Monday, September 16, 2019

Forthcoming book - Ted Shawn His Life, Writings, and Dances

Of all the individuals associated with Louise Brooks and her careers as a dancer and actress, few are as seminal as Ted Shawn. As one of the co-founders of Denishawn Dance Company, Shawn played a significant role in ushering Brooks into the prestigious modern dance troupe. Her joining Denishawn would eventually lead her to the New York stage and then to film, where she would make her mark. As a seminal individual in Brooks' early life, Shawn is portrayed in the recent PBS film, The Chaperone.

I am thrilled to learn of a big new 536 page book on the legendary dancer, Ted Shawn: His Life, Writings, and Dances by Paul A. Scolieri. The book, from Oxford University Press, is set for a December release.

Here is the publisher's description: "Ted Shawn (1891-1972) is the self-proclaimed "Father of American Dance" who helped to transform dance from a national pastime into theatrical art. In the process, he made dancing an acceptable profession for men and taught several generations of dancers, some of whom went on to become legendary choreographers and performers in their own right, most notably his protégés Martha Graham, Louise Brooks, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman. Shawn tried for many years and with great frustration to tell the story of his life's work in terms of its social and artistic value, but struggled, owing to the fact that he was homosexual, a fact known only within his inner circle of friends. Unwilling to disturb the meticulously narrated account of his paternal exceptionalism, he remained closeted, but scrupulously archived his journals, correspondence, programs, photographs, and motion pictures of his dances, anticipating that the full significance of his life, writing, and dances would reveal itself in time.

Ted Shawn: His Life, Writings, and Dances is the first critical biography of the dance legend, offering an in-depth look into Shawn's pioneering role in the formation of the first American modern dance company and school, the first all-male dance company, and Jacob's Pillow, the internationally renowned dance festival and school located in the Berkshires. The book explores Shawn's writings and dances in relation to emerging discourses of modernism, eugenics and social evolution, revealing an untold story about the ways that Shawn's homosexuality informed his choreographic vision. The book also elucidates the influences of contemporary writers who were leading a radical movement to depathologize homosexuality, such as the British eugenicist Havelock Ellis and sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and conversely, how their revolutionary ideas about sexuality were shaped by Shawn's modernism."

As a Denishawn dancer

I am not a dancer, but I am a BIG fan of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis and Denishawn. I have  read all of the earlier books on both dancers, as well as the couple on Denishawn, and even own autographed books by both Shawn and St. Denis. (I even have a rare copy of St. Denis' poetry booklet, as well as an album of her speaking.) My point of entry was Brooks, of course. Over the last twenty years, I have amassed a huge amount of material on Brooks' two seasons with Denishawn, and sometime in the future plan on writing a book detailing the two tours. How much is a huge amount? Would you believe I have clippings, advertisements, articles, and reviews for every one of the hundreds of stops they made throughout the United States and Canada. There is a narrative in there somewhere!

Louise Brooks and Ted Shawn

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Silent and Forgotten - forthcoming film features Louise Brooks

A forthcoming docudrama, Silent and Forgotten, features Louise Brooks as its primary character and occasional narrator. The film, an independent release from Summer Hill Films, is set for release on November 12, 2019.

According to the film's producers, "In the years before talking pictures, movies relied on faces to tell a story. Silver screens around the world were illuminated by the incandescent beauty of actresses like Clara Bow, Lillian Gish, Louise Brooks, America's Sweetheart Mary Pickford, and many others. They were the most famous women in the world...adored by millions, worshiped by legions. They had fame, fortune and power. Behind the scenes, it was a different story. Early Hollywood lured thousands of young actresses with the promise of fame and fortune. Hidden in the enticement was exploitation, abuse and ownership by the men in power. Most of these starlets died young of drugs, alcohol and suicide. They have been silent until now. Hear their stories in their own words. In Silent and Forgotten, a single actress re-enacts the stories of 13 of the most famous actresses of the silent era."

That single actress is Jacquie Donley, who stars in the 150 minute film. Donley plays Brooks, as well as Clara Bow, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara, Colleen Moore, Marion Davies, Lottie Pickford, Olive Thomas, Marlene Dietrich, Pepi Lederer, Dorothy Arzner, and Virginia Rappe. Among the other individuals portrayed by other actors in this look at early film are Charlie Chaplin, Owen Moore, Jack Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, William Wellman, Richard Arlen, B. P. Schulberg, D.W. Griffith, Walter Wanger, Adolf Zukor, Will Hays, Elinor Glyn, and Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle.

A number of individuals associated with Brooks and her careers as a dancer and actress are also portrayed. They include James Card and Kenneth Tynan, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, G. W. Pabst, Fritz Kortner and Alice Robert, Hal McCoy, and Lord Beaverbrook.

Silent and Forgotten is in pre-sale now at a discount. According to Donley, "Our hope is that we were as accurate as possible while giving one perspective of what Louise must have experienced emotionally during her lifetime. This movie was a labor of love, and our hope is that one of these days, we can get a star on the walk of fame for Louise."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Louise Brooks and the Louise Brooks Society in the news

The Louise Brooks Society continues to make the news. Just recently, journalist Jeanine Guilyard mentioned the LBS in her article on Guido Crepax, "A Star is Reborn," which appeared in the September 2019 issue of La Voce (an Italian-American publication) and the October 2019 issue of Fra Noi.

I've updated the "In the News" tab to include this article as well as a few others of recent vintage. Happily, I have been able to find links to these and other pieces.

Episode 509 - Louise Brooks segment, Positively Kansas, May 31, 2019.
-- appearance on KPTS-Channel 8, PBS television affiliate in Wichita, Kansas 

Williams, Tony. "Brooksie Revisited: Beggars of Life (1928) from Kino Lorber and Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film by Thomas Gladysz." Film International, May 30, 2019.
-- film and book review

Garner, Jack. "Classic movie fans can soon binge on Louise Brooks film on PBS." Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, October 14, 2018.
-- "Meanwhile, if there exists a No. 1 fan and a No. 1 chronicler of Brooks, it's Thomas Gladysz, the founder and longtime champion of the Louise Brooks Society."

Brady, Tara. "Louise Brooks: ‘I was always late, but just too damn stunning for them to fire me’." Irish Times, June 2, 2018.
-- brief mention: "She has super-fans. An online tribute site, the Louise Brooks Society, contains an extraordinary day-by-day chronology of her life."

Next year, the Louise Brooks Society will celebrate it's 25th anniversary - that's 25 years online. Here are a few of the notable clippings, blurbs and mentions from the past & from around the world.

Weissberg, Jay. "Now We're in the Air."  Pordenone / Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, 2017.
-- "Louise Brooks Society founder Thomas Gladysz found evidence that William Wellman was also attached at some point, which makes quite a bit of sense, but by June the studio revealed that the director for Now We’re in the Air would be Frank R. Strayer, a considerably lesser talent than the original three choices."

King, Susan. "The Eternal Louise Brooks." American Cinematheque blog, May 17, 2017.
-- dual interview with Thomas Gladysz and Cari Beauchamp

Mack, Megan. "Connections: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Louise Brooks." WXXI, December 2, 2015. (Rochester, NY NPR)
-- hour long program with film critic Jack Garner, documentary filmmaker Charlotte Siller, and Thomas Gladysz, director of the Louise Brooks Society

Toole, Michael T. "Reopening Pandora’s Box in San Francisco." Film International, August 22, 2012.
-- interview

Blackburn, Gavin. "Forgotten book by Margarete Boehme to be revived in US." Deutsche Welle, November 3, 2010.
-- article on English-language German news site

Matheson, Whitney. "Happy birthday, Louise!" USA Today, November 14, 2006.
-- "My favorite Louise Brooks site belongs to the Louise Brooks Society, a devoted group of fans that even keeps a blog. There, you can find just about everything about the actress: articles, filmography, photos, links and more."

Maltin, Leonard. "Links We Like: Louise Brooks Society." Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy, August 1, 2005.
-- "Not many sites of any kind can claim to be celebrating a tenth anniversary online, but that’s true of the Louise Brooks Society, devoted to the life and times of the magnetic silent-film star and latter-day memoirist. Thomas Gladysz has assembled a formidable amount of material on the actress and her era; there’s not only a lot to read and enjoy, but there’s a gift shop and even a 'Radio Lulu' function that allows you to listen to music of the 1920s. Wow!"

O'Connell, Pamela Licalzi. "Online Diary." New York Times, August 29, 2002.
-- "The Louise Brooks Society ( is an excellent homage to the art of the silent film as well as one of its most luminous stars."

Anderson, Jeffrey M. "Thirteen great film sites." San Francisco Examiner, November 29, 2001.
-- "This San Francisco-run site pays tribute to one of the greatest and most under-appreciated stars of all time, Louise Brooks, who played numerous bit parts and starred in only two films during the silent era. It contains tons of info, pictures and history." - short write-up in California newspaper

Forestier, Katherine. "Private Icon." South China Morning Post, December 1, 1999.
-- "The renewed interest in her, fueled by the cyberspace Louise Brooks Society, prompted Turner Classic Movies to fund the television profile Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu."

Evenson, Laura. "Lovely Lulu Lives Again." San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 1998.
-- feature article in California newspaper (alternative archive link)

Farrant, Darrin. "On the Web." Melbourne Age, April 16, 1998.
-- "The Louise Brooks Society has an exhaustive web site about this fascinating siren." - mention in Australian newspaper

Silberman, Steve. "Fan Site Sparks Biopic." Wired News, April 10, 1998.
-- article on Wired magazine website

Meddis, Sam Vincent. "Net: New and notable." USA Today, May 23, 1996.
-- "Silent-film buffs can get a taste of how a fan club from yesteryear plays on the Web. The Louise Brooks Society site includes interview, trivia and photos. It also draws an international audience."(this piece was syndicated to various newspapers, including Florida Today)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Reluctant Icon: Louise Brooks at Rochester Public Library

Thanks to Rochester resident Tim Moore for tipping us off to the upcoming Louise Brooks event at the Rochester, New York Public Library. The event, "Reluctant Icon: Louise Brooks (1906-1985)" is set to take place on Wednesday, October 2 in the Kate Gleason Auditorium in Rochester's Central Library. Start time is 6:00 pm, and the event is expected to run one hour.

Tim, a dedicated and longtime Brooks' fan, risked life and limb to take these pictures of the some of the library's in-house promotion for the event.

According to the library website: "2019 marks the 90th anniversary of Louise Brooks’ most famous film, Pandora’s Box, a print of which has been newly restored. In this presentation, Tim Madigan will discuss how a young girl from Kansas came to Weimar, Germany to play the iconic role of Lulu in that movie, as well as how she later moved to Rochester, where she spent the rest of her life, becoming a noted chronicler of Hollywood and a figure of mystery. He’ll also discuss her depiction in the 2012 novel The Chaperone and its 2018 movie version, and why she lives on as a modern-day muse.

Tim Madigan is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at St. John Fisher College where he regularly discusses Pandora’s Box in his “Philosophy through Film” course." The event is free and open to the public. More information may be found HERE.

As many Louise Brooks fans should know, Louise herself visited this library on many occasions. She was a great reader of books, and at least a few of the books she checked out (and even annotated) still resides on the library shelves. The Central library also has a small collection of books and movies related to Brooks, including copies of some of the publications of the Louise Brooks Society.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Louise Brooks Society books now at Larry Edmunds bookshop in Hollywood

During my recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the chance to visit Larry Edmunds. I've visited the historic bookshop (located at 6644 Hollywood Blvd) many times in the past, but always as a customer. This time, I dropped off copies of three of my books, each of which are now for sale at the famous Hollywood bookshop. The current owner of the shop and I also discussed the possibility of doing an event sometime next year to mark the publication of my forthcoming publication, Around the World with Louise Brooks, as well as to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Louise Brooks Society.

The three titles now available at Larry Edmunds are Louise Brooks: the Persistent Star, Beggars of Life: a Companion to the 1928 Film, and Now We're in the Air: a Companion to the Once Lost Film. If you live in or around Los Angeles, this is the place to go to check out these Louise Brooks Society publications (and a whole lot more).

Larry Edmunds Bookshop has been in business for over 70 years. As such, it is one of the last surviving cinema and theatre book and memorabilia stores in North America. It features an inventory of 500,000 movie photographs, 6,000 original movie posters and 20,009 motion picture and theater books. This is the place where film buffs come to shop.

Larry Edmunds Bookshop (photo by Gary Leonard via

Larry Edmunds Bookshop opened in 1938, during the last couple years of Louise Brooks residency in Los Angeles. So who knows, perhaps she shopped there at one time or another.

Larry Edmunds Bookshop in 1965 (photo courtesy of Larry Edmunds Bookshop)
p.s. Larry Edmunds is located on Hollywood Blvd, where many stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame are located. And fittingly, the star located just in front of the bookshop is that of Ray Bradbury, the great writer and lover of old movies.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Some notes on my Louise Brooks presentation at the Rudolph Valentino Memorial

One week ago, on Friday August 23, I delivered the keynote address at the 92nd Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Despite a technical glitch which delayed my talk by a minute or two, things went well. Returning to my seat, noted author and film historian Jeffrey Vance told me "good job." I was pleased. The memorial was a moving experience and a memorable event. I hope those who couldn't attend the event in person watched it online as it streamed live over Facebook. (I am not sure how many watched it this year, but last year more than 4000 people from around the world tuned-in to the event!)

(Left) At the Hollywood Forever Cemetery  (Right) My wife and I at Valentino's crypt shortly before the service

My talk focused on Rudolph Valentino and Louise Brooks, and their little known "history." I shared some rare material on the two actors - including audio material few if anyone alive has heard. As event organizer and host Tracy Terhune said afterword, it was great to hear a first hand account of Valentino in the voice of someone who was there.

(Left) Preparing for the event (Right) The Memorial program
My power point presentation pointed out what the two silent films stars had in common, and that fact that these two Jazz Age personalities did know one another - if only in passing. We know, for   example, that Brooks encountered Valentino - or at least observed him - from afar at parties and social gatherings. She said as much to author Jan Wahl, a friend and correspondent later in life. As I mentioned, Brooks once told Wahl she had observed a neglected Valentino at a party at Gloria Swanson's house in Englewood, New Jersey. Swanson had thrown the party in Rudy’s honor, and even imported a parquet floor for the night so Valentino could dance the tango. According to Brooks, Valentino had a sallow complexion and sat at the bottom of the stairs, unnoticed. My guess is that party must have taken place shortly before Valentino's death.

Brooks was filming in NYC on the day Valentino died, and as I discovered a number of years ago, she attended Valentino's funeral mass. According to the New York Morning Telegraph, Brooks was among the select mourners at this invitation only event. The newspaper singled her out, stating she had “cried unashamed.”

As I also noted, Brooks continued to remember Rudy as the years passed. We know, for example, that in 1938 Brooks went to a revival screening of The Sheik at the Filmarte theatre on Vine Street in Los Angeles. Valentino was also among the personalities from her younger days who are recounted in the notebooks she began keeping later in life.

In 1962, Brooks was living a quiet life in Rochester, New York. She was considered something of a minor celebrity around town, having once been a “movie star.” A local radio station asked the one-time actress to talk about the personalities she had known in Hollywood. Recordings of those programs were long thought lost, if in fact, they were ever put on tape. Last year, however, I uncovered the audio tapes of Brooks’ unedited commentary, and I concluded my talk with two brief excerpts in which Brooks spoke of Valentino, including the last time she saw Rudy, just a couple of weeks before his death.Here is a transcribed excerpt of my excerpts:
Louise Brooks: I have a sweet story to tell you what happened just two weeks before he died.... he was there in New York for the opening of his greatest picture. It turned out to be the Son of the Sheik. And one night I was sitting in the Lido, the most fashionable night club in New York. He came in all alone in his beautiful black tails and his white tie, and his beautiful back hair and his dark skin. He came over to our table. I was sitting with Ben Ali Haggin and his girl, who was a great friend of Rudy’s – Rudy had many, many women friends. She was a beautiful red head in sea green [dress].... He said “will you dance?” So she got up and they went to the dance floor and the band stopped the fox trot. They started to tango. And something happened that we’ve seen in movies that is always something unbelievable.... So they began to dance a tango and of course they were perfect. It was exquisite. This red head in green, floating drapery. Everyone sat down.... All the celebrities in New York went there. It was café society at the time. They couldn’t help it. They all sat down and watched. And finally the dance ended. And again the right thing happened. No one applauded. No one said a word. Rudy brought Irene back to our table. Said "thank you very much." And bowed. Then he walked back to the stairs that led up under the exit sign and walked through the black velvet curtain and disappeared. And nobody said anything. An absolute stillness. They had seen something beautiful, beautiful. It really was an exit in a way.

After the event, a small group went to Tracy Terhune's apartment for a Valentino-appropriate lunch of spaghetti and meatballs. Tracy is the organizer of the current memorial service, its Master of Ceremonies, as well as the grandson of actor Max Terhune. Tracy wowed my wife and I with a tour of his apartment and its many Valentino treasures. He also told us of how his grandfather got started in pictures -- thanks to close friend Gene Autrey -- and what he knew about Max Terhune's role as one of the three mesquiteers in Louise Brooks' last film, Overland Stage Raiders (1938), which starred John Wayne. Below is a picture of Tracy and I which shows off just a fraction of his fabulous Valentino collection.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood - Quentin Tarantino & Louise Brooks

During a recent trip to Michigan I found myself in Traverse City, where I went past the historic State Theater, which is owned by documentary filmmaker Micheal Moore. The State was showing Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood. Out front, in the sidewalk, are the hand prints of a few celebrities who have visited the theater. I noticed the lovely Geraldine Chaplin (the daughter of Charlie Chaplin and the star of one of my all-time favorite films, Doctor Zhivago).

A week later, I was in Los Angeles, and thanks to dear friends had the opportunity to attend a 35 mm screening of Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood at the historic Beverly Cinema, which is owned by Quentin Tarantino. I enjoyed the film a good deal, and thought I spotted a Louise Brooks-related Easter egg.... shortly after the legendary late 1960s LA nightclub Pandora's Box is depicted in Tarantino's film, a character named Lulu is introduced. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Coincidentally for real, in 1931, the Beverly showed one of the most unusual double bills I've ever come across while researching the career of Louise Brooks. That double bill featured the 1931 Paramount farce It Pays to Advertise (featuring Louise Brooks) and the 1929 German mountain movie White Hell of Pitz Palu (directed by G.W. Pabst during the months between his making Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl). What the patrons of the Beverly thought of this strange double bill one could only guess.

It is worth noting that Quentin Tarantino gave Pabst's White Hell of Pitz Palu a big shout out in his earlier film, Inglorious Bastards, as seen in the image below. Why, I can't say. Perhaps it's because Tarantino, like G.W. Pabst, is an indie director. And perhaps Tarantino feels an affinity for other independents and film history. Q., if you're reading this, drop me a line.

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