Friday, February 17, 2017

Just Found Footage of Louise Brooks Favorite Author Marcel Proust

It's well known that the French writer Marcel Proust (who authored Remembrances of Things Past, or In Search of Lost Time) was Louise Brooks favorite. In 1982, in an article in the New York Times Book Review titled “Books that gave me pleasure,” the actress is quoted: “I have been reading Proust all my life, and I’m still reading him.”

In the screen capture pictured below, the elusive author can be seen wearing a grey coat and a dark bowler hat.

Now comes word that a Canadian professor claims to have found the only existing moving picture of the French writer. According to various news sources including the Guardian (UK), "The black-and-white footage of a wedding cortege filmed in 1904 shows a brief glimpse of a man in his 30s with a neat moustache, wearing a bowler hat and pearl-grey formal suit, descending a flight of stairs on his own. Most of the other guests are in couples."

To watch the entire clip, visit this link. Though just a fragment, this is very exciting news. Who knows what other lost fragmentary footage might be found? (A Louise Brooks fan can hope, can't they?)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Closing Time: Paintings by Max Ferguson with Louise Brooks

Check out this nifty video tribute to the paintings of Max Ferguson (a fan of Louise Brooks). The actress is featured early on; and she is not the only movie legend spotted in this tribute. Can you spot the other. (Clue: he included an image of Brooks in one of his recent films.) Bonus points to those who can name the musical accompanist depicted in the painting which includes LB. And by-the-way, the music accompanying the video is "Closing Time" by Tom Waits.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day from the Louise Brooks Society

I am not sure when this Valentine's Day card dates from, but I might guess it is the late 1920s or early 1930s. What caught my eye is the reference to "A gal in every port" and the inclusion of a bobbed female in the lower middle. This figure could be meant to be an Asian, or it could be meant to loosely resemble Louise Brooks, star of A Girl in Every Port (1928). Who knows, except Cupid?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: the career of Edgar Blue Washington

There were few African-American actors in the films of Louise Brooks. Such were the times, and such were the stories. African-Americans, in bit parts, can be found in The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), American Venus (1926), Canary Murder Case (1929), and King of Gamblers (1937). Perhaps there were one or two others in one or two of Brooks' lost films.

Certainly, the most prominent part played by an African-American was the role of Black Mose in Beggars of Life. Black Mose was played by Edgar "Blue" Washington (1898 – 1970). Unusually so, Washington received sixth billing, and his name appeared on the screen alongside stars Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Robert Perry and Roscoe Karns. Throughout his long film career, Washington appeared mostly in bit parts. Beggars of Life marked a high point.

Washington was an actor (sometimes credited as Edgar Washington and sometimes Blue Washington) as well as a one-time Los Angeles prizefighter and Negro League baseball player. He appeared in 74 films between 1919 and 1961. In between acting jobs, he was also an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. The nickname "Blue" came from director Frank Capra, a friend.

Washington was born in Los Angeles. Before getting into acting, he played for various teams in the Negro League. He was a pitcher for the Chicago American Giants starting in 1916. And in 1920, he was invited to join the newly formed Kansas City Monarchs, where he started at first base and batted .275 in 24 official league games. After a few months of barnstorming, Washington left the Monarchs. In December of 1920, after he had started acting, Washington rejoined the Los Angeles White Sox for a few games; he was also believed to have later played for Alexander’s Giants in the integrated California Winter League.

Harold Lloyd helped Washington break into films, and this pioneering African-American actor appeared in the legendary comedian’s Haunted Spooks (1920) and Welcome Danger (1929). Sporadic work followed throughout the 1920s, as Washington appeared in movies alongside early stars Ricardo Cortez, William Haines, Richard Barthelmess, Ken Maynard, and Tim McCoy.

Beggars of Life director William Wellman worked once gain with Washington in The Light That Failed (1939). The actor also appeared in a few films helmed by John Ford, including The Whole Town's Talking (1935) and The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). Other notable movies in which Washington had at least a small part include the Charley Bower’s short There It Is (1928), King Vidor's all-black Hallelujah (1929), Rio Rita (1929), Mary Pickford's Kiki (1931), King Kong (1933), Roman Scandals (1933), Annie Oakley (1935), Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), and Gone with the Wind (1939).

He was in three installments in the Charlie Chan series, and appears as Clarence the comic sidekick in the John Wayne B-Western Haunted Gold (1933).

Despite the fair amount of screen time Washington enjoyed in this rather poor, 57 minute film, he is only named in this trailer.

Washington also had small roles in The Cohens and the Kellys in Africa (1930), Drums of the Congo (1942), Bomba, the Jungle Boy (1949), and other lesser fair. Unfortunately, many of these and earlier roles traded on racial stereotypes. His last part, as a limping attendant in a billiards hall, was in the classic Paul Newman film, The Hustler (1961).

This blog is indebted to Mark V. Perkins excellent biography on the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website. Give it a read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Louise Brooks and Wanda Hawley

Louise Brooks is a magnet of meaning.... I just came across this short video clip, in which Emeritus Film Studies Professor Claudia Gorbman of the University of Washington discusses silent film actresses Louise Brooks and Wanda Hawley. I am not sure if this video clip comes from a larger film, or not, but it is worth a viewing. Give it a play.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Diary of a Lost Girl with Louise Brooks shows March 5th in New York State

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown at 3 pm on March 5th at the Rosendale Theater in Rosendale, New York. This Sunday afternoon screening will feature live piano accompaniment by Marta Waterman. More information about the event can be found HERE.

The historic Rosendale Theatre is a three-story, 260-seat movie theater and performance venue in Rosendale Village, a hamlet and former village in the town of Rosendale in Ulster County, New York. The building was opened as a casino in 1905, and began showing films in the 1920s. By the 1930s, a stage had been installed for live vaudeville and burlesque acts. In 1949, the venue was converted back into a movie theater. Today, the theater is run by the Rosendale Theatre Collective.

If you are wondering about Brooksian triangulation... the closest she came to Rosendale back in the day was Poughkeepsie, when she danced there as a member of the Denishawn Dance Company. Later in life, of course, Brooks lived in Rochester, New York.

Diary of a Lost Girl may well be making its debut in Rosendale. The 1929 film, directed by Georg W. Pabst (not Joseph Pabst), was the second Brooks made in Germany, following Pandora's Box. Controversial in its day, and poorly regarded, the film was not shown in the United States until the 1950s. Those screenings took place in Rochester, at the George Eastman House, under the eye of James Card, the museum's film curator. Diary of a Lost Girl made its theatrical debut in the early 1980s. More about the film and its eventful history can be found HERE.

A bit of trivia: In 1961, acclaimed director John Huston was beginning work on a biopic about Sigmund Freud. In an archive of correspondence about the film, Huston’s longtime assistant Ernie Anderson wrote to the director that Freud had no direct involvement with the making of Diary of a Lost Girl.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Beggars of Life with music by The Dodge Brothers in Manchester (UK) in May

The outstanding 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life, will be shown at Stoller Hall in Manchester, England on Saturday, May 13th. This screening will feature live music and will be accompanied by The Dodge Brothers and the fabulous Neil Brand. More information about this event can be found HERE.

The Stoller Hall web page reads:

25% discount when you book full price tickets for both Beggars of Life and the Dodge Brothers at 9pm. That means you can see the brilliant Dodge Brothers for just £5.50 each!

The classic silent film with live music from the Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand.

Film and cinematic landscapes come together when The Dodge Brothers – Mike Hammond, Mark Kermode, Aly Hirji and Alex Hammond – join forces with premiere Silent Film pianist Neil Brand to accompany rare Silent features. Their accompaniment to the Louise Brooks/Wallace Beery 1928 film Beggars of Life was greeted with great acclaim. Performing this at The British Silent Cinema Festival, The Barbican & The BFI Southbank has prompted glowing reviews and the band became the first ever to accompany a silent film at Glastonbury Festival in 2014.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

David Shepard (1940 - 2017)

David Shepard, a friend to many in the silent film community and a longtime champion of film preservation, has died. He was 76 years old. His ceaseless work on behalf of silent film deserves our ever lasting appreciation.

I saw David just last December, and we exchanged a few words.... Below is a snapshot I took a five or six years back. David, second from the right in a white short, is surrounded by colleagues Kevin Brownlow, Diana Serra Cary (silent film star Baby Peggy), and Leonard Maltin.

I can only claim to have been acquainted with David Shepard (1940 - 2017), having chatted with him numerous times, and having exchanged emails and seen him about at local film festivals for well more than a decade. I will miss him congenial presence. I also enjoyed reading and treasure my autographed copies of his books on movie legends King Vidor and Henry King. It was an honor to have my picture taken with Shepard last summer.

David's involvement with silent film extends to Louise Brooks, who's now lost 1927 film, The City Gone Wild, he almost saved. In his 1990 book, Behind the Mask of Innocence, Kevin Brownlow wrote about an incident in the 1970s. “David Shepard, then with the American Film Institute’s archive program, had a list of 35mm nitrate prints held in a vault Paramount had forgotten it had. He asked me which title I would select, out of all of them, to look at right away. I said The City Gone Wild. He called Paramount to bring it out of the vaults for our collection that afternoon. The projectionist went to pick it up. ‘O, there was some powder on that,’ said the vault keeper ‘We threw it away.’ … He tried to rescue it, even from its watery grave, but a salvage company had carted it off by the time he got there.” A few years ago, I spoke with David about this incident, and he confirmed its details and expressed his frustration.
Back in November, Shepard was honored at a special event at Dartmouth College. At the time, Mike Mashon, Head, Moving Image Section, Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, said “David is a giant in the field of film preservation, one of those rare talents who exemplifies the scholar’s rigorous research, the archivist’s attention to detail and the fan’s unabashed love and enthusiasm for movies.”

Born in 1940, David had a lifelong love of film, having devoted most of his life to film preservation. Through teaching and scholarship, through his company, Film Preservation Associates, through his ownership of the Blackhawk Films library, and through his film and video restoration efforts, David had long worked behind the scenes helping save early films. Just as importantly, David made these films available to the home video market, first through laserdisc and VHS formats, and more recently through high-quality DVD releases "where the clarity and beauty of these early motion pictures can really be fully appreciated."

Shepard has done as much as anyone to both preserve and promote our film heritage, especially the silent era. Shepard began restoring films when he joined the American Film Institute in 1968 as one of their first staff members. His company, Film Preservation Associates, is responsible for many high quality video versions of silent films. Some of these video releases came from the Blackhawk Films library (also owned by Shepard), and others from materials owned by private collectors and film archives around the world. David lovingly sheparded them into the world. Even this partial list of films restored by Shepard is astounding:

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
    A Farewell to Arms (1932)
    The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    The Black Pirate (1926)
    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
    Carmen (1915)
    The Cat and the Canary (1927)
    City Lights (1931)
    Don Q Son of Zorro (1925)
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
    Faust (1926)
    Foolish Wives (1922)
    The Gaucho (1927)
    The General (1926)
    Go West (1925)
    The Gold Rush (1925)
    The Great Train Robbery (1903)
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
    The Kid (1921)
    A King in New York (1957)
    The Last Laugh (1924)
    The Lost World (1925)
    The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927)
    Male and Female (1919)
    Man With a Movie Camera (1929)
    The Mark of Zorro (1920)
    Meet John Doe (1941)
    Modern Times (1936)
    Nanook of the North (1922)
    The Navigator (1924)
    Nosferatu (1922)
    Orphans of the Storm (1921)
    The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
    Robin Hood (1922)
    The Sheik (1921)
    Sherlock Jr. (1924)
    The Son of the Sheik (1926)
    Steamboat Bill (1928)
    Sunrise (1927)
    The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
    The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
    The Three Musketeers (1921)
    Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
    Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926)
    Les Vampires (1915)

There are others, of course. For this work and all that he had done, David was recognized by the San Francisco International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Denver Silent Film Festival, International Documentary Association, and the National Society of Film Critics, and others. For more about David Shepard and all that he has done, check out these interviews (and watch one of his silent films).

Northwest Chicago Film Society: A Conversation with David Shepard

Digitally Obsessed: A Conversation with David Shepard

Silents are Golden: Interview with David Shepard