Friday, May 21, 2004

Brooks event in Los Angeles

For those who live in Los Angeles and are so inclined, a Louise Brooks-inspired event will take place on Friday, May 21, 2004 at 10 pm. The Bricktops are presenting their second annual "Louise Brooks, LuLu in Hollywood Tributata. " 

For more info on the event, see (Fancy dress highly encouraged. $5.00 cover 21+ 10pm-2am. With resident DJ Bernice Bobs-Her-Hair and Pirate Jenny From Montpellier. ) Information on the Bricktops, and their home, the Parlour Club (7702 Santa Monica Blvd in the Russian Quarter of West Hollywood), can also be found through this page. If anybody goes, please post your observations! 

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Redwood City

Ventured to the Redwood City Public Library, about a 40 minute drive south from my apartment in San Francisco. I searched through microfilm of the Redwood City Tribune, where I found a few advertisements and brief articles related to local screenings of films featuring Louise Brooks. Local patrons, as it turns out, largely went to nearby Palo Alto or San Mateo to take in the latest offerings from Paramount, MGM, etc....
This last newspaper survey largely completes my three year survey of Bay Area publications. In summation, here is what I looked at and where I found it: 
-- San Francisco Public Library (The Argonaut, Richmond Banner, San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco Call and Post, San Francisco Call-BulletinSan Francisco ChronicleSan Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Daily News, The Marin and San Anselmo Herald)
-- Oakland Public Library (Oakland TribuneOakland Post-Enquirer)
-- University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley Daily Gazette, Contra Costa GazetteDaily Californian, Oakland Morning Record, San Rafael Independent)
-- California State University, Hayward (Hayward ReviewHayward Daily Review, Oakland Free Press, San Leandro Reporter, Township Register)
-- San Mateo Public Library (San Mateo Times)
-- Stanford University (Daily Palo AltoPalo Alto Times, Stanford Daily)
-- San Jose State University (Los Gatos Mail NewsSan Jose Evening News, San Jose Mercury HeraldSan Jose Mercury News)
-- California State Library (Alameda Times-StarIllustrated Daily Herald, Livermore HeraldMarin JournalSanta Rosa Press Democrat)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Erich von Stroheim biography

Finished reading Stroheim, by the film historian and biographer Arthur Lennig. This is an impressive biography, one which I read with great interest. (It was fascinating, for example, to find out that Erich von Stroheim lived for a short time here in the San Francisco Bay Area.) My introduction to Stroheim came through my wife, who has long been interested in this individual and his films. One of our first dates was spent watching a video of The Wedding March. Now, we have many of Stroheim's silent films on DVD.
I have been meaning to read this book since I first met Lennig back in 1999. I had hosted him for an author event and booksigning around the time that Stroheim was first published in hardback. Then, my wife and I were able to spend a little time with this noted film historian. We went to party with Lennig (where we met Fay Wray - the star The Wedding March), and later went to dinner. Lennig is quite the raconteur. Over dinner, he spoke of researching and writing about this troubled actor / director - as well as Bela Lugosi, another fascinating figure whom Lennig both knew and has written about.
For those not familiar with Stroheim and his films (you should be!), here is a description of the book from the publisher. "Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957) was one of the true giants in American film history. Stubborn, arrogant, and colorful, he saw himself as a cinema artist, which led to numerous conflicts with producers and studio executives who complained about the inflated budgets and extraordinary length of his films. Stroheim achieved great notoriety and success, but he was so uncompromising that he turned his triumph into failure. He was banned from ever directing again and spent the remainder of his life as an actor.
For years Stroheim’s life has been wreathed in myths, many of his own devising. Arthur Lennig scoured European and American archives for details concerning the life of the actor and director, and he counters several long-accepted and oft-repeated claims. Stroheim’s tales of military experience are almost completely fictitious; the “von” in his name was an affectation adopted at Ellis Island in 1909; and, counter to his own claim, he did not participate in the production of [The] Birth of a Nation in 1914.
Wherever Stroheim lived, he was an outsider: a Jew in Vienna, an Austrian in southern California, an American in France. This contributed to an almost pathological need to embellish and obscure his past; yet, it also may have been the key to his genius both behind and in front of the camera. He had a fantastic dedication to absolute cinematic truth and believed that his vision and genius would triumph over the Hollywood system.
As an actor, Stroheim threw himself into his portrayals of evil men, relishing his epithet “The Man You Love to Hate.” As a director, he immersed himself in every facet of production, including script writing and costume design. In 1923 he created his masterpiece Greed, infamous for its eight-hour running time. The studio cut the film to two hours and burned the extra footage. Stroheim returned to acting, saving some of his finest performances for La Grande Illusion (1937) and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), a role he hated, probably because it was too similar to the story of his own life."

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Roxie Theater

There is an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle about the Roxie, a local movie theater. It is the oldest operating movie theater in San Francisco. I have seen a number of films there over the years, including most memorably Dangerous Female (1931), the first film version of The Maltese Falcon (in which Louise Brooks is pictured as Sam Spade's girlfriend!), and a Norma Shearer film (introduced by Shearer's daughter.) My friend Lara works there as a projectionist.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Austrian newspapers

Came across a website which had historic runs of Austrian newspapers, including three papers from Vienna from the period of the 1920's. The papers are not searchable by keyword, so I had to scroll through them page by page looking for interesting material. I had hoped to find something about Pandora's Box, which, I believe, showed in Vienna the first week of March, 1929. Nothing turned up. The three papers I scanned didn't seem to report on or review the cinema. Found no articles or advertisements.
Does anyone know of any similar on-line access to European newspapers of the 1920's or 1930's?

Friday, May 14, 2004

Webpage updates

New songs have been added to RadioLulu. If you haven't already heard this internet radio station, please give a listen. The station can be found at features "all things Lulu" - the music of the Twenties through today. Included are theme songs from the films of Louise Brooks, songs by the actress' contemporaries, friends and co-stars, show-tunes and standards, vintage jazz, as well as contemporary pop songs about the silent film star. Everyone from George Gershwin, Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich to Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark and Soul Coughing are highlighted on this unique station.
The LBS Gift Shop pages have also been updated. Highlighted on these pages is information and links to Louise Brooks books, DVD's and videos, posters, prints, postcards and other products available for purchase over the internet and elsewhere.
The LBS home page has been refined. And many new citations have also been added to the various Louise Brooks bibliographies.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Beggars of Life

Having finished the Dietrich biography, I decided to next read Beggars of Life, by Jim Tully. I haven't read it before. And am intent on eventually reading all of the books which served as the basis for a Louise Brooks' film. So far, I am about 85 pages into the book. It's ok, so far - somewhat dated, but also somewhat engaging. Kinda rough-hewn, and written in thickly-dabbed, colorful, impressionistic prose.

I own two copies of Beggars of Life. One is a 1928 photoplay edition, with a dustjacket depicting Brooks, Richard Arlen and Wallace Beery. The other is a first edition from 1924. This copy was once owned by actress Colleen Moore, and has her bookplate on the endpaper. It is also inscribed by Tully to Moore. The inscription reads, "To Colleen Moore with the admiration of an Irish rover to a whimsical girl who knew him when. Jim Tully Hollywood, Calif 1926."

After a long period of being out-of-print, Beggar's of Life is available once again in a new edition from AK Press. I would be interested to know if anyone else has read this book.

Louise Brooks screenings in Washington D.C.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is presenting "Film Series: Restoration Spotlight Louise Brooks in Europe" featuring 

Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora / Lulu)
May 16 at 4:30 p.m.
New materials from the original version were discovered at the Gosfilmofond archive in Moscow and were combined with an earlier German restoration for the most complete print to date. The new musical score for two pianos is performed live under Gillian Anderson's direction (G. W. Pabst, 1928, 120 minutes).

Diary of a Lost Girl (Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen)
May 22 at 4:00 p.m.
This latest restoration, the most accurate reflection to date of the director's intentions, was compiled from source materials in Belgium, France, Germany, and Uruguay (G. W. Pabst, 1929, silent with piano accompaniment by Ray Brubacher, 98 minutes).

Miss Europe (Prix de beauté)
May 23 at 4:30 p.m.
in the transitional period between silents and talkies, Prix de beauté was conceived as a silent film. Until now, however, it has been viewable only with postsynchronized music, effects, and dialogue. Materials recently discovered in Milan have made possible the reconstruction of the original silent print, thus restoring the composition of the frames before a soundtrack was added (Augusto Genina, 1930, silent with piano accompaniment by Ray Brubacher, 108 minutes). 

For more info see

Monday, May 3, 2004

Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks

Some time ago, I came across an obscure drawing by the Polish writer Bruno Schulz (1892 - 1942) which I believe depicts Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich. If it is not them, then it bears a striking resemblance to the two cinematic femme fatales, Lulu and Lola.

Bruno Schulz is known for his short stories, and he is considered one of the great Polish writers of the 20th century. His brief literary career ended during World War II when he was gunned down by a German officer. John Updike, an admirer, has described the author as "one of the great transmogrifiers of the world into words." [Schulz's most famous work, The Street of Crocodiles (1934), was itself transmogrified into a 1986 film by the Brother's Quay. It is extraordinary - one of the most memorable and poetic films I have ever seen!] 

Schulz was also gifted artist. The drawing that I came across, which dates from 1930 but is now lost and only exists in reproduction, does seem to depict Brooks and Dietrich. In the title of the drawing, the two women are termed "temptresses." The standing Brooks figure is garbed in showgirl attire, a la Pandora's Box, while the Dietrich figure is seated with legs crossed, a la The Blue Angel. Perhaps I am wrong, but this image seems another link between the mythic characters of Lulu and Lola. 

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Marlene Dietrich

Yesterday, I finished reading Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend by Steven Bach. Wow! What an amazing life and what a remarkable biography. I was especially impressed with the scholarship (both quantity and quality) that went into writing this book. This engrossing biography is especially good on Dietrich's early life and career - and the background on German life and culture in the first decades of the 20th century is excellent. Highly recommended.

I think - in down-deep, subtle ways, Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks were similar sorts of people. Or at least similarly motivated. Both were very beautiful, sexually driven, and drawn to powerful men. (And both men and women were drawn to them.) Both projected their selves into their characters and onto the screen. Both sought to shape their legacies. Both scrubbed floors in atonement. (Their is also a subtle link between their two most famous roles as well:  Lulu = Lola. Dietrich, as everyone knows, was offered the role that Brooks would play - the role of Lulu - in Pandora's Box. A year later, Dietrich would go on to play Lola in the similarly themed film, The Blue Angel. G.W. Pabst directed Brooks, and Josef von Sternberg directed Dietrich: each director was a kind of Svengali to the actress.)

Has anyone else read this biography of Dietrich (or other books on the actress)? Any comments on the similarities between Lulu and Lola, the Blue Angel? 
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