Sunday, July 3, 2005

Another Sacramento trip

I'm just back from the California State Library in Sacramento, where I spent a day looking at microfilm in search of  yet moreLouise Brooks material. Though I didn't find alot of stuff, I did find a few really choice items. Quality, rather than quantity, ruled the day.

I continued my survey of California newspapers. This time, I went through more than three years of the Riverside Daily Press, where I found a handful of short articles and advertisements for Brooks' silent American films. The Riverside Daily Press was a typical small town newspaper, and the articles were largely composed of studio supplied copy. Nothing special . . . . nothing I hadn't seen before. It was only when I came to 1929 and a March screening of The Canary Murder Case that things got interesting. By then, the paper had gotten its own film critic. In "Canary Murder Case Brimfull of Mystery," local reviewer Rex Dane would write "Louise Brooks, as the Canary, the murdered woman; James Hall and Jean Arthur are excellent in their roles."

I then moved on the Santa Ana Register, which was far less productive than the Riverside paper. This small town had only a couple of theaters, and most films only played for two or three days. I went through the first six months of 1926 and was about to give up when I came across a rather unusual advertisement. It was for a screening of The American Venus and It's the Old Army Game! This Paramount double feature is one of the few instances from the 1920's (that I've come across) of two Brooks' films being played on the same bill. I wonder how many Santa Ana patrons noticed the petite brunette wth the distintive bob?

I figured little could be gained by looking at anymore of the Santa Ana Register, so I turned to the Los Angeles Examiner. Previously, I had uncovered a bunch of film reviews in this big city newspaper. So this time, I decided to search for news items which corresponded to articles I had already uncovered in the Los Angeles Times. I found small pieces on Brooks' marriage and divorce, her 1932 bankruptcy, and the time in 1927 that she was the guest of honor at the Montmarte Cafe. Good stuff, but nothing new . . . . And then - I found something that really floored me.

This 1940 article told how Brooks' suspicions of an ex-con led to his arrest "on suspicion of grand theft and issuing bad checks." Brooks herself had lost $2000 in what the paper described as a $147,000 "big Hollywood swindle." I hadn't ever seen this article, let alone this image of Brooks - and so, was very pleased to find it. (For more on this curious incident in Brooks' life, see pages 386-387 of the Barry Paris biography.)

I plan on returning to Sacramento at the end of August to look for more news items, and more film reviews on other California newspapers.

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