Thursday, November 14, 2019

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).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Louise Brooks silent film Pandora's Box to screen in India

In researching Around the World with Louise Brooks, I have been able to determine that many of Louise Brooks' American films (both the silent films and the talkies) were shown around the time of their release in India.

Now comes word that Brooks' best known film, the German silent Pandora's Box, will be shown at the International Film Festival of India. In fact, Pandora's Box is one of three silent film classics that will be shown at the annual event. According to an article in the Navhind Times, "The films to be screened on November 22, 23, and 24 include Battleship Potemkin (1925) by Russian master filmmaker and pioneer of montage editing, Sergei M Eisenstein; Pandora’s Box (1929) by German expressionist master, G W Pabst; and Blackmail (1929) directed by the British filmmaker known as Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, respectively. The three silent films will be screened with live music performed by BFI UK Pianist, Jonny Best."

The Navhind Times describes the film this way: "Pandora’s Box is a German silent film based on Frank Wedekind’s two plays, ‘Erdgeist’ or ‘Earth Spirit’ (1895) and ‘Die Büchse der Pandora’ (1904). It stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. Brooks portrays a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature brings ruin to her as well as those who love her."

This year marks the 50th year of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which is often counted among one of the earliest film festivals on the Asian continent. The International Film Festival of India will witness over 200 films from 76 countries, 26 feature films, and 15 non feature films in the Indian Panorama section. More than 10,000 people are expected to participate in the event in Panaji, Goa, India.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Things found : Around the World with Louise Brooks - Island edition

In researching Louise Brooks and her films and in compiling material for Around the World with Louise Brooks, I have been able to document the showing of the actress' film in numerous nations and territories. Including, as it turns out, on a number of islands. 

Brooks' films were shown not only in England, Ireland, and Australia, but also in Iceland, Cuba, Haiti, pre-statehood Hawaii (then an American territory), Indonesia, The Canary Islands, and elsewhere. They were even shown on at least one occasion on Madagascar, off the south east coast of Africa. Below is a newspaper advertisement from Poverty Bay, New Zealand for a special New Year's Eve showing of Rolled Stockings on that island nation.

Just recently, I came across a first, newspaper records showing at least a few of Brooks films, including, Love Em and Leave Em (1926) and Rolled Stockings (1927), were shown in Port Moresby on the island Papua, then called the Territory of Papua (then deemed an "External Territory of Australia"). Below is the write-up for Rolled Stockings which appeared in the Papuan Courier, the island's only newspaper, on October 3, 1930. As films were not reviewed on Papua back then, any reaction by locals to the film -- a rom-com about American youth -- is unknown.

As my exhibition records for Rolled Stockings show, a 1930 screening of the film is late, but not so late as to be considered among the last documented public showings. That would come a year later, when Rolled Stockings was shown in Darwin Australia. (See my earlier blog, "Louise Brooks in Australia - now and then," for details.)

James Hall and Louise Brooks wondering
where Rolled Stockings will be shown next.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, to show in San Diego, California

The 90th anniversary of the release of Pandora's Box is being celebrated in San Diego, California later this month. On Saturday, November 23, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra will screen the 1929 Louise Brooks film at Copley Symphony Hall to mark the 90th anniversary of the San Diego Fox theater, which also opened in 1929. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra will not appear as part of this performance. but instead, the film is accompanied by a live soundtrack performance on the Fox Theater Organ by Russ Peck. More information about this event can be found HERE.

According to the San Diego Symphony Orchestra website, "One of the most fascinating and controversial films of the Silent Era, G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box debuted in 1929, the same year The Fox opened its doors. Starring the unforgettable Louise Brooks as a seductive and feminine force of nature, this brazenly melodramatic movie was a startling breakthrough for the portrayal of women on the Silver Screen."

The Jacobs Music Center's Copley Symphony Hall opened in 1929 as the Fox Theatre, part of the nationwide Fox theater chain.  Designed by Weeks and Day in the Spanish Gothic-revival style, the Fox was an "old-school" movie palace, measuring 68,000-square-foot and accommodating more than 2,200 people.
The Fox cost $2.5 million to build, and at the time was the third largest theater in California. After many years of use as both a movie theater and live venue, it was conferred to the San Diego Symphony in 1984 and was extensively renovated. While its exterior has changed radically, the interior has been restored to the way it looked in 1929.
This year also marks the 90th anniversary of another 1929 Louise Brooks film, The Canary Murder Case. A mystery story, The Canary Murder Case was the last film made by Brooks in the United states before she left for Germany to make Pandora's Box (and Diary of a Lost Girl). When The Canary Murder Case opened in San Diego in March of that year, the Fox was still under construction. (The Fox opened 90 years ago today, on November 8, 1929). As with Brooks earlier films shown in San Diego, The Canary Murder Case played at the Cabrillo theatre, where it was well received. The San Diego Union headline for March 10 read “Cabrillo Theatre Offers Gripping Mystery Picture.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Things found: Around the World with Louise Brooks

This past weekend I experienced project creep. While working on the Pandora's Box chapter in  Around the World with Louise Brooks, I ventured off on a few internet side-trips, one to Cuba, one to the Dominican Republic, and the other to The Free City of Danzig. Happily, I came away with my first ever records of the showing of Brooks' films in both Danzig and the Dominican Republic. Hooray! I now have documentary records (newspaper advertisements and newspaper listings) for Brooks films having been shown in nearly 65 sovereign states and non-sovereign territories.

I also came across some rather unusual clippings which don't go into my new book, but which I wanted to share. Because they are so damned cool. Like this montage from Carteles, a general interest magazine from Cuba which often ran pieces about American movie stars including Brooks. Can you identify each of the movie stars in the piece below?

And then there is this page of movie advertisements from the Danziger Volksstimme, a German-language newspaper from The Free City of Danzig. At the bottom of the page is an ad for Wings, the acclaimed WWI film which won the first Best Film at the first Academy Awards ceremony.
In case you don't know, The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) and nearly 200 towns and villages in the surrounding areas. It was created in 1920 in accordance with the terms of Article 100 of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I. The Free City included the city of Danzig and other nearby towns, villages, and settlements that were primarily inhabited by Germans. As the Treaty stated, the region was to remain separated from post-World War I Germany (the Weimar Republic) and from the newly independent nation of the Second Polish Republic, but it was not an independent state. The Free City was under League of Nations protection and put into a binding customs union with Poland. One of the most famous people born in Danzig was the German novelist Gunter Grass, who's great novel The Tin Drum, is set in the Free City. (The Tin Drum was also made into a great film.)

Here are a couple of more pages of movie advertisements from the same German newspaper. How many films or movies might you be able to pick out of the bunch? Bonus points for those who can spot the Louise Brooks' films lurking in the jumble.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Louise Brooks inspired biopic The Chaperone set for TV broadcast premiere and DVD release

This November is set to be a BIG November for fans of Louise Brooks. PBS has announced that the Louise Brooks inspired bio-pic The Chaperone will air on broadcast television in the United States on Sunday, November 24 at 9:00 p.m. That's during the regular PBS Masterpiece time slot. (Check your local listings!) And, just two days later, the film will be released on DVD and digital in the United States.
The Chaperone is the first ever theatrical release from PBS Masterpiece, and as the DVD proclaims, it is from the creator of Downton Abbey, the hit PBS Masterpiece series and recent worldwide smash hit film. The creator is Julian Fellows, who penned the scripts for Downton Abbey.

The Chaperone was directed by Michael Engler, who directed episodes of the hit TV series, and it was produced and stars Elizabeth McGovern, who also stars in Downton.

One trip can change everything ... "The Chaperone follows Louise Brooks, who would become a 1920s silver screen sensation of the Jazz Age, a few years before her fame. A 15-year-old student in Wichita, Kansas, she has the opportunity to go to New York to study with a leading dance troupe. Her mother (Victoria Hill) insists there be a chaperone, and Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), a local society matron who never broke a rule in her life, impulsively volunteers to accompany Louise (Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer." As the descriptive copy states "Its a story full of surprises -- about who these women really are and who they eventually become."

I like this film, and not just because it centers on a young Louise Brooks -- brilliantly portrayed in an Oscar-nomination worthy performance by vivacious Haley Lu Richardson. I like it because it is a worthy and richly detailed period piece which viewers of today can relate to -- just like Downton Abbey.

I have seen the film three times, but plan to watch it again on November 24. I also plan on getting a copy of the DVD, which regrettably doesn't see to have any bonus material. (Come on PBS, you can do better!) I have written a lot on this film. My main piece, "Never the Victim: Louise Brooks and The Chaperone," was published on Film International. Check it out. This blog also contains a number of Chaperone related posts, including a brief interview with Laura Moriarty, who's best selling 2012 novel was the basis of the PBS film.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Happy Halloween from the Louise Brooks Society

The closest Louise Brooks ever came to appearing in a horror film was being considered for the lead role in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), the James Whale classic. Of course, the role went to the another actress with iconic hair, Elsa Lanchester, who was brilliant in the dual roles of the Bride and Mary Shelley. Would Brooks have been any good in the role?

The following year, Brooks appeared in another Universal film with a spooky plot point, Empty Saddles (1936), a creaky programmer starring Buck Jones which Barry Paris describes as a "Confused western about outlaws attempting to take over a haunted dude ranch." Of course, it's not really haunted, just deserted, and the ghosts are .....

Nevertheless.... Happy Halloween from the Louise Brooks Society.

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