Sunday, October 24, 2021

The enduring charm of Hailey Tuck - "the millennial's Louise Brooks"

It's no secret I adore Hailey Tuck, not just because she is darn cute and sports a swell bob, but also because she is a gifted jazz vocalist. Hailey is a singer from Austin, Texas who, in her own words, is "based in Paris & London in the 1920's." 

I have been spending a good deal of time on YouTube over the last few days (refurbishing the Louise Brooks Society YouTube channel) when I came across a 2018 interview with Hailey in which she mentions the impact Louise Brooks and Brooks' own memoir, Lulu in Hollywood, had on her life and career. I hadn't seen it before. My bad. And thought to post it here.

I have written about Hailey in the past, as have many other publications including Marie Claire, who once described her as “The millennial's Louise Brooks.” Back in 2015, Hailey contributed a piece to the Louise Brooks Society blog in which fans of the actress were asked to submit their story of discovery -- of how they first came across Louise Brooks and what the actress means to them. Before I reprint that piece, here is another 2018 video clip of Hailey's UK TV debut, singing "That Don't Make It Junk" on the BBC show, Later... with Jools Holland.


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Hailey Tuck's story of discovering Louise Brooks
by Hailey Tuck

When I was 18, I was working in a rare and out of print bookstore in Austin, TX and lazily attending a mess of random liberal arts classes at the community college across the street. I'd graduated from a Baptist military boarding school early, and subsequently 'suffered' two heart wrenching defeats in attempting to gain admittance to Julliard, and though I can look back on that malaise with the same wry smile as reading my self-aggrandizing childhood diaries, I do acutely remember looking at my options and feeling very "none of the above."

The job itself was a total dream, and still my number one back up in case I didn't manage to become wildly successful in jazz. My grandmother was a bookseller and called in an old favor for her bibliophile granddaughter, and voila I became their only employee. The shop opened at noon (ideal) and I was mostly left to my own devices, or occasionally joined by my boss, Luke -- an obviously extreme literate, and general good time -- or one of the eccentric collectors who would come and have a whiskey, or tutor me in French. 

Like some sort of adult Montessori school, my browsing led me to a total cultural revolution for a curious 18 year old. After dully expressing my distaste for poetry, Luke pointed me to Pablo Neruda and Rainer Maria Rilke, and like a light-bulb I suddenly understood the art behind the subtlety of expressing something sensuous or painful without the directness or girth of literature. I pawed through sections on occult, anthropology, Swedish furniture. I bought the entire play section. I dated a professor from the university who slept in a soundproof, light proof box and cut off my black hair because I wanted to look like a New York art dealer in the 90's. And luckily, I picked up a book called Lulu in Hollywood because the illustration of the chick on the front had my hair cut. 

Reading, or inhaling rather, doesn't cover it. For once I felt I was reading a real story, and one that closely echoed my own -- sexual abuse, alcoholism, family troubles, and then looking at traditional success and saying, "Fuck that I'm going to make weird ass art house movies in Germany!" Some might view Louise's subsequent eeking descending fall into obscurity as a classic tragedy, however from my current vantage point as a young performer, I see someone who made deliberate u-turns based on a desire to be the most authentic version of themselves, regardless of the viability for commercial success. And most importantly, I saw myself, and felt steeled to seek out my own adventure, regardless of the wobbling uncertainty of ditching college, my father's approval, and the American dream. 

My newfound hubris manifested into a one way ticket to Paris. I should add that I also had the rare luck of a modest trust fund of sorts -- before you start gagging -- it was an insurance settlement. A lonely month or so later on the metro, this American girl complimented my vintage dress, and I asked her how she knew I spoke English, and she said, "I don't, I just speak to everyone in English!" 
 
For some reason it seemed entirely charming, and I asked her if she wanted to get off and have a glass of champagne together. She told me about her strange marriage to an older wealthy record producer (they have separate houses, and she collects dollhouses) and I told her that I was sort living in this squat and was too scared to tell my Dad, or he'd make me come home. She happened to be house sitting this beautiful apartment in Voltaire and offered for me to sleep on the red velvet fainting couch. One night later we were throwing a party and I was sitting on my bed/fainting couch and this completely decadent red headed American, in head to toe 1920's sat down next to me and I told her I'd been living there on this couch, then asked her the proverbial, "Do you come here often?" She looked at me sardonically, and patiently replied that this was her house. And her couch. After a second/hour or so of complete embarrassment I bumbled and mumbled my way through an explanation about being fresh off the boat, wanting to do acting or singing or something, and a few glasses of Prosecco later she had yanked off the music and had me singing Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You" on her dining room table. 

When I read Lulu in Hollywood I had this grand idea of what Europe might be -- cavorting with intellectuals and passing out at orgies at Rothschild mansions. But when I got there everything seemed garishly contemporary, and lonely. I just felt like an American at an overpriced cafe.

But whatever Sorrel saw in me on her dining room table was the catalyst for everything I could have imagined. I got upgraded from fainting couch to painting studio, introduced to a swath of filthy Italian phrases, chess on trains, regency balls, schooled on not offending Venetians at Carnival, posing nude in an Art Deco harem, literally physically force-dressing me for winter time, and above all encouraged and supported to sing at every single event, party, and opportunity possible until, like learning the other side of poetry, or understanding the inevitability of forever, I became the most true, authentic version of myself as a jazz singer trying to evolve and challenge myself in Europe, and of course offending Venetians and passing out at Mansion parties. 
 
I'm still sort of making wobbly guess-choices, but I do know that everything that has led me to where I am now feels right, and nothing about it seems like the beaten path to any real commercial success, and that feels great. And when Marie Claire did an article on me this year, I definitely felt a wry self-aggrandizing smile when reading the title "The Millennial Louise Brooks".
 
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In 2020, Hailey released another splendid album, Coquette. To keep up with Haily and her career, be sure and check out her website at haileytuckmusic.com/ or follow her on Twitter or YouTube. That's where I am headed now to watch a few more videos.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Drawing Louise Brooks - videos from the LBS YouTube Channel

Lately, I have been revamping (pun intended) the Louise Brooks Society YouTube channel. Among other things, I have created some new and different playlists of interesting and quirky things I have found on YouTube. Among them are a handful of videos of individuals drawing Louise Brooks, which I never knew was a thing. Here are a few examples of from my new playlist. If you have done one a video drawing, or know of one I have missed one, please let me know.

Writer/Artist Rick Geary draws a portrait of silent film actress Louise Brooks, who was a relative of his. Show here in time lapse . . . and one of my favorites. I have interviewed Rick Geary in the past. Read my interview HERE


Time lapse digital speed painting of Louise Brooks by Jeff Stahl done in Photoshop CS5 with Wacom tablets Cintiq 12wx and Intuos 4L. Real time: 1h16min.

 


The first video in a series from Bee the Artist titled "Bio-pics" - a mix between portrait drawing and film history. This video is a bit longer, and features multiple sketches.


 And lastly, a drawing of Louise Brooks by Gregory Roth, drawn in ArtRage. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

A milestone for the Louise Brooks Society blog

A rare portrait from the 1930s
Recently, I was tidying up the Louise Brooks Society blog (I hope you like what I have done with the place) when I noticed it was coming up on a milestone. Today's post marks the 3400th blog.

I started blogging back in August 2002, first on LiveJournal, and then on Blogger starting around 2009. I managed to transfer the most interesting pieces from LiveJournal to Blogger, and have been writing and blogging and posting all along. Admittedly, those very early pieces were infrequent and sometimes slight. In 2006, however, during the Louise Brooks centennial, I posted 290 times. There was a lot to report. In 2011, I posted only 69 times. The best year was 2014, when I posted 306 times. I can't imagine how I did it. The pandemic has certainly slowed things down, as there are fewer screenings and news items to write about. My goal these days is to focus on more substantive pieces and newly found material, and to post about 100 times a year. I figure it all adds up.

The LBS blog has hundreds of followers. IF YOU ARE NOT ONE, SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE IN THE COLUMN ON THE RIGHT. Since 2009, according to my hit counter, the Louise Brooks Society blog has been viewed more than 1,665,000 times by individuals from all around the world. That is pretty cool. Check the flag counter below or in the right hand column to see if your country is represented. Not surprisingly, English speaking countries lead the roll call of visitors. And of course, France and Germany (where LB made a few films) also show many visitors. It pleases me that Russia and countries in Latin America also show up, as does India. But come on New Zealand, you can do better! And so can you, Poland!

 Free counters!

As many longtime readers of this blog know, my other online writings about Louise Brooks have appeared on examiner.com, Huffington Post, SFGate (website of the San Francisco Chronicle), Open / Salon, Pop Matters, and recently Film International. And what's more, my articles have been tweeted about by the likes of Roger Ebert (twice!), Neil Gaiman, and others. That is really cool. In 2018, I collected a number of my best articles and blogs into an illustrated, 296 page book, Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star. Why not ORDER a copy today! 

Just recently, I noticed one of my past blogs caught the attention of Greil Marcus back in 2015. Writing on BarnesandNobleReview, the famous critic and author singled out a 2012 blog I penned on Louise Brooks and the Kansas-born artist Bruce Conner. Here is a screen capture of Greil Marcus' blog about my blog.

Again, I was pleased by the attention. The Louise Brooks Society blog is a proud member of the CMBA (the Classic Movie Blog Association). I was also heartened back in 2018 when the Classic Movie Blog Association profiled the LBS blog and even interviewed yours truly. That is certainly another highlight in the life of the Louise Brooks Society blog. The recognition is nice, and so is the feedback. 

My sincere thanks to the blogs which link to the LBS blog (some are linked in the right hand column), and to the bloggers (including Immortal Ephemera), online publications (including Shelf-Awareness), and websites (including Columbia University Press) which have written about its various entries. I will end this pat on the back with another little seen portrait of Louise Brooks from the 1930s. Long live Lulu!

Another little seen portrait of Brooks from the early 1930s

Saturday, October 16, 2021

More about Louise Brooks in the early 1930s

It is a shame Louise Brooks' career fizzled out in the early 1930s. She could have been a contender.

In early 1930, publications carried stories of Brooks’ return to Hollywood. Behind the scenes, the actress was being courted by Columbia Pictures, where there was talk of a possible role in a Buck Jones western. Brooks, however, refused the part and walked away from a contract with the up-and-coming studio – just as she had done with Paramount in 1928, and American Pathé in 1929. Eventually, she found work in a trio of American talkies released the following year.

Brooks’ career had achieved a momentum which necessitated a strong role in a good film to keep her in the public eye. . . that film might have been the celebrated crime drama, The Public Enemy (1931), if only Brooks had accepted the role offered her by director William Wellman. Instead, what the world got were supporting roles in three lesser films. Each received scant attention and relatively few showings - the most popular and certainly the best of the lot was the slightly suggestive pre-code farce, God's Gift to Women. Nevertheless, it too was a lesser film, and none of the three did anything to help her flagging career. 

Windy Riley Goes Hollywood promo photo

Which again is a shame, because Louise Brooks could have shined in pre-code films. The actress even adapted her look, brushing back her bangs, exposing her forehead, and letting her hair grow just a little bit longer as was the style of the time. 

It Pays to Advertise promo photo

God's Gift to Women promo photo

Following the release of the three films in 1931, Louise Brooks dropped out of Hollywood for what amounted to a five year absence. She declared bankruptcy in 1932, got married and divorced in 1933, worked and toured as a ballroom dancer in 1933 and 1934, and drifted along until 1936, when she played a supporting role in the Buck Jones western, Empty Saddles (Universal). But before that, she was considered for but never offered the title role in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), James Whale's sequel to his 1931 hit film, Frankenstein. Oh, what might have been. . . . 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Louise Brooks - Her Last Hurrah in 1931

I recently noticed that the fabulous Media History Digital Library has a bunch of issues of Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine dating from 1930 through 1934. That's five years worth of this stylish though little known publication. I did my usual search through the magazines, looking for articles or mentions of Louise Brooks, and was a bit surprised by how little press the actress received. Of course, at the time, it was all about Garbo and Dietrich and Mae West and other stars both still remembered and now forgotten. Here is the cover of the February, 1931 issue of the magazine.

Brooks' best year in Broadway and Hollywood Movies was 1931. During the year she was mentioned 3 times, once erroneously, and once not at all when she should have been mentioned. In 1931, Brooks had been absent from Hollywood for nearly two years. She had worked in Europe, and returned to the United States hoping to make a comeback. That year, she appeared in three films, two feature, It Pays to Advertise (Paramount, directed by Frank Tuttle) and God's Gift to Women (Warner Brothers, directed by Michael Curtiz), and a short, Windy Riley Goes Hollywood (Educational, directed by William B. Goodrich aka Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle). Each were middling fair at best, and each did nothing to help restart or revive Brooks' flagging career. Brooks was also cast, but walked away from a film which would have helped her career a good deal, William Wellman's The Public Enemy (Warner Brothers).

Brooks' standing in Hollywood is exemplified by these mere mentions in various 1931 issues of  Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine. In each, she referenced as having appeared in a film. Coincidentally, the write-ups for both God's Gift to Women and Windy Riley Goes Hollywood appeared side-by-side. Considering how concise these write-ups are, it's not surprising that Brooks didn't receive more coverage, especially in regards to Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, in which she is the co-star.

The other film Brooks appeared in in 1931 was It Pays to Advertise. Her role was little more than a brief bit, a five minute cameo at the beginning of the film. (Brooks reportedly played the part to complete her contract with Paramount.) Usually, she was billed fifth or sixth. Truth be told, at the time Brooks was the biggest name in the film; Carole Lombard was at the beginning of her career. However, despite her past fame, her cameo wasn't enough to be mentioned in this short write-up of the film. 


Brooks' one other mention in a 1931 issue of Broadway and Hollywood Movies was for her non- appearance in The Public Enemy. As mentioned, Brooks was cast in the film, and early publicity went out listing her among the cast of this sensational film. (William Wellman Jr, the son of the director and a friend to the Louise Brooks Society, thinks Brooks may have even shot a scene or two before leaving the production - but this has never been confirmed let alone proven.) Somehow, Brooks' name remained associated with the film, for decades to come. And in 1931, Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine was not alone in mentioning the actress, even though she was far from one of the top billed stars in the film. (I have a thick file of similar erroneous mentions of Brooks' role in the film from film magazines which should have known better to big city newspapers which printed the publicity materials they received.)

And that's it. Brooks' acting career was in steep decline. The only other time she is mentioned in Broadway and Hollywood Movies was on their "Splits and Splices" page in March 1933 in relation to her ex-husband, Eddie Sutherland, who had just remarried.The magazine noted, "Eddie Sutherland is back in L. A. with another wife, his fourth. He flew to Yuma. Ariz., to marry Audrey Henderson, who is not an actress, like his other wives. They were accompanied by Harry Akst, song writer, and Lonnie D’Orsay. Sutherland is a nephew of Thomas Meighan. His former wives were Marjorie Daw, Louise Brooks and Ethel Kenyon. Miss Kenyon, incidentally, was married to Charles Butterworth, actor, in New York,, a few weeks ago." 


Monday, October 11, 2021

Guest Post: Barbara and Louise - a Friendship Set Sail

Philip Vorwald has written-up a fascinating guest post here on the Louise Brooks Society blog about the trip Barbara Bennett and Louise Brooks took to Europe in 1924. Philip's post is titled "Barbara and Louise - a Friendship Set Sail."