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.


  1. Regarding Metropolis, have you heard about this?

  2. Perhaps Placerville's star athlete was seen in the boat race in Rolled Stockings? ... By 1931 there were at least seven movies with the title Fast and Furious.(IMDb)

    Compared to making a field trip and hunting through microfilm, booting a computer and searching for New York Brooksiana at is junior Sherlock. But one can see 1927 ...

    >>>The Brooklyn Daily Eagle had this item on October 15: "Groves Jones," make that Grover, "motion picture author, today renewed his contract with Paramount for a long term. During the one year Jones has been with Paramount organization he has had a hand in the preparation of five stories, including 'Rolled Stockings' ...". That's news to me.

    >>>Metropolis followed Rolled Stockings at Brooklyn's Kameo and Roof Theatre in September. The Eagle's Martin Dickstein -- whose byline appeared on a review of Scandals in '24 (LBS), and who was the one local critic hip to The General (Dardis) -- cited both of them in two of his "Slow Motion" columns in September and October, among examples of the "comparatively intelligent" vs. (ahem) "celluloid twaddle" and (ahem!!) "trash".

    "Production activities continue to increase at an amazing rate in the German studios," Marty wrote. ",,,Let the quality of American pictures rise in proportion to the Teutonic threat. If it does not, German films will soon dominate the European market. For the Europeans are disciminating seekers of amusement." Ten points to George Marshall for knowing the Teutonic possibilities.

    >>>If you ever get the chance to spend the day of July 28, 1927 (a Thursday), via time travel -- well, Schenectady, N.Y. (pop. 90,000), is probably the place to be. Just Another Blonde is the 2 o'clock matinee at the Lincoln; Evening Clothes has its last perfs at the Pearl; and Rolled Stockings opens at the Strand, with Shadows (Lon Chaney) and exclusive pictures of Lindbergh in Schenectady.*

    >>>In the same city, on August 15, at the American Theater, the two features were Evening Clothes and Just Another Blonde. How rare is that?

    *If you're early: "At exactly 11:40 o'clock a tiny speck was visible in the eastern sky and a great shout went up. 'It's Lindy.' The speck rapidly increased in size until the silver wings and hull were plainly visible. Colonel Lindbergh headed straight for the field" where 25,000 people were gathered "and then banked his plane to the south and proceeded towards the city proper where he could be seen circling over the lower portion of the business section" -- benefitting everyone who stayed downtown for Just Another Blonde.

    "After approximately several minutes of these maneuvers the flier again headed towards the airdrome. He greeted the waiting multitude with a beautiful executed 'zoom' that thrilled everyone. Gliding his plane to within 250 feet of the field" pasture! "he suddenly nosed upwards and raced almost straight into the air for a thousand or more feet. Then he circled, banked, dove and finally glided gracefully down the field" grandly called the Thomas Corners airdrome "to where the reception committee was waiting ...".

    "Thanks to the arrangements ... every person of the thousands at the air field obtained a good 'close up' of the young gentleman who has thrilled the world."
    --"Women Faint in Huge Crowd ...", Schenectady Gazette, 7/29/27, p. 1.


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