Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Louise Brooks / Ed Wood / Elvis Presley connection

This falls into the category of "believe it or not" or "six degrees of separation" or "shook the hand that shook the hand." But whatever the case may be, it's true.

Recently, while researching a historic 1962 screening of Pandora's Box in Monterey, California I came across an amusing, somewhat curious and admittedly tenuous connection between Louise Brooks and Ed Wood - and by extension, Elvis Presley! I know its more than a bit of a stretch, but here goes.

The 1962 screening was part of a film seminar organized by a young curator named Philip Chamberlin. By invitation, James Card attended the event and brought along a print of Pandora's Box, where the German film was shown on the West Coast for the very first time! Pauline Kael was also there, as was the poet Jack Hirschman, as well as other significant figures in the film world of the 1960s.

Well, as it turned out, Chamberlin later moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the recently shuttered film series at LACMA, was a producer, archivist, etc..... He also eventually married the one-time actress and songwriter Dolores Fuller. Anyone who knows the story of Ed Wood and his attempts at film making knows her name. Fuller and Wood were romantically involved, and Fuller appeared in a couple of his films. After Fuller left Wood, she turned to songwriting, and contributed a number of songs to various Elvis Presley films. A few of the songs were minor hits.

That's it. A Louise Brooks / Ed Wood / Elvis Presley connection - of sorts.

I know it's a stretch - and really falls into the category of "six degrees of separation" (a la Kevin Bacon), but there you go. And just in time for Halloween. I think Ed Wood would have approved?

6 comments:

  1. "I think it's perfect!" - Ed Wood (well, Johnny Depp as Ed Wood)

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  2. Small correction to your otherwise interesting story, which is that, yes the LACMA did shut down the 41-year-running film program with which Chamberlin was associated. However, an avalanche of protest from local L.A. film lovers and petition signers from around the world succeeded in persuading LACMA to reverse its decision. Funds were cobbled together to extend the low-budget program for another year. Further, museum CEO/Director Michael Govan has made it his personal mission to secure long time funding for an even more ambitious film program. You can read the story at http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1624853/story.html

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  3. So sorry! I inserted the wrong link into my prior post. Perhaps you can edit it, it should be
    http://www.fineartsla.com/not-the-last-picture-show.html

    Thank you!

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  4. I didn't realize Pandora's Box never was screened on the West Coast until 1962. Was it typical that foreign films would get shown in New York, but not Los Angeles or San Francisco during the silent era?

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  5. What stretch? In Paramount's "Blue Hawaii", Elvis sings Dolores's "Rock-a-hula baby / Rock-a-hula baby / Got a hula lulu from Honolulu / That rock-a-hula baby of mine".

    After a 40-year absence, Dolores Fuller returned to "the screen" with top billing in a straight-to-video picture, The Ironbound Vampire.

    Halloween is a good time to mention "Louise" (1970), by Paul Siebel; a song (for certain souls) evocative of Louise Brooks in the Truman era, or of Pabst's prognostication for his Lulu. Siebel recorded it. So did Linda Ronstadt, during her own "bleak years"; and Bonnie Raitt, whose mother was a talented pianist; et al. I'm familiar with Leo Kottke's version, which
    these days he performs on YouTube. Just google "Leo Kottke Louise".

    (The Ronstadt/Riddle album, For Sentimental Reasons, includes Grant Clarke's "Am I Blue?" and Radio Lulu's "You Go to My Head (Like a Summer with a Thousand Julys)".)

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