Sunday, May 2, 2010
Louise Brooks, exhibiiton practices: rong & wright
I spent most of Friday at the California State Library in Sacramento, continuing my survey of small town newspapers in Northern California. I found a bunch of stuff, and added to my list of more than 750 instances of when Louise Brooks films were shown in the region during the 1920's and 1930's. That may seem like a lot, and it is. But I am sure that other stars, like Clara Bow of Colleen Moore, were shown even more as each was not only more prolific but also more popular.
By compiling all this data, I have come to a couple of realizations. The first is that I am nuits to have done it. The second is that Paramount (the studio for which Brooks made most of her films), dominated the region in terms of exhibition - especially outside the major cities, like San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and Sacramento, though Brooks' films did show a lot in those places as well. And thirdly, less than ten weeks went by during the period of 1926 and 1927 when one of Brooks' films wasn't showing somewhere around the San Francisco Bay Area. That's less then 10 seven day periods over the course of 104 weeks. How's that for ubiquity?
Well, anyways, I wanted to post a few things I found, as examples. Here are a couple of typical newspaper advertisements for the Liberty Theatre in Susanville, California. Susanville is in the north and eastern part of California, not so far from the Nevada border and Mt. Shasta.
What sticks out about the ad on the left is that fact that they got some important details mixed up. The 1927 film, Evening Clothes, which is noted as playing on October 24-25, was listed as starring Thomas Meighan. That's wrong. Of course, it stars the suave Adolph Menjou. Perhaps the person who typeset the ad was thinking of another 1927 Louise Brooks' film, The City Gone Wild, which does star the rough and tumble Meighan. It had just been released but wouldn't play Susanville till February. A week later, as the ad on the right shows, the theater got it right. On October 30th, the Liberty ran another 1927 film, Rolled Stockings, and noted correctly that it starred Louise Brooks.
Speaking of Rolled Stockings, I also came across something of an atypical factoid about it and the town of Placerville, California. It, too, is located in the north and eastern part of the state, not so far Sacramento and North Highlands, and east of Folsom near the Sierra Nevada foothills. The theater owners or patrons of the one theater in town must have really liked that film, because they showed it a lot - three times to be exact! Rolled Stockings was shown at the Elite Theatre on June 19 and July 17, 1927 - and then again on January 1, 1928. It's pretty unusual for a small town theater to show a film twice, let alone three times.
Why this small town showed Rolled Stockings three times I can't say. Perhaps they liked it. As the list below shows, the first Placerville screening was also one of the earliest in the State, beating out not only the region's biggest city, San Francisco, but also Berkeley and Oakland, where much of the film was shot. All of the instances of the regional screening of this now lost Brooks' film are listed below.
American in San Jose (June 15-17, 1927); Modesto Theater in Modesto (June 18, 1927); Elite in Placerville (June 19, 1927); Maywood Airdome in Corning (June 25, 1927); California in Santa Rosa (July 2, 1927); National in Chico (July 3, 1927); Hub in Mill Valley (July 5-6, 1927); New Stanford in Palo Alto (July 10, 1927 with Whispering Stage); Princess in Sausalito (July 10-11, 1927); Strand in Los Gatos (July 14-15, 1927); Elite in Placerville (July 17, 1927); Liberty in Marysville (July 23, 1927 with Hills of Peril); Liberty in St. Helena (July 24, 1927); California in Pittsburg (Aug. 2-3, 1927); Grand Lake in Oakland (Aug. 6-12, 1927); Casino in Antioch (Aug 7, 1927); Golden State in Monterey (Aug. 7, 1927); Mystic in Petaluma (Aug. 8, 1927); Granada in San Francisco (Aug. 13-19, 1927); Playhouse in Calistoga (Aug. 23-24, 1927); Boyes Hot Springs Theatre in Boyes Hot Springs (Aug. 26, 1927); California in Berkeley (Aug. 28-30, 1927); Peninsula in Burlingame (Sept. 4, 1927); Manzanita in Carmel (Sept. 4, 1927); Lodi Theatre in Lodi (Sept. 4, 1927); Capitol in Sacramento (Sept. 4-6, 1927); Merced Theatre in Merced (Sept. 5, 1927); New Santa Cruz Theatre in Santa Cruz (Sept. 5-6, 1927); Columbia & Loring in Crockett (Sept. 6, 1937); Sequoia in Redwood City (Sept. 9, 1927); Hippodrome in Napa (Sept. 11, 1927); New San Mateo Theatre in San Mateo (Sept. 11, 1927); Orpheus in San Rafael (Sept. 11, 1927); National in Woodland (Sept. 13-14, 1927); Lorin in Berkeley (Sept. 16, 1927); Starland in Sebastopol (Sept. 17, 1927); Chimes in Oakland (Sept. 18, 1927); Opal in Hollister (Oct. 12, 1927 with On Ze Boulevard); Hayward Theatre in Hayward (Oct. 14, 1927); Auburn Theater in Auburn (Oct. 28, 1927); Liberty in Susanville (Oct. 30, 1927); Redding Theater in Redding (Nov. 12, 1927); Mountain View Theatre in Mountain View (Nov. 16, 1927); Rivoli in Berkeley (Nov. 26, 1927); Tamalpias in San Anselmo (Nov. 30, 1927); Broadway in Oakland (Dec. 9-10, 1927); Strand in Lincoln (Dec. 13, 1927); New Fillmore in San Francisco (Dec. 19-21, 1927); New Mission in San Francisco (Dec. 19-21, 1927); California in Livermore (Dec. 23, 1927); Elite in Placerville (Jan. 1, 1928); New Roseville Theatre in Roseville (Jan. 6, 1928); Fern in Oakland (Feb. 8-9, 1928); Sequoia in Sacramento (Mar. 22, 1928); Smith’s in Yuba City (June 21-22, 1928).
I suppose there is something to be discerned about theater exhibition practices from all this data. I don't know. My interest is in local histories, as well as the intersection of individual histories (biography) and cultural histories. That's my interest. For more on the topic of exhibition practices, be sure and check out Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley's Hollywood in the Neighborhood: Historial Case Studies of Local Moviegoing (Univ of California Press, 2008). It includes a whole chapter by George Potamianos focussing on the Elite Theater, "Building Movie Audiences in Placerville, California 1908-1915."
It is also interesting to note that the film that preceded Rolled Stockings at the Elite theater in the small town of Placerville was the great German futuristic sci-fi epic Metropolis. Here is a picture of yours truly standing next to a very specific replica of the robot from that film. Ten points to anyone who knows where this picture was taken. And an additional five points to anyone who knows which star of Metropolis co-starred with Louise Brooks in a later film.
Posted by thomas gladysz / Louise Brooks Society