Monday, January 25, 2010

Denis Marion and Louise Brooks

Just yesterday, I received an email from Gianluca Chiovelli, the leading Louise Brooks scholar in Italy. Gianluca maintains an outstanding website at which is well worth checking out. Gianluca, who is multi-lingual, is always finding new things about about the actress in Europe.

Gianluca wrote to tell me about a somewhat recently published book, Denis Marion: Pleins feux sur un homme de l'ombre (Bruxelles, Le Cri, collection "CIEL", 2008). The book, which is a collection of essays, contains a chapter (pages 113-130) which explores the relationship & exchange of letters between Louise Brooks and Denis Marion.

From what I have been able to find out (via the French-language version of Wikipedia), Denis Marion was a Belgian-born intellectual and a Belgian Francophone writer who worked as a scholar, journalist, film critic and University professor. He started publishing works of literary criticism in the early 1940's, and at one point authored an undated book, Filmographie et bibliographie de Erich von Stroheim, which is listed in the collection of the National Library of Australia.

I hadn't known Brooks had corresponded with Marion. Thus, I intend to try and track down this book, and find out more about the epistolary relationship between the actress and the intellectual.

In early 2009, Denis Marion: Pleins feux sur un homme de l'ombre was reviewed in Le Soir, a Belgian publication.The author of the review, Jacques De Decker, mentioned Brooks in writing about the book. That review can be found on the Le Soir website, or here as a PDF document.

If any Belgian fans of Louise Brooks have access to this book and could send me a pdf or scan of the chapter noted above I would be most grateful.


  1. From Herclulu Poirot

    At there’s more about Denis Marion (a.k.a. Marcel Defosse) from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, which has his papers. Google's translation of the website is not only handy; it hints at the crux of Brooks and Marion's epistolary relationship. ("Other topics are also discussed such as cinema or failures.")

    However, the Search function at the PALLAS link, gateway to the "precious reserve", left Poirot in search of lost time. The Reference Desk provides an email address, if you want to make an inquiry.

    Evidence of Marion's longtime interest in Stroheim can be found in Georges Sadoul's "Dictionary of Films" -- an uncited reprise of a critique he wrote after the French premiere of Greed (q.v.). It's also in "Stroheim", by Marcel Defosse and Barthelemy Amengual. (If Amengual rings a bell, his "G.W. Pabst" is an annotated volume in the Louise Brooks Library.)

    Then there's Marion's "Erich von Stroheim", Bruxelles, Club du Livre de cinéma, 1959, couv., ill., 36 p. (« Les grands créateurs du cinéma », #24-25).
    * * *
    For your consideration, and 75 hundred bucks, from James Pepper Rare Books (I lift from their website) --

    PERELMAN, S.J. ~ Baby, It's Cold Inside
    New York Simon & Schuster 1970
    First Edition. Signed presentation copy, inscribed by the author S.J. Perelman to silent film star Louise Brooks. Inscribed on the title page: "For Louise, who inspired not only the superlative on p. 105 of this book but lifelong admiration from millions of moviegoers. With affection, Sid." Also signed by Louise Brooks above Perelman's inscription: "Louise Brooks — p. 105." And again by her on the front pastedown: "From S.J. Perelman, 17 Aug. 1970. Louise Brooks, Rochester."

    The reference in both of their notes regarding page 105 is an underlined and checked-in-the-margin description in the chapter entitled "She Walks in Beauty — Single File, Eyes Front, and No Hanky-Panky" about his experiences attending a Miss Globe beauty pageant in Atlantic City. [Make that sideshows in London.] Perelman describes Miss Greece: ["The last of the trio was easily the comeliest.] A bewitching creature, whose trim black bob awoke memories of the immortal Louise Brooks ...".

    On the rear free endpaper, Miss Brooks has written: "In "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" Marcia Harris — stolen money, Jack Egan — Store. Doris Hill in Tillie's P.R." ...

    P.S. The book is dedicated to J.D. Salinger.

  2. NOW I SEE …
    "Denis Marion: Pleins feux sur un homme de l'ombre" is a collection of papers that were presented at a symposium at the Université in the autumn of 2006, marking Marion’s centennial – a likely excuse for (30 novembre) “20h.15, à l'Auditorium Shell: projection de Loulou de G.W. Pabst (avec Louise Brooks).”

    Brooks and Perelman had an exchange of notes after "She Walks in Beauty" was published by The New Yorker in 1969. It's recounted on pp. 214-16 of Dear Stinkpot, which I've just "finished". (What luck! The number of letters therein written after 1965 can be counted on the fingers of one hand).

    (And again:) Brooks told Wahl what she thought of Denis Marion's translation of "On Location with Billy Wellman"; which led me to Search ... and PALLAS coughed up "Correspondance entre Denis Marion et Louise Brooks, 27/08/1962-14/04/1970 2. Manuscrit dactylographié, en anglais et en français, d'un article intitulé "On location with Billy Wellman / En extérieurs avec Billy Wellman"." ... Sock Verdoux -- googling the essay's French title draws only 4 hits!


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