ago, noted historian Neil Harris made a surprising discovery: a group of nine plainly bound volumes whose unassuming spines bore the name the Chicagoan.  Pulling one down and leafing through its pages, Harris was startled to find it brimming with striking covers, fanciful art, witty cartoons, profiles of local personalities, and a whole range of incisive articles.  He quickly realized that he had stumbled upon a Chicago counterpart to the New Yorker that mysteriously had slipped through the cracks of history and memory.

Here Harris brings this lost magazine of the Jazz Age back to life. In its own words, the Chicagoan claimed to represent “a cultural, civilized, and vibrant” city “which needs make no obeisance to Park Avenue, Mayfair, or the Champs Elysees.” Urbane in aspiration and first published just sixteen months after the 1925 appearance of the New Yorker, it sought passionately to redeem the Windy City’s unhappy reputation for organized crime, political mayhem, and industrial squalor by demonstrating the presence of style and sophistication in the Midwest.  Harris’s substantial introductory essay here sets the stage, exploring the ambitions, tastes, and prejudices of Chicagoans during the 1920s and 30s.  The author then lets the Chicagoan speak for itself in lavish full-color segments that reproduce its many elements: from covers, cartoons, and editorials to reviews, features—and even one issue reprinted in its entirety.

Recalling a vivid moment in the life of the Second City, the Chicagoan is a forgotten treasure, offered here for a whole new age to enjoy."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Lulu" in Chicago

Lulu, Alban Berg's seminal modern opera, has opened at The Lyric Opera of Chicago (through Nov 30th). According to an article on the production in the Chicago Sun-Times,  such " . . . works demand our participation in their full theatricality." The article went on to add,

So it is with one of the great if least produced operas of the 20th century -- Alban Berg's "Lulu," which is having a rare revival in a new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago starting Friday. Inspired by two turn-of-the-last-century German stage plays about the ultimate "femme fatale" and composed after the Kansas-born actress Louise Brooks had already immortalized their heroine in G.W. Pabst's 1929 German silent film "Pandora's Box," Berg's opera is a musical and visual phantasmagoria -- a total theatrical experience.

Another article in The Times (from Munster, Indiana) also linked Brooks with the Berg production. Quoting the conductor of the piece, It states, "Davis calls Lulu "the most riveting of all 20th-century opera heroines," who exerts a "fatal attraction" on every man who enters her life." And then goes on to add, "Check out Louise Brooks' mesmerizing portrayal of her in the 1929 silent film "Pandora's Box," based on the original play by Frank Wedekind."
 
Newspaper and magazine articles linking Alban Berg's Lulu (1934) with Louise Brooks and the character she played in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929) are increasingly common. And naturally so, as both Berg's opera and Pabst's film were based on Frank Wedekind's play. However, what's interesting is the increasing frequency of such associations. I have collected dozens of examples covering productions going back 30 or more years - and have noticed that beginning with the Brooks' revival in the late 1970's, her name has come to be increasingly associated with the Berg opera.

Why? Not only is it because both Berg's opera and Pabst's film were based on the same Wedekind work, but because Louise Brooks became so clearly identified with the role. With some productions, the singer playing Lulu has been clearly modelled after the silent film star.

For more on this production (I wish I could be there), including video clips and podcasts, check out the Lyric Opera's website athttp://lyricopera.org/    I would love to hear from anyone who attends a performance. Please post your thoughts.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Diary of a Lost Girl screens in Rochester, New York

The George Eastman House in Rochester, New York will be screening the 1929 Louise Brooks film, The Diary of a Lost Girl, on Tuesday, November 25th at 8 pm.  If you live in the area, here is your chance to watch a Brooks' film in the very theater where the actress herself took in movies in the last decades of her life.

The George Eastman House website notes: "Rochester’s own Louise Brooks is as enigmatic as ever in the second of the three films she made with Austrian master Pabst. Brooks stars as a pharmacist’s daughter who is rejected by her bourgeois family, ends up in a brothel, and then goes on to marry a count. Her past catches up with her, however, in this surprisingly explicit masterpiece. Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna, this print features seven minutes of previously censored footage never seen in the US. Live piano by Philip C. Carli."

More information about this screening can be found at dryden.eastmanhouse.org/films/diary-of-a-lost-girl/  [Check it out. Brooks' image is included in the nifty slide show at the top of the page.]

Monday, November 3, 2008

A bit about Hélène Regelly

I found this bit of text and youtube link on eBay, and thought it worth passing along.

"Hélène Regelly (1904-2001) had her great breakthrough at the age of 28 when she stood in for Gabrielle Ristori in this performance of the "White Horse Inn". Two years later, she had another big success in Szulc's "Mandrin". Soon after, unfortunately, she ended up in oblivion. It's a shame, as from this record one can tell she was a superb singer. Some sources state that she dubbed Louise Brooks in the singing scenes of Genina's "Prix de Beauté". I'm not entirely sure whether this is true, but it definitely sounds like her. However, she modestly continued to sing in province theatres and on the radio till about 1960."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Who Are the Remaining Silent Film Stars?


According to an article in last Wednesday's British Guardian, "Who Are the Remaining Silent Film Stars," one of Louise Brooks' fellow actors from Pandora's Box is still alive. "Barbara Kent played the innocent heroine opposite Greta Garbo's vamp in Clarence Brown's Flesh and the Devil (1926) and Daisy D'Ora appeared as Fritz Kortner's bride in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928)." Wow, I hadn't known. I wonder if anyone has spoken to her recently about her experiences working on that film ?

A long time ago - perhaps around the time I started the Louise Brooks Society back in 1995 - I had the chance to see Francis Lederer at a Cinecon film convention in Hollywood. Lederer played Alwa - Brooks'  love interest, or at least one of them, in Pandora's Box. He was rather elderly then, but spoke after a screening and took questions from the audience. I really didn't have a chance to meet him, but did get his autograph in the convention program! Somewhere, I have a snapshot Lederer and myself.

The Guardian article also notes: "Among the other juvenile survivors are June Havoc, Virginia Davis (who took the lead in Walt Disney's Alice in Cartoonland series), future cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Helen Alice Myres and Diana Serra Cary, who were respectively better known as Baby Marie and Baby Peggy." In the past, I also had the chance to meet two of the stars mentioned, Virginia Davis and Diana Serra Cary (aka Baby Peggy).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lulu in Marrakech

Recently, the New York Times ran a couple of reviews of the new Diane Johnson novel, Lulu in Marrakech. I haven't read the book, but it's title caught my attention because of the name of its title character. (Johnson's novel is described as a social comedy about a clueless young American woman named Lulu.) What also caught my attention was the newspaper's suggestion that the novel's main character has some connection to Louise Brooks and the character she once played, also named Lulu.

The first review, by Michiko Kakutani, noted ". . . the tone of the first two-thirds of Lulu in Marrakech (a title that gratuitously recalls Louise Brooks ’s collection of autobiographical writings, Lulu in Hollywood) is more in the vein of the author’s recent comedies of manners, Le DivorceLe Mariage and L’Affaire.

While the second review, by Erica Wagner, begins, "There are some names you can’t ignore. When you find them attached to a particular fictional character, you can’t assume that blind coincidence prompted the writer’s choice. Call your girl-heroine Jane and there may be echoes of Jane Eyre, but the association is not forced on you. And a Cathy does not need to meet a Heathcliff. But the name Lulu? Lulu is a different story. Lulu has a pedigree. Even if the defiant anti­heroine of Frank Wedekind’s books isn’t at the forefront of your mind as you say the name out loud (your lips will purse, as if you’re about to kiss) there’s an innocent-yet-louche ring to it."

It's interesting that both reviews, published a day apart, both point to the name of Lulu and its cultural resonance. Has anyone read Diane Johnson's new novel?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pittsburgh trunk shows to preview Bill Blass Lulu collection

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran an article yesterday announcing a trunk show sale featuring designs inspired by Louise Brooks.

Fans of Bill Blass New York separates, knitwear and dresses can slip into the brand's latest fall and holiday designs -- about 300 pieces -- during upcoming trunk shows on the South Side and in Mt. Lebanon.

The late silent-movie actress Louise Brooks inspired the new Bill Blass New York holiday collection, dubbed "Lulu," with her "festive" and "seductive" image.

The autumn wear -- inspired by artists Anselm Kiefer and Zaha Hadid -- wraps women in colors such as "shadow" (grey brown), "coal" (deep black), "carmine" (terra cotta red), "regal" (rich purple) and "petrol" (charcoal/navy).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Anthony Bourdain's fantasy dinner

Celebrity chef and author has a letch for Louise Brooks. He has name-checked the silent film star a few times in interviews and articles. Bourdain mentioned Brooks again to a reporter for the New York Post.

Asked to describe the fantasy party he'd like to attend, the "Kitchen Confidential" chef tells Page Six Magazine in this Sunday's Post: "Chef Marco Pierre White and Keith Richards would be throwing something on the barbie in a back yard in Red Hook. Louise Brooks, the silent film actress, would be there, along with Ava Gardner, Orson Welles, [British spy] Kim Philby and the CIA director of counterintelligence."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lulu in Mapplewood, MO

Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora)
(G.W. Pabst, 1929, Germany, 133 min.)
Saturday, October 18 at 8 pm

Screening as part of the Webster Film Series in Mapplewood, Missouri

One of the masters of early German cinema, G. W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst's lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora's Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora's Box is one of silent cinema's great masterworks and a testament to Brooks's dazzling individuality.

With live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Unless otherwise noted, admission is:
$6 for the general public
$5 for seniors, Webster alumni and students from other schools
$4 for Webster University staff and faculty
Free for Webster students with proper I.D.
Advance tickets are available from the Film Series office (Webster Hall - Room 223a) or at the box office before each screening.

The Webster Film Series is a year-round program that prides itself as the most comprehensive alternative film series in the St. Louis area.

Now in its 29th year of operation, the Series offers a premiere film almost every weekend and frequently screens classic cinema on weeknights as well. The Webster Film Series offers the newest in independent features and documentaries, avant-garde, animation, retrospectives and short works, not to mention the latest in world cinema. Webster has become the host site for many international tours and continues to be the only venue in the area that regularly hosts artists working in film. For more information call (314) 868-7487 or visit http://www.webster.edu/filmseries/featured_series.htm

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Harem pants, the newest rage

According to an article in a newspaper based in India, Harem pants will be the newest rage. "Immortalised by Turkish belly dancers and brought into the realm of fashion by Hollywood icons like Louise Brooks, Harem pants are the rage now." 

So begins the article by Nithya Caleb in the Express from South India. What is interesting to me is the casual reference to a long-dead American silent film star, with any sort of contextualization - as if readers of this paper would know who she is. Is Louise Brooks that much of a trans-cultural icon ?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Love Em and Leave Em screens Thursday in NYC

Love Em and Leave Em (1926) screens Thursday in New York City. I wish I could be there. This short piece appeared in theNew York Times.

HOLLYWOOD ON THE HUDSON (Wednesday and Thursday)

Based on Richard Koszarski’s book “Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York From Griffith to Sarnoff,” this fascinating monthlong series at the Museum of Modern Art gets under way this week with a few rare screenings. Sidney Olcott’s 1923 film “The Green Goddess,” with George Arliss, and John Robertson’s 1920 “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” with John Barrymore, are showing on Wednesday, and Frank Tuttle’s “Love ’Em and Leave ’Em,” with Louise Brooks, and Robert Vignola’s 1921 “Enchantment,” with Marion Davies, on Thursday. Much more to come. (Through Oct. 19.) Museum of Modern Art Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, (212) 708-9400, moma.org; $10.

The book the series is based on looks great. I plan to get a copy. So far, I have only had a chance to look through it briefly, but there are a number of references in it to Louise Brooks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

John Ashbery

There is a fine article in today's New York Times about the 81 year old poet John Ashbery and his first ever art exhibit. Ashbery is exhibiting collages from throughout his long and distinguished career at New York's Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Holland Carter's article, "The Poetry of Scissors and Glue," notes "That he was a childhood film freak helped form a Surrealist sensibility, though there were also more specific influences."

I mention Ashbery's interest in film because when I had the chance to meet the poet some half-dozen years ago, he told me of the time he met the silent film star Louise Brooks. At the time, as Holland Carter's article mentions, the poet was living in Paris where he was working as an art critic. Brooks was staying in a hotel where Ashbery was also in residence. And, because Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York and Brooks was then living in that upstate, New York city - the actress and the poet / journalist were introduced.

I can't rememeber how the subject of Louise Brooks came-up (though I suppose I am always talking about the actress), but it might of had to do with Ashbery's friends, the poets Frank O'Hara (wrongly identified in the NY Times article as John O'Hara) and Bill Berkson. Both had written poems "about" Louise Brooks, and both were fans of the actress' films. Ashbery, as it turned out, was also something of a fan.

p.s. Interestingly, Frank O'Hara's roommate in college was the illustrator / artist Edward Gorey, another admirer of Louise Brooks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lulu in Pittsburgh

Prix de Beaute (1930), featuring the one and only Louise Brooks, will be screened at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday, December 12th. For more info see www.warhol.org

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More on Lee Israel

NPR ran a story on literary forger Lee Isreal, whose output of fake letters included some by Louise Brooks. The actress was mentioned in the text summation, as well as on the radio broadcast, which can be found here.
 
"I used what talent I had and what voice I had to duplicate the voice and the letters of some very famous people," she says.  It was also a bit like writing fiction, Israel says, which can sometimes be more fun than writing reality.

"You own the character. I finally owned Noel Coward and Edna Ferber and Louise Brooks and people like that," she says. "I had always adored large personalities, I had a good ear and I guess a talent to amuse. I could be funny, and that's how I did it."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Robert Giroux

Along with the passing of Anita Page, the film world recently lost another friend, Robert Giroux. He is best known as an editor and publisher who introduced and nurtured some of the major authors of the 20th century,  and, ultimately added his name to one of the nation’s most distinguished publishers, Farrar Strauss Giroux. He was also a lover of film, and to the film world, Giroux was known as the author of a significant book, A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor (Knopf, 1990). For more about Robert Giroux, check out this interesting, detail filled article in the New York Times.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Anita Page dies

Anita Page, one of the last living silent film stars and a contemporary of Louise Brooks, has died, according to an article syndicated by the Associated Press.

Her longtime friend and companion Randal Malone says Page died in her sleep of natural causes early Saturday morning at her home in Los Angeles. Anita Page, a beautiful blond MGM actress who appeared in the films of Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton during the transition from silent movies to talkies, has died. She was 98.
The New York-born Page began her film career as an extra in 1924. She had a major role—as the doomed bad girl—in "Our Dancing Daughters," a 1928 film that featured a wild Charleston by Crawford and propelled them both to stardom. It spawned two sequels, "Our Modern Maidens" and "Our Blushing Brides." Page and Crawford were in all three films.

Here is a link to another wire service story - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080907/ap_en_ce/obit_page_5

They didn't need dialogue. They had faces

An interesting, effusive article in yesterday's Guardian (UK) newspaper concerning the history of the cinematic gesture of the close-up on a woman's face mentions Louise Brooks.

Louise Brooks's black bobbed hair framing her pale kittenish face in GW Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928) and The Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) burns itself into the mind. It was Pabst who gave the 20-year-old Greta Garbo her first real chance to emote as a woman on the brink of prostitution in Joyless Street (1925), the role that led to her Hollywood career, prompting Roland Barthes to write in 1957: "Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced."

Marlene Dietrich's career only began to bloom with the coming of sound and her meeting with Josef Von Sternberg, who created her iconographic figure as the eternal femme fatale in various guises, conjured up by makeup, costumes and the subtle play of light and shadow on her face in close-up. Dietrich's face became an erogenous zone in Sternberg's pictures.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lily Koppell, "The Red Leather Diary"

I am looking forward to Lily Koppel's author event on Wednesday, September 10th at The Booksmith in San Francisco. Lily will be discussing her new book, The Red Leather Diary. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the 1920's / 1930s.

New York Times journalist Lily Koppel found the inspiration for her book after discovering an old diary in a Manhattan dumpster. The diary recorded the thoughts and feelings of an intelligent, ambitious and creative teenager on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 1930s. In the diary, the young author recorded everything from her first kiss (with a boy) to her crush on actress Eva Le Galliene (whom she had met - and which led her to question her sexuality) to her passion for writing and art. There are also numerous observations on daily life in 1930's NYC. Ultimately, the diary acts as a window into a fascinating and privileged world, one that Lily Koppel successfully recreates by telling a story in a novelistic way using no more than snippets of text from the teenager's diary.

Remarkably - and this is a big part of the story - Lily Koppel was able to reunite the long lost diary with it's then 90-year-old author after locating its her in Florida. I am reading The Red Leather Diary now - and enjoying it a great deal. Check out this event if you can.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Filmmaking in New York, exhibit

EXHIBITION ANNOUNCEMENT: Museum of Modern ArtNew York
17 September – 19 October 2008

Hollywood on the Hudson traces the roots of the modern American film industry to New York City between the two world wars, when an industry built on centralized authority began to listen, for the first time, to a range of independent voices, each with their own ideas about what the movies could say and do.

The Hollywood studio system was geared toward creating a standardized product and sought to appeal to all ages and classes, whereas New York cinema was technically innovative and culturally specific, and played to niche audiences, from art houses to ethnic enclaves. But the collapse of Hollywood's economic and industrial model in the post–World War I era forced American filmmakers to rethink the way they made films and sold them to audiences.

Finding they could no longer depend on a system that required long-term contracts and studio backlots with elaborate standing sets, they began to adopt the methods being used by writers, directors, and actors in New York.

This exhibition surveys filmmaking in New York during the hegemony of Hollywood, from D. W. Griffith's return from the West Coast in 1919 to the World's Fair of 1939. Screenings include pioneering sound films shot at the Paramount Studios in Astoria, Queens, and starring Broadway luminaries; films featuring such stars as Louise Brooks, Marion Davies, the Marx Brothers, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino; and noteworthy African American and Yiddish films.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Louise Brooks in Los Angeles exhibit

The Vanity Fair exhibit, which drew large crowds and much acclaim while on exhibit in London, is coming to Los Angeles. Opening October 26 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA),  "Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913–2008" brings together 150 of the famed magazine's iconic portraits. This is the first major exhibit to bring together the magazine's historic archive of rare vintage prints with contemporary photographs as well. The exhibition will complete its tour at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia,  where it will run June 12 – August 30, 2009.

Of special note to Louise Brooks devotees and fans of the 1920's is the inclusion of portraits of a handful of celebrities from the 1920's. "Among the exceptional people portrayed in the exhibit are Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, Jesse Owens, James Joyce, Katharine Hepburn, and Fred and Adele Astaire. The introduction of modernism into photography was particularly evident in the progressive work of [Edward] Steichen (1879–1973), who held the title of Vanity Fair 's chief photographer for 13 years. Steichen was America's leading photographer of style, taste and celebrity, and many of his iconic photographs are in "Vanity Fair Portraits," including those of Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, Anna May Wong and Paul Robeson. The exhibition also showcases definitive portraits of the Jazz Age, including now-classic studies of Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker and Noel Coward."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Love Em and Leave Em screens in L. A

The Silent Society of Hollywood Heritage, in association with the National Parks Service, is hosting a screening of Love 'em and Leave 'em (1926) at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura (near Los Angeles) this Sunday evening, August 17th at 7:30 pm. The screening is part of the groups  “Silents Under the Stars” series. This feature will be preceded by a surprise short subject, and will feature live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 - 7:30 pm

Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em (1926) starring Evelyn Brent, Louise Brooks and Lawrence Gray. Directed by Frank Tuttle. Mame Walsh (Evelyn Brent) returns from vacation to find her younger sister, Janie (Louise Brooks) has stolen the affections of her boyfriend and decides to make him jealous by adopting Janie’s “love ‘em and leave ‘em” philosophy.

Tickets are $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for members of Hollywood Heritage. Children under twelve are $3.00, under three free.

Films begin at dusk. Picnic dinners are encouraged. Please bring a flashlight as the parking area is dark.

For further information call Hollywood Heritage at (323) 874-4005, or visit  http://www.hollywoodheritage.org/

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Louise Brooks and forged letters

There have been a lot of articles popping up regarding Lee Israel's new book, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger. One of the best articles / reviews I read was by Thomas Mallon. It appeared in the New York Times on August 3rd. I recommend reading it. And what's more, two of the illustrations accompanying the article relate to Louise Brooks.

As some readers of this blog may know, Lee Israel is a noted journalist and biographer. [I own a copy of her Tallulah Bankhead biography.] When she fell on hard times some years back, she turned to stealing the letters of famous individuals from archives and libraries, whcih she sold, as well as forging letters from other subjects of interest (which she also sold). Apparently, Israel was very good at what she did. A couple of her Noel Coward letters were even included in a recently published collection of the British authro's correspondence.

Among the letters Israel forged and sold where some from Louise Brooks. I haven't read this new book yet, but from all the coverage its getting, I gather that Israel's forgeries of Brooks' letters play a significant part in her story. The name of the actress also appears, obliquely, on the cover of the book.



[This bit of literary intrigue reminds me that I had once heard that shortly after Louise Brooks' death, a number of fake signatures ascribed to the actress came on the market. Signed books, signed pictures, etc.... I wonder what ever became of them. Buyer beware.]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lulu in Augusta

The Sacred Heart Cultural Center in Augusta, Georgia will be screening Pandora's Box, with live musical accompaniment, on Friday, September 19th at 7:30 pm.The center's website carries this announcement.



SILENT MOVIE NIGHT
Featuring "Pandora's Box" & Ron Carter,
Theater Organist
Friday, September 19, 2008, 7:30 pm


It’s movie time once again! As part of the inaugural Westabou Festival Sacred Heart Cultural Center presents Silent Movie Night Friday, September 19, 2008. This year’s feature will be the G. W. Pabst’s 1929 masterpiece starring the iconic Louise Brooks. Once again, the delightful Ron Carter will bring the film alive on Sacred Heart’s fabulous organ – movie palace style.  This groundbreaking and steamy 1929 thriller follows the vampy Lulu on her destructive path through Berlin to her ultimate end.  One historian says this film is “bold for the way it featured a strong, decisive female character, and innovative for the way it broke down stereotypes and barriers.”

Pandora’s Box is perennially on the short list of great silent films and is one no enthusiast should miss.

Ron Carter is dedicated to keeping the art of early 20th century “Movie Palace” organ music alive. His passion for this unique art form keeps him busy accompanying silent film all over the Southeast. He is actively involved in the American Theatre Organ Society which rescues and restores vintage theatre pipe organs, most notably the Fox Theatre organ in Atlanta and recently the original Imperial Theater Wurlitzer in Augusta. Combining the original movie scores with his own improvisations, Ron’s talent for bringing silent film alive is compelling – a treat not to be missed.

$12.00 general seat, cash bar and snacks
(cabaret tables seat 8)
- OR - 
$35.00 Special Seating, courtesy bar and snacks in VIP area

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Louise Brooks movie?

According to various news reports . . .
SHIRLEY MacLAINE has developed a script for a movie about the life of screen icon LOUISE BROOKS - and she wants to play the dancer in her latter years. The actress reveals filmmaker Martin Scorsese is interested in directing the movie.
She tells WENN, "I've written a script with Kathleen Tynan and it was a pretty good script. Martin Scorsese is interested in doing it. He took an option on the script, so that might happen.
"I'd love to be part of the film - I'd love to play Brooks in her later years, when she was living an isolated, hermit-like existence in upstate New York."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

LouLou in Paris


from www.villette.com/spectacles/loulou.html

Mardi 15 juillet
CINÉ-CONCERT
LoulouLoulou
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Allemagne / 1929 / 1h44,
Avec Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner…






© Tamasa

Loulou, belle fille capricieuse et insouciante, est entretenue par Peter Schoen, un homme très riche qui organise les revues de music hall où elle apparaît. Elle réussit à se faire épouser par son amant, qu’elle ne tarde pas à tromper ! Elle multiplie les conquêtes masculines pour finir par sombrer dans la déchéance.

Composition et interprétation Airelle Besson (trompette, violon), Yonnel Diaz (saxo) et Emmanuel David (clavier)  Interprétation  Siegfried Courteau (percussions), Éric Boffel (guitare) et Julien Reyboz (sonorisation)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Its What I'm Doing Next Weekend

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-07-03/article/30484?hea...

MOVING PICTURES: SF Festival Showcases Cinema’s First Golden Era
By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 03, 2008

The Kid Brother (1927) may be Harold Lloyd’s greatest film, bringing a high level of artistry to the bespectacled comedian’s slapstick humor.

Conrad Veidt and Olga Baclanova in Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), a film that expanded on the sympathetic portrayals of disfigured men that had been so successful on the screen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. The Man Who Laughs gave rise not only to the series of Universal horror films of the 1930s, but inspired the character of The Joker.

Far from the ragged, blurry, jumpy images in the popular imagination, the silent era of filmmaking was an age of discovery, innovation and supreme achievement in the new medium of cinema. Motion pictures, at first treated as a mere novelty, came into their own between 1910 and 1920, growing from brief, flickering diversions into full-scale narratives. But it was in the 1920s that cinema truly blossomed into the great art form of the 20th century.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, now in its 13th year, showcases the breadth and depth of what was the first golden era of cinema, presenting the full range of film treasures—from slapstick comedy to gothic horror, from experimental animation to stately costume drama—as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen, in a beautiful 1920s movie palace, and with live musical accompaniment.

This year’s program begins Friday night, July 11, at the Castro Theater with Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother and continues all day Saturday and Sunday with 10 more presentations from the peak of the silent era.
Friday
Harold Lloyd was not an inherently funny presence as a screen persona. Unlike Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, who rank among the most innately charismatic and unique cinematic artists of all time, Lloyd couldn’t command an audience’s attention simply by appearing on the screen. There were many such comedians struggling to climb their way to the top of the field, to challenge Keaton and Chaplin at the  summit, but Lloyd was the most diligent and talented of them, and he alone managed to scale those heights. Through grit and determination he overcame his limitations as a screen presence and established himself as one of the most popular and enduring comedians of the silent era. In the 1920s he was second only to Chaplin in popularity. In fact, in office receipts, the prolific Lloyd surpassed Chaplin, who only released a handful of films in that decade.

Lloyd took a different and perhaps more pragmatic approach to his comedies than his contemporaries. Chaplin made relatively quiet, character-based narratives, punctuated here and there with explosive bits of slapstick. And Keaton let his films develop slowly, building steadily to dizzying climactic chases and daring stunt work. But Lloyd first and foremost aimed to please, and thus he filled movies with gags from start to finish, rarely allowing the audience much time to breathe.

With The Kid Brother (1927), however, Lloyd altered his style somewhat, adopting some of the techniques of his competitors in pursuit of a more artistic approach. He put more time and effort into technical details, especially the photography, using warm lighting to capture the pastoral beauty of a life in the woods. And he put greater emphasis on pathos; more screen time was spent developing his character, showing us his hopes, his dreams and his humiliations.

Lloyd didn’t make a bad film in the 1920s; all of them are good and many of them are great. Others made more money (The Freshman), crammed in more gags per minute (Why Worry?), or have enjoyed more lasting fame (Safety Last), but The Kid Brother may very well represent Lloyd’s crowning achievement, bringing greater artistry and subtlety to his workman-like career. Lloyd himself cited the film as his personal favorite. Friday’s screening of the film will feature live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Saturday

Saturday’s screenings include The Soul of Youth (1920), a portrait of the fate of unwanted orphans in early 20th-century America; Les Deux Timides (1928), a comedy by René Clair; and Mikael (1924), a landmark film in the history of gay cinema, directed by the great Carl Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr) and starring German actor Conrad Veidt.

Veidt also anchors the centerpiece film Saturday night, The Man Who Laughs (1928). Early in the 1920s, German émigré Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, brought Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the screen. Centering an epic film on a grossly disfigured lead character was considered a great risk at the time, but Lon Chaney, who would later become known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” used his formidable pantomime skills to create a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal. Laemmle and Chaney then followed Hunchback with The Phantom of the Opera and enjoyed similar success.

Eager to keep the streak alive, Laemmle turned to his fellow countrymen for The Man Who Laughs (1928), enlisting the talents of Conrad Veidt and director Paul Leni for another Hugo adaptation. Veidt had become the face of German Expressionism with his roles in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and in Leni’s Waxworks, and Leni had recently parlayed his success in Germany into a contract with Universal, bringing the shadowy photography and psychological horror of Expressionism to the States with The Cat and the Canary. These silent  classics formed the foundation of what would become a string of classic Universal horror films in the 1930s. Saturday’s screening of The Man Who Laughs will be accompanied by Clark Wilson on the Wurlitzer.

Following The Man Who Laughs Saturday night is the first in the festival’s new “Director’s Pick” series. Director Guy Maddin will be on hand to introduce and narrate (translating the French intertitles) for Tod Browning’s strange and rarely screened film The Unknown (1927), starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford. Live piano accompaniment will be provided by Stephen Horne.

Sunday

Sunday’s screenings include The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the earliest surviving feature-length animated film; Her Wild Oat (1927), one of the few surviving films of Colleen Moore, among the most popular actresses of the 1920s; and Jujiro (1928), an avant-garde Japanese film.

The festival concludes Sunday night with The Patsy (1928), starring the great comedienne Marion Davies. Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, had spent much of her career weighed down with the dreary costumes of the myriad period dramas that Hearst wanted to see her in. It was director King Vidor who finally freed the effervescent Davies from such stifling solemnity, and in The Patsy he gave her free reign to satirize her contemporaries, offering sharp and hilarious impersonations of such silent-era stalwarts as Lillian Gish and Pola Negri. Clark Wilson will again provide accompaniment on the Wurlitzer.

The San Francisco
Silent Film Festival
July 11-13 at the Castro Theater,
429 Castro St., San Francisco.
www.silentfilm.org.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wowza

According to a reliable eBay seller, "ON MARCH 27, 2008, PROFILES IN HISTORY of LOS ANGELES set the highest price to date for an ALFRED CHENEY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH - $9,500.00 for an unsigned 10" X 13" VINTAGE PORTRAIT OF LOUISE BROOKS!!"

Wowza!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New book with Brooks on the cover

There is a new book coming out this fall which includes Louise Brooks on the cover. The book is titled Hollywood Movie Stills: The Golden Age, by Joel Finler. It looks like the book is being released in England, but it should be available in the United States as well. I plan on getting a copy.



The author, Joel Finler, was the first film critic for London's Time Out magazine. He is the author of numerous books on cinema, including Alfred Hitchcockand Silent Cinema (which I own and like). I don't know much else about it except for what's included on its Amazon.com page. That text reads

Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe . . . it is through the eye of the stills camera that we experience and recall some of the cinema's most memorable events and faces. Still images are so powerful that they can easily pass for actual scenes from the movies they represent—rather than separately posed, lighted, and photographed shots that may not even find their way into the finished film. This classic study traces the origin of stills photography during the silent era and the early development of the star system, to the rise of the giant studios in the 1930s and their eventual decline. Finler focuses on the photographers, on the stars they photographed, and on many key films and filmmakers. Hollywood Movie Stills is illustrated by hundreds of rare and unusual stills from the author's own collection, including not only portraits and scene stills but production shots, behind-the-scenes photos, poster art, calendar art, leg shots, photo collages, and trick shots. There are also photos showing the stars' private lives and special events in Hollywood, all produced in vast numbers by the great studios in their heyday.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Diary of a Lost Girl screened in KC

Diary of a Lost Girl will be shown tomorrow at the Kansas City Central Library (Plaza Branch, 4801 Main Street) in Kansas City, Missouri. Here is a link to thelibrary website, followed by the event description. An image of Louise Brooks was even featured on the Library's homepage.



DIARY OF A LOST GIRL Kansas native Louise Brooks endures degradation in this silent classic shown with live music. 3:30 p.m. Saturday, KC Central Library.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cyd Charisse Dies at Age 86

Cyd Charisse, the leggy beauty whose balletic grace made her a memorable dance partner for Gene Kelly in classic MGM musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. [Here is a link to various news articles.] For fans of Louise Brooks and early film, it was her role in Singin’ in the Rain (a musical look at Hollywood during the transition from silent to sound films) that stands out. In that classic film, Charisse plays a dancer who affects the look of a flapper - intentionally with a "Louise Brooks" bob. In memorium, here is a clip from that 1952 film featuring Charisse.



If you haven't seen Singin’ in the Rain, go out and get it today. It is a wonderful film!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Matthew J. Bruccoli

The Louise Brooks Society notes the passing of literary scholar Matthew Bruccoli. He is considered the world's leading scholar on F. Scott Fitzgerald, and was expert on many of the writer's of the Jazz Age and the inter-war period. His 1981 biography of Fitzgerald, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is recommended. I have read that book, as well as other Bruccoli authored or edited books like The Romantic Egoists, as well as various volumes of Fitzgerald's fiction, letters and notebooks. To me, Bruccoli was a hero.

Besides being a scholar, teacher, writer, and publisher, Bruccoli was also a collector. He and his wife accumulated books, manuscripts, letters and other materials by and about writers. His Fitzgerald collection, valued at more than 2 million dollars, was donated to the University of South Carolina. Bruccoli collected not out of greed or the compulsion to own something (like some collectors), but for the love of the subject. “It was collecting in order to contribute to future scholarship,” is the way one fellow academic put it.

I never met Bruccoli, but was able to pass along a few questions to him about Louise Brooks through my late friend, the book dealer Allen Milkerit. Whenever Bruccolli would come to the San Francisco  Bay Area (one of his children lived here), he would visit Allen's bookshop. On my behalf, Allen asked him if he knew anything more about Fitzgerald's and Brooks' encounter. (He did not.) Nevertheless, Allen was able to get a bunch of my Bruccolli books signed for me. Thank you Allen. I will always treasure those. [And thank you Matthew Bruccoli for all of your great work.]


I have included a link above to the New York Times obituary. Here is a link to the Washington Post obit. And here is a link to the obit in The State. And lastly, here is a link to a page detailing his academic accomplishments from the University of South Carolina, where he taught for many years.
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