Monday, August 25, 2014

Louise Brooks' first film review on this day in 1925

On this day in 1925, Louise Brooks received her first notice as an actress.

Though not listed in the film’s credits, the Los Angeles Times took note of Brooks' brief appearance in The Street of Forgotten Men when its anonymous critic wrote, "And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed." The paper was referring to Brooks, who’s brief appearance in the Herbert Brenon-directed film was uncredited. It was Brooks’ first role, and she played the part of a moll (the girlfriend of a gangster). Her screen time lasted just a few minutes.

Prior to August 31, 1925 - Brooks had only been mentioned in newspapers and magazines in connection with her appearances as a Denishawn dancer and as showgirl with the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies. She also had a knack for showing up in various New York City gossip columns. The Los Angeles Times review was her first notice in connection with a film.

The article, titled “Marmont Metropolitan Star,” stands out not only as the first review to reference Brooks but as the only review for The Street of Forgotten Men to note her appearance in the film. One wonders who that anonymous critic might have been?

The Street of Forgotten Men is an underworld romance set among professional beggars in New York’s Bowery. It is a singular film, and received uniformly superb reviews when first released. Leading man Percy Marmont was singled out for his exceptional performance and director Brenon was praised for his realistic depiction of Bowery life.

The National Board of Review named it one of the 40 best pictures of 1925, and it was picked as one of the best films of the year by the Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Tacoma Times, and Topeka Daily Capital. In many reviews and advertisements, The Street of Forgotten Men was compared to The Miracle Man, a similarly themed 1919 Lon Chaney film about a gang of criminals.

The Street of Forgotten Men
was long thought lost. However, six of seven reels were later found at the Library of Congress (which is where I saw it). Among the surviving footage (the second reel is missing) is the scene that includes Brooks. Part of that scene is excerpted in the outstanding documentary, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu.

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