Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Louise Brooks musical tribute from Rick Gallego & Cloud Eleven

Recently, I received a CD in the mail from independent recording artist Rick Gallego. His latest record is titled Pandora's Box (Kool Kat Musik). Rick enclosed a brief note that read, "Hi Thomas, thought you might find this interesting, since this was inspired by Louise!" Rick is right. I liked it a lot.

Pandora's Box is a melodic joy ride whose retro power pop influences include the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Todd Rundgren, Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, early solo Paul McCartney, and latter-day XTC. Rick has been putting out music since 1996. In short, he has a number of recordings to his credit, either as a solo artist or as part of Jiffipop and/or Cloud Eleven. He and his bands have received rave reviews, and had his music featured in TV shows on ABC, NBC and elsewhere. For more on the songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Rick Gallego and Cloud Eleven, be sure and visit his website and / or his Facebook page.

Some of the linear notes, which are printed over an image of Louise Brooks, explain how this, his latest effort, came about: "Pandora’s Box isn’t so much a ‘new’ album than a collection of previously unfinished song fragments that had been buried on old cassette tapes, plus some outtakes from other albums, and a few covers. During the lockdown of 2020, I would discover a stray chorus here, a verse there, and commence to completing the songs, then record them. In some ways, Pandora’s Box is Terrestrial Ballet part deux. Sometimes it just feels good to clean out that old junk drawer."

I emailed Rick about his new CD, and he wrote back, saying "I already had the song called "Pandora's Box" (dedicated to Lulu), so I decided to name the album that too." I asked Rick the question I ask everyone. How did you first hears about Louise Brooks? Rick answered, "In January 2020 I was doing a YouTube search for anything 1920's, as I have always been fascinated with that decade. I landed on a video (don't really remember who posted it) that reviewed various cultural attributes of the '20s, and it mentioned Louise Brooks as an icon of the period. I had never heard of her before and was really taken by her look, so did a Google search. It kind of snowballed from there into wanting to know everything about her. After seeing a couple of her movies (swoon!) and getting the Barry Paris book (the University of Minnesota Press 2000 paperback version - I ended up buying the first edition hard cover from you later on!), I was pretty much a big fan of hers by then. Since then, I joined your LBS page on Facebook, bought all of her movies on DVD/Blu-ray, and bought every book I could get my hands on, including of course, Lulu In Hollywood. There's a certain magical quality about Louise Brooks that just draws you in, kind of like the movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, where everyone is compelled with this 'thing' (Devil's Tower), but they don't know why. Louise Brooks is truly a fascinating person, not only beautiful, but intelligent and witty too. So very happy I found her!

The first track on Rick's new CD is titled "Pandora's Box (Schöne Lulu)." The linear notes for this track read, "This song began as a sort of Rundgren-esque synth jam and evolved into what we have here. Basic tracks were recorded in 2018 and completed in 2020. At the time of completion, I was absorbed into all things 1920s, including art deco, silent films, and specifically actress/writer/icon Louise Brooks. Her most memorable role was that of Lulu, in the classic 1929 German film Pandora's Box. This, my first ever instrumental (silent!) track, is dedicated to the lovely Lulu." Here is the video for that track. Just turn off your mind, relax, and float down stream.


And here is the video of the CD's second track, "Row Row Row," Cloud Eleven's version of the children's nursery rhyme. I really like this gorgeous recording. The song features a homage to the Beatles, while this video features a homage to a couple of Kansas icons. You can likely guess which ones.

And lastly, here is the video for one of my very favorite tracks on Pandora's Box, a mock garage rock cover titled "I Can Do Anything I Want!" I think Kansas-born artist Bruce Conner, a Louise Brooks devotee, would have liked this.


Monday, July 12, 2021

New release - Beggars of Life out on DVD and Blu-ray in Spain

I've just noticed that the 1928 film, Beggars of Life, has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray in Spain under the title Mendigos de Vida, which was the title the film was originally shown under in Spain and much of Latin America. 


I don't know much about this release except for what I can gather from the backs of the DVD and Blu-ray version. Though released as both a silent and sound film in the late 1920s, this new Spanish release is a silent film. It runs 81 minutes, and includes both Castilian and English subtitles. (The Kino Lorber version, the best there is, also runs 81 minutes, while the Grapevine DVD is said to run 83 minutes.) There is no indication that there is any kind of musical accompaniment, though Karl Hajos, the original composer for the film, is credited on the back of the release. (Should anyone get a hold of this version, I would be interested to know if there is any sort of musical soundtrack.)

Pictured below are the front the backs for both the DVD and Blu-ray releases. I show them both because they are slightly different in layout. Another curiosity is the fact that Wallace Beery, the star of the film, has been eliminated from the packaging imagery (though he is listed in the credits and given top billing).

Here is a newspaper advertisement for the film dating from 1930 when it showed at the Palacio de la Musica in Madrid, Spain. Louise Brooks is given second billing, with Wallace Beery listed third. Richard Arlen, who shares a significant amount of screen time with Brooks and was likely considered better looking than Beery by the senoritas, is given top billing

Beggars of Life is the subject of a chapter in my forthcoming two volume work, Around the World with Louise Brooks, which looks at the way this and other of the actress' films were received all over the world. The acclaimed William Wellman film was also the subject of my 2017 book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, which can be purchased on amazon all around the world.




Sunday, July 11, 2021

Talking Louise Brooks and Diary of a Lost Girl on the Cinematary podcast

I was recently a guest on Cinematary, a podcast devoted to film history & film criticism. On episode #359, I spoke about Louise Brooks and her sensational 1929 film Diary of a Lost Girl. Check it out HERE or below.

 
Episode 359 - Diary of a Lost Girl (Young Critics Watch Old Movies v.7) 
 

Part 1: Zach, Andrew and Jessica discuss movies they saw this week, including: Zola, No Sudden Move, Fear Street Part One: 1994 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Part 2 (40:25): The group continues their Young Critics Watch Old Movies series with a look at 1929's Diary of a Lost Girl with guest Thomas Gladysz.

Learn more about the Louise Brooks Society here and buy Diary of a Lost Girl on Kino Lorber.

See movies discussed in this episode here.

Don't want to listen? Watch the podcast on our YouTube channel.


Friday, July 9, 2021

Stephen Horne spellbound in darkness, and silents

Musical accompanist Stephen Horne is a longtime friend, not only to myself but also to Louise Brooks and the Louise Brooks Society. In fact, he has probably accompanied the screening of a Louise Brooks film as much as anyone. 

I likely met him "over the internet" well more than 10 or 12 years ago when we did an email interview about Prix de beaute back when I was writing for examiner.com. In the years since, we have met a few times in person when Stephen came to San Francisco to accompany a film at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. He is a great guy and a great musician. As examiner.com no longer exists,  HERE is a link to a later incarnation of the interview I did with Stephen about Prix de beaute.

The other day, Stephen was a guest blogger on Pamela Hutchinson's wonderfilled Silent London blog. (It is a blog well worth subscribing to, and supporting.) Stephen's thoughtful piece, which is titled "Silent Sirens: Stephen Horne on playing for the ghosts of silent film," begins with the musician's near mystical experience when he once accompanied a Louise Brooks film. There was nothing "new age" about Stephen's account. Instead, it has to do with the special experience so many of us experience when we view a silent film. We are transported. 

Stephen wrote "At one point Louise was held in an extended close-up – her smiling, enigmatic beauty framed by silver light. Then she started to speak and, although there was no intertitle, it was very clear to me what she was saying. In fact, just for a few seconds, I could actually hear her voice speaking the words. At least, that’s how it seemed. In retrospect, I realised that I had almost certainly been lip-reading. However, something about the moment, as immersive as it was, made the words transform into the sound of a voice within my head." 

He continued, "I didn’t give it another thought until some time later, when I realised that there seemed to be something pleasantly haunting about silent films, particularly when accompanied by live music. They can sometimes feel like a form of cultural séance: the audience gathers in a darkened space, hoping to make contact with long departed cinematic spirits. The musicians are almost like musical mediums and, at its best the music they produce can be a form of channelling." 

That last paragraph really struck me. I hope you will check out Stephen's entire piece "Silent Sirens: Stephen Horne on playing for the ghosts of silent film."

 

Readers may also want to know that Stephen's first CD, Silent Sirens, is to be released on July 9 on the Ulysses Arts label. Silent Sirens is an album of music composed and performed by Stephen Horne. And, it is something I am really looking forward to hearing.

The tracks on the album are intended to stand alone from the films from which they were initially inspired. However, according to the artist, most of these films have two things in common. "Firstly, they share a certain haunting quality, leaving unanswered questions to reverberate in the viewer’s mind long after ‘The End’. Secondly, at least for me, the strongest impression is made by the films’ leading women – the actresses and their roles. Combining these two elements suggested the theme of Silent Sirens."

More information on Stephen Horne's Silent Sirens, including purchase and streaming options, can be found HERE.

For more on this musician's approach to accompanying silent film, here is a video interview from 2009. Stephen Horne spoke to Marek Bogacki at the Killruddery Silent Film Festival about his career in silent film music.


 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nothing and everything to do with Louise Brooks

As part of my ongoing series of posts on recently found material - some of it related to Louise Brooks, some of it not - I am showing here a couple of pages which I just recently came across and which have nothing and everything to do with the actress. The first is a late 1920s German magazine page which features some of the then current international film magazines ("The international Filmpress").

To me, this page is fascinating because it suggests in which magazines I might look for material on Louise Brooks, just as it tells a Clara Bow or Pola Negri or Rudolph Valentino or Buster Keaton or Colleen Moore fan where they might look. I have seen examples, if not long runs, of most of the magazines listed above, either online or via microfilm loans. The only two titles new to me are De Rolprent (from Holland) and Cinema d'Orient. I will try and track them down.

I have been researching Louise Brooks for a couple of decades, and regularly come across material new to me about the actress - whether it is a review of a film, a foreign advertisement, or even a photo of the actress. How somethings end up where they do sometimes baffles me. I have found a previously unseen image of Brooks from her Ziegfeld days which was published in Europe (before her film career began), and a rare images of Brooks in The Street of Forgotten Men (in an uncredited bit part in her first film) which was published in Latin America. And then there are the images of Brooks taken in Germany which were sent only to Japan! 

Even though Brooks was only a second tier star in the 1920s, she still had an amazing international presence which speaks not only to her appeal and popularity, but also to the inter-connectivity of the world back then, especially the film world. Of course, all of this material will end up in my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks, which I plan to finish by the end of the year.

The advertisement pictured above is from Kinematograph, a German film magazine. The section at the bottom for Kinematograph notes in which countries and at what price this important German trade magazine could be gotten, suggesting the magazine had a worldwide readership. There are listings for America, Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, and the even the former Tschechoslovakia, etc.....

The other magazine pages I came across, pictured below, were even more revelatory. These pages are from the Portuguese-language version of Paramount Messenger, the studio's in-house organ for spreading the Paramount brand in Brazil, Portugal and the Portuguese speaking world. (Its contents were similar, but not an exact match, to the Spanish-speaking version of this publication; the differences were articles of interest to readers in specific nations served by the different publications.)

All but two of Brooks' American silent films, and two of her talkies (It Pays to Advertise, and King of Gamblers), were Paramount releases. Which is fortunate for me as this map of "Imperial Paramount" tells me where they might have played. According to the map's legend, the Paramount logo represents "places where the company's territorial representative is based. In the United States there are twelve centers and the general headquarters in New York." The stars on the map indicate "leasing or sub-central agencies, of which there are 44 in the United States and Canada, as well as numerous in other countries." The legend also notes that Paramount had studios in Hollywood, New York, London and Paris.

 

Paramount  was serious about conquering the world, at least cinematically. The map legend indicates the various distribution hubs the studio had around the world. For example, Sydney was the hub for Australia as well as New Zealand, Java (
Island in Indonesia), Estados de Malacca (Malaysia), and Siam (Thailand). To date, I haven't been able to find evidence of Brooks' films having been shown in Thailand, but now, knowing that Paramount films were in fact shown there, I will have too redouble my efforts.

The map legend, shown below, also notes that Rome was the hub for not only Italy, but also Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. Shanghai (an international city), was the hub for China and the Philippine Islands. Havana was the hub for Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the West Indies. Paris controlled France, Belgium, and French colonies in North Africa. While Berlin controlled Germany, Holland, parts of Eastern Europe, Finland and the Baltic nations, etc....

To me, this is fascinating material, suggesting new countries and regions to research. So far, I have been able to document Brooks' films having been shown in nearly five dozen countries, including some which no longer exist and some which were yet to come into existence. There are city-states, like Danzig, now former colonies (like Algeria and Morroco), and countries renamed. This newly found map should help to point the way to even more film history treasure.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A Couple Three Nifty New Finds From Around the World with Louise Brooks

While continuing to write and research my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks, I continue to come across remarkable stuff. Last night, for example, while researching the 1930 French film Prix de beaute, I came across some articles which specifically identified which actresses dubbed Louise Brooks' speaking and singing voices in the various incarnations of the film. If you recall, Prix de beaute was released in four different languages (French, Italian, English and German) as both a silent and sound film. If these plans were realized, that means there are eight different variants of Prix de beaute! That is kind of remarkable, and French newspapers at the time thought so and claimed it had never been done. Articles of the time also claimed that the rights to the film had been sold all over the world, including the United States. Who knew, since it often said that the film was something of a failure and little seen. In fact, it was shown all over Europe (including Iceland and the Ukraine) as well as in French Algeria, Madagascar, Japan, Turkey, and the U.S.S.R. However, despite the fact that Prix was also shown in the 1930s in Western Hemisphere (Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Uruguay, and Venezuela), I don't believe it was shown in the United States or Canada until the late 1950s or early 1960s. Perhaps the timing was wrong for a dubbed foreign film in the USA.


Speaking of lovely portraits, I just recently came across a eye-catching image of the French film actress actress Arlette Marchel taken by one of the most gifted photographers of his time, M.I. Boris. I was going to describe Boris as everyone's favorite Louise Brooks photographer (since he took some outstanding photo's of the actress at the beginning of her career), but I might guess that everyone's favorite Brooks photographer is Eugene Robert Richee, the Paramount staff photographer. Well anyways, here is the portrait of Marchal, embellished a little more than usual in Boris' customary manner of etching the photographic print. (Marchel appeared in Wings and a couple other Clara Bow and Adolphe Menjou films.) I think Vincent might like this one; it was published in a rare Brazilian film mag.

Despite the eye appeal of the above two images, the one I was most pleased to find is this "pattern poem" or "picture poem," which was also published in a rare Brazilian film magazine. It is a prose-poem (how else to describe it?) formatted into the shape of a goblet, a symbol of both femininity (right Dan Brown) and rarity, or preciousness. It mentions a number of beautiful actresses (Norma Talmadge, Greta Nissen, Lya De Putti, Pola Negri, Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, Billie Dove, etc...), as well as Louise Brooks "with the dark night of its provocative sensualism." I think George Herbert would like this one.

My next post, in a couple of days, will feature another remarkable image regarding the presence of Paramount films around the world.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Louise Brooks podcasts - past and forthcoming

There have been a few Louise Brooks related podcasts in the past. The most recent streamed just a few days ago, on Soundcloud. It is titled "The Fire in the Eyes of Louise Brooks," episode #262, from the Important Film Club. The first half or so of this 41 minute podcast is devoted to Brooks, with the rest centering on direct-to-video action actor Steven Seagal. That is quite a range, beauty to the beast.

I will be the guest on an upcoming episode of Cinematary, whose current series, "Young Critics Watch Old Movies," will feature an episode on the 1929 Louise Brooks' film, The Diary of a Lost Girl. The episode will stream July 9th. I hope you will tune-in via the Cinematary website, or through one of the various streaming channels such as iTunes, Spotify, Sticher, YouTube, etc....

As well, I am looking forward to listening to the July 23 episode on Madchen in Uniform (1931), a favorite film of mine. Madchen in Uniform was recently released on DVD and BluRay by KINO, with an insightful audio commentary by Jenni Olson. If you like the two films Brooks made in Germany, you will also like -- even love, Madchen in Uniform. Check it out.

Diary of a Lost Girl is a film near and dear to my heart. And I also have a lot to say about it.... 

In 2010, I brought the book that was the basis the for film back into print in the United States (after more than 100 years of being out-of-print). Besides rare illustrations, my corrected and annotated "Louise Brooks edition" of Margarete Bohme's The Diary of a Lost Girl features an introduction detailing the remarkable history of the 1905 book along with its relationship to the 1929 film. My efforts received good reviews:

"Read today, it's a fascinating time-trip back to another age, and yet remains compelling. As a bonus, Gladysz richly illustrates the text with stills of Brooks from the famous film." - Jack Garner, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"In today's parlance this would be called a movie tie-in edition, but that seems a rather glib way to describe yet another privately published work that reveals an enormous amount of research and passion." - Leonard Maltin

"Thomas Gladysz makes an important contribution to film history, literature, and, in as much as Böhme told her tale with much detail and background contemporary to the day, sociology and history. This reissue is long overdue, and a volume of uncommon merit." - Richard Buller, author of A Beautiful Fairy Tale: The Life of Actress Lois Moran

And in 2015, I provided the audio commentary to the KINO Lorber DVD and BluRay of Diary of a Lost Girl. It was project that came about because of my work on bringing the book back into print. The KINO reissue is the best going, and a necessary addition to the collection of any Louise Brooks fan. Get it HERE before it too goes out-of-print (and as with Pandora's Box on DVD, costs and arms and a leg.)

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Need help translating table of contents of Japanese film book with a chapter possibly about Louise Brooks and Clara Bow

 

I need help translating the table of contents of a Japanese film book from the late 1920s. If I understand correctly, one of the 30 chapters from this book concerns Clara Bow and Louise Brooks!  Can anyone read these chapters titles and tell me if I at all correct. Normally, while looking through non-English books or magazines, I can usually depend on visual guide posts like images or the occasional English word or name. But, there were no such guideposts in this particular book. If I am right, and the right chapter can be identified, then I can have it translated.

Clara Bow and Louise Brooks were the subject of a near "cult-like" following in Japan in the late 1920s. Hence, my interest in this book. The table of contents comes from Shinema no ABC (ABC's of Cinema), a 1928 book by Tadashi Iijima. I managed to get a hold of a reprint of this significant early work of film criticism. For mnore information, HERE is an interesting link to a history of film criticism in Japan.


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