Thursday, December 30, 2010

Canary Murder Case author featured in new book

The 1929 Louise Brooks film, The Canary Murder Case, is based on bestselling book of the same name by S.S. Van Dine, a once-popular and critically esteemed author of detective fiction. Though little read today, Van Dine is considered an important figure in the development of the modern detective story. 

Van Dine is one of three writers featured in a new book, Making the Detective Story American: Biggers, Van Dine and Hammett and the Turning Point of the Genre, 1925-1930 (McFarland), by J.K. Van Dover. This 221 page study also examines the fiction of  Earl Derr Biggers and Dashiell Hammett during a crucial five year period when these three authors helped transform the detective story into the genre we know today.

Making the Detective Story American is well written, thoroughly researched, and a good read! Further consideration of this recommended new book can be found on examiner.com, along with some vintage newspaper advertisements for the film. Making the Detective Story American: Biggers, Van Dine and Hammett and the Turning Point of the Genre, 1925-1930 is available through online retailers and Indiebound.

RadioLulu reminder

Just a reminder to be sure and check out RadioLulu - Louise Brooks inspired, silent film themed radio featuring music of the Twenties, Thirties and today - includes Brooks' related film music, early jazz, dance bands, songs sung by silent film stars, and contemporary pop music about the silent film star.


This unique station features music from six of the Brooks' films - including the haunting themes from Beggars of Life (1928) and Prix de Beaute (1930), as well as musical snippets from The Canary Murder Case (1929) and Empty Saddles (1936). Other vintage tracks associated with the actress on RadioLulu include Maurice Chevalier's much-loved 1929 recording of "Louise," and rare recordings by co-stars Adolphe Menjou, Noah Beery, Blanche Ring, Grace Moore, and Cary Grant. RadioLulu also plays contemporary musical tributes to the actress by the likes of Twiggy, Rufus Wainwright, Soul Coughing, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark), Marillion, The Green Pajamas, Ron Hawkins, Sarah Azzara, Paul Hayes, and Clan of Xymox, among others.

Rare recording by Brooks' Hollywood contemporaries are also featured. Among the film world personalities heard on the station are Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Pola Negri, Ramon Novarro, Dolores Del Rio, Lupe Velez, Bebe Daniels, Marlene Dietrich, Buddy Rogers, Jean Harlow, and Tallulah Bankhead. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell can also be heard singing the charming "If I Had A Talking Picture Of You."

On RadioLulu, you'll also hear Jazz Age crooners, torch singers, dance bands, hotel orchestras, show tunes, standards, and some real sweet jazz! There are vintage recordings from England, France, Germany, and even Czechoslovakia. There are also tracks featuring the celebrated 1930's Polish chanteuse Hanka Ordonówna, the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht (singing "Mack the Knife" in 1929!), and the contemporary cartoonist Robert Crumb (playing on "Chanson por Louise Brooks"). And what's more, you'd be hard-pressed to find a station that plays more tracks with "Lulu" in the title than the always eclectic and always entertaining RadioLulu!

Who else can be heard on RadioLulu? How about the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Abe Lyman, Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, Gertrude Lawrence, Annette Hanshaw, Rudy Vallee, Helen Kane, Paul Whiteman, Ted Weems, George Gershwin, Russ Colombo, Harry Richman, Libby Holman and Xavier Cugart - as well as Camilla Horn, Lillian Harvey, Anny Ondra, Josephine Baker, Lucienne Boyer, Mistinguett, and even Kiki of Montparnase.

RadioLulu plays great music, including numerous rare recordings of movie stars from the silent film and early sound era. Check it out !

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let's nominate Louise Brooks to the National Film Registry

The Library of Congress today announced which 25 films will be included in the National Film Registry for 2010.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress annually names 25 films to the National Film Registry. The films are deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films are not selected as the “best” American films, but rather, works of enduring significance to American culture. To date, more than 500 films have been honored.

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and having extensive discussions with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board, as well as the Library’s motion-picture staff. This year 2,112 films were nominated.

So far, no Louise Brooks film is included in the National Film Registry. It's time that change. The Librarian urges the public to make nominations for next year’s registry at the Film Board’s website (www.loc.gov/film/vote.html). I would like to suggest the nomination of The Show Off  (1926) or Love Em and Leave Em (1926) or Beggars of Life (1928). I think they are the best American films in which Brooks appeared. 

It's the Old Army Game (1926), Love Em and Leave Em (1926), and Beggars of Life (1928) are each on the National Film Registry "shortlist" at http://www.loc.gov/film/NFRposs.html

[ More on this news story at www.examiner.com/silent-movie-in-san-francisco/early-films-selected-for-national-film-registry ]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thomas Jefferson on silent film

Today's New York Times has a fascinating article on crowd sourcing scholarly projects. The article, "Scholars Recruit Public for Project," can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/books/28transcribe.html

The article ends with a quotation from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, who was commenting on national documents destroyed during the Revolutioniary War. I think his thoughts might well apply to silent film and silent film history. "The lost cannot be recovered; let us save what remains not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.” 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prix de beauté screens Christmas Eve in Paris

The 1930 Louise Brooks film, Prix de beauté, will be screened in Paris on Christmas Eve at the Forum des Images. The film, which will be shown at 2:30 pm, is being presented as part of the series of great films made in the French city. 

The Forum des Images is located at Forum des Halles, Passage Rambuteau, 75001 PARIS 01. 

Details on the Friday, December 24 screening can be found at www.forumdesimages.fr/Collections/notice/VDP1017  More on this special event on the Louise Brooks column on examiner.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Toronto Silent Film Festival to screen It’s the Old Army Game

The Toronto Silent Film Festival has announced it will screen the celebrated 1926 silent comedy, It’s the Old Army Game, at next year’s event. The film stars Louise Brooks and screen legend W.C. Fields. It’s the Old Army Game will be shown on Wednesday April 6 at 8:30 pm at the Fox Theater, 236 Queen Street East, in Toronto. The film will be accompanied by Toronto organist Andrei Streliaev. More at examiner.com

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christian Zimmerman - Diary Of A Lost Girl (World Of Apples Mojave Rehab Mix)

Not sure if this piece of music by Christian Zimmerman has anything to do with the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary Of A Lost Girl, but here you go. If Christian Zimmerman sees this, please let us know.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Louise Brooks & Bruz Fletcher

Anyone who checked out my recent examiner.com list of recommended new releases for the Louise Brooks fan might be wondering who Bruz Fletcher is and what is his connection with the silent film star. The list includes a new book by Tyler Alpern titled, Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp (Blurb Books).

Yesterday, I set out to answer that question with my latest column on examiner.com. My article, titled "Louise Brooks & Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped, Riotous Vamps," discusses their apparent friendship as well as other individuals with whom both worked. Please check it out.

Tyler Alpern and I have been in contact for a number of years, and some time ago he graciously provided me with a .mp3 of one of Bruz's recordings. It was likely one of the songs Bruz sang when Louise Brooks heard him perform at the Club Bali in Hollywood in 1937 and 1938. I placed that song in rotation on RadioLulu.

Besides issuing his book, Alpern has also put out a compact disc of Fletcher's hard-to-find recordings titled Drunk with Love. The CD is available through CD Baby and other sources. You haven't lived till you've heard "Nympho-Dipso-Ego Maniac" and "She's My Most Intimate Friend" and "The Hellish Mrs. Haskell." These 1930's recordings take the double entendre to the limit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stanzas about Louise Brooks

Did you know that Vachel Lindsay wrote poems about Mary Pickford? Or that Hart Crane wrote poems about Charlie Chaplin? Or that Frank O'Hara wrote a poem inspired by Louise Brooks? 

The tradition of writing poems about silent film - and especially about silent film stars, goes all the way back to the silent film era. Lindsay was among the first, and is certainly the most famous practitioner. Anthony Slide's book, The Picture Dancing on a Screen: Poetry of the Cinema (Vestel Press, 1988) collects a number of early examples by both well known and little know writers from the first half of the 20th century. Another expansive anthology is The Faber Book of Movie Verse (Faber & Faber, 1995). This latter collection contains a selection devoted to the silent era.  One book I've come across on the subject is Laurence Goldstein's The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History (University of Michigan Press, 1995).  

A blog which continues the tradition is Silent Stanzas. It bills itself as "poetry, photos and anecdotes about silent film." It's well worth checking out. And, its where I found this poem about Louise Brooks.

Scrubbie's Sonnet

Her liquid gaze could melt the coldest heart,
Her perfect face framed ‘round by ebony;
Since early on her dancing was an art –
Lithe hands and limbs in quaking ecstasy.
Not one to walk on eggshells, biting wit
And knife-blade tongue would often trouble make;
But unrelenting, in the face of it
She’d stand, too proud to let it see her break.
From featured player to forgotten star,
To author/critic, razor-edged and quick:
A sharpened, honey-coated scimitar,
A heady blend of sex and arsenic.
With such a life – complex beyond compare –
How strange her strongest legacy’s her hair.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Artist Includes Louise Brooks in Mural Series

A Kansas artist has included an image of Louise Brooks in a series of murals currently on display in a museum in Salina, Kansas. The portrait of Brooks is part of the exhibit, "Remarkable Kansas Women," by Jennifer Randall at the Smoky Hill Museum. The Salina Journal ran a piece about the exhibit, which is about to go on display in Salina. An image of Randall's art can be found at http://www.salina.com/photos/encore-eyes-jpg

And here is a page from artist Jennifer Randall's website about Louise Brooks which includes a better image of her piece depicting the Kansas born and raised film star. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Diary of a Lost Girl, with Louise Brooks, to screen at National Gallery of Art

It has just been announced that Diary of a Lost Girl, starring Louise Brooks, will be shown  at National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. on January 2, 2011. This special screening will feature live musical accompaniment by 3epkano. 

This Irish musical ensemble, which specializes in silent film accompaniment, will perform their original score to the G.W. Pabst directed film. The January 2nd screening marks the first appearance by 3epkano in Washington D.C. Their score to Diary of a Lost Girl was premiered in June at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.


More about this special event and the Irish group and the German film can be found on examiner.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pandora's Box mentioned in Sight & Sound

Bill Kromm wrote from England to let everyone know that the January 2011 edition of Sight & Sound contains a couple of references to Pandora's Box. It's from the annual critics' list of favorite movies and year's highlights:
from David Thompson, "critic and documentarian, UK" --

"Highlights: Two magnificent presentations of silent cinema: the newly restored (courtesy of Hugh Hefner!) Pandora's Box, looking as though it were shot yesterday, premiered in Paris; and Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) -- the superior silent version -- at the Barbican. Both were supplied with electrifying musical scores by Neil Brand."

and from Vlastimir Sudar, "critic UK" --

"Highlights: The nicest surprise -- finally a high-quality restoration of Pabst's Pandora's Box, thanks to Berlin's Deutsche Kinemathek."
Bill concluded by stating, "Here's hoping this newest restoration will find its way DVD and Blu-ray (Criterion or UK's Masters of Cinema?) very soon."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shop window in London features Louise Brooks likeness

Melanie, a Louise Brooks fan in Zurich, tipped me off to this image of a London store window which includes a pair of likenesses of Louise Brooks. (The image of LB is based on the now famous nude by Alfred Cheney Johnson taken in 1925.) The window display, at/for Zoot Allure, is the work of Emily Forgot, a London based graphic artist and designer.


According to the Emily Forget website, "Emily Forgot is the moniker of London based graphic artist Emily Alston. Having worked in the creative industry for the past 5 years she has amassed a diverse range of international clients. Embracing the odd, the everyday and the sometimes surreal, Emily Forgot’s playful visual language and image making continues to evolve and surprise. Turning her hand to anything from illustration, retail display, print design and visual identity she prides herself on approaching all briefs with creative thought, originality, humour and beauty in mind. . . . Along side commercial endeavors Emily produces personal work in the form of limited edition prints and ceramics. Her work has been exhibited both in London and abroad most notably in 2007 at the “Fragiles” show as part of the prestigious Miami Art Basel."
 
Seen a store window which features a likeness of Louise Brooks? Send your sighting to the Louise Brooks Society at LBS [at] pandorasboxDOTcom or silentfilmbuff {at} gmailDOTcom

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shop window in Rome features Louise Brooks likeness

This shop window in Rome features a likeness of Louise Brooks. No, I'm not referring to the more obvious Betty Boop likeness in the middle right, but rather the Valentina pillow in the bottom center. Valenina, as is well known, was a European comix character modeled after Brooks.


This recent image was sent to me by Gianluca Chiovelli. It was taken in Rome on the Via di Boccea. Be sure and visit Gianluca's excellent Louise Brooks website at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When two dollars is worth four-hundred, or more

Here's a real curio. On eBay, someone is selling a two dollar bill apparently signed by Louise Brooks. The bill dates from 1976, and the signature looks right. However, there is no story of how this piece of American currency came to be autographed by Brooks.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yuna Yang fashion designs Louise Brooks

Yuna Yang is a New York City based fashion designer who also happens to love Louise Brooks. I've been in touch with Yang, and in our email exchanges, she has said so. Yang also made mention of her interest in the Brooks' look in her most recent blog post. Yesterday, Yang wrote

Yuna Yang FW 2010 was inspired by the provocative style of the 1920’s

silent movie starlet Mary Louise Brooks. Also known as ‘Lulu,’
Brooks traveled across the world, performing as a dancer and actress
in both Europe and America. With her forward

thinking fashion sense; her clothes became an external representation
of her innovative and liberal spirit. Lulu’s fashion heralded the

emergent role of women in society, part of the twentieth century’s
momentum that would give rise to feminism, women’s liberation and its
corollary, ready-to-wear fashion.

Yuna Yang FW2010 collection, manufactured right here in Manhattan, is
unique in providing couture quality ready to wear designs. 
There is a bit more about Yuna Yang at my Louise Brooks column on examiner.com. Also, check out Yang's blog at http://yuna-yang.blogspot.com/ or her website at http://www.yunayang.com/

Friday, December 3, 2010

More This and That

More good news: another library has acquired the Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl for their collection. The Thousand Oaks Library (the "Grant R. Brimhall Library") in southern California now lists the book as part of their collection.

And today, Book Passage in Corte Madera, California also took copies for their store. Book Passage is a well known independent bookstore located in Marin County.

Also, the small exhibit of material related to the book on display at the San Francisco Public Library has been extended and will remain on display through December 14th. The display - pictured below - is on the fourth floor.


If you haven't already done so, please check out this guest blog I wrote about the book in anticipation of the November 14th event at the SFPL. This guest blog is hosted on the San Francisco Public Library Art, Music & Recreation Center blog at http://sfplamr.blogspot.com/2010/11/diary-of-lost-girl.html

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This and that, The Diary of a Lost Girl & Louise Brooks

I just received the most recent email newsletter from the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. They announced their December line-up of films, and also included a few pictures from their gift shop and film vault. There always seems to be a lot going on at the Fremont, California film museum. On Christmas night, they are screening Ella Cinders, starring that other bobbed-haired wonder from the Jazz Age - Colleen Moore.

I was especially pleased to see Louise Brooks front and center in a snapshot of one of their gift shop displays.


My recent Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl is doing well. A friend emailed me to say they saw it on display at the Neue Gallerie in New York City. And this past weekend, I visited Petaluma, California (a little more than an hour north of San Francisco) where I saw the book on display at Copperfields. According to the clerk at the cashier, this large stire has already sold 3 of the 5 copies they ordered! That's a pretty good sell-through. Here's an in situ snapshot of the book at Copperfields, right next to a George Clooney cover in the fiction section. Oh, and that's me.


The other good news is that another library has acquired the book for their collection. The Dakota County Library in Eagan, Minnesota go a copy last week. God bless em - as they are the second Minnesota library to acquire the book - the other being the Hennepin County Library. And here at my local San Francisco Public Library, their are 16 holds on the 4 copies they have in their collection! Wowza.

On January 13th of next year, I will be speaking about The Diary of a Lost Girl at the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris - with a screening of the film to follow at the nearby Action Cinema. While in France, I also plan on visiting the Cinémathèque Française and other Parisian sights connected with the actress's time there. More about the book can be found at http://www.pandorasbox.com/diary.html.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

King of Gamblers star subject of new book

(adapted from my article on examiner.com)

King of Gamblers was one of the last films in which Louise Brooks had a role. Unfortunately, her small part – as the fiancé to a character played by Lloyd Nolan - was cut at the time of the film’s release. Nevertheless, this 1937 Paramount drama - an underworld crime story about a slot-machine racket and the crusading reporter who uncovers it – is a terrific “B” movie given “A” treatment at the hands of director Robert Florey. Should you ever have a chance to see it, you won’t be disappointed. [Duped copies of the film sometimes show up on eBay. it has never been officially released on either VHS or DVD.]

The film stars Akim Tamiroff as a syndicate boss. However, it’s the crusading reporter in King of Gamblers, played by Nolan, who steals the show.

Nolan, a venerable character actor whose career spanned 50 years, is the subject of a new book by broadcaster Joel Blumberg and writer Sandra Grabman. The 294-page Lloyd Nolan: An Actor's Life With Meaning has just been published by BearManor Media. The book is a good read, contains a few bits about King of Gamblers, and is worth checking out.

Joel Blumberg and writer Sandra Grabman’s Lloyd Nolan: An Actors Life With Meaning (BearManor Media) is available through amazon.com and Indiebound.
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