Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooky film history books for Halloween

I know people, myself included, who, every Halloween watch classic horror films movies like Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and The Mummy (1932). I just watched the latter for about the tenth time—it still satisfies. I also watched the terrific UK thriller, The Clairvoyant (1935), with Claude Rains and Fay Wray. If you haven’t seen it, find a copy. I predict you’ll love it.

With Halloween just a few days away, there’s no better time to pick up some horror-themed film history. Might I recommend two recently released books from BearManor Media? One is London After Midnight: A New Reconstruction Based on Contemporary Sources, by Thomas Mann. It is an intriguing work of literary-filmic archeology.

Tod Browning’s silent horror film, London After Midnight (1927), starring Lon Chaney, has intrigued silent movie fans for decades. The movie is considered lost, and remains one of the most famous and sought after of all lost films. Every April 1st, it seems, somebody announces they have found it. Eureka!

The last known copy of London After Midnight was destroyed in a vault fire in 1967. Today, all that remains are surviving film stills, an illustrated novel, scripts, and other ephemera which give some feel for the actual film; however, gaps in the plot and other inconsistencies and missing elements leave viewers wondering how the actual film unfolded. (This, despite the fact that Turner Classic Movies aired a valiant reconstructed version, using the original script and film stills, in 2002.)

In London After Midnight: A New Reconstruction Based on Contemporary Sources, Mann offers a reconstruction based on his transcription of a rediscovered 11,000-word fictionalization of the film published in Boy’s Cinema, an English publication, a year after the film was released. Mann’s detailed comparison of surviving sources sheds new light on various “unsettling” aspects of the film, like the discovery of a second murder victim, a plot element not in the final film. Mann’s transcription of the story is included in the new book.

Another intriguing book from BearManor Media is Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays by Gary D. Rhodes. Here, noted film scholar and Bela Lugosi authority Gary D. Rhodes brings to light two of Ed Wood’s unproduced scripts for the famed Dracula star, namely The Vampire’s Tomb and The Ghoul Goes West. Rhodes is ably assisted by horror movie expert Tom Weaver, Lugosi biographer Robert Cremer, and Hollywood historian Lee R. Harris. Each dig deep into these unfilmed films, and in doing so, unearth all manner of previously unknown information and visual artifacts. Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays reproduces the two screenplays, and puts these horrific treasures on exhibit for the first time.

Another recent title well worth checking out is Expressionism in the Cinema, edited by Rhodes and Olaf Brill. Published by Scotland’s Edinburgh University Press (and available in the United States), this wide-ranging collection reworks the canon of Expressionistic cinema—which means it goes beyond the handful of German titles likely familiar to film buffs.

The book’s fifteen essays revisit key German films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), and The Hands of Orlac (1924), and also provide new consideration of more obscure titles like Nerven (1919), The Phantom Carriage (1921) and other films produced outside Germany—notably in France, Sweden, Hungary, Austria and elsewhere.

For me, the real eye opener is Rhodes’ contribution to the book, “Drakula halála (1921): The Cinema’s First Dracula.” Yes, you read that right. There was a “Dracula film” before F. W. Murnau’s classic Nosferatu (1922), and before Tod Browning’s familiar Dracula (1931).

Drakula halála, or Dracula’s Death (sometimes translated as The Death of Drakula—following the Hungarian spelling), is a Hungarian horror film written and directed by Károly Lajthay. Like London After Midnight, it is presumed lost.

Drakula halála tells the story of a woman who experiences frightening visions after visiting an insane asylum, where one of the inmates claims to be Count Drakula. Echoing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the woman has trouble determining what is real and what is not, and whether the inmate’s visions are real, or merely nightmares. The film stars Paul Askonas as Dracula, with Carl Goetz as the "funny man" or "meat man." At the other end of the decade, Goetz played the important role of Lulu's pimp in the expressionist-tinged Pandora's Box.

Though the plot of Drakula halála does not really follow the narrative found in Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula (1897), the film marks the first screen appearance of the vampire character we know as Count Dracula.

Released the following year, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror) was in fact an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to Stoker’s novel (for instance, “vampire” became “Nosferatu,” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok”). In his fascinating essay, Rhodes argues that Drakula halála beat Nosferatu to the punch. Or should I say, it got the first bite.


A variant of this piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Magical Mystery Tour: New Book Surveys Jules Verne on Film

As a kid, two of my favorite sci-fi flicks were Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and Mysterious Island (1961). Whenever they came on TV, I was sure to watch—because as a kid, that was the only way I or just about anyone could see their favorite films. This, of course, was well before video tape and DVDs and the internet hurtled us into the future and changed everything.

A hidden place and a lost land, where in each noble characters used bravery and wit to battle strange creatures and adverse circumstance: I loved each of those stories because they took me somewhere else, somewhere elusive and fantastic beyond the regularity of suburban Detroit, where I grew up. For me, there is something resonant, almost mythic about those two film stories. Off course, I didn’t feel that way back then—I just loved the sheer adventure. Today, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Mysterious Island remain favorites, and as an adult I have watched them more than a few times, having purchased the DVDs. (These two films, like other Verne stories, have been filmed on more than one occasion. I have watched the more recent remakes, but don’t find them as satisfying.)

What those two films have in common is that both were based on books by Jules Verne (1828-1905), the great French novelist often called the “Father of science fiction.” Along with Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, Verne is one of the most translated authors in the world. And, it’s not surprising, he is also one of the most filmed authors. Going back to the earliest years of the silent era, more than 300 film and television adaptations of Verne’s stories have been made. The most recent are an animated Japanese film, The Lost 15 Boys: The Big Adventure on Pirates’ Island (2013), and a French production, Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (2014).

Each of these adaptations and many others are surveyed in Brian Taves’ fascinating new book, Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen (University Press of Kentucky). Film buffs and science fiction enthusiasts, as well as anyone drawn to steam punk will want to own a copy.

Besides Journey to the Center of the Earth and Mysterious Island, how many of us have not seen one or another version of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea or Around the World in Eighty Days (out of which sprang such immortal characters as Captain Nemo and Phileas Fogg)? Each is included in this Taves’ book, along with less familiar film adaptions of works like From the Earth to the Moon, Michael Strogoff, Master of the World, and others. They’re all here, feature films, box-office hits, low budget productions, shorts, serials, television shows and miniseries.

Taves knows of what he writes. He is author of a handful of books popular culture and film history (including highly recommended studies on directors Thomas Ince and Robert Florey - the director of the 1937 Louise Brooks' film, King of Gamblers), and works as a film archivist with the Library of Congress. Over the last 30 years, Taves has also written numerous articles on Verne, and co-authored The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (1996). Taves is currently editing “Jules Verne - The Palik Series,” stories and plays by the author never before translated into English, produced by the North American Jules Verne Society and published by BearManor Media.

If you’ve never seen Journey to the Center of the Earth (the 1959 version, starring James Mason, and with Pat Boone in his finest role) or Mysterious Island (the 1961 version), search out a copy today. Also, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the 1954 version, with Kirk Douglas and James Mason) is also quite good.

And while you are at it, sign up to follow Taves work. He is always into something interesting.


A variant of this piece first appeared on Huffington Post

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Diary of a Lost Girl screens in San Francisco on Nov 12



Saturday, November 12, 2016, 7:00 pm,
Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission


SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS
A SILENT NIGHT AT THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE!
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 25, 2016) —The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents an evening of silent film with live musical accompaniment, in collaboration with the Alamo Drafthouse, on Saturday, November 12. G.W. Pabst’s DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, starring the sublime Louise Brooks and based on a famous book of the time, will screen at 7:00 pm in the large auditorium of the Alamo Drafthouse’s beautiful new theater at the New Mission. Notably, this very theater screened many of Brooks American silent films in the 1920's.



DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Germany, 1929, 112 minutes) will be accompanied live by The Musical Art Quintet, with score by Sascha Jacobsen. The Musical Art Quintet is made up of Sascha Jacobsen (bass/composer/bandleader), Anthony Blea (violin), Phillip Brezina (violin), Charith Premawardhana (viola), and Lewis Patzner (cello).

Tickets are $15, available in advance and at the door. Buy tickets here:
https://drafthouse.com/sf/show/diary-of-a-lost-girl-with-the-musical-art-quintet

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about silent film as an art form and as a culturally valuable historical record. SFSFF has been presenting live cinema events in the Bay Area since 1996 and has gained popular and critical success. SFSFF presents A Day of Silents at the Castro Theatre on December 3rd and its 22nd annual festival, June 1–4, 2017. For more information, visit silentfilm.org

Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission
2550 Mission Street, San Francisco

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers


Earlier this year, when Kino Lorber released the five-disc Pioneers of African-American Cinema, J. Hoberman wrote in The New York Times, "From the perspective of cinema history — and American history, for that matter — there has never been a more significant video release.” Inspired by the enthusiastic grassroots support that enabled the creation of the project, Kino Lorber has decided to expand the foundation of Pioneers with a new, equally ambitious project: PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS.
Like Pioneers of African-American Cinema, this new project will be a deluxe five-disc box set, with a booklet of historical essays, film notes, and photos. And, as before, we are mounting a Kickstarter campaign to help defray the massive up-front production costs of such a huge undertaking.

Presented in association with the Library of Congress (and drawing from the collections of other world-renowned film archives), Pioneers will be the largest commercially-released video collection of films by women directors, and will focus on American films made between 1910 and 1929—a crucial chapter of our cultural history.

By showcasing the ambitious, inventive films from the golden age of women directors, we can get a sense of what was lost by the marginalization of women to “support roles” within the film industry.

The collection will be comprised of new HD restorations of both the most important films of the era, but also the lesser-known (but no less historically important) works: short films, fragments, isolated chapters of incomplete serials. The five-Blu-ray box set will include approximately twenty hours of material—showcasing the work of these under-appreciated filmmakers, while illuminating the gradual changes in how women directors were perceived (and treated) by the Hollywood establishment.

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is executive-produced by filmmaker and actress Illeana Douglas (Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Ghost World), and produced by BretWood, who previously produced Pioneers of African-American Cinema, as well as restorations of films of Buster Keaton, D.W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, and many others for Kino Lorber. The selection of films will be curated by Shelley Stamp, Professor of Film & Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of two award-winning books, Lois Weber in Early Hollywood and Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon.

Please visit their Kickstarter page for lots more information and consider making a contribution.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #9, the last

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found about a week ago. It is an interview with the Nobel Prize winning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez which appeared in the Brazilian edition of Playboy back in 2013. And, as I have underlined in red, the noted writer mentions Louise Brooks!

I wonder if the interviewer or Márquez knew that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is a huge Louise Brooks fan?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #8

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found a few days ago. The two images come from a Japanese film magazine and date from late 1929. Can anyone translate the text? I realize the images are a little rough, but this is the best quality available of these incredibly rare finds.

I am assuming that Brooks, and Pabst and Brooks, posed especially for these pictures in order to send a message to their Japanese fans. At least that is the way it looks to me. Brooks is even smiling in the right hand images, as if it were all a joke. The source of these images, and their context, will be revealed at a later date.

Might the chalkboards spell out their names? Or something else?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #7

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found about a week ago ago. It is a bunch of reviews of a bunch of films, including A Social Celebrity, starring Adolphe Menjou and Louise Brooks. This piece is special because it appeared in a student publication, the University Hatchet, from George Washington University. A Social Celebrity is the last film reviewed. Apparently, Joe D. Walstrom liked Brooks. He said, "The girl, Louise Brooks, is a dazzling creature recently of the Follies. She's a brunette, and will make some people think twice before they accept the maxim of Anita Loos that Gentlemen Prefer Nordics."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #6

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found a few days ago. It is the first clipping I have found / have been able to find from the Philippines! The article, "Una estrella olvidada," talks about Louise Brooks as a forgotten star. Interestingly, the article mentions both Pandora's Box and Prix de Beaute.  The article dates from May, 1932. The publication, Voz Espanola, is from Manila.



Saturday, October 22, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #5

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found a few days ago. It is a mention of Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box in a 1943 Nazi publication, Kladderadatsch, filled with anti-Jewish and anti-American propaganda. The best I can tell, Pandora's Box is referenced in the service of a joke. 

See the short piece below titled "Der Jagdfilm." It reads:

"Lange bevor man beschloss, Wedekinds Buchse der Pandora mit Louise Brooks zu drehen, kam ein Schriftsteller zu einem Munchner Filmproduzenten und sagte: 'Herr Direktor, ich habe eine ausgezeichnete Idee. Konnte man nicht mal Die Buchse der Pandora verfilmen?'

Der grosse Filmmann sah ihn an, wiegte den Kopf him und her, dann meinte er: Buchse der Pandora? Garnicht schlecht. Jagdfilme gehen bei uns in Baiern immer!"

If anyone can offer a translation or interpretation of this piece, it would appreciated.


I also found a couple of Charlie Chaplin cartoons in this issue of Kladderadatsch. Here is one of them. It is an anti-Chaplin cartoon, with the punchline being "Charlie Chaplin cannot sit idly by as his double go off to war."


Here is the other, a two page spread. I am not sure what it is about, but it seems anti-Semitic. (Chaplin, who was anti-Nazi, was said to be Jewish by Nazi propagandists.)


Friday, October 21, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #4

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found a few days ago. It is a humorous piece from the April, 1928 issue of Amateur Movie Maker. Louise Brooks figures as part of a running joke from the pen of Creighton Peet. The piece, a kind of column, is title "Film Flam." If this bit of humorous daydreaming seems a little New Yorker, you have good sense. Peet contributed to the New Yorker in the 30's, 40s, and 50's.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #3

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found two days ago. It is a rare 1931 issue of Inside Facts of the Stage and Screen, which touted itself as the "Only Theatrical Newspaper on the Pacific Coast." I am pretty familiar with the various film publications of the time, and have even gone through regional trade publications like Weekly Film Review out of Atlanta, George and Detroit Saturday Night out of the Motor City, BUT, had never heard of this one!


This particular issue ran a review of the 1931 William Wellman film, The Public Enemy, which lists Louise Brooks among the "fem members" appearing in the film. She didn't, of course. Inside Facts of the Stage and Screen wasn't the only publication to make this mistake. It was a mistaken credit that lingered for years, even making its way into film reference books. Years later, in 1965, Brooks wrote "What happened was that William Wellman had offered me a part in Public Enemy and I turned it down to go to New York. But the advance publicity had gone out with my name in the cast (the part Wellman then gave to Jean Harlow), so when people see an extra girl walk through a scene with a black bob and bangs, they say 'There is Brooks'."





Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #2

In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found yesterday. It is a couple of pages from a 2004 Arabic publication possibly about beauty and film culture. If anyone can help translate the text shown below, I would appreciate it.

 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Louise Brooks Oddities #1

Louise Bridges -
"By diligence she wins her way"
In my ongoing research, I come across all sorts of material which is a little odd or unusual, and sometimes entertaining. Here is something I found yesterday. It is a page from The Oak Leaf, a 1929 high school year book from the Hugh Morson High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. I flipped through its pages, and I found it to be a typical high school year book, filled with portraits, a class poem, school history, bits of humor and the like.

What caught my eye was a reference to the silent film star Louise Brooks by Hazel McDonald, the "class prophet." In a two page spread, McDonald predicted the future's of various students, not doubt based on some characteristic of the student. One, she predicted, would become an opera singer, one a pianist, one a veterinarian, one the heavy weight boxing champion, one a race car driver, etc.... It is the sort of thing one might find in other yearbooks, and perhaps even your own.

McDonald predicted another classmate, named Louise Bridges, would find film stardom, writing "Last of all I saw Louise Bridges, who had taken Louise Brooks' place on the screen." (See the second from last line on page two of the "Class Prophecy" shown below.) This shout-out shows Brooks had a certain currency among high school students of the time.

That currency got me wondering. Why would McDonald had made such a particular prediction for this particular student. They were friends, apparently, and both were members of the Morson Literary Society as well as the school's Dramatic Club. But, did Louise Bridges share some trait with Louise Brooks, besides the same first name? Did Bridges and Brooks look-alike? Flipping through the yearbook, I found that a number of the girls wore bobbed hair, though Bridges' bob was closest to the style worn by Brooks, or Colleen Moore, another popular screen star. Bridges was pretty, like Brooks, and somewhat resembles the actress, in my opinion.



I also found the class prophet, Hazel McDonald, to have a rather interesting look, sporting a fashionable Eton Crop--unusual perhaps for a high school student for the time from the American south. I don't know what happened to either of these students, whether Louise became an actress, or whether Hazel became a writer, but each seemed to be pretty cool kids.

Hazel McDonald -
"I grow in with and worth and sense"

Friday, October 14, 2016

LOST CREATURES - New play about Louise Brooks opens in Denver, CO on November 3

Lost Creatures, a new play about Louise Brooks by Melissa McCarl, will be staged for the first time in Denver, Colorado on November 3, 2016. (A public reading of the play was given last year.) Here are the details about this exciting new project.


WORLD PREMIERE -- Thursday, November 3 at 7:30 PM MDT The play runs November 3rd through the 19th, 2016

Directed by Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
Starring Billie McBride, Mark Collins and Annabel Reader

About the play: Lost Creatures follows the evening in May of 1978 when British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan met his long time cinematic idol Louise Brooks. He travels to her dingy little apartment in Rochester, NY where she has sequestered herself for many years. He is there ostensibly to write a profile on Brooks for the New Yorker, but he discovers that they are kindred spirits, and in spite of an age gap of twenty years, theirs becomes an unlikely love story discovered through a marathon dialogue about sex, philosophy, art, and criticism. There is also a silent third character, Lulu, (based on Louise’s role in her most famous silent film Pandora’s Box) who drives the action of the play.



Set/Sound Design-Darren Smith
Light Design-Emily Maddox
Costume Design-Susan Lyles
Stage Manager-Lauren Meyer

Venue: The Commons on Champa, 3rd Floor Studio, 1245 Champa Street
Support provided by The Next Stage NOW


About Melissa McCarl: Author of Painted Bread, a full-length play named Best New Work by the Denver Post, about the tumultuous life of Frida Kahlo (recently produced by the Aurora Fox.) Commissioned by the Mizel Arts Center to write Poignant Irritations, celebrating the unorthodox life and love of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Commissioned by the Curious Theatre Company to write for the War Anthology directed by Bonnie Metzgar of the Public Theatre. Winner of the Steven Dietz award for the one act Carlene Yakkin’. Melissa has been named best local playwright by Westword newspaper and the Denver Post.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

TONIGHT Louise Brooks film screens in Chicago

The 1929 Louise Brooks' film, Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown tonight in Chicago. The film will be shown at the Music Box Theater (3733 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613) and will feature  a live musical score on the Music Box organ by Dennis Scott, Music Box House Organist. More information can be found HERE.

Parking near the Music Box is limited. Parking availability may be scarce on days when the Chicago Cubs play home games. Public transportation or taxis are recommended on these dates. Please check the Chicago Cubs schedule for home game dates.

Diary of a Lost Girl

A FILM BY: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
STARRING: Louise Brooks, Josef Rovenský, Fritz Rasp

Thymiane is a beautiful young girl who is not having a storybook life. Her governess, Elizabeth, is thrown out of her home when she is pregnant, only to be later found drown.

That same day, her father already has a new governess named Meta. Meinert, downstairs druggist, takes advance of her and gets Thymiane pregnant. When she refuses to marry, her baby is taken from her and she is put into a strict girls reform school. When Count Osdorff is unable to get the family to take her back, he waits for her to escape. She escapes with a friend and the friend goes with the Count while she goes to see her baby. Thymiane finds that her baby is dead, and the Count has put both girls up at a brothel. When her father dies, Thymiane marries the Count and becomes a Countess, but her past and her hatred of Meta will come back to her.


See the film, then why not read the infamous book it was based on? And better yet, why not pick up the recently released DVD or Blu-ray from KINO?


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nonesuch to Release Metropolitan Opera's 2015 Staging of Alban Berg's "Lulu" on Blu-ray/DVD

For those who might have missed the live broadcast comes this welcome news....

From the Nonesuch website: "Nonesuch Records releases the Metropolitan Opera's performance of Alban Berg's Lulu on Blu-ray and DVD together in one package on October 28, 2016. The Met's new production, directed by acclaimed South African visual artist William Kentridge, premiered in 2015 and starred Marlis Petersen in her final performances as Lulu, a role she has made "hers and almost hers alone" (Opera News) in ten different productions over eighteen years. The New York Times called it "a stunning and searing production." Lulu was recorded and broadcast live in movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD on November 21, 2015. The Lulu Blu-ray/DVD may be pre-ordered now from the Nonesuch Store. You can watch the Met's trailer for the production below.

Kentridge received acclaim for his previous work at the Met directing the company premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose in 2010. This new Lulu, conducted by Lothar Koenigs, featured Susan Graham as the Countess Geschwitz, Daniel Brenna as Alwa, Paul Groves as The Painter/African Prince, Johan Reuter as Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper, and Franz Grundheber as Schigolch. Lulu's production team included co-director Luc De Wit, set designer Sabine Theunissen, costume designer Greta Goiris, lighting designer Urs Schönebaum, and projection designer Catherine Meyburgh, all of whom also worked on The Nose.

Berg's monumental opera, which he left unfinished when he died in 1935, had its posthumous premiere in its incomplete version in 1937, with the three-act version that has become standard premiering in 1979. The opera tells the tragic story of a young woman who, as a victim of a harsh society, torments a series of men by whom she is objectified, desired, abused, and eventually killed. "She's ungraspable, and a fantastic white canvas for the men to put their ideas on," says Petersen about her character, in an interview with Graham.

Berg adapted the libretto from Frank Wedekind's two Lulu plays, Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904). He wrote the music using the 12-tone style conceived of his teacher, Arnold Schönberg, but with a nod to Romanticism that makes it unusually accessible for something written by a Schönberg disciple. "Berg made it very tonal, actually, for us and also for the ears of the audience," says Petersen. "You don't hear the 12-tone music."

"Lulu is one of the great operas of the 20th century," says Kentridge, speaking on video about the production. "It's an opera that's about the fragility or the possibility or the fragmentation of desire…Ink is the primary medium of the production. Essentially [it's] the vehemence of a black brushstroke… trying to find some equivalent, visually, to the violence of the opera."

Kentridge's production will be presented at English National Opera in November 2016; for tickets, visit eno.org.


The Kentridge staging of Berg's Lulu was a big deal last year in New York City. Check out this Huffington Post piece, "Lulu-mania Sweeps New York City."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New historical crime thriller BABYLON BERLIN has Louise Brooks on the cover

A recently published historical crime thriller has come to my attention. It is titled Babylon Berlin, and its by Volker Kutscher. (The book was published in May by Sandstone Press.) And, it features Louise Brooks on the cover. I haven't had a chance to get a hold of a copy, and don't know if Brooks figures in the story, but here's a little about the book. From what I gather, the series is to be filmed for  television in England, Germany and possibly elsewhere.


From the publisher: "Berlin, 1929. Detective Inspector Rath, was a successful career officer in the Cologne Homicide Division before a shooting incident in which he inadvertently killed a man. He has been transferred to the Vice Squad in Berlin, a job he detests, even though he finds a new friend in his boss, Chief Inspector Wolter. There is seething unrest in the city and the Commissioner of Police has ordered the Vice Squad to ruthlessly enforce the ban on May Day demonstrations. The result is catastrophic with many dead and injured, and a state of emergency is declared in the Communist strongholds of the city. When a car is hauled out of Berlin's Landwehr Canal with a mutilated corpse inside the Commissioner decides to use this mystery to divert the attention of press and public from the casualties of the demonstrations. The biggest problem is that the corpse cannot be identified."

About the author: "Volker Kutscher was born in 1962. He studied German, Philosophy and History, and worked as a newspaper editor prior to writing his first detective novel. Babylon Berlin, the start of an award-winning series of novels to feature Gereon Rath and his exploits in late Weimar Republic Berlin, was an instant hit in Germany. Since then, a further four titles have appeared, most recently Märzgefallene in 2014. The series was awarded the Berlin Krimi-Fuchs Crime Writers Prize in 2011 and has sold over one million copies worldwide. Volker Kutscher works as a full-time author and lives in Cologne. " Read an interview with the author HERE.



And some reviews of Babylon Berlin:

"Babylon Berlin is a stunning novel that superbly evokes Twenties Germany in its seedy splendor. An impressive new crime series." - Sarah Ward, author of In Bitter Chill


"Kutscher successfully conjures up the dangerous decadence of the Weimar years, with blood on the Berlin streets and the Nazis lurking menacingly in the wings." - Sunday Times

"Gripping evocative thriller set in Berlin's seedy underworld during the roaring Twenties. A massive hit in its native Germany, Volker Kutscher's series, centered on Detective Inspector Gereon Rath, is currently being filmed for television." - Mail on Sunday

"The best German crime novel of the year!' - Bucher

"Kutscher's undertaking to portray the downfall of the Weimar Republic through the medium of detective fiction is both ambitious and utterly convincing. Let's hope it receives the attention it deserves." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"With his detective novel Babylon Berlin, Volker Kutscher has succeeded in creating an opulent portrait of manners." - Der Spiegel

"Has all the allure of an addictive drug: you won't be able to put it down until you've read to the end." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"A highly readable piece of crime fiction set against a politico-historical background." -  Osterreichischer Rundfunk

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Attention silent film fans: "Little Mickey Grogan" Restoration

Here is a GoFundMe campaign that should appeal to every silent film fan. I made a contribution. How about you? Find out more by visiting HERE.



From the GoFundMe page: "According to a report by the Library of Congress, 70% of all Hollywood silent film features made between 1912-1929 no longer exist, and today, in 2016, we find that all but two performers from that era are gone. In addition to actress-turned-film history Diana Serra Cary, whose “Baby Peggy” was one of the top box office draws in the 1920s, there is also the equally remarkable, though lesser known actress, Lassie Lou Ahern. Having just turned 96-years young, she was a versatile child star who was discovered at the age of 18 months by Will Rogers. Almost immediately, she worked with some of the biggest names in the movie world -- "Our Gang", Charley Chase, Ronald Colman, Helen Holmes, Virginia Davis, and Mary Philbin -- as well as appeared in some of the leading productions of the 1920s (above all, the $2 million epic "Uncle Tom’s Cabin").  A print of her last silent film, "Little Mickey Grogan" (1927), survives in the Lobster Films archive in Paris. Lobster Films founder and CEO, Serge Bromberg, has recently consented that a full restoration of the film be done; upon completion, moreover, "Little Mickey Grogan" will be added as a title for purchase within the celebrated Lobster catalog.



Made by FBO before financier Joseph Kennedy sold the studio to RKO in 1928/1929, "Little Mickey Grogan" is a 60-minute feature centered on a pair of street children (Frankie Darro and Ahern) who are taken in by a generous woman (Jobyna Ralston), as they, in turn, try to help a penniless blind architect (Carroll Nye) recover his sight. Meanwhile, when not dodging the police, they put on lively street shows with "Our Gang" regular Ernest “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, allowing the young stars to showcase their accomplished dance and acrobatic skills with infectious dynamism and zest.

A number of important aspects related to the film make it worth saving. Besides the idea of rescuing a silent film that would otherwise not be restored, they include the fact that it comes from a minor studio (FBO) from which few movies survive today. In addition, it marked the first time in which Frankie Darro, an actor whose career would continue to the 1970s, was given the opportunity to star in a picture where he quickly emerged as one of the studio’s top draws.

In addition, the work of co-writer Dorothy Yost, one of many female scriptwriters of the silent era, has been the object of feminist analysis, as evidenced by her inclusion in the valuable Women Film Pioneers Project. Historically and culturally, too, the appearance of Ernest Morrison, the first African-American performer ever to land a contract in Hollywood, adds further value, especially because it was one of the rare occasions during the silent era in which he acted in a role that was not part of the Our Gang franchise. Finally, there’s the unique situation in which the film’s lead female performer, Lassie Lou Ahern, is still with us, and would dearly love to see "Little Mickey Grogan" restored before she passes.

In March, 2015, there was a successful GoFundMe campaign to raise money to obtain a digital copy of the print from Paris, as well as to pay an entertainment lawyer to do due diligence in determining the holder of the film’s copyright. Forty-nine individuals contributed $1,610 toward these ends. In this second, and final, crowdsourcing campaign, monies will be raised to complete the restoration in every aspect, including a planned screening of the film at Pordenone in Fall, 2017."


Find out more about the film and the campaign to restore it AND make a donation at this web page: https://www.gofundme.com/2fpwc9w



Friday, October 7, 2016

Louise Brooks Prix de beauté screens in London, England Nov 1

The UK premiere of the restored silent version of the 1930 Louise Brooks film, Prix de beauté, will be shown (in 35 mm) at the Kennington Biograph / Cinema Museum in London on November 1st. This special screening, part of "Silent to Sound in Europe," is an event not to be missed! More information may be found HERE.



According to the Kennington Biograph webpage, "This event is presented in conjunction with the AHRC-funded project ‘British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound’. Using clips from British, French and German films, historian Geoff Brown investigates the turbulent European scene in the period of transition, 1929/1930. Studios struggled to shift from silent feature production to films that talked, sang, and made noises. Britain briefly won the technological advantage, but which country used the technology most imaginatively? The feature in the second half will be the UK premier of the original restored silent version of Prix de Beauté (1930), featuring Louise Brooks, courtesy of Cineteca Bologna. Doors open at 18.30, for a 19.30 start. Refreshments will be available in our licensed cafe/bar."


Prix de beauté was, in fact, one of the very first French sound films, and not without reason, music and sound are recurring thematic, visual and auditory motifs in the film.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Louise Brooks: Diary of a Lost Girl screens in Chicago Oct 13

The 1929 Louise Brooks' film, Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown in Chicago one week from today on October 13th. The film will be shown at the Music Box Theater and will feature  a live musical score on the Music Box organ by Dennis Scott, Music Box House Organist. More information can be found HERE.

Parking near the Music Box is limited. Parking availability may be scarce on days when the Chicago Cubs play home games. Public transportation or taxis are recommended on these dates. Please check the Chicago Cubs schedule for home game dates.


Diary of a Lost Girl

A FILM BY: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
STARRING: Louise Brooks, Josef Rovenský, Fritz Rasp

Thymiane is a beautiful young girl who is not having a storybook life. Her governess, Elizabeth, is thrown out of her home when she is pregnant, only to be later found drown. That same day, her father already has a new governess named Meta. Meinert, downstairs druggist, takes advance of her and gets Thymiane pregnant. When she refuses to marry, her baby is taken from her and she is put into a strict girls reform school. When Count Osdorff is unable to get the family to take her back, he waits for her to escape. She escapes with a friend and the friend goes with the Count while she goes to see her baby. Thymiane finds that her baby is dead, and the Count has put both girls up at a brothel. When her father dies, Thymiane marries the Count and becomes a Countess, but her past and her hatred of Meta will come back to her.




See the film, then why not read the infamous book it was based on? And better yet, why not pick up the recently released DVD or Blu-ray from KINO?


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Happy birthday Buster Keaton!

Happy birthday to Buster Keaton, who was born on this day in 1895 in Piqua, Kansas. The great comedian was held in high esteem by fellow Kansas native, Louise Brooks. She once said,
"Since childhood I have thought Buster Keaton's the most beautiful face of any man I have ever seen." To celebrate, here are four rare pages from a 1928 Japanese film magazine. 





Monday, October 3, 2016

Louise Brooks in late 1920's Japan - clippings in need of translation

I am continuing to explore the presence of Louise Brooks and her films abroad. And recently, I came across some material in a vintage Japanese movie magazine. The first image clearly names Louise Brooks, but I am wondering what it says about the actress. Can anyone translate of give a rough idea of what it says? It dates from 1928.


I also came across this bit from late 1928, which mentions Pandora's Box. Can anyone translate of give a rough idea of what it says?


This 1928 clipping caught my eye because it apparently depicts Ayn Rand. I don't have any interest in Rand, but am curious to know what this clipping says. I do know that Rand saw The American Venus while still living in the Soviet Union. Can anyone translate of give a rough idea of what it says? Thank you to anyone who can help.




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