Saturday, June 30, 2012

Laura Moriarty (and Louise Brooks) on CBS

Today, author Laura Moriarty appeared on CBS This Morning, where she spoke about her new book, The Chaperone, and its silent film inspiration, Louise Brooks. Be sure and get a copy. It is terrific, and as they mention on the show, it is on everyone's must read list.


The video is titled, "Louise Brooks book author on how she wrote it" and its descriptor is "One of this summer's hottest reads is The Chaperone, a book about the famous '20s film star Louise Brooks and her fictional chaperone. The author, Laura Moriarty, spoke with Rebecca Jarvis."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Louise Brooks Society meets Laura Moriarty, author of The Chaperone


Yesterday, the Louise Brooks Society met Laura Moriarty, author of The Chaperone! The occasion was Laura's reading at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, California. I had the honor of introducing Laura, and she gave a terrific talk and reading, and then answered questions about Brooks and the chaperone character and the writing process. It was a swell evening. Laura also signed a lot of books, so if you are looking to get an autographed copy, follow the link to the bookstore to embedded above.

At the conclusion of the evening, Laura agreed to have her picture taken with myself (Thomas Gladysz - right) and my wife (Christy Pascoe - left, Associate Director of the LBS). Laura Moriarty, of course, is in the middle. In honor of Louise Brooks' high school yearbook picture, taken just before she left Wichita to go to New York City as described in The Chaperone, we locked arms. (To see that picture, follow this link to an earlier LBS blog.)


And don't miss Caroline Preston's excellent review of The Chaperone in today's Washington Post;  Preston, herself a noted novelist, calls Moriarty's book "captivating and wise fourth novel" and an "inventive and lovely Jazz Age story."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Countess Geschwitz

This weekend, as San Francisco and other cities around the United States celebrate gay pride, it's worth looking at one LGBT connection with a Louise Brooks film.

On Saturday, July 14th the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is set to screen Pandora's Box, director G.W. Pabst's once controversial adaption of Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays. Pandora's Box (1929) is the Festival's centerpiece film, and the print which will be shown is a recently restored version screened only twice before.

Pandora's Box is notable as it contains what is "probably the first explicitly drawn lesbian character" in the history of the movies. That's according to Vito Russo's 1981 book, The Celluloid Closet.

In this groundbreaking work, Russo goes on to note, "The adaptation of Frank Wedekind's two-part drama about Lulu, a woman 'driven by insatiable lusts,' starred Louise Brooks as Lulu and Belgian actress Alice Roberts as her passionate lesbian admirer, the Countess Geschwitz. Pabst explores the personality of Geschwitz with great range, manipulating the performance of Alice Roberts to achieve a believable woman with a lesbian nature."

After further consideration of the character, Russo adds ". . . in the context of both the Wedekind drama and the film it [referring to Geschwitz's lesbianism] is a motivating force in the action and it makes the debut of Sapphic passion onscreen an exciting cinematic event."

Alice Roberts (left) as the Countess Geschwitz glares at the man who dares come
between her and Louise Brooks in a scene from G W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929).
However, not everyone was excited or accepting at the time of the film's release. In fact, nearly all aspects of sexuality (straight and gay) in Pandora's Box were cut or altered. The film was attacked in Germany, where it was made, as well as in France, where censors thought it indecent for a father and son to vie sexually for the same woman. According to Russo, "British censors deleted the character of Geschwitz from Pandora's Box, and she did not appear in the initial release version of the film in the United States."

In fact, by the time Pandora’s Box debuted in the United States in December of 1929, nearly a third of the film was missing. Photoplay, one of the leading American film magazines of the time, quipped “When the censors got through with this German-made picture featuring Louise Brooks, there was little left but a faint, musty odor.”

For whatever reason, society has long been more receptive to female homosexuality than male homosexuality. In the movies, however, gay male characters were depicted first, notably in earlier German films such as Different from the Others (1919) staring Conrad Veidt, Michael (1924) directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Sex in Chains (1928) directed by and staring William Dieterle. All three present a more sympathetic - if not wholly approving - look at homosexuality.

Was Geschwitz the first overtly lesbian character depicted in a film? The answer is likely yes. Check out Pandora's Box on July 14th in San Francisco to see for yourself. [History is always being written: if you know of an earlier (pre-1929) instance of a lesbian character in the movies, please post details in the comments field.]

***

Vito Russo (1946 – 1990) was an American LGBT activist, film historian and author who spent the last year of his life teaching at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was 44 when he died, and it is claimed that some of his ashes rest inside the walls of the Castro Theater (the venue of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival). A documentary film on the life of Russo, Vito, premiered at the 2011 New York Film Festival and is set to air on HBO on July 23 of this year.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rare screening of Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté

The infrequently screened film, Prix de Beauté, starring Louise Brooks, will be shown on June 23rd as part of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy. The prestigious international event is put on by the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero and Cineteca di Bologna. 


For this special presentation, the silent version of Prix de Beauté will be accompanied by the noted pianist and composer Timothy Brock, who will direct the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna in a performance of Brock's original score. (Timothy Brock has composed scores for two other Brooks' films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl.) The Prix de Beauté score was commissioned by the Orchestre national de Lyon in collaboration with l'Institut Lumière. Prix de Beauté will be screened outdoors in a public square, the Piazza Maggiore.

Image courtesy of Il Cinema Ritrovato
An international effort, Prix de Beauté (which translates as "Beauty Prize," and was given the title Miss Europe in England and other countries) is a 1930 film directed by Augusto Genina, an Italian director then working in France. The film was based on a story idea by the German director G.W. Pabst (who directed Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl) and the French director Rene Clair. Clair had, at one point, intended to direct Prix de Beauté, until funding fell through.

The film stars Louise Brooks as Lucienne Garnier, a typist who enters a beauty contest. Georges Charlia plays Andre, Lucienne's jealous boyfriend. Augusto Bandini plays Antonin, Lucienne and Andre's friend and co-worker. Also in the cast in small roles are the French actors Jean Bradin and Gaston Jacquet. Costume design is by the famous Jean Patou.

Prix de Beauté is notable as being the first sound film to feature Brooks, though her dialogue (Brooks did not speak French) and singing were dubbed. Prix de Beauté was, in fact, shot as a silent. Dialogue, sound effects and two songs were added in post production.

Though at times prosaic, Prix de Beauté retains great charm and interest - largely because of Brooks. And, its ending, both striking and poetic, is considered one of the most remarkable and striking passages in film history.

"Prix de beauté represents a truly success¬ful mix of the tenants of neorealism and elaborate fantasy ..." notes film historian Paul Vecchiali in L'Encinéclopédie. Ciné¬astes "français" des années 1930 et leur œuvre. "Despite unrefined post recording and overacting by Georges Charlia, in standard silent movie fashion, the film is a masterpiece.... Genina proves it with his stark style: love and jealousy go hand in hand, gnawing away at the banality of day-to-day, which is no longer sublimated by feelings. The extraordinary beauty of light and the skill and intelligence with which it is used add other noteworthy elements, placing this movie among the most important works of the first years of talkies even though it is a silent film!"

More info: Bilingual pages on the Il Cinema Ritrovato can be found at http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/, with additional information on Prix de Beauté on this webpage.

An international effort with pan-European appeal, Prix de Beauté proved popular and played across Europe. Enough, that is, to be noted in the upper left hand corner of the front page of this 1931 newspaper from Iceland.


Friday, June 22, 2012

In the news

The Louise Brooks Society was in the news today. Shelf Awareness, a book industry newsletter, ran a short piece about Laura Moriarty's author event at the Watermark bookstore in Wichita, Kansas. The piece, which links to the LBS blog, is depicted below. (Many followed the link. Traffic to this LBS blog post was four times greater than usual.]


Louise Brooks was also in the news. The New York Times ran its third article on Moriarty's new novel. This one, "Blunt Memories of Celluloid Life" by Janet Maslin (she had also penned an earlier review), looks back to Brooks' own 1982 book, Lulu in Hollywood. Many also read that piece. When I checked late in the afternoon, Lulu in Hollywood was #1 on Amazon for Books > Arts & Photography > Performing Arts > Theater.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Louise Brooks' Schopenhauer

Rosie Brooks shows off Louise Brooks' copy
of the essays of Schopenhauer
As many of you may know, Laura Moriarty is touring the country to promote her new book, The Chaperone (Riverhead). It's a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer they spent together that would change them both. 

In an early scene in the book, Brooks and the chaperone are traveling by train to New York, and to help pass the time, both characters are carrying a book. The chaperone is reading The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. And Brooks, though only 15, is reading a volume of Schopenhauer's essays.

Just the other day, Moriarty stopped in Wichita, Kansas for an appearance at Watermark Books, a local independent bookstore in Brooks' former hometown. In the audience was Rosie Brooks, Louise's niece. (Rosie can be seen in the 1999 documentary, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu, directed by Hugh Munro Neely. If you haven't seen it, you should. It is really terrific.) 

Rosie Brooks brought along Louise Brooks' own well worn copy of Schopenhauer's essays. The book even contained Brooks' personal bookplate. Here are a couple of additional snapshots of the book itself.


By all accounts, Laura Moriarty's events have been well attended, and her book has been selling briskly just about everywhere. And what's more, some fans, and even some bookstore staff, have been adorning Louise Brooks wigs at events. Here is another snapshot taken at Watermark Books in Wichita. Pictured below are Beth from Watermark, Rosie Brooks and Laura Moriarty in the middle, and Sarah, also with Watermark.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was an important figure for Brooks. And, apparently, someone she read pretty much all her life. The German philosopher is mentioned three times in the Barry Paris biography, including this noteworthy passage. "In a 1967 reminiscence called 'Meeting with Pabst,' Lotte Eisner recalled her visit to the Pandora set [in 1928]:

In a corner sat a very beautiful girl reading the Aphorisms of Schopenhauer in an English translation. It seemed absurd that such a beautiful girl should be reading Schopenhauer, and I thought quite angrily that this was some sly publicity stunt of Pabst's. Some 25 years later, I found out that Louise Brooks really did read Schopenhauer."

If you have the chance to see Laura Moriarty talk about her new novel, don't miss it. Her remaining events include


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Friday, June 22
5:30 p.m.: Cocktail Reception, Talk, Q&A and Signing
Warwick’s (link)
7812 Girard Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037

Sunday, June 24
11:30 a.m.: Brunch Reception, Talk, Q&A, & Signing
Mysterious Galaxy (link)
2810 Artesia Blvd.
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

Monday, June 25
7 p.m. Talk, Q&A and Signing (intro by Thomas Gladysz of the Louise Brooks Society)
A Great Good Place for Books (link)
6120 La Salle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

Tuesday, June 26
7 p.m. Talk, Q&A and Signing
Copperfield’s  (link)
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

Wednesday, June 27
2 p.m. Tea Reception, Talk, Q&A and Signing
Towne Center Books  (link)
555 Main Street
Pleasanton, CA 94566

Wednesday, June 27
7 p.m. Talk, Q&A and Signing
Rakestraw Books (link)
522 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526

IOWA CITY, IA
Saturday, July 14
2 p.m.: Talk, Q&A and Signing
Iowa City Book Festival (link)
University of Iowa

(A big thank you to Laura Moriarty for permission to post these pictures of her Wichita event.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Louise Brooks film Prix de Beauté screens in Italy


The 1930 Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté, will be screened on June 23rd as part of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy. The prestigious international festival is put on by the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero and Cineteca di Bologna. The program from the event can be viewed and even downloaded on this page.

Here is the small listing for the Prix showing, which will be accompanied by Timothy Brock and a (newly?) commissioned score.


I don't know for sure, but suspect, that the festival will screen the silent version of Augusto Genina's Prix de Beauté. It is considered superior to the more commonly seen sound version, which has added sound effects, dialogue and a couple of songs. Genina was an Italian director working in France when he came to make the film, which was based on a story idea by the German director G.W. Pabst (who made Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl) and the French director Rene Clair. Brooks' voice was dubbed in the sound version (she didn't speak French), and a professional singer sang the lovely theme song Brooks is shown singing.

Prix de Beauté has great charm, and its ending scene is considered one of the most remarkable passages in film history. A clip is embedded below. If you haven't seen Prix de Beauté, please note that this fragment contains spoilers.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Louise Brooks - Lulu on My Mind

Here is a splendid Louise Brooks tribute video which I just ran across on YouTube. I was a little late to notice, as more than 17,000 others had viewed it before me. All-in-all, nicely done, though one of the very last still images is not of the actress. Maybe Colleen Moore or someone else.


The music is "Diga Diga Do," recorded in 1928 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, with vocal by Irving Mills. For those who like to listen to music via their computer, and for those who like vintage jazz and vocal music, be sure and check out the Louise Brooks Society online radio station, RadioLulu - streaming since 2002 :: http://www.live365.com/stations/298896

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cool pic of the day: Louise Brooks with feathered hair

Cool pic of the day


Louise Brooks with feathered hair (and sparkling crystals),
a publicity portrait from The Canary Murder Case (1929).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hollywood Without Make-Up

Anyone who reads this blog knows I love books. Especially film books. And even more so, old film books. The other day, my wife visited the San Francisco Public Library and their small used book store tucked into a corner of the entrance. She found an interesting title called Hollywood Without Make-Up, by Pete Martin. The book, which still had its original dustjacket, was published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1948. It is largely made up of a series of earlier essays and articles which date back to 1938.

Martin started with the Saturday Evening Post in 1925, and worked as an art editor and staff writer for that publication for a number of years; some of the pieces in this book first appeared in in the Post.

Hollywood Without Make-Up is look at the movie industry and some of the leading personalities of the time, like Hedy Lamarr, Gregory Peck, Greer Garson and Ava Gardner. And Francis X. Bushman. Yes, Francis X. Bushman! Other silent era film stars are referenced and mentioned. Stars like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Wallace Reid, Harold Lloyd and a few others.

The book does not have an index. Interestingly, though, one of its owners took the trouble to inscribe an index on the book's endpapers. Here they are.



I love this kind of thing, reader's additions to books. In this case, the index shows its owner really cherished this book, read it closely, and took the time and trouble to compose an index. Oh, and the book also had a mini Dutton's bookmark (Laurel Canyon branch) tucked into it, which I think may date from the early 1960s. Bonus prize!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adieu Village Voice bookshop


According to an article on the Huffington Post, Village Voice - the venerable English-language Paris bookshop, will close at the end of July. 


Back in January of 2011, I spoke at Village Voice about the "Louise Brooks edition" of Margarete Böhme's The Diary of a Lost Girl. It was a great event! The turn-out was large, at least 50 Parisians were there, including noted authors John Baxter and Roland Jaccard. Pictured below, on the left holding my "Louise Brooks edition" of The Diary of a Lost Girl is the French translator of the Barry Paris biography (whose name escapes me), myself in the middle, and on the right holding his Louise Brooks: Portrait of an Anti-Star is the French journalist and critic Roland Jaccard. 


At the event I also met Sebastian Pesle, the student filmmaker whose short film, Loving Louise Brooks, caused a bit of a stir on the internet. Sebastian and I are pictured below, standing in front of the screen of my slide show presentation.


Bookshops are wonderful places, filled with interesting books and interesting people. That is especially true of Village Voice. One of the employees there, Vincent Pierrot, was himself a big Louise Brooks fan. His favorite film starring the actress was A Girl in Every Port. He made sure that my book as well as Jaccard's and some of his own Louise Brooks' DVD and video cassettes were all on display in the shop window promoting my event, Here is a snap of Vincent and I.


And here, lastly, is a snapshot of my book on display in Paris! Village Voice may still have a few copies left, as I left them with some copies to sell. Should you visit the store before it closes, and I recommend you do if you live in Paris, then please do ask for the book. (The French Cinémathèque also has a copy in their research library, should Village Voice be sold out.)


Adieu Village Voice bookshop. You will be missed. You have done much for the world of arts and letters and culture and film.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who was Louise Brooks, Anyway?

Today, the Arlington Public Library in Arlington, Virginia posted an entry on its library blog titled "Who was Louise Brooks, Anyway?" It shows a half dozen book covers related to the actress. The blog-post sources the recent Huffington Post article "Louise Brooks - Cover Girl and Secret Muse of the 20th Century."

And yesterday, Shelf Awareness, a prominent online newsletter in the publishing industry, ran a short piece on that same Huffington Post article. It was titled "Louise Brooks: Book Cover Girl."


Can you identify any of the books in the above photo?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rare footage of Louise Brooks

Speaking of comic art.... There is a big exhibit in Rome devoted to the graphic art of Guido Crepax, the Italian cartoonist whose  Valentina comix were inspired by Louise Brooks. "Valentina Movie" runs through September 30 at the Palazzo Incontro in Rome.

Italian LBS member Gianluca Chiovelli sent an email pointing out this recently posted related YouTube clip, which excerpts material from an Italian documentary dating from when I am not quite sure. It also contains footage I don't think I have ever seen before.


For more about this fantastic exhibit, be sure and check out this fantastic blog by Anna Battista.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Louise Brooks in Manga

Speaking of Brooks and books, actress Louise Brooks appears on the cover of this Japanese manga. Titled Happy Days, it is authored by Yoshino Sakumi. I don't know much about it, though there may be at least three works in the series. THis one mayb ebe number one. Here is the amazon Japan page which lists it. This manga artist was born in Oosaka and started working in 1980, so I would assume this manga dates from more recent decades, perhaps the 1990s. If you know anything about it, please post what you know in the comments field or email the Louise Brooks Society.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kansas coverage of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone

Three articles about Laura Moriarty's superb new novel, The Chaperone, showed up in today's Kansas newspapers. The novel tells the story of the woman who accompanied 15 year old Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the changes both experienced in each others company. It is a great read, and highly recommended.

The Lawrence Journal-World ran a piece titled "A cut above: Local author’s novel generates national buzz," by Terry Rombeck. And the Wichita Eagle ran a story titled "Author Laura Moriarty takes a step back in time," by Lisa McLendon. The Eagle also ran a book review of The Chaperone in today's paper, "Laura Moriarty’s ‘The Chaperone’ brings 1920s Wichita to life."

Image courtesy of Riverhead books
Additionally, today's New York Times also ran a review, "City of Dreams," which features a cartoon illustration of the future actress by Pete Gamlen. All of the above articles are worth checking out.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Laura Moriarty in Chicago, Illinois

Laura Moriarty, author of The Chaperone, will be speaking about her new book in and near Chicago on June 9, 10 and 11. This should be a neat event, as Louise Brooks visited and once lived in Chicago. She also danced there (as a member of Denishawn) in the mid-1920s, and then again as a ballroom dancer in the early 1930s. Here are a couple of her events. Check the websites for details.

Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10
Printer’s Row Lit Fest
Talk location & times TBD
Moriarty will be a panelist on "Her Story," with Claire McMillan, Margot Livesey and Francesca Segal, moderated by Gioia Diliberto, 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Wyndham Blake / Burnham Room.

Monday, June 11
Women Writers Series
sponsored by The Book Stall at Chestnut Court
12:00 pm at Avli Restaurant
566 Chestnut Street, Winnetka

Want to learn more about The Chaperone and its connection with Louise Brooks? Be sure and read this interview with Laura Moriarty on examiner.com. And check out this related piece on the Huffington Post.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't forget to vote

Don't forget to vote for your favorite images in the slideshow embedded in "Louise Brooks - Cover Girl and Secret Muse of the 20th Century" on Huffington Post. Here is another of my favorite book covers which I just couldn't include in the article.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Louise Brooks - Cover Girl and Secret Muse of the 20th Century

Yesterday, I published a long article on the Huffington Post titled "Louise Brooks - Cover Girl and Secret Muse of the 20th Century." The article, along with its accompanying slideshow, explores Brooks' enduring cultural impact, especially in literature and publishing. Various works of fiction are surveyed which features the actress as a character (minor or major), or which were inspired by her, were based on her, or which reference or allude or give Brooks a literary shout-out. Prominant among them is Laura Moriarty's just released novel, The Chaperone (Riverhead), as well as Adolfo Bioy Casares' 1940 novella, The Invention of Morel (NYRB Classics), which is pictured below.


And pictured above is a screen grab of Saywer, the character from the TV show Lost, reading that very edition of The Invention of Morel with Brooks on the cover in an episode of the hit show.The connection between the novella, Louise Brooks, and Lost is further explained in the slideshow caption.

The slideshow which accompanies the article includes nearly three dozen images of Brooks on books. I titled the article "secret muse" because the actress' literary and cultural imapact is little known. Though ongoing. Indictitive of such is an image taken at the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris, France in 2011. Pictured below on the left holding my "Louise Brooks edition" of The Diary of a Lost Girl is the French translator of the Barry Paris biography (whose name escapes me at present, my apologies), myself in the middle, and on the right holding his Louise Brooks: Portrait of an Anti-Star is the French journalist and critic Roland Jaccard. Actually, that was my copy of Jaccard's book which, along with others, I carried to France so Jaccard could autograph it.


One of the other books I brought to France was one that I mentioned at the end of my Huffington Post piece. It is also one of my favorite Brooks' covers. It is Jaccards' Portrait d'une Flapper. The book was published in France, but has not been translated and published in the United States. Here is a scan of the cover.


I have gotten some really nice feed back about this article. Please do read it. AND, if you know of other literary references to Louise Brooks, please let me know. Either post something in the comments section below of email the Louise Brooks Society.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Laura Moriarty talks about Louise Brooks and The Chaperone

Today marks the publication of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone (Riverhead). Copies are just hitting stores across the country! Moriarty's new book is the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer and an Indie Next List pick, as well as the #1 selection for "Best Book Coming Out This June" in O Magazine. Moriarty, who lives and teaches in Kansas, will be touring the country in the coming weeks. Want a signed copy? Order one here.

The Chaperone is a terrific, quietly powerful and captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both.

Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon of a generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise left Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. 

Cora has no idea what she’s in for: teenage Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change both of their lives.

For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,1930s, and beyond – from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women – Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and values to hemlines and attitudes were changing, and what a profound difference it made for the real life Louise Brooks, the fictional Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

Recently, Moriarty answered a few questions about her new book for the Louise Brooks Society.

* * * *

How did you come to write The Chaperone? How did you come to discover the story of 15 year old Louise Brooks heading off to NY in 1922 with an older chaperone?

I was browsing in a bookstore, and I came across the book Flapper by Joshua Zeist. He has a chapter devoted to Louise, and I’d always thought she was compelling. I started reading about her early life, and right there in the bookstore, I learned about the trip with the chaperone. Given what I already knew about Louise – that she was smart, self-directed, and temperamental – I knew this chaperone must have had her work cut out for her.

What is it about their story that interests you?

I’m always interested in inter-generational tension, and 1922 strikes me as a time when just a twenty-year gap in ages could make such a difference between two people. If the chaperone was 36 in 1922, she would have come of age during a time of corsets and covered ankles. The flappers with their bared knees – and all the changing social mores that fashion represents – would have been hard to get used to. So the chaperone might have been challenged by any forward-thinking adolescent, let alone the already sophisticated Louise Brooks.

I was also intrigued by Louise’s complicated personality and story.  She was both smart and self-destructive, and I wondered about her sudden disappearance from Hollywood. One thing that impresses me about Louise is how authentic she was – she acted as she felt and she said what she thought. Hollywood wasn’t the right place for her.

Did writing The Chaperone involve much research? What were the challenges of writing about two historical figures - one of which we know a good deal about, the other obscure?

I did a great deal of research for this book. Researching Louise was actually the easy part – I read her biographies and her autobiography, and I watched her films. I even looked at her old letters to see her handwriting. But I actually had to do more research for the chaperone, Cora, because even though she was invented, I wanted to make her a woman of her time, to make her someone who could have been thirty-six in 1922. But I really liked weaving Cora’s imagined life into the real facts of Louise’s.

Were you a fan of Louise Brooks? 

I knew who she was and I thought she was striking, but I wasn’t a fan until I started reading about her. I’m certainly a fan now.

When did you first encounter her? Is there anything you learned about Louise Brooks that surprised you?

I don’t remember when I first learned who she was. I know I tried to copy her haircut back in my twenties, and it completely didn’t work on me! But it wasn’t until that day in the bookstore that I started learning about her life.

As for surprises, there was an answer Louise gave to a question in her old age that I found really moving. LB fans will know, I think, what I’m alluding to, and I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t yet read her biography. But late in life, someone asked the hard and worn-down Louise if she’d ever really loved anyone, and her answer was pretty touching. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when she was interacting with this person, the one person she could admit she loved.

The Chaperone has been described as "the best kind of historical fiction, transporting you to another time and place, but even more importantly delivering a poignant story about people so real, you'll miss and remember them long after you close the book." That is a wow. What's next?


Thanks! I really have liked writing historical fiction, and my next novel will be historical as well. I’m just starting the research now . . .
* * * *

Fans of Downton Abbey will be thrilled to learn that actress Elizabeth McGovern reads the audio version of The Chaperone, which is due out in July. McGovern has also optioned the movie rights - and yes, Cora (her character in Downton Abbey) could end up playing Cora in any possible film. Who might play Louise Brooks is anyone's guess. Want to find out more about this fantastic novel? Check out this video interview with Laura Moriarty from USA Today.

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