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.
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