Monday, October 26, 2015

Koko’s Queen (1926) echoes the mid-1920's beauty contest craze

Six American silent-era films that were recently protected at EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and preserved through a collaborative project organized by the San Francisco–based National Film Preservation Foundation can now be viewed online.

Among the newly viewable films are the Fleischer Brothers cartoon Koko’s Queen (1926), a delightful work which echoes the mid-1920's craze for feminine beauty and beauty contests. To watch Koko’s Queen (1926), visit this LINK.

Koko’s Queen was released in October of 1926, some nine months after the release of The American Venus, starring Esther Ralston, Lawrence Gray, Ford Sterling, and Fay Lanphier, the actual 1925 Miss America. The American Venus is a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a beauty pageant, namely the actual 1925 Miss America contest in Atlantic City. The film is the second in which Louise Brooks appeared, and the first for which she received screen credit. Learn more about this lost film by visiting the Louise Brooks Society filmography page.

According to the National Film Preservation Foundation website: "The ending of Koko’s Queen is decayed in the Dutch copy—the only 35mm print thought to exist—but the story shines through. Koko and his dog Fitz emerge from the pen. When the pair learn that Fleischer’s girlfriend is a beauty contest competitor, they demand female companions too. The animator draws one for each but these fall short of expectations. Koko tries with beauty contraptions to remake his girl until—giving up—turns her head around backwards and substitutes a mask for her face. Fitz follows suit with similar results but, with shocking dream logic, grinds his mate into sausages. Losing patience, Koko draws his ideal—a beauty so perfect that she becomes human—and accosts her. The animator drinks “Shrinko” to save the damsel, battling the clown mano a mano. Only returning Koko to the bottle can clean the mess up."

What's interesting is that much of the promotional material around The American Venus reflected the era's obsession with determining and quantifying and even manufacturing beauty -- a conceit carried through to Koko's Queen.

Speaking of Fay Lanphier, the Louise Brooks Society archive recently acquired this uncommon vintage Italian postcard depicting Miss America and her role in the Paramount film, Trionfo di Venere (The American Venus).

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