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).
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