Sunday, December 2, 2018

Did you Know? Louise Brooks and Pola Illery

In 1931, Paramount remade the 1927 Louise Brooks' film Evening Clothes as a French talkie under the title of Un Homme en Habit. (That was also the French title of Evening Clothes when it was shown in France in the late 1920s). The French film, based on the same story material (Yves Mirande and André Picard's play) as the earlier American silent, starred Suzy Vernon (in the role played by Virginia Valli) and Fernand Gravey (in the role played by Adolphe Menjou). 

Pola Illéry on the cover of a Portuguese magazine.
The role played by Louise Brooks in Evening Clothes was played by Pola Illéry (1909–1993), a 4' 11" exotic silent film star in France and Romania in the 1920s who was best known for portraying sexually liberated women. For a time, she was considered the most glamorous film star in Romania. In 1939, with the rise of Nazism, the Jewish actress fled to the United States where she lived a quiet life. 

Born Paula Iliescu, she changed her name to "Pola" in tribute to the Polish-born actress Pola Negri. Her other key credits include Alberto Cavalcanti's Captain Fracasse (1929) and Le petit chaperon rouge (1930), and Parada Paramount (1930), the Romanian-language version of Paramount on Parade. For more on the actress, check out her Wikipedia and IMDb pages. There is even a Facebook page for her!

Above and below, Pola Illéry in the 1930 René Clair film Sous les toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Louise Brooks related text: Need help translating from Russian

In my search to document all things related to the actress and her legacy, I have come across all kinds of interesting material in languages which I don't read. That material includes articles,  advertisements, and other miscellaneous clippings from non-English language newspapers published in the United States. In fact, there were many such "ethnic" newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s, including those published in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Yiddish, and Russian. I have found Louise Brooks-related material in each language.

Can any good soul translate or summarize the first two clippings from a Russian-language newspaper? Each related to the debut of Pandora's Box in the United States in December of 1929.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Louise Brooks Society books - Black Friday #silentfilm specials

Looking for something good to read? In search of that special gift for the silent film fan on your Holiday shopping list?

The Louise Brooks Society is pleased to let everyone know that for a limited time (Thanksgiving November 22 through Cyber Monday November 26, 2018) each of the following titles are available at a special discounted price. And what's more, the LBS will pay the tax and ship the book for free (within the United States). The LBS accepts PayPal and major credit cards through it's safe and secure PayPal account. Click on a button below to place an order. Want a special inscription? Place a note in your order, and we'll be happy to oblige.

Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz
-- This new 296 page book brings together 15 years work by the Director of the Louise Brooks Society. Gathered here are the author's best articles, essays, reviews and blogs about the silent film star and her films: Beggars of Life, Pandora’s Box, and Diary of a Lost Girl are discussed, as are many other little known aspects of Brooks’ legendary career. With dozens of illustrations, many rare.  AUTOGRAPHED by the author.

Regular price $22.50 // now just $19.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz
-- This first ever study of Beggars of Life looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. With more than 50 little seen images, and a foreword by William Wellman, Jr. A must have addition to your library, and an essential companion to the KinoLorber DVD/Blu-ray. AUTOGRAPHED by the author.

Regular price $13.50 // now just $9.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)


Now We're in the Air (softcover 1st edition)
by Thomas Gladysz

This companion to the once "lost" 1927 film tells the story of the film’s making, its reception, and its discovery by film preservationist Robert Byrne. With two rare fictionalizations of the movie story, more than 75 little seen images, detailed credits, trivia, and a foreword by Byrne. AUTOGRAPHED by the author.

Regular price $17.50 // now just  $14.00 (includes shipping & handling within the USA)

Looking for more great reads and more great deals?
Check out the "Related Books for Sale" Page.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Beggars of Life will be showing in Sydney, Australia on 25 November

Beggars of Life, the acclaimed William Wellman directed silent film starring Louise Brooks, will be showing in the Metcalfe Auditorium at the State Library NSW in Sydney, Australia on November 25. Further information on this special event can be found HERE. Tickets can be purchased HERE. (Thanks to longtime LBS member Camille Scaysbrook for the tip on this happening.)

Want to learn more about Louise Brooks and Beggars of Life? Last Spring saw the release of my well reviewed new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, and last Summer saw the release of a new DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber. (The DVD, featuring the best copy of the film available anywhere, also includes a commentary by your's truly!) If you haven't secured a  copy of either the book or the DVD / Blu-ray, why not do so today? Each is an essential addition to your Louise Brooks collection. And what's more, my book (but not the DVD) is available around the world on Amazon, including Amazon Australia.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Louise Brooks text: Need help translating from Hungarian

Louise Brooks' films were shown all around the world in the 1920s and 1930s, including in Hungary. In my search to document all things related to the actress and her legacy, I have come across all kinds of interesting material in languages which I don't read.

Can any good soul translate or summarize this clipping from a Hungarian newspaper? It seems to be a sort of "people in the news" feature like those we see today.

By the way, to the left of Louise Brooks is Bruno Walter (1876 – 1962), is the German-born pianist and composer widely considered to be one of the great conductors of the 20th century. Földes Bandi, pictured at the top of the piece, was a musical prodigy who played the piano. I couldn't find anything more about him for certain, though he may be the same young Jewish man who died at Auschwitz. I have not been able to identify the man to the right of Louise Brooks. Can anyone?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Louise Brooks tribute centerpiece of inaugural silent film festival in Bainbridge, WA

The Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival, a two-day celebration of silent film, will show two seldom exhibited Louise Brooks' films, It’s the Old Army Game (1926), starring W. C. Fields, and the surviving fragment of Now We’re in the Air (1927). For the latter film, this special event marks the film's first screening in the Pacific Northwest in nearly 90 years! And what's more, Louise Brooks adorns the festival poster.

The two-film Louise Brooks tribute, a kind of centerpiece to the two day festival, will take place on November 17 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Bainbridge, Washington.

The Festival is a tribute to the late Frank Buxton (1930-2018), a local resident and longtime champion, advocate and appreciator of the arts. He was also a fan of Louise Brooks. Programming for the Festival was curated by Frank's friend and program collaborator John Ellis in partnership with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. More information HERE. The Bainbridge Island Review ran a piece on the event; read that piece HERE.

In celebration of the festival, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art's Orientation Gallery will feature a three-week exhibition of rare and historical posters, photos and ephemera from the silent film era from Buxton’s own extensive private collection.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CMBA Fall Blogathon featuring the 1927 Louise Brooks' film The City Gone Wild

The theme of the 2018 CMBA Fall Blogathon is Outlaws, which I am stretching to include gangsters and the criminal underworld (i.e. those outside the law). The focus of this blog is the 1927 Louise Brooks film The City Gone Wild.

Now considered a lost film, The City Gone Wild is a terse crime drama, with gangsters, gangs, and gunfights, in which a criminal lawyer turns prosecutor to avenge the death of a friend. As she did in The Street of Forgotten Men, Louise Brooks plays a moll, this time the deliciously named Snuggles Joy, the “gunman’s honey.”

The story, by Charles & Jules Furthman, goes like this: “With the outbreak of city gang wars between Gunner Gallagher and Lefty Schroeder, criminal lawyer John Phelan, feared in the underworld, brings temporary peace, while district attorney Franklin Ames investigates. Nada Winthrop, daughter of a powerful capitalist, is sought by both men. Though Nada loves John, she disapproves of his criminal practice; and when he frees Gunner Gallagher on bail, she announces her engagement to Ames. When Ames discovers that her father is the secret brain of the underworld activities and Winthrop has him killed, John takes the district attorneyship to avenge his friend. Snuggles, Gunner’s girl, threatens to inform on Winthrop unless John releases Gunner, and he concedes; John is about to resign when Snuggles, rejected by her man, confesses.” Screenplay credits went to Charles Furthman, and title credits to Herman J. Mankiewicz.

The “gangster film” (as we know it today) more-or-less began with Paramount’s Underworld (1927). Though there were earlier crime films, the Joseph von Sternberg directed Underworld set the tone for many of the genre films which followed, namely Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface (1932).

With the surprising success of Underworld, Paramount quickly put another crime film into production, namely The City Gone Wild. The film, originally titled First Degree Murder, was meant as a vehicle for leading man Thomas Meighan, who in 1927 saw his star start to fade. To boost his career, Paramount paired Meighan with a topical story “ripped from the headlines,” a first rate director (James Cruze), and popular supporting actors (including Louise Brooks). Also assigned to The City Gone Wild were individuals who had worked on Underworld, namely writer Charles Furthman, cinematographer Bert Glennon, and tough-guy actor Fred Kohler.

The two films, not surprisingly, were sometimes compared. Intoning the slang of the time, Variety wrote, “The gang stuff is a la Underworld — machine guns and plenty tough. The two main yeggs each have a moll carrying their gat in the pocketbook. Very authentic in these little details ….” Many focused on the acting and actors. The noted critic Ward M. Marsh of the Cleveland Plain Dealer stated, ” . . . pitting her against crookdom’s love of Louise Brooks brings out the worst in all of us. On the credit side is Miss Brooks and also Fred Kohler in a role paralleling his Mulligan in Underworld. They do excellent work.” The San Antonio Express echoed Marsh, “Although Meighan is featured in the cast, he has his co-stars, Louise Brooks, one of Paramount’s niftiest, and Fred Kohler, remembered for his great crook work in Rough Riders and Underworld.”

Critics noticed Brooks’ hard-boiled character, and the edge she brought to an otherwise atypical role. Radie Harris of the New York Morning Telegraph wrote, “Louise Brooks is in the cast and that is something to grow ecstatic about. Christened with the preposterous name of Snuggles Joy, she is the most entrancing crook that ever pulled a Holt. No wonder the city went wild.”

Gordon Hillman of the Boston Daily Advertiser wrote “Another distinct ornament of the cast is Louise Brooks, who lends considerable vividness to her portrait of a lady of the underworld. In fact, she gives so good an interpretation of the part that Marietta Millner, supposedly the feminine lead, actually relapses into only secondary importance.”

Brooks was so good that she out shown Millner, who had appeared earlier in the year with Meighan in the Cruze directed film We’re All Gamblers. “Louise Brooks, who plays the crook’s girl, is better looking, more attractive and a better actress than Marietta Millner, the district attorney’s jeune fille, and in real life Tommy probably would have preferred her to Marietta,” wrote Stanley Orne in the Portland Oregonian. “Louise Brooks, the pert flapper, completely shadows the more important role allotted to Marietta Millner, and the ‘girl of Gunner Gallagher’ brief as her part is, is a far more intriguing character than the society girl of Miss Millner,” added Leona Pollack of the Omaha World Herald.

The City Gone Wild was officially released November 12, 1927, with a stated length of 6 reels (5,408 feet), or approximately 60 minutes. [Pre-release Paramount production records list the film length at 6 reels (5,601 feet) for the domestic release, and 6 reels (5,390 feet) for the foreign release.] The film opened across the United States on November 6, 1927, with screenings in Atlanta, Georgia, Boston, Massachusetts, San Francisco, California and elsewhere.

The City Gone Wild is considered lost. The film was shown in Fairbanks, Alaska as late as January, 1930, and was largely extant as recently as 1971. In his 1990 book, Behind the Mask of Innocence, Kevin Brownlow wrote, “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.’ The film had been unspooled into a tank of water (recommended procedure for decomposing nitrate). Shepard complained officially to Paramount, who promised it would not happen again. He tried to rescue it, even from its watery grave, but a salvage company had carted it off by the time he got there.” In June of 2016, I spoke with David Shepard about the demise of the film. He confirmed this account, and  recalled grimly that Paramount would, at the time, discard any film which showed any degree of decomposition.

Under its American title, documented screenings of the film took place in Australia (including Tasmania), Canada,* China, Dutch Guiana (Suriname), Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (including England, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). The film was occasionally shown in the United States as City Gone Wild (and at least once in Scotland under the title A City Gone Wild).

In the United States, the film was advertised under the title A Cidade que Enlouqueceu (Portuguese-language press).

Elsewhere, The City Gone Wild was shown under the title The City Gone Mad and La ciudad del mal (Argentina); Der Verbrecherkönig von Chicago (Austria); La cité maudite (Belgium); A cidade bulicosa (Brazil); La ciudad del mal (Chile); Mesto uplynulý divoký (Czechoslovakia); Storstadens svøbe! (Denmark); Het Kwaad eener Wereldstad (Dutch East Indies – Indonesia); La cité maudite and La Ville Maudite (France);  狂乱街 (Japan); Die Gottin der Sunde (Latvia); La onda del crimen (Mexico); Boeven en Burgers and Het Kwaad Eener Wereldstad (The Netherlands); Piraci Wielkiego Miasta (Poland); A Cidade Ruidosa (Portugal); Gonosztevok kiralya (Romania); La ciudad del mal (Spain); and La cité maudite (Switzerland).

* Except in Quebec, where the film was banned due to “too much shooting.”

The cast of The City Gone Wild is certainly an interesting one: it includes Thomas Meighan as John Phelan, Marietta Millner as Nada Winthrop, Louise Brooks as Snuggles Joy (Gunner Gallagher’s girlfriend), Fred Kohler as Gunner Gallagher, Duke Martin as Lefty Schroeder, Nancy Phillips as Lefty’s Girl, Wyndham Standing as Franklin Ames, Charles Hill Mailes as Luther Winthrop, King Zany as Bondsman, (renown boxer) Gunboat Smith as a Policeman, and Shirley Dorman in an uncredited role.

Interestingly believe-it-or-not, Meighan was Louise Brooks’ “uncle-in-law.” Meighan was married to Frances Ring, a Broadway stage actress and the sister of the popular entertainer Blanche Ring. Director Eddie Sutherland — Brooks’ husband at the time, was the nephew of both Meighan, as Sutherland’s mother, Julie, was a sister of Blanche and Frances Ring.

In the mid-1920s, Meighan became interested in Florida real estate after talking with his brother, who was a realtor. In 1925, Meighan bought property in Ocala, Florida (where scenes for the Eddie Sutherland-directed It’s the Old Army Game were shot). In 1927, he built a home in New Port Richey, Florida. It was there that he spent his winters and helped support a local movie theater, the Meighan Theatre, which was named in his honor. The Meighan Theatre opened July 1, 1926, with a showing of the Meighan movie The New Klondike, a film set against the backdrop of the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Today, the renamed Richey Suncoast Theater is home to the annual Thomas Meighan film festival.

Notably, Meighan was involved in two of the more sensational happenings of the silent film era. In 1916, he was the sole witness to Jack Pickford and Olive Thomas’ secretive wedding. And in 1923, Meighan put up a large chunk of the bail money, and with the help of June Mathis and George Melford, and got Rudolph Valentino out of jail after he was charged with bigamy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Happy birthday to Louise Brooks - the magnetism of the cinema

who was born on this day in 1906 in Cherryvale,  Kansas

"Louise Brooks is the only woman who had the ability to transfigure no matter what film into a masterpiece. The poetry of Louise is the great poetry of rare loves, of magnetism, of tension, of feminine beauty as blinding as ten galaxial suns. She is much more than a myth, she is a magical presence, a real phantom, the magnetism of the cinema." 

So said Ado Kyrou (1923-1985), a Greek-born filmmaker, writer, critic and associate of the Surrealists long resident in France. Kyrou was a contributor to the French film journal Positif, and the author of Amour - érotisme & cinéma (1957) and Le Surréalisme Au Cinéma (1963).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A hopeless song of love for Louise Brooks

Here are two version of the Louise Brooks inspired song, "Hopeless." The first is a video by Stuart Pound to a recording by the UK band Evangelista. The song dates from the 1990's, and is a tribute to Louise Brooks. The song is about an impossible love for Brooks, an impossible love
because she died in 1984.

Hopeless from Stuart Pound on Vimeo.

The second version is a live recording by the Great Admirers of the "Evangelista cult classic."
The video was shot at the Seven Stars pub in Bristol, England on a Sunday afternoon, June 22, 2008.
Sound by Alfie Kingston. Long live Lulu!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Louise Brooks related text ? Need help translating from the Arabic !

Louise Brooks' films were  shown all around the world in the 1920s and 1930s, including the Middle East. In my search to document all things related the the actress and her legacy, I came across the following material, which I suspect contains a bit related to either the Canary Murder Case (1929) or the Greene Murder Case (1929) or the Benson Murder Case (1930), each of which starred William Powell as Philo Vance. Brooks was the co-star of the Canary Murder Case, the first film in the series of films based on S.S. van Dine's bestselling murder mysteries.

Can anyone tell me what these pages are about?

The are excerpted from a contemporary book, The Writings of El Sayyed Hassan Gomaa v. 2 1930-1934, compiled and edited by Farida Marei, with an introduction by Prof. Dr. Madkour Thabet. This book is part of a series, "The Legacy of Film Critics in Egypt," published by the Ministry of Culture / Egyptian Film Centre.

Do the reference Canary Murder Case? Or Louise Brooks? Or suggest when these films were shown in Cairo, presumably?

Friday, November 9, 2018

Louise Brooks' film Diary of a Lost Girl to screen at New York Public Library

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks' film, The Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown at the New York Public Library on Sunday, November 25th at 2:00 pm. This special event is part of a two-part series called "Silent Sirens on Sundays!" More information can be found HERE.

Silent Sirens: Olive Thomas and Louise Brooks
Writer and producer Michele Gouveia will introduce both films. 
Presented in the first floor Willa Cather Community Room, NYPL.
All events are free and open to the public.
The Flapper, Sunday, November 11 at 2:00 pm

The Flapper (1920), directed by Alan Crosland, tells the story of Ginger King (Olive Thomas), a bored schoolgirl who dreams of romantic adventures. In an attempt to become more sophisticated, she unwittingly gets mixed up with some crooks who entrust her with stolen jewels. When they come after her, she realizes that she must forget her childish dreams and save the day.

Olive Thomas (1894-1920) was a model and Follies girl who was named the most beautiful girl in New York City. She made her screen debut in 1916 in the serial Beatrix Fairfax and would go on to make 22 films before her untimely death at the age of 25. The Flapper, one of her biggest films, marked the first time the term “flapper” was used in an American film.

Diary of a Lost Girl , Sunday, November 25 at 2:00 pm

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), directed by G.W. Pabst, tells the story of Thymian Henning (Louise Brooks), a naïve young girl who after getting pregnant by her father’s assistant, is sent by her family to a repressive reform school from which she eventually escapes. Penniless and homeless, she winds up in a brothel where she lives for the moment with physical abandon.

Louise Brooks (1906-1985), the girl with the black bob, was a dancer and actress who after making a string of films in Hollywood gave it all up to go to Germany and play the lead in G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1928). After living in obscurity for years, film historians rediscovered Brooks’ films in the 1950s, and she was proclaimed a film icon.

Diary of a Lost Girl is based on a controversial and bestselling book first published in Germany in 1905. Though little known today, it was a literary sensation at the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of the 1920s, it had been translated into 14 languages and sold more than 1,200,000 copies - ranking it among the bestselling books of its time.

Was it - as many believed - the real-life diary of a young woman forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution? Or a sensational and clever fake, one of the first novels of its kind? This contested work - a work of unusual historical significance as well as literary sophistication - inspired a sequel, a play, a parody, a score of imitators, and two silent films. The best remembered of these is the G.W. Pabst film starring Louise Brooks.

In 2010, the Louise Brooks Society published a corrected and annotated edition of the original English language translation, bringing this important book back into print in the United States after more than 100 years. It includes an introduction by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society, detailing the book's remarkable history and relationship to the 1929 silent film. This special "Louise Brooks Edition" also includes more than three dozen vintage illustrations and is available through

In 2015, Kino Lorber released the best available print of the film on DVD and Blu-ray. This recommended release features an audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz. Like the book, the film is also available through

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival to feature two Louise Brooks films on November 17

Thomas Gladysz and Frank Buxton
The Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival, a two-day celebration of silent film, is scheduled to show two seldom exhibited Louise Brooks' films, It’s the Old Army Game (1926), and the surviving fragment of Now We’re in the Air (1927). For the latter film, the event marks the film's first screening in the Pacific Northwest in nearly 90 years!

According to it's website, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Bainbridge, Washington is proud to present the debut of the Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival, a two-day cinematic excursion exploring the pleasures, history and lost art of American silent film.

The Festival is a tribute to the late Frank Buxton (1930-2018), a local resident and longtime champion, advocate and appreciator of the arts. Programming for the Festival was curated by Frank's friend and program collaborator John Ellis in partnership with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. More information HERE.



- 6:30 pm - Opening Party
Visiting artists, guests and weekend pass holders enjoy a pre-screening reception with food and refreshment in the Museums First Floor Gallery

- 7:30 pm - Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929)Original score from Erin O'Hara

The Buxton Silent Film festival kicks off with a rare screening of Alfred Hitchcock's silent version of Blackmail, one of his earliest and most atmospheric films. The dark drama is orchestrated by Erin O'Hara, who created the entire score from the point of view of Alice, Anny Ondres character who murders her would be rapist with a bread knife. With an ensemble of electric and acoustic instruments and voices, O'Hara expresses the interior voice of heroine Alice, as she navigates her way through a journey of assault, survival and the murky search for justice. One reviewer said, Her soundtrack is both a signal contribution to Hitchcock's art and a bold rejoinder to it.


- 10 am - Classic Comedy ShortsMusical accompaniment by Miles and Karina (David Miles Keenan and Nova Karina Devonie)
Featured films:
  • One Week (1920) with Buster Keaton
  • The Immigrant (1917) with Charlie Chaplin
  • Battle of the Century (1927) from Laurel & Hardy
- 2:00 pm - Louise Brooks TributeMusical accompaniment by Miles and Karina (David Miles Keenan and Nova Karina Devonie)
Featured films:

- 7:30 pm - The Unknown starring Lon Chaney (1927)
Original Score composed and performed live by Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto
The Unknown is an American silent horror film directed by Tod Browning, a story of yearning, frustration, resentment and betrayal. Lon Chaney stars as carnival knife thrower Alonzo the Armless and Joan Crawford is the scantily clad carnival girl he hopes to marry. The film is brought to life by a live score composed and performed by Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto, a five-piece local jazz ensemble led by Brazilian jazz pianist Jovino Santos Neto. Neto offers a fresh take on the musical conventions of silent film accompaniment. Instead, he mines the deep, dark melancholy conveyed by the actors' facial expressions to create a 50-minute suite that blends sounds, textures and improv from vibraphone, bandoneon, bass, drums, percussion, piano, flute, melodica and electronics. Special thanks to Seattle Theater Group. Join film-goers for a short after-party.

I knew Frank Buxton, and know that he loved silent film, comedy, and Louise Brooks! He was a many of many accomplishments in a remarkable and eclectic career. Read the obits from Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and KitSap Sun. This event, the Frank Buxton Silent Film festival, is fitting tribute. Above is a picture of Frank on stage with Buster Keaton in 1949. Frank had autographed the page in my Keaton book where this picture appeared, and pointed himself out. (Buxton was also the co-author of a classic book on early radio, The Big Broadcast.)

Frank Buxton and I kept in touch over the years, chatting about film books and our favorite stars. Not long before he died, I was able to share with him a copy of my recent book, Now We're in the Air, a Companion to the Once "Lost" Film.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Louise Brooks, Lee Israel, and Dorothy Kilgallen

The newly released film, Can You Every Forgive Me?, is getting a lot of attention. Many, if not most of the articles and reviews about the film have name-checked Louise Brooks. And just as many have name-checked Dorothy Kilgallen.

For those who haven't yet seen the film (and we recommend that you do), Can You Every Forgive Me? is a biographical drama based on Lee Israel's 2008 memoir of the same name. It stars Melissa McCarthy as Israel and follows her as she tries to revitalize her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and celebrities, including Brooks. (Louise Brooks receives a shout-out in the film itself, and her portrait can be seen in the film hanging above Israel's desk.)

Dorothy Kilgallen, a popular newspaper columnist, is also mentioned because she (along with actress Talullah Bankhead) were both the subject of earlier bestselling books by Israel. Though not well remembered today, Kilgallen was a major celebrity in her time who was once called “One of the greatest women writers in the world” by Ernest Hemingway. Famed attorney F. Lee Bailey called Kilgallen “A very bright and very good reporter of criminal cases, the best there was,” and as one of the first female media icons, her accomplishments rival modern day legends like Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, and Diane Sawyer.  Kilgallen also played a small but significant role in helping keep Louise Brooks' name in the public eye. (More on that below.)

Dorothy Kilgallen (July 3, 1913 – November 8, 1965) was an American journalist and television game show panelist. She started her career shortly before her 18th birthday as a reporter for the Hearst's New York Evening Journal. In 1938, she began her newspaper column "The Voice of Broadway,", which was eventually syndicated to more than 140 papers. Her radio program, also called "Voice of Broadway," was broadcast on CBS during World War II. In 1950, she became a regular panelist on the television game show What's My Line? (pictured at the end of this blog), continuing in the role for 15 years until her death. (Read more about Kilgallen on Wikipedia.)

Kilgallen's columns featured mostly show business news and gossip, but ventured into other topics, such as politics and organized crime. She wrote front-page articles on the Sam Sheppard murder trial, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy;  the latter infuriated President Lyndon Johnson and his administration. (Kilgallen was publicly skeptical of the conclusions of the Warren Commission's report into the assassination of Kennedy and wrote several newspaper articles to that effect.) Kilgallen also feuded with Frank Sinatra, and was one of four witnesses who testified for the defense of comedian Lenny Bruce during his obscenity trial in New York City.

Kilgallen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard - in fact, she is among the first 500 people who were chosen to receive the first stars on the walk of fame. (The stars were installed on sidewalks in 1960 and 1961, several years before her passing.)

Kilgallen died in 1965, under what some consider mysterious circumstances. A 2016 book on Kilgallen by Mark Shaw, titled The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, looks at her life and death.

But what about Kilgallen and Brooks?

From a survey of Kilgallen's many, many columns, it seems that the reporter had a something of an interest in the former silent film star, as Kilgallen wrote about Brooks at a time when the former film star was well out of the public spotlight. And, she wrote about her in affectionate terms. Both were smart women trying to make their mark in a man's world; I suspect Brooks herself fed Kilgallen bits of information over time (in order to keep herself from being forgotten), and these bits ended up in Kilgallen's newspaper pieces.

I don't know that the two women ever met, but I wonder if they did.

Here are a few instances over a 23 year period of Brooks' being mentioned in Kilgallen's column. Dates are approximate, as Kilgallen's syndicated columns appeared in various newspapers on various dates. (These dates are drawn from the extensive Louise Brooks Society chronology on the Louise Brooks Society website.)

June 26, 1941
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes: "Louise Brooks, the silent screen star, suffered severe burns recently. Had all her hair singed off."

Nov. 11, 1941
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen notes Brook is "stranded in Wichita, Kan. and s-o-s-ing friends for any kind of job."

January 29, 1943
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes, "Do you know that Louise Brooks, the black-haired silent cinema star, is in town looking unbelievably young and pretty and in the mood to do a show?"

August 20, 1946
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes "Remember Hollywood When - Louise Brooks was a flapper siren with the Rivoli Theater in New York City."

May 31, 1952
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen notes, "Remember a silent screen actress named Louise Brooks? She is writing an autobiographical novel which is said to be a sizzler. Several Hollywood personalities have begged her to include them out...."

Nov. 28, 1952
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen reports Brooks will marry merchant marine Jimmy Dunn.

August 7, 1957
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes "Remember Louise Brooks, the cutie-pie of the early movies? She's living in Gotham now, and has just finished a book about her life in the turbulent twenties. Those who've previewed it say it's hilarious."

August 14, 1959
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes "The Museum of Modern Art's recent homage to Marlene Dietrich will be emulated by the 92nd St. YMHA when they inaugurate a similar tribute to Louise Brooks, a star of the silent screen. Miss Brooks, now in Rochester doing research for a book on famous women in cinema history, will come to Gotham for the festivities in October."

December 18, 1964
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen writes "Louise Brooks, a cinema star of long ago (no living in Rochester N.Y.) is almost finished writing her autobiography, titled Naked on My Goat. It's reported to be 'really wild,' and quite a few Hollywood old-timers are worrying because word is around that she's naming names and pulling no punches."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

San Francisco Silent Film Festival announced

SFSFF is happy to announce the complete program for its holiday extravaganza A DAY OF SILENTS: one glorious day of live cinema on December 1 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California with six programs, 10 musicians, and plenty of holiday cheer.

From Laurel and Hardy to Beatrice Lillie, from French Impressionism to German Expressionism, from the romanticism of Frank Borzage to the feminism of Dorothy Davenport, plus live musical accompaniment by Wayne Barker, Jon Mirsalis, Alloy Orchestra, and Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra—an all-around wonderful day is in the offing. TICKETS and PASSES on sale now!

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were part of Hal Roach's Comedy All Stars when filmmaker Leo McCarey had an inspiration—to team them up. McCarey served as the team's supervising director in the late silent era and he and Laurel developed the classic Laurel and Hardy slow-burn style that made them stars worldwide far into the sound era. As the brilliant new film Stan & Ollie—starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly—prepares for an early 2019 release, it's time to check in with the comedy duo that inspired it.

The program includes THE FINISHING TOUCH (1928, d. Clyde Bruckman, Leo McCarey), LIBERTY (1929, d. James W. Horne, Leo McCarey), and BIG BUSINESS (1929, d. James W. Horne, Leo McCarey). Total running time approximately 65 minutes

Live musical accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis

Prints (35mm and DCP) from the Library of Congress and Lobster Films with permission by Jeff Joseph 

Inspired by a true story in ripped-from-the-headlines style, The Red Kimona was the third in a trilogy of social-issue dramas by actress/screenwriter/director Dorothy Davenport. The story of a small-town teacher lured into prostitution was adapted for the screen by Dorothy Arzner from Adela Rogers St. John’s sensational story, and produced and co-directed by Davenport (as Mrs. Wallace Reid). Gabrielle (Priscilla Bonner) is a young naïf who’s swept off her feet by a Lothario, who abandons her in New Orlean’s red-light district. When she sees him buying an engagement ring for another woman, she shoots him dead. At trial Gabrielle becomes a cause celebre—and the pawn of a self-aggrandizing socialite.

USA, 1925. Directed by Walter Lang and Dorothy Davenport. With Priscilla Bonner, Nellie Bly Baker, Carl Miller, Mary Carr, Virginia Pearson, and Tyrone Power Sr.

Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra Print (DCP) courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive. The film is part of Kino Lorber’s Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers collection. Preservation was funded by The Stanford Foundation, George Eastman Museum, and UCLA Film & Television Archive

One of legendary stage actress Beatrice Lillie’s few films—the superbly comic Exit Smiling, her debut and her only silent—demonstrates why theater audiences found her so captivating. Lillie’s character works wardrobe in a touring theatrical company—“Violet, the drudge of the troupe”—and she’s determined to break into the limelight. A talented crew in front of the camera (Jack Pickford, Franklin Pangborn in his feature debut!) and behind (writer/director Sam Taylor was a veteran of some of Harold Lloyd’s best comedies) adds nuance and grace to the hilarity. The portrayal of low-rent theater life is beautifully realized, with the seedy small-town halls, crummy dressing rooms, and camaraderie that come with the theatrical calling.

USA, 1926. Directed by Sam Taylor. With Beatrice Lillie, Jack Pickford, and Franklin Pangborn. 80 minutes

Live musical accompaniment by Wayne Barker

Print (35mm) courtesy of the British Film Institute with permission by Warner Bros.

Director Jean Epstein was one of the central figures in French cinema of the 1920s and his writings and cinematic innovations have inspired filmmakers from Buñuel to Cassavetes. The romantic triangle at the center of Couer Fidèle is played out on the streets and docks of working class Marseilles as Marie (the breathtaking Gina Manès) dreams of escaping a bad relationship with drunken layabout Petit Paul (Edmond van Daële) for dockworker Jean (Léon Mathot). Epstein aimed to create, in his own words, “a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so sober, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy.” In Coeur Fidèle he achieves that nobility—his blend of experimentation and naturalism is visually and emotionally riveting. In Cahiers du Cinema, Henri Langlois wrote, “Coeur Fidèle is the triumph of impressionism of movement, but it is also something else – the triumph of the modern spirit. Its images were seemingly in 3D; they literally burst from the screen…”

France, 1923. Directed by Jean Epstein. With Léon Mathot, Gina Manès, and Edmond van Daële. 75 minutes

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra

Restoration by Cinémathèque Française. Print (DCP) courtesy of The Festival Agency

One of three titles nominated for Best Picture at the very first Academy Awards, 7th Heaven helped to establish Fox Film Corporation as a major studio. Although it lost to Wings (the category was called Outstanding Picture at the time), director Borzage took the top prize for directing, star Janet Gaynor for acting, and screenwriter Benjamin Glazer for adaptation. Set in Paris on the cusp of WWI, 7th Heaven is the story of two ordinary people who become involved by chance, separated by war, and transfigured by love. Beautifully photographed and supremely romantic in the telling, 7th Heaven was the first pairing of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, who would become the romantic duo of the era.

USA, 1927. Directed by Frank Borzage. With Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. 110 minutes

Live musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Restoration by MoMA. Print (DCP) courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Lotte Eisner’s groundbreaking history of cinema The Haunted Screen (1952) had the unintended effect of popularizing the idea of expressionism—suddenly every Weimar title was considered an example of German Expressionism. Eisner set out to redress that misreading and in 1958, she declared that there were no more than three genuinely expressionist films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Waxworks, and From Morn to Midnight. With its painted sets, distorted perspectives, and artificial acting, Morn is quintessentially expressionist in style. The story is of a small-town bank teller who, after becoming bewitched by a glamorous customer, decides his own life is paltry, steals a large sum of money from his bank and flees to the big city to pursue fulfillment. Produced a few months after Caligari’s release, the film had a negligible release in Germany but it found success in Japan in 1922. The film was considered lost for many years but in one of those wonders of cinema history, a copy was found at the National Film Center, Tokyo (now the National Film Archive of Japan) in 1959. Our print from NFAJ is from the 2004 restoration with the Munich Filmmuseum.

Germany, 1920. Directed by Karlheinz Martin. With Ernst Deutsch, Roma Bahn, and Ema Morena. 69 minutes

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra
Print (35mm) courtesy of National Film Archive of Japan

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, screens in Brazil at MOSTRA

Pandora's Box, the sensational 1929 silent film starring Louise Brooks, will be shown in Brazil in the coming days. More information about this special screening, which is part of the 42nd International Film Festival in Sao Paulo (aka MOSTRA), can be found HERE, and below.

Pandora's Box will be shown with an orchestral accompaniment at the Ibirapuera Auditorium on October 27th at 7 pm. The live score, by the German composer Peer Raben, will be performed by the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra under the command of maestro Fábio Prado. Raben's score was composed in 1997 to accompany a recent restoration of the film.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Diary of a Lost Girl screens in Italy

Diary of a Lost Girl, the sensational 1929 silent film starring Louise Brooks, will be shown in Italy. More information about this special event can be found HERE, and below.

Giovedì 18 ottobre 2018 ore 21.30 Auditorium Fondazione Banca del Monte di Lucca Chiesa di San Francesco Lucca Evento speciale in memoria di Riccardo Berutto DIARIO DI UNA DONNA PERDUTA di Georg W. Pabst – Germania, 1929 – 90' con Louise Brooks, Joseph Rovensky In collaborazione con Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca e Associazione Domenico di Lorenzo Thymiane, figlia di un farmacista, è violentata dall'assistente del padre e resa incinta.

Il bambino nasce ma muore quasi subito. Thymiane viene rinchiusa in una casa di correzione, da cui evade per lavorare in un bordello. Qui conosce un giovane ma dopo la morte di quest'ultimo ne sposa lo zio, diventando una signora per bene. Melodramma sulla complessa carriera di una ragazza che passa attraverso l'inferno della prostituzione per giungere ai fasti della società borghese: il regista Pabst sarcasticamente dipinge i crimini e misfatti di una società in disfacimento, avvalendosi del fascino morboso della bella e dotata Louise Brooks. Un capolavoro del cinema muto che vi proponiamo, in collaborazione con la Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca e Associazione Domenico di Lorenzo, nel ricordo dell'amico Riccardo Berutto.

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