Friday, March 12, 2010

Internationalism, and sex appeal

Just how international was silent film? Here is one small example.

Cuurently for sale on eBay is this postcard which depicts the the American actress Fay Lanphier. She lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was the first Miss America from California.

In 1925, she won the Miss America contest held in Atlantic City. To exploit her fame, Lanphier was quickly cast in The American Venus (1926), a Paramount comedy about a beauty pageant in which Louise Brooks also appeared. The film proved popular - due, in part, to the fact that it featured many pretty girls in bathing suits. The film played all over the world.

What's so international about this postcard is the fact that it was manufactured in Germany, for the European market. In Germany, The American Venus was shown as Die Schönste Frau der Staaten. And interestingly, the seller of this postcard lives in Latvia. Silent films certainly did get around.

Here is a rare example of a German advertisement for The American Venus. It depicts Lanphier, and promotes a screening at one of the largest and most prestigious motion picture theatres in Berlin.

Many, if not most, American films played oversees during the silent film-era. Or at least that is the case with the films of Louise Brooks. I have found numerous examples of Brooks' films showing all around the world in the 1920s (on every continent even, except Antartica). However, the American-ness of these film was not always appreciated. In England, for example, The American Venus was shown as The Modern Venus.

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