Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Help support The Commentary Track podcast - a great cause

Please consider supporting The Commentary Track podcast. If you love the movies and movie history, it is a more than worthy cause. I made a small donation, and so should you. Every little bit helps! More information can be found HERE.

Frank Thompson started The Commentary Track podcast five years ago. It was created to feature in-depth conversations with film historians and archivists as well as actors, composers and filmmakers who have a deep knowledge and love for films of the past. Until February, 2016, Thompson did just that.

The Commentary Track’s guests have included many top film historians – Kevin Brownlow, David Shepard, Sam Gill, Bob Birchard, Rudy Behlmer, Leonard Maltin, Richard M. Roberts, Jordan R. Young, Jerry Beck, John Bengtson and many others. Actors such as Jim Beaver, Trace Beaulieu and George Chakiris; filmmakers Joe Dante, Craig Barron and Ben Burtt; authors James Curtis, Steve Bingen, Marilyn Moss, Tracey Goessel and Matthew Kennedy – in fact, too many guests to list them all here.


In late 2015, a perfect storm of technical issues combined with a series of financial reversals made it impossible to continue. Now, Thompson wants to get the podcast up and running again. He already have five episodes ready to post and many more interviews lined up.

Thompson need funds to rebuild his website, thecommentarytrack.com. He also need to invest in new equipment so that I can begin doing phone interviews at an acceptable sound quality. And if there’s any money left over, he wants to explore ways to more aggressively advertise the podcast. So far it has been a labor of love. He can’t afford labors of love anymore, so he wants to find a way to make the podcast sustainable.

Any contribution is welcome. If you can’t toss any money his way – please spread the word to your friends who might want to be a part of this podcasts’ resurgence.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sneak peak at the forthcoming Louise Brooks / Beggars of Life book

Here is a sneak peak at my new book, which is inching toward publication. Since first announced, this project has "suffered" a bit of project creep. I've added about 30 more pages, including a bit more text and a half-dozen especially rare and newly acquired images, as well as a foreword by actor and writer William Wellman, Jr.

Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film (100 pages, 15,000 words, & 50+ illustrations)
by Thomas Gladysz, with a foreword by William Wellman, Jr.

This first ever study of Beggars of Life looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. Based on Jim Tully’s bestselling book of hobo life—and filmed by Wellman the year after he made Wings (the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar), Beggars of Life is a riveting drama about an orphan girl (screen legend Louise Brooks) who kills her abusive stepfather and flees the law. She meets a boy tramp (leading man Richard Arlen), and together they ride the rails through a dangerous hobo underground ruled over by Oklahoma Red (future Oscar winner Wallace Beery). Beggars of Life showcases Brooks in her best American silent—a film the Cleveland Plain Dealer described as “a raw, sometimes bleeding slice of life.”

FRONT COVER

BACK COVER


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Louise Brooks inspired Lulu Soda Pop

Ray Ryan tweeted this snapshot of Lulu soda pop. It sure seems Louise Brooks inspired to me, though the image seems a little Betty Boop!


That pic led me to do a google image search on Lulu soda pop, and here's what I found. Seemingly, Lulu soda comes from Mexico or Latin America. And it may be vintage. Anyone know more about it?





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New book: Lulu in New York and Other Tales

A forthcoming book, Lulu in New York and Other Tales, has more than a little connection to Louise Brooks. The book, by Robert Power and featuring paintings by Max Ferguson, features an image of the actress on the cover.

From the publisher: "American Artist Max Ferguson’s paintings often feature solitary figures, brooding atmospheres, and urban landscapes whose narrative and cinematic qualities hint at hidden stories, secrets, and conversations waiting to happen. Writer Robert Power’s fiction of longing and resolution, alienation and loving, provide the perfect voice to give life to Ferguson’s mysterious paintings. Lulu in New York and Other Tales brings their work together in a unique collaboration.

Lulu in New York and Other Tales presents an exquisite and beautifully crafted volume of sixty stories from Power, inspired by paintings from throughout Ferguson’s career. Some of the pictures, like Chess Players and Interiors lend themselves to whimsical or heart-rending conversations. Others, such as Woman in Bath, Subway, and Billy’s Topless have violence and menace simmering at their core. Other paintings that inspire tales of reflection, reminiscing on love both lost and found.

Binding Ferguson’s paintings and Power’s storytelling together is a shared appreciation of the nuances, agonies and ecstasies, complexities and delicacies, of the human condition. The result is a lushly produced book that is at once powerful and beautiful, and will appeal to both art and short story lovers."

Max Ferguson is an American artist best known for his realistic paintings of vanishing urban scenes in and around New York City.  His work has been widely exhibited in such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum. Robert Power lives in Melbourne. His other books include Meatloaf in Manhattan and Tidetown.

Lulu in New York and Other Tales is due out in July, though there will be an earlier release party in New York City in May at the famous Strand bookstore.

LULU IN NEW YORK AND OTHER TALES
Wednesday, May 24th  
6:30 - 9:30 pm

828 Broadway
New York
                                 

In conjunction with the book launch, 
there will be an exhibition of  Max Ferguson paintings.

SOLO EXHIBTION

May 4 - May 27

37 West 57th Street
New York

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trivia about Now We're in the Air, with Louise Brooks

As you should know by now, a chunk of the 1927 Louise Brooks film Now We're in the Air has been found in Prague at the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archive (National Film Archive). The restored, 23 minute fragment will be shown June 2 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Read more about it HERE on the Huffington Post.

In the meantime, here is some trivia related to the film....

The film was shot between August 1 and September 8, 1927 at Paramount’s studio in Hollywood, as well as at a local ranch, a local aviation field, and at an amusement pier in Venice, California.

Now We’re in the Air was one in a series of service comedies teaming Raymond Hatton with Wallace Beery, a future Academy Award winner.  The film follows Behind the Front (1926) and We’re in the Navy Now (1926).

— Early on, William Wellman, James Cruze and even Mauritz Stiller were announced as the director for Now We’re in the Air. Among cast members who were announced but did not appear in the film were Ford Sterling and Zasu Pitts. An outline (by Tom J. Geraghty) and a treatment (by John F. Goodrich) for the film were completed as early as February 2, 1927.



— Frank R. Strayer (1891 – 1964) who was assigned as director, was an actor, film writer, and producer. He was active from the mid-1920s until the early 1950s. Strayer is credited with having directed 86 films, including 13 movies in the series based on the Blondie and Dagwood comic strip.

Now We’re in the Air cinematographer Harry Perry also worked on two other notable aviation pictures, Wings (1927) and Hell’s Angels (1930). He was nominated for an Academy Award at the 3rd Academy Awards for his work on the latter.

— Fifteen airplanes were hired for the making of the film, including a 76-foot Martin Bomber which was deliberately wrecked for one of the film’s “big thrill scenes.”

— In late August, 1927 the New York Times reported that the combined blast of six wind machines and a dozen airplanes lifted both Raymond Hatton and Wallace Berry into the air and on to an off-screen net set to catch them.


Now We’re in the Air was released as sound was coming in. According to the Barry Paris biography, Brooks once suggested there was some thought given to adding dialogue to the film.

— Though a silent, Now We’re in the Air continued to be shown into the early sound era. In January, 1930 it was screened in Fairbanks, Alaska and in December, 1931 it was screened in the Darwin in Northern Territory, Australia.


Under its American title, Now We’re in the Air, documented screenings of the film took place in Australia, British Malaysia (Singapore), Canada, China, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, and the British Isles (England, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, and Scotland). Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been shown under other-language titles including Dos tiburones en el aire (Argentina); Riff und Raff als Luftschiffer (Austria); Nous sommes dans les air (Belgium); Dois aguias no ar (Brazil); Ted my jsme ve vzduchu (Czechoslovakia); Katu Njosnararnir (Iceland); Aviatori per forza (Italy); Aviatori … per forza (Italy); Ed eccoci aviatori (Italy); Yagi and Kita in the Air (Japan); 弥次喜多空中の巻 (Japan); Reclutas por los aires (Mexico); Hoerawe vliegen (The Netherlands); Luftens Spioner (Norway); Recrutas Aviadores (Portugal); Agora Estamos no Ar (in Portuguese-American newspapers); and Hjältar i luften (Sweden).

Friday, April 7, 2017

A little something about Now We're in the Air, with Louise Brooks

As you should know by now, a chunk (a technical terms meaning partial) of the 1927 Louise Brooks film Now We're in the Air has been found in Prague at the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archive (National Film Archive). The restored, 23 minute fragment will be shown June 2 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Read more about it HERE on the Huffington Post.

In the meantime, here is a little background on the film....

Now We’re in the Air is a comedy about two fliers (a pair of “aero-nuts” also called “looney Lindberghs”) who wander on to a World War I battle field near the front lines. The film was one of a number of aviation-themed stories shot in 1927 (following Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic), as well as one in a popular series of “service comedies” pairing Wallace Beery and Raymond Hatton. Louise Brooks plays the unusual role of twin sisters, one raised French and one raised German, named Griselle & Grisette, who are the love interest of the two fliers.


Arguably, Now We’re in the Air was the most popular American silent in which Brooks appeared. Generally liked by the critics, the film did big box office where ever it showed. In New York City, it enjoyed an extended run, as it did in San Francisco, where it  proved to be one of the biggest hits of the year. At a time when most new releases played only one week, Now We’re in the Air ran for more than a month in San Francisco, where it was extended due to robust ticket sales. In Boston, it also did well, opening simultaneously in five theaters in the area. The Boston Evening Transcript noted, “most of the audience at the Washington Street Olympia this week were so moved by mirth that they were close to tears. Presumably the experience has been the same at the Scollay Square Olympia, the Fenway, the Capitol in Allston and the Central Square in Cambridge.” Newspapers in other large cities like Atlanta, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri reported a similar reception.

The New Orleans Item noted, “The added feature of Now We’re in the Air is the presence of Louise Brooks as the heroine. One of the cleverest of the new stars, she has immense ability to appear ‘dumb’ but like those early Nineteenth Century actresses, commended by Chas. Lamb, she makes the spectators realize that she is only playing at being dumb.” Radie Harris of the New York Morning Telegraph wrote, “Louise Brooks is seen as the feminine lead. She essays the role of twins. Which, if you know Louise, is mighty satisfactory. She is decorative enough to admire once, but when you are allowed the privilege of seeing her double, the effect is devastating.” The Boston Post added, “You see there are pretty twin sisters, Grisette and Griselle, both played by the fetching Louise Brooks, who marry Wally and Ray, who cannot tell their wives apart except by their dogs, one a poodle, one a daschund.”


The dual role played by Brooks made the film for many critics. Curran D. Swint of the San Francisco News stated, “Both the hulking and ungainly Beery and the cocky little Hatton give goofingly good accounts of themselves. Then there is Louise Brooks. She’s the girl — or the girls — in the case, for Louise is twins in the story, and about this fact much of the comedy is woven.” Across town, A. F. Gillaspey of the San Francisco Bulletin added, “Louise Brooks is the leading woman of this picture. She appears as the twin sisters. This results in some remarkable and very interesting double exposures.”

Mae Tinee, the Chicago Tribune critic who seemed to always champion Brooks, put it this way, “Louise Brooks as twins, is — are — a beautiful foil for the stars and if you think she doesn’t marry both of them before the picture ends, why, cogitate again, my darlings.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Special Ciné-Concert screening of William Wellman's epic masterpiece "Wings" at FIAF


Speaking of WWI films.... To commemorate the centennial of the United States’ April 6, 1917 entry into World War I, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), New York’s premiere French cultural center, is thrilled to present a special ciné-concert screening of the American silent film classic Wings on Thursday, April 6 in FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall. For more info visit www.fiaf.org


The evening is co-presented with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, with support from the French Mission du Centenaire de la Première Guerre Mondiale and the US WWI Centennial Commission.

One of the last great films of the silent era, William Wellman’s epic masterpiece won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the first-ever Oscar Ceremony in 1929. The beautifully restored film will be paired with a live US premiere performance of the musical score by Baudime Jam featuring France's Prima Vista Quartet.

Set against the backdrop of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in the Meuse, Wings is the captivating story of two men who enlist to join allied troops in France, and the girl they’ve left behind. Featuring thrilling aerial battle scenes and breathtaking camera work, this tale of friendship and love, rivalry and heroism stars screen siren Clara Bow alongside Richard Arlen, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and the legendary Gary Cooper in a cameo appearance.


About the Prima Vista Quartet
The Prima Vista Quartet has been recognized worldwide for their breathtaking musical accompaniment of masterpieces of silent cinema. Led by acclaimed composer Baudime Jam with violinists Elzbieta Gladys and Amélie Paradis, and cellist Frédéric Deville, the quartet magnifies the beauty of silent movies, emphasizing emotions while staying faithful to the singularity of the film.
The quartet has been featured in numerous prestigious film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. All scores are written and composed by Baudime Jam, conferring a personal and emotional touch to the music.

For this unique performance, the quartet will be accompanied by Matthias Champon (trumpet) and Cédric Barbier (percussions), celebrated artists who have worked both in classical and contemporary orchestras.
About Baudime Jam
Baudime Jam, born in Clermont-Ferrand in 1972, is an artist, musicographer, and composer. Jam has written extensively about music, including a biography of the composer George Onslow, and has lectured in France and abroad. In 1998 he became producer of the musical magazine Melodia on Clermont-Ferrand’s RCF 63 radio, and in 1993 he was appointed head of classical musical programming at Radio France. Jam founded the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra in 1994, and directed it until 1997. In 1988, he founded the Prima Vista Quartet with whom he has presented nearly 700 performances.

Jam is interested in a variety of repertories: baroque, classical, romantic, modern, and contemporary, while exploring other horizons including jazz, klezmer, tango, and silent film scores. He is a composer and member of the SACEM and of UCMF associations, who has created original works for concerts, scores for silent films, and fairy tales set to music, as well as numerous transcriptions and orchestrations.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Huffington Post: Long Missing Louise Brooks Film Found

Approximately 23 minutes of a long missing 1927 Louise Brooks film, Now We’re in the Air, has been found in an archive in the Czech Republic. The discovery is significant, not only because of Brooks’ widespread popularity, but because it helps fill a gap in the legendary actress’ body of work. Until now, each of the four films Brooks made in 1927—at the peak of her American career—have been considered lost.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival revealed the existence of the film while announcing the lineup of works to be shown at its upcoming event. The newly restored partial film will be shown at the Festival, which is set to take place June 1 through June 4 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.
Now We’re in the Air will be paired with Get Your Man (1927), a Dorothy Arzner directed film starring Clara Bow. The Library of Congress has reconstructed Get Your Man from recovered materials, filling in missing sequences with stills and intertitles. Festival Executive Director Stacey Wisnia noted that the pairing brings together not only two recovered films, but also the era’s two “It” girls, Bow and Brooks.

The discovery of Now We’re in the Air came about, in part, through the efforts of film preservationist Robert Byrne, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Byrne has made a name for himself of late, having helped in the recovery and restoration of a handful of important films over the last few years. Prominent among his discoveries were two films identified in the collection of Cinematheque Francaise, Sherlock Holmes (1916), and Silence (1926). The latter, a Cecil B. DeMille production directed by Rupert Julian, will also debut at the June event. Another of Byrne’s efforts, Behind the Door (1919), is due out on DVD / Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.

In a recent interview, Byrne related how he mentioned to English film historian and Academy Award honoree Kevin Brownlow that he would be going to Prague to visit the Czech Národní filmový archiv (the Czech Republic’s National Film Archive). It’s known they have an extensive collection of silent era material, including the only remaining nitrate copies of a number of American silent films. Unsure as to what might be found, Brownlow provided Byrne with a list of about a dozen titles he should ask to see. That list included Now We’re in the Air. Though popular in its time, the 1927 film is little known today except for the fact it includes Brooks in an important supporting role.


When Byrne inspected the elements for Rif a Raf, Politi (the Czech title for Now We’re in the Air), he found the film had only partially survived in a state which also showed nitrate decomposition. Additionally, the surviving scenes were found to be out of order, and there were Czech-language titles in place of the original American titles. Byrne spent more than eight months reconstructing the surviving material, including restoring the film’s original English-language inter-titles and original tinting.

“As is often the case, the most challenging aspect was not the technical work of cleaning up the image,” Byrne stated, “but rather the research that ensured we were making a faithful restoration, especially when it came to replacing the Czech language inter-titles with the original English versions.”

Byrne was especially appreciative of the help given by the Národní filmový archive. “They were incredibly gracious and generous with their time and resources; in addition to granting access to their nitrate print, they are responsible for the color-dye tinting of our new 35mm print. This is the first San Francisco Silent Film Festival restoration where we have used the traditional dye-tinting process to restore a film’s original color. In prior projects, we have used a modern method that utilizes color film stock.” Byrne added, “This is what an American audience would have seen when the film was released in 1927.”

Byrne said he was “thrilled” to find a missing Brooks film. “The shame is that so many of her American films are lost. Seeing Now We’re in the Air projected for the first time was pretty amazing. I have seen stills of her in the black tutu a million times, but actually seeing the sequence where she is wearing it was like watching a still photograph magically come to life.” Byrne’s excitement for the newly found Brooks’ film was matched by Judy Wyler Sheldon, a longtime Brooks’ fan and the daughter of legendary director William Wyler. Festival Artistic Director Anita Monga was likewise excited, and thought the fragment was “revelatory.”

Directed by Frank Strayer, Now We’re in the Air is a World War One comedy starring future Oscar winner Wallace Beery and the once popular character actor Raymond Hatton. The film, released by Paramount, also features Brooks in two supporting roles. The actress plays twins, one raised French, one raised German, who are the love interest of two goofy fliers. The surviving footage of Brooks only includes her in the role of the French twin, a carnival worker dressed in a short, dark tutu.



In the 1920s, Beery and Hatton were teamed in a number of popular Dumb and Dumber-like comedies. With its aviation-theme, Now We’re in the Air was one of the pair’s “service comedies,” following similar themed movies like Behind the Front (1926) and We’re in the Navy Now (1926).

Notably, the film’s cinematographer is Harry Perry, who worked on two other significant aviation pictures, Wings (1927), and Hell’s Angels (1930). Perry was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the latter. Interestingly, a notation in the script for Now We’re in the Air uncovered during its restoration calls for the use of left-over footage from the William Wellman-directed Wings, another WWI movie, and the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. That footage can be seen during the Armistice scene in Now We’re in the Air, near the end of the surviving footage.

Though some winced at its crude humor (not evident in the surviving material), the Beery-Hatton film proved to be one of the more popular comedies of 1927. Generally liked by the critics, the film did big box office where ever it showed. In New York City, it enjoyed an extended run, as it did in San Francisco, where it proved to be one of the year’s biggest hits. At a time when most new releases played only one week, Now We’re in the Air ran for a month in San Francisco, according to local newspaper listings. In Boston, the film also did well, opening simultaneously in five theaters. At the time, the Boston Evening Transcript noted the audience at one screening “was so moved by mirth that they were close to tears.”

The recovery of Now We’re in the Air comes 90 years after its first release, and 100 years after the United States formally entered what became known as the First World War, on April 6, 1917. Though a comedy, Now We’re in the Air was one of a number of silent films from the time—including Behind the Door (1919), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Big Parade (1925), What Price Glory? (1926), and Wings (1927), which depict the international conflict.

Byrne and others involved in the restoration of Now We’re in the Air believe the surviving footage lives up to the promise of its original reviews. In June, Festival goers and Louise Brooks fans will have the chance to see for themselves. More about the lineup of films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival can be found at www.silentfilm.org.
 

this piece originally appeared on Huffington Post
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