Wednesday, February 3, 2016

First known event advertisement to name Louise Brooks

Pictured here is what I believe to be the first newspaper advertisement to name Louise Brooks. This ad from May, 1919 states that Brooks -- then only 12 years old -- would appear in "The Progress of Peace," an allegorical pantomime featuring 50 characters. The ad notes that Brooks will perform a solo dance.

The event, held under the auspices of the local Y.W.C.A. under the direction of the women's committee of the Victory loan, was a benefit to further the sale of Liberty bonds, or what were known as war bonds. Vivian Jones, a childhood friend and the future actress known as Vivian Vance (of I Love Lucy fame), also took part. Jones played one of the "peoples of the world." Music was supplied by local Paul O. Goepfert and His Orchestra. And Eva Rude (Brooks' aunt) helped with costumes.

While living in Independence, Brooks studied gymnastics and aesthetic dancing with Mrs. May Argue Buckpitt, who wrote, directed and organized the pantomime. Brooks' contribution to "The Progress of Peace" was “The Gloating Dance of Destruction,” arranged by Mrs. Milburn Hobson, also from Independence.  According to press accounts from the time, a “large audience” turned out at the local Beldorf theater (pictured below).

According to the local newspaper, "The play dealt with Progress, rallying the peoples of the world to righteousness and truth, blesses them and gives them happiness. She is greatly perturbed by the coming of Destruction and Death" (played by Brooks). "Then the Peoples of the world are driven back and Progress is overcome. There is a call to arms and the Nations are mobilized. Belgium enters the fray and is back by the Allies, one by one. Columbia is supported by the Seven Assisting Organizations and the red Cross. The coming of Peace is represented in pantomime by the Allies and the Dance of the Dawn of Peace."

At the conclusion of the event, all of the cast as well as five old soldiers (Civil War? or from the Spanish American War?) and eight veterans of the then recent world war came on the stage.

This war/peace-themed event took place just 5 months after the end of the First World War, the "War to End All Wars." Admission to the benefit was 10 and 20 cents, which included an admission tax. I assume the admission tax was left over from the war, when movie theaters were taxed to raise funds for the war. (That tax continued into the 1920s; I have come across advertisements noting a "war tax" on performances by the Denishawn Dance Company while Brooks was a member.)

It's worth noting the ways in which the war in Europe impacted Brooks' youth -- both directly (like the two benefits she participated in), and indirectly (like the tax on movie theater admissions). As a bright youngster, she must have been very aware of the war and the many ways it affected daily life. As a youngster in Cherryvale, for example, Brooks had friends who came down with German measles, which during the war were known as "Liberty measles."

More importantly, Brooks knew a few men who served in the armed forces, among them neighbors in Cherryvale, as well as her cousin Robert Rude, of the 137th U.S. inf., Co. H., who was stationed at Camp Doniphan and who once visited the Brooks' family home while on a furlough.

Tomorrow's blog will look at another little known early Brooks' performance, and will include a rare image of Brooks not seen in nearly 100 years.

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