Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves

Here is a book well worth recommending, Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves. Originally published in hardback by Scarecrow Press in 1986, Taves groundbreaking work was reissued last year in softcover by BearManor Media.

Florey is a director of great accomplishment perhaps best known to fans of Louise Brooks as the director of King of Gamblers (1937), a terrific little proto-noir crime film in which Brooks had a small role. (Her part was later cut).

King of Gamblers is a low-budget gangster film in which Akim Tamiroff takes an unusual featured role as a slot-machine racketeer whose bombing of an uncooperative barber shop leads to a murder charge. (The film was also known as Czar of the Slot Machines.)

By her own account, Brooks accepted a bit part in the film because the director "specialized in giving jobs to destitute and sufficiently grateful actresses," referring both to herself and to Evelyn Brent , who also had a role. King of Gamblers is extensively discussed in Taves' book. (During his career, Florey also worked with actress Anna May Wong. That's her on the cover.)

From the publisher: "Discover the remarkable film career of Robert Florey, in Robert Florey: The French Expressionist by Brian Taves. During almost a half-century in the movies, from 1916 to 1963, Robert Florey directed sixty five features and 220 television films at most of the major studios. His greatest success came in thrillers, scripting the original Frankenstein and directing such horror classics as Murders in the Rue Morgue with Bela Lugosi and The Beast with Five Fingers with Peter Lorre.


Robert Florey (far left) looks over Louise Brooks shoulder,
as Evelyn Brent (far right) looks on.

Displaying skill in many genres, Florey also co-directed two renowned comedies, The Cocoanuts with The Marx Brothers and Monsieur Verdoux with Charlie Chaplin. Florey was always known as an artist, gaining fame first through his experimental avant-garde shorts, such as The Life and Death of 9413 - a Hollywood Extra, and he is renowned for directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.

His features remained distinctive for integrating European filmmaking styles into the Hollywood studio system. Author Brian Taves takes advantage of numerous primary sources, including studio archives, interviews with associates, and access to all of Florey's papers. Taves thoroughly analyzes and locates Florey's films within the context of the times, relating them to such topics as the influence of expressionism and other techniques, the realm of the "B" film, the position of the contract director in the studio system, and the transition of movie talent to television.

This new edition of a book out of print since 1995 delves more deeply into Florey's remarkable career. In addition to a Bibliography, the book contains several appendixes, including a Filmography, a Television Filmography, and "Charles Chaplin's Tirade Between Takes of Monsieur Verdoux" (transcribed by Robert Florey), as well as an Index."

"A book on Florey is long overdue… Now the job has been done, and done magnificently…. I’ve already used the book in one of my film history courses, and I hope it’ll find is way on to a lot of university shelves. And for the film history enthusiast, it’s a must…. Worth every penny…” -- William K. Everson, Films in Review

 "A crucial biography in the study of film history. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist reveals deep insight about the important director thanks to skilled writing and access to rare archival materials." -- Gary Rhodes, Film historian and Bela Lugosi biographer

“One of the most ambitious studies of a director who worked largely in B filmmaking…” -- Kristin Thompson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Essential…. An epic work that every horror fan should own…. The depth of interpretation of Florey’s style, his background, his detailed film career as recreated by Taves is simply gripping in its detail.” -- Gary J. Svehla, Midnight Marquee



About the author: Brian Taves is author of a range of books on film history and popular culture, from the silent cinema to the era of television, on genres from science fiction to historical adventures. Taves earned his doctorate in Cinema-Television Critical Studies at the University of Southern California in 1988 and has been a film archivist with the Library of Congress since 1990.

The newest book by Taves, Hollywood Presents Jules Verne, chronicles more than a century of adaptations of the science fiction pioneer's stories to the screen. Taves has been the author of countless articles on Verne over the last thirty years, and edited and coauthored The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (1996), a Locus nominee for Best Nonfiction Book. Taves is currently editing the Palik Series, stories and plays by Verne never before translated into English, for the North American Jules Verne Society, published by BearManor Fiction.

Taves wrote the first biography of the acclaimed silent movie producer, Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer (University Press of Kentucky, 2011) , a volume named to the "ten best" film books of 2011 on Huffington Post, and chosen by Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) as their "book-of-the-month" for January 2012.

Examining different film making professions, Taves wrote his first book on director Robert Florey. Taves explored the career of P.G. Wodehouse as a screenwriter, commentator on Hollywood, and the source of numerous screen adaptations (McFarland, 2006).

In a series of volumes, Taves offered the first scholarly examination of the historical adventure genre. He examined the genre first in film and television, in The Romance of Adventure (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), then delineated one of its most distinctive authors, Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure (McFarland, 2005), following it with a critical anthology of Mundy stories, articles, and poems which had never appeared in book form before, Winds From the East (Ariel Press, 2006).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Louise Brooks co-stars: Alice Roberts & André Roanne together

Here is something a little unusual, a couple of film stills featuring Louise Brooks' one-time European co-stars, Alice Roberts & André Roanne, in a scene from the French film, Quand nous étions deux (1930). Roberts & Roanne are the leads in this Léonce Perret directed production. Each image is currently for sale on eBay.

Alice Roberts (29 July 1906 – 29 October 1985) was a Belgian actress active from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. She is best-remembered for her role in G.W. Pabst's German silent, Pandora's Box (1929). The film was memorable due to the overt lesbian overtures between Roberts' character, the Countess Geschwitz, and Brooks' character, Lulu.

André Roanne (22 September 1896 – 4 September 1959) was a French actor. He began his career playing in short films, and acted in 91 films in total, most notably those of Fernandel. Most of his films were French productions; he did, however, also appear in German and Italian works. He also served occasionally as an assistant director, screenwriter, technician, and film editor. Roanne is best known in these circles as the dissolute Count Nicolas Osdorff in G.W. Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl (1929).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top Ten Louise Brooks character names

Longtime Louise Brooks Society member Mark Armstrong-Roper, from Melbourne, Australia, composed a top ten list of Louise Brooks character names. Mark emailed "I composed the list below for my own amusement, thought you might like it too." 

Top Ten Louise Brooks character names:

Lulu (Pandora’s Box)
Snuggles Joy (City Gone Wild)
Fox Trot (Evening Clothes)
Mademoiselle Godiva (A Girl in Every Port)
Kitty Laverne (A Social Celebrity)
Thelma Temple (It Pays to Advertise)
Thymiane (Diary of a Lost Girl)
Boots Boone (Empty Saddles)
Lucienne (Prix de Beaute)
Miss Bayport (American Venus)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pandora's Box, aka LouLou, aka La Boite de Pandore - starring Louise Brooks

Pandora's Box, aka LouLou, aka La Boite de Pandore, screens today at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.  And coincidentally, today, this colorful vintage Belgian movie poster (measuring 23 x 32 inches) was listed for sale on eBay at $18,500. Its a lulu all-right. (Notice that Alice Robert, a Belgian actress, was given second billing ahead of Fritz Kortner, an already well established German actor.)


Monday, April 20, 2015

Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks plays in Rochester, New York on April 21

The George Eastman House in Rochester, New York will be screening the classic 1929 German silent, Pandora's Box, on April 21st. The film, which will be shown in the Dryden Theater at 8pm, stars Louise Brooks as Lulu. (Undoubtedly, Louise Brooks watched this film in this  theater.)

Here is what the GEH website says:

(Die Büchse der Pandora, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germany 1929, 133 min., 35mm)

"For James Card, there was only one Louise Brooks. The cineaste referred to his lifelong infatuation as an emotional devotion that had begun at the age of 14, calling Brooks an inadvertent femme fatale who could in no way be coquettish or even deliberately seductive—ideal for the role of Lulu in Pandora’s Box, heroine of Frank Wedekind’s beloved German plays. An innocently immoral sexual predator, Lulu discards and destroys men as she tries to get ahead, until she meets Jack the Ripper. The steamy story is a tangled web of intrigue and deception—the camera work, sets, and direction brilliantly economical, powerfully simple."

“Pabst’s was the keyhole system: I’ll put your eye to the keyhole—become a voyeur of this scene and make of it what you will. A viewer is forced to participate intellectually in a Pabst film.” – James Card

Live piano by Philip C. Carli.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Louise Brooks Society - new cards


Here is one of the new Louise Brooks Society business cards. Methinks its looks good.... Also please note the new email address for the LBS. (Apologies to those who may have sent email to the old pandorasbox.com email account and had their message bounce or lost. The LBS account had been overwhelmed by spam in the recent past. Curses to spammers everywhere!)

Front of card

Back of card




Thursday, April 16, 2015

Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin, from the Louise Brooks Society

Happy birthday to Charlie Chaplin, from the Louise Brooks Society. In this excerpt from the 1986 BBC Arena documentary on Louise Brooks, the actress looks back on her summer long affair with the famed actor.

Listen to Louise Brooks on Arena describe her two months summer romance with Chaplin, during one of his visits to New York for the premiere of 'The Gold Rush' in 1925.

From: Louise Brooks (1986). Directors: Charles Chabot and Richard Leacock. Series editor: Anthony Wall. Narration by Linda Hunt.


Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin! (16th of April 1889)Listen to Louise Brooks on Arena describe her two months summer romance with Chaplin, during one of his visits to New York for the premiere of 'The Gold Rush' in 1925.From: Louise Brooks (1986). Directors: Charles Chabot and Richard Leacock. Series editor: Anthony Wall.#arenaoftheday
Posted by BBC Arena on Thursday, April 16, 2015



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Diary of a Lost Girl (Louise Brooks edition) in a Little Free Library


There is a Little Lending Library on Vicksburg street (just off 24th) in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. My wife and I pass by it occasionally while walking our dogs, Sherlock and Buster (aka "Sherlock Jr.").

For those not familiar with the concept, little lending libraries or little free libraries are small "take a book, return a book" gathering places where neighbors share favorite books and literature. In its basic form, a Little Free Library is a box or shelf full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and return another to share.

This local little free library was stocked with a number of good reads, like Jane Smiley's Moo, T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, and Jean Cocteau's Diary of an Unknown. When I saw that latter title, it occurred to me to donate a copy of Margarete Bohme's The Diary of a Lost Girl (Louise Brooks edition), which I edited and published back in 2010. I hope my neighbors like it. Here are a few snapshots of the book in situ.


Curious to know which libraries around the world have a copy of The Diary of a Lost Girl (Louise Brooks edition) in their collection, besides the Wichita Public Library, George Eastman House, or Motion Picture Academy? Check out the book's WorldCat listing.  More information about The Diary of a Lost Girl may be found HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bruz Fletcher - Louise Brooks' Gay Friend from Indiana

A timely look back. . . . at Louise Brooks' gay friend from Indiana, the one-and-only Bruz Fletcher.

Chances are, even the most ardent Louise Brooks devotee will not have heard of Bruz Fletcher (1906 - 1941), a 1930s recording artist and entertainer. Tyler Alpern's groundbreaking book, Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp (Blurb.com, 2010), tells the story of this multi-talented performer, composer, novelist, and artist. At the heart of Alpern's book, and Fletcher's life, was his sexuality. Fletcher was queer – an entertainer associated with the Pansy Craze of pre-WWII America – and about as out as one could be in the 1930s. Fletcher was also friends with Louise Brooks. In fact, in 1935 the two performed on the same bill for a few weeks at The Patio, a Palm Beach, Florida nightclub (see advertisement below). A few years later, Brooks was also known to frequent Fletcher’s nightclub performances at Club Bali in Hollywood.

In the late 1930s, Fletcher was a fixture on the Hollywood scene. His name regularly shows up in society and gossip columns of the time. As a popular local nightclub act, many film world celebrities saw him perform at the Club Bali, where his campy though coded routine was showcased. According to newspaper accounts of the time, Brooks saw Fletcher perform on at least five different occasions in 1937 and 1938. The well known costume designer Travis Banton, who was also gay, was her companion on at least two of those outings.

Brooks plays only a small role in Fletcher’s story, though their connections went beyond social encounters. Earlier on in 1929, for example, Fletcher appeared on stage with Brooks’ American Venus co-star, Esther Ralston. Fletcher wrote her act, his partner Casey Roberts designed her gowns, and together they played to packed houses in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere. Fletcher also wrote songs for Peggy Fears, another one-time friend and fellow performer of Brooks (in the Ziegfeld Follies). Over the years, Fletcher wrote material and sometimes toured with other silent era films stars, including Leatrice Joy.

Brooks’ sexual orientation – and attitudes towards gays and lesbians – has been a matter of some debate. Was she straight, or bi-curious, or simply open to possibilities? In her apparent friendship with Fletcher, we find yet one more example of a homosexual or lesbian with whom Brooks associated. (Another example is Pepi Lederer, Marion Davies niece.)

Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp pieces together the story of how Fletcher came to associate with early Hollywood stars – and how he came to enjoy a celebrated run at the Club Bali. It was the pinnacle of his all-to-brief career.

Notably, Fletcher's record-breaking four-year run at Club Bali (8804 Sunset Blvd.) had been originally been booked for just two weeks in 1935, but was so popular that it ran until early 1940. In 1938, Los Angeles Times columnist Hedda Hopper wrote that entertainer had the longest local run in nightclubs of anyone she could remember, and that was two years before Fletcher's run ended. (Others who checked out Fletcher's act included Humprhey Bogart, Beatrice Lillie, Norma Talmadge, Ronald Reagan, Howard Hughes, and Gypsy Rose Lee.) Remarkably, Fletcher was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times nearly two hundred times during his Club Bali run.



Fletcher was born to one of the wealthiest and most dysfunctional families in Indiana. It’s said that Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons was inspired, in part, by the Fletcher family. (The Magnificent Ambersons was later turned into a magnificent film by Orson Welles.) In fact, Fletcher’s Aunt married the popular Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.

Fletcher’s father lost the fortune his family had built over generations, only to became an elevator operator in Tarzana, California. Bruz Fletcher ran away from home at age 8, and later attempted suicide as a teen. While home from school for the holidays, his mother and grandmother drank poison in committing a double suicide. His older sister escaped family life and lived as a man, joined a Broadway show, then went to Germany where she was jilted by a count. Later, she was committed to an asylum and was arrested for attacking the fraudulent Lady Bathurst before dying at age 24.

In his short life, Fletcher would twice live a rags-to-riches experience. As an entertainer, he overcame it all and sparkled as he performed nightly in glamorous high society nightclubs, delighting his often well-known patrons with his witty, sophisticated and often risqué songs.

Though he killed himself at age 34 in 1941, Fletcher left behind three albums of remarkable songs as well as two novels that give colorful and candid glimpses into his world – a world populated by society dowagers, misfits, celebrities, addicts, servants, lovers and eccentrics that covered a variety of sexualities and mores.

Six years in the making, Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp tells the story of one of the forgotten pre-Stonewall artists whose story has only recently come to light. It is heavily illustrated, and contains lyrics to most of Fletcher’s songs, contributions from family members, collectors, and fans. Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp is a remarkable book because it tells such a remarkable story.

Besides his book, Alpern compiled a compact disc of Fletcher’s rare recordings from the 1930s, including "Nympho-Dipso-Ego Maniac" and "She's My Most Intimate Friend" and "The Hellish Mrs. Haskell." One of the more risqué recordings is "My Doctor". Each take double entendre to the limit. Fletcher's signature song, "Drunk with Love," was daringly adopted by Frances Faye and became a standard in gay bars for decades to follow. (One of Fletcher's recording was noted by Robert Benchley, while another One of Bruz Fletcher’s records is included in Ernest Hemingway’s collection at his residence museum in Cuba.)

Originally issued by the independent Liberty Music Shop label, Fletcher’s recordings – the same ones Brooks heard, can be found on the recently issued Drunk with Love. It is available through CD Baby and amazon.com, and is well worth checking out. Because of their Brooks' connection, a few tracks can also be heard on RadioLulu.

For more info: The genesis of Tyler Alpern’s book about Bruz Fletcher is his excellent website about the entertainer at www.tyleralpern.com/bruz.html. Check it out. Tyler Alpern’s Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped & a Riotous Vamp is available through Blurb.com.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Legacy of James Card, exhibit at George Eastman House

Collecting Shadows: The Legacy of James Card

From April 11, 2015 through October 18, 2015 in Colonnade (at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York)

James Card at his desk, ca. 1970.
George Eastman House.

October 25, 2015, marks the 100th birthday of James Card, the museum’s first curator of motion pictures. Card’s role in building the moving image collection at George Eastman House and in furthering the cause for film preservation worldwide is without equal. This exhibition will celebrate Card’s roles as collector, educator, and showman, through photographs, film clips, and his own writings about his passion for film and sharing it with the public.

An extensive series in the Dryden Theatre will showcase films that influenced Card as a collector and those that would not exist today had it not been for his preservation work.

Much more info at http://eastmanhouse.org/tools/pressroom/view.php?title=jamescard

The story of Louise Brooks and James Card is intertwined. Among the films scheduled to be shown is Pandora's Box (1929), on April 21st, which Card helped rescue from obscurity.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Toronto Silent Film Festival screens Diary of a Lost Girl April 9th

On April 9th, the Toronto Silent Film Festival will screen Diary of a Lost Girl at 7:00 pm. at the Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This special screening will feature live musical accompaniment by Bill O'Meara.

And what's more, copies of the Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Bohme (the book that was the basis for the film) will be for sale at the event.

Directed by G.W. Pabst, the 113 minute, 1929 film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert and Andre Roanne. It is a worthy follow-up to the prior Pabst-Brooks effort, Pandora's Box (1929). And like that legendary film, it was heavily censored in its day and generally disregarded, only to be rediscovered decades later and now widely acclaimed.


For more info visit www.torontosilentfilmfestival.com/the-film-schedule.html



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The First Film Lulu, Asta Nielsen

Some six years before Louise Brooks played Lulu in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929), the great Danish actress Asta Nielsen played the role in Leopold Jessner's film adaption of Earth Spirit (1923). Here is a terrific 1912 postcard of the actress sporting bangs and a bob.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Here is the line-up of films for the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, set to take place May 28th through June 1st at the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco. Among the special guests expected to attend are Oscar winner Kevin Brownlow (author of The Parades Gone By), Louise Brooks' fan Paul McGann (the eighth incarnation of Doctor Who), and the celebrated archivist Serge Bromberg, among others. It's an event not to be missed. Among the certain highlights are Colleen Moore in Why Be Good?, Greta Garbo in Flesh and the Devil, and Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh.


All Quiet On The Western Front
Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
 
Lewis Milestone’s filmed version of the classic antiwar drama All Quiet on the Western Front was the first to win Academy Awards for both Outstanding Production and Best Director. At its release the film was prepared both as a talkie and as a sync-sound “silent” version with title cards, orchestral score, and sound effects. But this version was lost until the Library of Congress discovered the alternate without dialogue and restored it for the anniversary of the Great War. Leonard Maltin notes, “some film scholars actually prefer this smoothly-edited edition ... to the familiar talkie because of its vigorous pacing...” Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, the story is told through the heartrending experiences of young Germans recruited into the carnage of World War I. Our presentation will feature a new score and live sound effects sound created especially for the silent version.
 
Amazing Tales From The Archives
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
 
Preservationist and raconteur Serge Bromberg, of Lobster Films in Paris, will share the entertaining story of finding Maurice Tourneur’s 1914 short FIGURES DE CIRE (HOUSE OF WAX). It took 15 years to unearth the film, and today it receives a long-awaited screening! Bryony Dixon, BFI’s senior curator of silent film, brings a treasure trove of footage about the RMS Lusitania, the British ocean liner that was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat to international outcry 100 years ago.  Liverpool-born actor Paul McGann will accompany Dixon’s presentation, adding narration to the films. Film restorer Robert Byrne will describe the meticulous process of reconstructing and restoring William Gillette’s SHERLOCK HOLMES—a film thought lost until a complete dupe negative was identified in the vaults of the Cinémathèque Française last year. Byrne’s presentation will include the technical, historical, and curatorial aspects of returning the film to a state as close as possible to that experienced by audiences almost 100 years ago.

Just added: 2015 marks 100 years since the birth of the Technicolor Corporation. In recognition of this centennial, Movette Film Transfer's Jennifer Miko will offer a rare glimpse of a unique home movie shot on the grounds of La Cuesta Encantada, more commonly known as Hearst Castle. We will feast our eyes on a stunning tour--filmed in two-strip Tech--with the architect, Julia Morgan, and the Chief himself, W.R. Hearst.



Cave of the Spider Women (Pan si dong)
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius
 
Since so much of early Chinese cinema has been lost, the recent discovery of a nitrate 35mm print of Cave of the Spider Women in the archives of the National Library of Norway was cause for worldwide celebration. Cave of the Spider Women is a rare example of the magic-spirit film, a popular genre in ’20s Shanghai, and its story comes from a classic masterpiece of Chinese literature involving a pilgrim monk and the search for Buddhist texts. The monk and his followers—monkey, pig, and shark spirit—ward off the Spider Queen who tries to seduce the pilgrim. The film set Chinese box-office records in 1927 but was considered lost until the discovery in Norway.
 
When the Earth Trembled
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
 
In 1913, early film mogul Siegmund Lubin decided that the time had come to begin producing films longer than the one- or two-reel (10-25-minute) films that were the norm. Keeping with his philosophy that “spectacles and disasters” were what audiences wanted to see, he went all-in with his first mega-production, a three-reel film titled When the Earth Trembled, or The Strength of Love, featuring the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire as its centerpiece. At a time when the Lubin Studio was producing two completed films per week, an unheard-of four months were devoted to creating the special effects and collapsing sets that would recreate the disaster. Now more than one hundred years after its original release, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has teamed with EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam to restore and preserve When the Earth Trembled and return it to the screen.
 
The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann)
Live musical accompaniment by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
 
In this, his greatest role, Emil Jannings plays the chief porter at a prestigious hotel, a position affording him respect and dignity. His military-style uniform is the emblem of his stature­—especially among his poor neighbors—and a source of great personal pride, so his subsequent demotion to washroom attendant and the loss of the uniform is devastating. The film’s emotional depth is bolstered by its technical innovation—Murnau’s “unchained” camera is as beautifully expressive as Jannings’s breathtaking performance and allows the story to flow without the need for intertitles.
 
The Ghost Train
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne & Frank Bockius, narration by Paul McGann
 
Based on the hugely successful stage play by Arnold Ridley, The Ghost Train employs a variety of techniques, from animation to superimposition, that highlight Hungarian director Géza von Bolváry’s visual approach to storytelling. But for all its foreign influence, The Ghost Train remains singularly British in its humor and eccentric characters as it tells the story of travelers stranded overnight at a dubiously haunted train station. The extant print of the film comes from the British Film Institute but has French intertitles!

Speedy
Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
 
Harold Lloyd’s last silent film is classic Lloyd, replete with ingenious gags and hilarious set pieces. Harold ‘Speedy’ plays a good-natured bumbler who can’t hold down a job. Speedy has two passions: his girlfriend (Ann Christy) and baseball. The first takes him to the famous amusement park at Coney Island, the second to Yankee Stadium with Babe Ruth in tow!
 
Visages d'enfants
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
 
Jacques Feyder’s eloquent Visages d’enfants takes place in a remote village in the Swiss Alps where the film opens with 11-year-old Jean (Jean Forest) watching as his mother’s coffin is carried away. This moving portrayal of childhood grief is told with unwavering honesty and profound humanity. Film theorist Jean Mitry wrote, “If I could select only one film from the entire French production of the 1920s, surely it is Faces of Children that I would save.”
 
The Donovan Affair
Live musical accompaniment and narration by the Gower Gulch Players
 
After no-good Jack Donovan kills the lights at a house party for effect, guests find he’s the knife-skewered victim—and then inspector Jack Holt is called in. A classic dark-house comedy whodunit, with a classic denouement, based on a play by the prolific Owen Davis (whose 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Icebound is currently being revived Off-Off-Broadway), The Donovan Affair was for Capra “the beginning of a true understanding of the skills of my craft” and his first “100% all-Dialogue Picture.” But its original soundtrack—recorded on 16” disks (before sound-on-film became standard)—has long been lost. The one existing print, at the Library of Congress, is completely silent, rendering the picture completely incomprehensible. For this special screening at SFSFF, the lost Donovan Affair soundtrack will be recreated live, with the dialogue instantaneously dubbed by actors hand-picked for their affinity to the acting style of the late ’20s and ’30s, along with live music and recreated sound effects. This unique presentation has been shown only three times before, in New York and Los Angeles. Aside from these few special screenings, Donovan has not been seen since its original release, 85 years ago.
 
 
Flesh and the Devil
Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
 
Leo (John Gilbert) and Ulrich (Lars Hanson) are companions whose lifelong friendship is torn apart over their mutual love for the beautiful Felicitas (Greta Garbo). Clarence Brown’s superb direction and William H. Daniels’s exquisite photography are matched by brilliant performances. Garbo is at her most alluring here, and the growing off-screen passion between her and Gilbert permeates their on-screen chemistry.
 
Pan
Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald
 
This brilliant film adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author Knut Hamsun’s famous 1894 novel Pan was scripted and directed by Harald Schwenzen, a talented young actor. It was his directorial debut—a masterpiece—and although he never directed another, Pan is so exquisitely rendered and psychologically astute it has secured Schwenzen’s reputation in cinema history. Schwenzen wrote in the film’s original program, “The task we have given ourselves is to make a beautiful and artistic pictorialization of Hamsun’s strangest story. Outwardly, there is no strong plot in Pan which could possibly tempt us, but the book is, with its powerful beauty and lyricism, so rich in atmosphere, so characteristic and strong in its human descriptions, that it offers both the director and the actors a very special artistic task. If we have succeeded, through our images, together with excerpts of Hamsun’s text, to give life to these people and this atmosphere, as in the book, then we have fulfilled the great task we set for ourselves.” 
 

Amazing Charley Bowers
Live musical accompaniment by Serge Bromberg
 
Almost forgotten in the US until Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films revived his oeuvre in 2010, Charley Bowers (nicknamed ‘Bricolo’ in France) directed and acted in masterpieces of live action and puppet animation in the late 1920s. In spite of being championed by André Breton and the Surrealists for his extraordinary vision, Bowers’s films slipped into obscurity by the end of the 1930s. Now, the surviving films have been beautifully restored from original elements gleaned from archives and collectors around the world. Films include: A WILD ROOMER (1926, 24 minutes), NOW YOU TELL ONE (1926, 22 minutes), MANY A SLIP (1927, 12 minutes), THERE IT IS (1928, 17 minutes)
 
Avant-Garde Paris
Live musical accompaniment by Earplay and Stephen Horne
 
Two extraordinary films from Paris in the 1920s illustrate the artistic and intellectual ferment of the time when many of the world’s great artists and thinkers convened in the City of Lights. 
EMAK-BAKIA (d. Man Ray, 1927, 16 minutes) American artist Man Ray lived in Paris in the 1920s, where he created some of his most well-known works, including several avant-garde films that added to his considerable stature. (ARTnews named Ray one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century.) Ray’s cinépoème EMAK-BAKIA will be presented with a new score, composed by Nicolas Tzortzis and performed by the new chamber music group Earplay. MÉNILMONTANT (d. Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926, 44 minutes) The great film writer Pauline Kael named MÉNILMONTANT her favorite film of all time, calling it, “an exquisite, poetic 40-minute movie that is one of the least known masterpieces of the screen.” Written and directed by the Russian émigré Dmitri Kirsanov, who came to cinema as a cellist in a Paris movie house, the film tells the story of two sisters (Nadia Sibirskaïa, Yolande Beaulieu) in dazzlingly experimental style.
 
 
Why Be Good?
Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
 
The vivacious comedienne Colleen Moore is perfect in the role of aptly-named Pert Kelly. Pert’s a shop girl by day and a flapper by night. The very image of a modern gal, she has a wild reputation but lives at home with mom and dad. When the boss’s son Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton) falls for her, Pert gets the ax. But Junior is still smitten and he devises a test to convince Winthrop Senior of Pert’s virtue.
 
Norrtullsligan
Live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble
 
Four female office workers share a flat and the experience of being self-sufficient in a man’s world. This incandescent comedy, starring the legendary Swedish star Tora Teje, is remarkably modern in its outlook and technique. Director Per Lindberg includes an astonishing shot of endless rows of typists in a huge office space that predates similar, more famous, scenes in King Vidor’s The Crowd and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment by years.
 
Sherlock Holmes
Live musical accompaniment by the Donald Sosin Ensemble
 
The silent film version of Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette has been found! Long considered lost since its first release, the Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, it was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française recently. By the time the film was made, Gillette had been established as the world’s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage. He gave his face and manner to the detective and inspired the classic illustrations of Frederic Dorr Steele. Dynamic but calm, he played Holmes in the colorful attire—bent-stemmed briar, ornate dressing gown, and deerstalker cap—that has been identified ever since with the character. Just as durable was Gillette’s distinctive bearing, preserved in the film: the charismatic, all-seeing detective who dominates scenes with his preternatural stillness. Booth Tarkington famously wrote after seeing Gillette on stage, “I would rather see you play Sherlock Holmes than be a child again on Christmas morning.” For the well-known Chicago bookman, Vincent Starrett, Gillette was beyond criticism. But perhaps the most telling accolade came from Arthur Conan Doyle himself, who had killed Holmes off and thought he was through with the character. After reading Gillette’s adaptation for the stage, he said, “It’s good to see the old chap back.”

“Sir Arthur, you don’t know the half of it,” says Professor Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the film's preservation project and member of the Baker Street Irregulars. “At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses—Rathbone, Brett, Cumberbatch, and the rest—come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there’s not an actor dead or alive who hasn’t consciously or intuitively played off Gillette.” The newly found Essanay production is not only Gillette’s sole surviving appearance as Holmes. It is also the only film Gillette ever made, a unique opportunity to view the work of a major American actor in the legendary role that he wrote for himself. The film faithfully retains the play’s famous set pieces—Holmes’s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions—and illustrates how Gillette wove bits from Conan Doyle’s stories, ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into an original, innovative mystery play.

The Swallow and the Titmouse (L'Hirondelle et la Mésange)
Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Diana Rowan
 
This remarkable film spent 63 years on the shelf unedited before film editor Henri Colpi discovered more than six hours of André Antoine’s saga and trimmed the footage to an exquisite 79 minutes.
The dramatic family story is set on two barges, the Hirondelle and the Mésange, as they bring coal and other supplies to areas depleted by the recent war. Antoine’s pioneering film was depicted in an almost documentary style, and his dazzling realism would take many years to catch on.
 


The Deadlier Sex
Live musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald
 
After her father’s death, Mary Willard (Blanche Sweet) takes over his business interest. Willard Sr.’s right hand man Harvey Judson (Mahlon Hamilton) has more cutthroat business practices in mind, and Mary has him kidnapped to protect her shareholders (and teach him a lesson). In the end of this gentle comedy, Mary and Harvey propose another merger that has little to do with business. Boris Karloff has a small role as an unspecified foreigner.
100 Years in Post-Production: Resurrecting a Lost Landmark Of Black Film History
Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
 
At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of African-American performer,s led by famed Caribbean-American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922), gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. After more than an hour of film was shot, the unreleased project was abandoned by its white producers and left forgotten until today. Found in MoMA’s Biograph Studio collection, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage represent the earliest known surviving feature with a cast of black actors. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’s efforts to win the hand of the local beauty and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of on-screen affection between its black leads. Additionally, nearly 100 remarkable still images of the interracial production were recovered from within the unedited material, providing evidence of an historic effort by a little-known Harlem theatrical community to gain access to the developing medium of moving pictures. SFSFF presents the Museum’s restoration of this lost landmark of film history with an hour-long assemblage of daily rushes and multiple takes. MoMA project leader, Associate Curator Ron Magliozzi, will narrate a selection of unique photographs from the pioneering production and present visual material explaining the film’s creation, 101-year disappearance, and ultimate resurrection.
 
Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Soundtrack with a score by Carl Davis
 
The story of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Ramón Novarro), whose brush with Jesus has significant consequences, Ben-Hur left its mark on history for being the most expensive Hollywood production of its time. Directed and produced on a grand scale, it’s a must-see for the virtuosity of its action scenes and the high impact of its storytelling style. Unmissable is the world famous chariot race scene, for which a real race was staged, filmed by 42 cameras, attended by the cream of Hollywood and with cowboys and stunt men as the chariot racers. 
 
Kevin Brownlow will appear on stage in conversation with Serge Bromberg directly preceding the screening!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lulu Belle, a song circa 1926.

"Lulu Belle," composed by Leo Robin and Richer Myers, as performed by the Mike Markels' Orchestra c. 1926.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Book: Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer, by Cynthia and Sara Brideson

Today, I received an advance copy of another exciting new book, Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer, by Cynthia and Sara Brideson. The book will be published by the University of Kentucky Press, and is due out in June of this year. In my initial look-through, I noticed a couple of passing references to Louise Brooks, as well as a photograph. I am looking forward to reading the book. The Bridesons co-authored an earlier book, Also Starring . . . : Forty Biographical Essays on the Greatest Character Actors of Hollywood's Golden Era, 1930–1965 (BearManor).

Here is the publisher description: "The name Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (1867–1932) is synonymous with the decadent revues that the legendary impresario produced at the turn of the twentieth century. These extravagant performances were filled with catchy tunes, high-kicking chorus girls, striking costumes, and talented stars such as Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Marilyn Miller, W. C. Fields, and Will Rogers. After the success of his Follies, Ziegfeld revolutionized theater performance with the musical Show Boat (1927) and continued making Broadway hits—including Sally (1920), Rio Rita (1927), and The Three Musketeers (1928)—several of which were adapted for the silver screen.

In this definitive biography, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson offer a comprehensive look at both the life and legacy of the famous producer. Drawing on a wide range of sources—including Ziegfield's previously unpublished letters to his second wife, Billie Burke (who later played Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz), and to his daughter Patricia—the Bridesons shed new light on this enigmatic man. They provide a lively and well-rounded account of Ziegfeld as a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a lover, and an alternately ruthless and benevolent employer. Lavishly illustrated with over seventy-five images, this meticulously researched book presents an intimate and in-depth portrait of a figure who profoundly changed American entertainment."


 "Ziegfeld was one of the most important theatrical producers of the early twentieth century, and the Follies (and its Girls) are still remembered today. He had a long-lasting effect not only on Broadway, but on social mores, and this book does a great job over covering that, in a fascinating way. The Bridesons know their stuff."—Eve Golden, author of Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway

"The authors have created a detailed, sweeping narrative of Broadway showman and entrepreneur Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., both as to his professional rise and fall and the full details of his complex, busy personal life. While there have been books devoted to him before, this new account is quite compelling both in scope and detail, and will certainly be the new definitive biography of the opulent life and times of the great Ziegfeld."—James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America's Film and TV Idols
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