Friday, February 28, 2014

Louise Brooks to shine in Orinda, California (home of Fay Lanphier)

On March 1st at 1 pm, author Robert Murillo will read from his new Louise Brooks inspired novel, The Vanity, at Orinda Books in Orinda, California. Robert and his novel will be introduced by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society. If you can't make this event and would like a signed copy of Robert's new book (and / or the Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl, edited by Thomas Gladysz), please contact the store by phone or email to place an order. The event has been getting a good deal of media attention, including this article in the nearby Contra Costa Times.

March 1, 2014 - 1 pm
Orinda Books
276 Village Square
Orinda, Ca 94563

Believe it or not, but the Northern California community of Orinda has an unusual connection with one of Brooks' films. Orinda was home of Fay Lanphier, who starred in The American Venus (1926), Brooks' second film and the first film for which she received a film credit. (One of the other actors in The American Venus, Lawrence Gray, was born and raised in San Francisco.)

Lanphier was Miss America in 1925, the first Californian to win the honor. (She was also the 1925 Rose Bowl Queen.) As a renowned beauty, she was offered a film contract, and was starred in a major Paramount release, The American Venus, the storyline of which centers on a beauty contest.

According to an Oakland Tribune obituary, Lanphier "won the Miss California crown twice before being judged the most beautiful girl in the nation in Atlantic City, N.J. She was a 19-year-old secretary here when she was judged Miss America. The blond, hazel-eyed girl started her career as Miss Alameda, although she made her home in Oakland. She first won the Miss California title in 1924 and placed third in the national contest at Atlantic City that year. The next year she was chosen Miss California again and won the national contest in a walk-away."

After her controversial win as Miss America, Lanphier became an overnight celebrity, traveling to New York in President Coolidge's special railway car. Motorcycle officers escorted her through Manhattan. She was also toasted at a round of parties by such celebrities as Rudolph Valentino, Mae Murray, and Will Rogers. Lanphier estimated she earned $50,000 on a 16-week personal appearance tour during the year she wore the crown of Miss America. Despite her charms, Lanphier's film career never really took off. She appeared in only one other film, a Laurel and Hardy short called Flying Elephants (1928). She died at the age of 53 in 1959.

Lanphier was married to Sidney M. Spiegel, son of a wealthy Chicago store owner. That marriage ended in divorce after six months. In 1930, she married her former high school sweetheart Winfield J. Daniels, a Berkeley and San Jose book store operator, and settled down to life as a housewife in Orinda.

Both Lanphier and Brooks can be seen in the film clip below.

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