Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer

Just out from the University Press of Kentucky is Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer by Cynthia and Sara Brideson. Its a graceful read, full of information and well researched. (I am more than 100 pages into the book.) My only complaint is that there is not more Louise Brooks in it. Admittedly, Brooks was with the Follies for only a short time (less than a year, really), but she was a favorite of the subject of this new book, impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. In fact, Ziegfeld long kept a picture of Brooks in his office. Brooks is only referenced in passing on page 293, and her picture is included in one of the two photo sections. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to finishing the book, and would recommend it to anyone one interested in the silent film era.

A description of the book from the publisher: "The name Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (1867–1932) is synonymous with the decadent revues that the legendary impresario produced at the turn of the twentieth century. These extravagant performances were filled with catchy tunes, high-kicking chorus girls, striking costumes, and talented stars such as Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Marilyn Miller, W. C. Fields, and Will Rogers. After the success of his Follies, Ziegfeld revolutionized theater performance with the musical Show Boat (1927) and continued making Broadway hits―including Sally (1920), Rio Rita (1927), and The Three Musketeers (1928)―several of which were adapted for the silver screen.

In this definitive biography, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson offer a comprehensive look at both the life and legacy of the famous producer. Drawing on a wide range of sources―including Ziegfield's previously unpublished letters to his second wife, Billie Burke (who later played Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz), and to his daughter Patricia―the Bridesons shed new light on this enigmatic man. They provide a lively and well-rounded account of Ziegfeld as a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a lover, and an alternately ruthless and benevolent employer. Lavishly illustrated with over seventy-five images, this meticulously researched book presents an intimate and in-depth portrait of a figure who profoundly changed American entertainment."

And three well deserved bits of praise....

"Ziegfeld was one of the most important theatrical producers of the early twentieth century, and the Follies (and its Girls) are still remembered today. He had a long-lasting effect not only on Broadway, but on social mores, and this book does a great job over covering that, in a fascinating way. The Bridesons know their stuff." ― Eve Golden, author of Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway

"For years I had hoped a book on Ziegfeld would come out, and now the wait is over! Expertly written, well researched, this is truly the definitive book on perhaps the greatest showman of the early Twentieth Century. This highly-recommended biography earns a perfectly wonderful place alongside my editions of Mrs. Ziegfeld: The Public and Private Lives of Billie Burke and With a Feather on my Nose. ― James Zeruk, author of Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide: A Biography

"The authors have created a detailed, sweeping narrative of Broadway showman and entrepreneur Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., both as to his professional rise and fall and the full details of his complex, busy personal life. While there have been books devoted to him before, this new account is quite compelling both in scope and detail, and will certainly be the new definitive biography of the opulent life and times of the great Ziegfeld." ― James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America's Film and TV Idols

Monday, June 8, 2015

Universal Pictures to restore 15 silent films over next 4 years

Building on its 2012 Centennial celebration, Universal Pictures announced its continued commitment to honor the Studio’s rich film history and cultural legacy by restoring some of the world’s classic silent films.  During the next four years, the Studio will restore approximately 15 silent film titles from Universal’s early years.  [No Louise Brooks films are expected to be among the forthcoming restorations. The actress' only Universal Film is Empty Saddles (1936).] The complete list of films is still in development in collaboration with outside film historians, institutions, and preservationists.  Partners and collaborators in the initiative include the Library of Congress, The Film Foundation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, George Eastman House, UCLA Film & Television Archives, Association of Moving Image Archivists, and Hollywood Heritage.

The announcement was made at the opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and was witnessed by yours truly. It was greeted with great excitement.

“The company understands its responsibility and need to preserve our silent film legacy,” said Ron Meyer, vice chairman, NBCUniversal. “This early art of film making is the foundation on which Universal Pictures was built more than 100 years ago, and it’s important we honor our rich history.”  

The silent film era is best known for instantly recognizable story lines, settings, costumes, and characters.  Most early silent films were accompanied by a full-fledged orchestra, organist or pianist to provide musical background and to underscore the narrative on the screen.  Some even included live actors or narrators.  The major genre emphasis was on swashbucklers, historical extravaganzas, and melodramas, although all kinds of films were being produced throughout the decade.

According to a report released by the Library of Congress, 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been completely lost.  Universal’s restoration team will work with archives and collectors worldwide to secure copies of prints and additional elements needed to complete this restoration effort and augment the silent film titles currently in its library. 

Universal Pictures silent film restoration initiative builds on the company’s ongoing restoration commitment.  Since the program was first announced in 2012, nearly 30 titles have been restored and 25 more titles are expected to be restored by 2017.  Fully restored titles to date include All Quiet on the Western Front, Dracula (1931), Dracula Spanish (1931), Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein [which almost starred Louise Brooks in the title role], Double Indemnity, The Sting, and other films.

adapted from the press release

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lulu: trailer - De Nationale Opera | Dutch National Opera

Wow. Wow. Wow. Watch these video trailers for William Kentridge's staging of Lulu at the Dutch National Opera. Next up, the Met in New York City. More info at http://bit.ly/youLulu

Friday, June 5, 2015

Irish Film Institute has Louise Brooks Double Bill

The Irish Film Institute in Dublin has scheduled a Louise Brooks double bill in June. The special program will feature Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Both films were directed by G.W. Pabst and released in 1929. More information about the event can be found HERE.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Jacksonville's Norman Studio Screens Louise Brooks Film on June 7

Norman Studios’s next Silent Sunday showcases German silent film director Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s 1929 drama, Diary of a Lost Girl, on Sunday, June 7th at Hotel Indigo at 9840 Tapestry Park Circle in Jacksonville, Florida. Doors open at 3pm, program begins at 4pm.

"In this 1929 silent drama, Brooks plays Thymiane, a teenage girl living a life of comfort that suddenly is thrown into a spiral of death, deception and despair. Pregnant by rape, young Thymiane is thrown out of her home to fend for herself, leading to a series of heartbreaking turns. But in a twist of fate, she finds herself in a position to change the destiny of another troubled young woman, proving that 'a little more love and no one would be lost in this world'." The films include live musical accompaniment by Tony Steve and the Silver Synchro Sounds.

Tickets are $5 per person and include popcorn. Silent Sundays proceeds support the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing public knowledge of Northeast Florida’s early film industry and the restoration of Jacksonville’s only remaining silent film studio. For information, go to www.normanstudios.org.

Louise Brooks remembers the time she spent
filming in Ocala, Florida.
Founded in 1920 Jacksonville, Florida’s Norman Studios was among the nation’s first to produce films starring African American characters in positive, non-stereotypical roles, contrasting the derogatory roles offered by the era’s mainstream filmmakers. It was run by Richard E. Norman, a forward-thinking gentleman who sought to help break the racial barriers in his industry. Norman’s five-building studio complex survives in Jacksonville’s historic Old Arlington neighborhood and is the city’s last surviving vestige from the River City’s heyday as a wintertime film production hub. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Henri Langlois Centennial Tribute includes Louise Brooks

Henri Langlois, one of the founders of the La Cinémathèque française, famously said Louise Brooks, "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks."

Fittingly, a Henri Langlois centennial tribute at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California includes a Louise Brooks film. On Saturday, July 11, 2015 the PFA will screening the La Cinémathèque française's copy of Prix de beauté (1930), starring Louise Brooks. More about that particular screening can be found HERE. The line-up for the centennial tribute follows.

The French film archivist and cinephile Henri Langlois (1914–1977) is a heroic and colorful figure in the history of cinema. As the cofounder of La Cinémathèque française in Paris and as a champion of film culture, he inspired the international cinematheque movement. Indeed, Langlois’s visits to Berkeley in the 1960s and 1970s greatly informed the vision of the Pacific Film Archive, particularly the way our institution exhibits, collects, and makes information about film history available to the public. Today, BAM/PFA’s film department remains true to that original model inspired by Henri Langlois, over forty years ago.

Summer 2015 brings a period of change for our film programs at BAM/PFA. This is our final season in the temporary PFA Theater, which we have occupied since 2000. What could be a more fitting tribute at this time of transition than this series, which celebrates aesthetic achievements in cinema, featuring many films that Langlois helped save for future generations of viewers? This eclectic series presents works that contributed to the development of French silent cinema as well as some by Langlois’s favorite auteurs (Tod Browning, Ernst Lubitsch, Jean Renoir, Erich von Stroheim). Langlois advocated for a cinema that explores the aesthetic possibility of film language and the use of cinema as a means of resistance, principles that we continue to champion as we move ahead into our future.

Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator

Thursday, June 11, 2015
7:30 p.m. Henri Langlois Centennial Tribute: Opening Program
Introduced by Tom Luddy. Judith Rosenberg on piano. A collection of shorts on the legendary Langlois, as well as the 1918 Italian short La Tosca, a lost film found by Langlois in the BAM/PFA Collection. Titles include Langlois (1970), Chit Chat with Henri Langlois (1975), and La Cinémathèque française (1962). (94 mins)

Friday, June 12, 2015
7:00 p.m. Dimitri Kirsanoff & Nadia Sibirskaïa Collaborations
Dmitri Kirsanoff (France, 1924/1928). Imported Prints! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Two rare works from the great silent-era director Dimitri Kirsanoff: the evocative portrait of two young sisters, Ménilmontant, and Autumn Mists, a short about a melancholy soul. (54 mins)

Saturday, June 13, 2015
6:30 p.m. Forbidden Paradise
Ernst Lubitsch (US, 1924). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Lubitsch teams with his favorite muse, the great actress Pola Negri, for this comedy inspired by the amorous intrigue surrounding Catherine the Great of Russia. Adolphe Menjou costars. (78 mins)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
7:30 p.m. Lumière d'été
Jean Grémillon (France, 1943). Imported Print! A remote mountain inn is the setting for a class-crossed love affair split between working class and idle rich. Coscripted by Jacques Prévert, it is acclaimed as one of the greatest French films made during the German Occupation. Followed by excerpts from Parlons cinema—à propos du cinéma dans la résistance. (120 mins)

Friday, June 19, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Steel Beast
Willy Otto Zielke (Germany, 1935). Imported Print! Commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of a rail line in 1935, this film by great German photographer Willy Otto Zielke is a daring collage of abstractions, rhythms, and historical commentary, and was immediately banned by the Nazis. (75 mins)

Friday, June 26, 2015
7:00 p.m. Early Films by Abel Gance
Abel Gance (France, 1915/1916). 35mm Restored Prints! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Two early and rare shorts, The Madness of Doctor Tube and The Deadly Gases, that demonstrate the fledgling skills of the director who would later make one of the silent era’s greatest epics, Napoleon. (83 mins)

Friday, July 3, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Unknown
Tod Browning (US, 1927). Judith Rosenberg on piano. A circus performer has his arms amputated to satisfy his lover’s strange desires in Tod Browning’s shocking tale of madness and love, starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford. (66 mins)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
7:30 p.m. Nana
Jean Renoir (France, 1926). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. An actress turns courtesan to make ends meet during Europe’s decadent Second Empire in Renoir’s first full-length vehicle for his wife, Catherine Hessling. Renoir: “My first film worth talking about.” (150 mins)

Saturday, July 11, 2015
6:30 p.m. Prix de beauté
Augusto Genina (France, 1930). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. The last major role for silent-era beauty Louise Brooks (Pandora’s Box) was as a Parisian typist who wins a beauty contest and a movie contract, only to face the violent disapproval of her husband. (108 mins)

Saturday, July 18, 2015
6:30 p.m. La chienne
Jean Renoir (France, 1931). Imported Print! Michel Simon is an unhappily married middle-aged bank clerk whose only passion in life is painting, until he becomes obsessed with a prostitute. Remade by Fritz Lang as Scarlet Street, Renoir’s original is infused with a sadomasochistic sexuality that is both heightened and tempered by Renoir's camera. (100 mins)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
7:30 p.m. Foolish Wives
Erich von Stroheim (US, 1922) Judith Rosenberg on piano. Monte Carlo provides the suitably decadent setting for von Stroheim’s look at money, temptation, and marriage. “Never was a film more revolutionary” (Langlois). (108 mins)

Friday, July 24, 2015
8:50 p.m. Queen Kelly
Erich von Stroheim (US, 1931) In a debauched Central European kingdom, a mad queen must wed a notorious libertine, who instead falls for a young nun (Gloria Swanson). One of the most infamous unfinished film maudits in history, and praised as Erich von Stroheim’s masterpiece. (74 mins)

Sunday, July 26, 2015
5:00 p.m. Georges Méliès Shorts
Georges Méliès (France, 1897–1906). Digital Restorations! Judith Rosenberg on piano. The genius shorts of the father of cinema, many hand-painted and restored by La Cinémathèque française in 2013 with the Éclair Group. (58 mins)

Based on Grâce à Henri Langlois, a touring exhibition originated by La Cinémathèque française (Paris), curated by Samantha Leroy. Our deepest thanks to Director General Serge Toubiana and the staff of La Cinémathèque française, who have made available many archival prints and digital restorations for this centennial tribute. BAM/PFA also wishes to thank the French Cultural Services San Francisco, Les Films du Jeudi, SNC, and Kathy Brew.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New Louise Brooks Society website in the works

To celebrate 20 years online as the leading source for all things Lulu, a new Louise Brooks Society website is in the works! Until its launch, the domain www.pandorasbox.com is under construction. Please check back as a new and improved website is made ready. Contact info is pictured here.

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