Friday, April 28, 2006

Big new Louise Brooks article

There is a big illustrated article about Louise Brooks in the current issue of Films of the Golden Age, a film magazine.  The article, by Jan Wahl,  is titled "Comet in the Sky." [ Click on this link to read an excerpt. The online version does not include the many fab illustrations contained in the print version. ]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Naked Truth: For men only / Naked Truth: For women only

Here is a rather interesting advertisement I ran across yesterday at the library while looking for Louise Brooks film reviews. This December 1927 Indianapolis newspaper ad is for a double bill featuring Streets of Sorrow with Greta Garbo, and a lecture by someone named W.J. Sternberg. Streets of Sorrow is most likely Joyless Street, the 1925 G.W. Pabst film. And the lecture is perhaps about what we now call STDs. It's interesting that the Pabst film was considered so risque ("A Daring Expose of Dangers to Which Girls Are Subjected"), and that only men should view it, and that no one under 21 years of age would be admitted. What price virtue?

And here's another interesting add I found in the Indianapolis Star. This dates from August 1927.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Astronomical finds

Today was a beautiful Spring day here in San Francisco. And I spent the morning indoors at the library. I went through a few reels of the Indianapolis Star, and discovered a few film reviews dating from 1927. I also went through some reels of the Williamsport Sun (from Williamsport, Pennsylvania). In that paper, I found an article and a couple of advertisements for the 1923 Denishawn performance in that town. The remarkable thing about the advertisements is that each named Louise Brooks and the other Denishawn dancers. There are few other Denishawn advertisements which I have come across which mention her. [ And regrettably, my request for the Oklahoma News was rejected. Apparently, there are no loaning institutions for this Oklahoma City newspaper. Any readers of this blog who live near Oklahoma City willing to spend an afternoon doing some research? ]

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another Lulu book

I just came across this edition of Frank Wedekind's Lulu play, which now features Louise Brooks on the cover. (The earlier edition did not.)

Book Description: Lulu is a walking, talking object of sexual desire. Each of the first four acts of the play sees her married to a different man, each of whom dies at the end. In the fifth act, Lulu has become a prostitute in late-Victorian London where she encounters Jack the Ripper, who she deliberately leads on. This is Nicholas Wright's new version of Wedekind's early 20th century erotic drama. 

About the Author: As the International Dictionary of Theatre has it, German playwright Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) "owes his reputation to the fact he wrote plays about sex." His other famous play, Spring's Awakening (1891) was way ahead of its time in its depiction of repressed adolescent sexual urges.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The NEW Louise Brooks book

Here's the cover of the new 256 page Louise Brooks pictorial by Peter Cowie. The publication date is now set for October 31, 2006. It think the cover looks great!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Be Yourself and a Movie Star

Here is a piece I ran across at the library the other day - another nifty Fay King illustration from 1926. (Download the pic to open and view a larger, readable image.)

Here's another charming piece I found at the library.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Research report

Yesterday's trip to the library was productive. I got articles and advertisements for the two Denishawn Dance Company performances in Houston, Texas. Remarkably, the Houston Post gave each performance a glowing front page review. (Of the hundreds of performances, I have only come across a handful of front page reviews. Usually, the reviews are buried inside the newspaper - and usually on the arts or entertainment pages. And once on the sports page.) I also went through some rolls of the Atlanta Georgian, a Hearst newspaper. From it I scored some Denishawn material, as well as a few early film reviews. I plan to request additional rolls of this paper, as a have the local screening dates of Brooks' films in Atlanta from having gone through the Atlanta Constitution. I also went through a couple of rolls of microfilm of the Wilmington Morning News in hopes of finding some Delaware film reviews, but found nothing.

Besides the usual hunt through newspapers for Denishawn and film reviews, I also took a look at the Cherryvale Daily Republican - the newspaper from Louise Brooks' hometown (before her family relocated to Independence and then Wichita). I looked at microfilm from around the time of Brooks birth - November 14, 1906 - as well as mid-1908. From the 1906 issue, I found an article, "Assistant Counsellor Is a Girl," announcing the future actress' birth on the day she was born. It took a bit to find it, as this two sentence piece is very brief. I was fun to scour this Cherryvale, Kansas newspaper from 100 years ago. It was interesting to see local news stories as well as advertisements for the Cherryvale bookstore, for a music shop advertising pianos, for the local grocier, etc....

Here is a nifty advertisement I came across which advertises a Chautaqua meeting. Louise Brooks' mother (along with Brooks herself) attended many such events. This one promises "nine days of mental uplift and enjoyement." Among the speakers is the Hon. Warren G. Harding - future President of the United States.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Two songs

I recently came across this . . . . Servio Túlio and his pianist Glauco Baptista are a musical duo in Rio de Janeiro (Argentina) who perform old cabaret songs, including "Du Bist Meine Greta Garbo" / "Meine Schwester Liebt Den Buster" (Keaton). A short video clip of them performing can be viewed at It's kinda nifty.

I have a 1930 recording of Du Bist Meine Greta Garbo" on RadioLulu, but am searching for a vintage recording of "Meine Schwester Liebt Den Buster" to add to the station playlist. The song was composed by Friedrich Hollaender (the composer who wrote all those great Marlene Dietrich recordings - including the popular recordings from The Blue Angel).  A singer named Victor DeKowa recorded "Meine Schwester Liebt Den Buster" in 1928.  Anyone have a copy? There is a recent recording by Jody Karin Applebaum (vocals) and Marc-Andre Hamelin (piano), but I would prefer to get a vintage recording if possible. I know it exists on the multi-disc, massively priced Friedrich Hollaender box set available in Europe.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pandora's Box screens in NYC for two weeks

A brand new 35mm print of Pandora's Box will be shown for two weeks at FilmForum in New York City, starting June 16th. More info can be found "Still among the most erotic films ever made." David Thomson.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Oh, Canada

On this day in 1924: The Denishawn Dance Company, with Louise Brooks, began a twelve day tour of Canada. I wish I could have been there.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

This uncommon poster for the 1929 film The Diary of a Lost Girl is for sale on eBay. The reserve is $8,000 and the estimate is $15,000. 

The artwork for this lithograph was designed by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm. The piece measures 55.9 x 37.4 inches (142 x 95 cm).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Kate Moss = Louise Brooks

An article in today's Guardian (UK) newspaper about the artist Marc Quinn and his sculpture of model Kate Moss quotes the artist thus:

"She is a contemporary version of the Sphinx. A mystery. There must be something about her that has clicked with the collective unconscious to make her so ubiquitous, so spirit of the age," Quinn said. "When people look back at this time she'll be the archetypal image, just as Louise Brooks was in the 1920s. For me as an artist it's interesting to make something about the time I live in."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Helnwein shows the pubis

Did you know that Gottfried "Helnwein also has a strong sense of theatre. He has worked in opera, designing sets and costumes for Maximilian Schell and working with the equally notorious Austrian choreographer Johann Kresnik. His poster for the 1988 production of Lulu at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg caused outrage across Europe. A tiny Sigmund Freud in a long coat stares up at a gigantic woman, who lifts her skirt to expose her vagina. The opposite of porn, it provocatively illustrates Wedekind's view of a sexually ambiguous bourgeois society on the brink of destruction. This iconography overturns the 1929 screen image of Louise Brooks as Lulu in G W Pabst's Pandora's Box. Whereas that film presents us with a face, Helnwein shows the pubis. "  . . . according to an article by Julia Pascal in the current issue of New Statesman, a very serious British journal.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Prix de Beauté

From the April 18th Village Voice article on the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival - "Best in Show: The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival" by J. Hoberman.

Prix de Beauté
In her final starring role, Louise Brooks plays a Parisian typist who wins a beauty contest and dumps her boyfriend, with tragic consequences. Augusto Genina's direction is routine, but this is a cinematographer's movie, from the dazzling location shooting to the beautifully lit projection room climax. Cameraman Rudolph Mates does wonders with Brooks's radiant face—her performance is an irresistible mix of innocence and eroticism. The film began shooting as a silent, sound was added, and it was released in four languages. The rarely revived silent version will be shown, preceded by Giovanni Pastrone's The Fall of Troy, an important film in the history of set design—the magnificent decors often give a sense of bound- less space in contrast to the one-dimensional sets of earlier historical pictures. E.S.

An idea: Louise Brooks on the radio

I had an idea. . . .  it would be cool if radio stations around the United States and the world were to play one or more of the contemporary songs "about" Louise Brooks on or near the centenary of her birth, November 14th.

Anybody have any ideas about how to go about doing this? Anybody work as a disc jockey or radio programmer? Anyone know of any stations (both broadcast or internet) that might be interested? It would be especially nifty if a station in Wichita, Los Angeles, or NYC - for example - were to play a track or two and make mention of Brooks. I think its a good idea. I could provide playlists, or mp3s of some of the hard-to-get ahold of recordings, if that is of any help.

For example, a local rock station here in San Francisco, KFOG, has an acoustic Sunday morning show. That might be a good fit for the Ron Hawkins or Jen Anderson songs. Or perhaps there is a film music show that might be interested in contemporary soundtrack recordings. I have a bunch of those that aren't on RadioLulu.

I have also thought about trying to put together a podcast - perhaps later this Summer or early Fall. I haven't done anything like that before, but putting together RadioLulu gave me the idea to try and do something with all of the music I have gathered. And some of which I haven't been able to use - like classical and soundtrack recordings.

Comments, suggestions, and help appreciated.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

RadioLulu updated

RadioLulu ( has been updated. I've added a half-dozen tracks, including recordings by Bebe Daniels, Jeannette MacDonald, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell ("If I Had a Talking Picture of You"), Cliff Edwards, and Dick Powell ("Lulu's Back in Town") . There are now more then 125 tracks and nearly 7 hours of programming. I hope everyone has a chance to tune-in.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Louise Brooks's Swan Song to Stardom

The Village Voice ran a short review of the new Prix de Beaute DVD in their April 7th issue. The article, "Louise Brooks's Swan Song to Stardom," is by Michael Atkinson.

The moviehead re-rediscovery of flapper chic continues with this rarely seen French cornerstone (released in 1930), starring a free-from-expressionism-at-last Louise Brooks, she of the iconic jet-black bob, androgynous figure, and laser sight line. She plays a typist at a Parisian newspaper who, despite the snitty protestations of her fiance (Georges Charlia), enters and wins a Miss Europe beauty pageant, which is when her biggest conflicts begin. Italian journeyman Augusto Genina's film is far from conventional in tone - the pre-fem awakening of Brooks's unpretentious everygirl starts with a chilly carnival moment when she realizes all of the men around her, including her boyfriend, are grotesque fools. The breathtakingly lurid finale, set in a screening room, has an almost necrophilic obsessiveness. (The film did turn out to be Brooks's swan song to stardom; she picked up supporting work in Hollywood and England for a few years, but then quit movies in disgust, at the age of 31.) But the movie's ramshackle form is what makes it truly fascinating: It's a vintage example of a fleeting breed, the unsynchronized early talkie (a lost silent version was also made), often avoiding the actor's moving mouths altogether and then suturing the narrative with a frenetic soundtrack of dubbing, ambient noise, and music. (Rene Clair, whose original story was adapted by Brooks pal G.W. Pabst, pulled off a similar but more visual coup with the nearly silent Under the Roofs of Paristhe same year.) A newspaper quote included on the DVD attests that Genina's patchwork approach, which represented "an ideal model for the talkie," was easily dubbed into seven languages - a paramount concern on the tongue-twisted European mainland circa 1930. Extras include promotional art, including ad art by famed costume designer Boris Bilinsky.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Lulu on TV in Toronto

I hear that the Toronto Globe & Mail TV guide lists Lulu (LouLou) as being on TFO-TV tonight at 9 pm.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Emptied Theaters

A few inter-library loans were waiting for me at the library today, and I found some good material. From the Daily Bulletin (from Bloomington, Illinois) I dug up some article and reviews of the two Denishawn performances there in 1923. I also found a few vintage film reviews in the Seattle Times (from Seattle, Washington), Morning Advocate (from Baton Rouge, Louisiana), and the Paterson Evening News (from Paterson, New Jersey). I wonder if William Carlos Williams - one time doctor, poet and resident of Paterson - saw any of Louise Brooks' films?

Here is an intersting article I came across today. It dates from May, 1926.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Louise Brooks screenings in Austin, Texas

The Austin Film Society is mounting a series entitled "3 Actresses Abroad," which includes films of Anna May Wong, Josephine Baker, and Louise Brooks. Two of Brooks' films will be shown:Diary of a Lost Girl will be shown on May 9th, and Pandora's Box will be shown on May 16th. For more info, check out the film society's website at

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

John Baxter

Tonight, at the Booksmith in San Francisco, I'll be hosting film critic and author John Baxter. John is the author of a saucy new book We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light. He is also a broadcaster (for the BBC), book collector (his previous book, A Pound of Paper, is a delightful read), novelist (he wrote a novel about Charlie Chaplin called The Kid), and film historian (he has penned works on directors King Vidor and John Ford, gangster films, Hollywood in the 1930's, etc...). And among his biographies are books on Luis Bunuel, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen and others. Please come by if you can. It should be interesting. Australian-born author John Baxter now lives in Paris.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Pop/rock music about silent film

Thanx to all of those who have so far voted in the "Pick you favorite contemporary song about Louise Brooks" poll. Which got me to wondering, does anyone know of other pop/rock music about silent film stars or movies? I recall that Nick Lowe has a rather morbid song about Marie Prevost. Can anyone think of any others?

Sunday, April 2, 2006

(Once again) Mick LaSalle on Louise Brooks

Once again (see previous LJ entry), San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle has written (rehashed his old arguements) about Louise Brooks. This letter from today's newspaper
Hi Mick: I was a bit disappointed by your review of the DVD release of Prix de Beauté. I will admit I bow to nobody regarding my love of Louise Brooks, but it seemed you spent an inordinate amount of type refuting the Brooks legend, rather than addressing the film itself. I guess my question is why you found it so necessary to smash the idol.
Tom Bertino, San Rafael 
Hi Tom: That's a fair observation. I guess I feel about Louise Brooks the way that guy in Sideways felt about Merlot. Though my unrelentingly sunny disposition is rarely disrupted by anything, when I hear ignorant critics go on and on about Brooks -- the only silent actress they know -- it does get on my nerves. Brooks' after-the-event stardom was carefully put over by Brooks and her friends. She was a minor, forgotten silent actress who came into prominence within scholarly circles thanks to the great archivist James Card, an old fan of hers, with whom she subsequently had an affair. She began writing for film journals and became friends with film scholars. Thus, the people who "rediscovered" Brooks were Brooks' own colleagues, who were happy to believe and propound the myth that their peer was an amazing forgotten talent, a genius unrecognized in her own time. This myth took hold in the 1950s and went mainstream in 1979, when Kenneth Tynan, who knew nothing about silent film, descended into utter critical lunacy and pronounced, in the New Yorker, that Brooks invented modern screen acting.
In a way, this doesn't matter. As Merlots go, Brooks is a pretty good one. Her reputation rests on her two films for German director G.W. Pabst, Pandora's Box, which is mediocre (and overrated) and Diary of a Lost Girl, which is superb, and she's fine in it. But there are other silent actresses who are more beautiful, more interesting, more innovative and more talented, whose bodies of work are more distinguished, and yet they remain, mute and still, languishing in film cans through critical neglect and archival uninterest. Still, I give Brooks credit for one thing. While other actresses slept with producers to get a career, Brooks realized the significance of sleeping with film scholars in order to fix that career in the public consciousness. Producers forget, but scholars tend to be endlessly grateful.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Attention Bay Area shoppers

Attention book and film lovers: I've just returned from Acorn Books, a used bookstore located on Polk Street in San Francisco. As it turns out, the store is going out of business, and everything is 40% off. They have a very good film section, and I was able to find a few gems at reasonable prices. You may as well. . . . [ The two best books I found were a copy of Gloria Swanson's autobiography - SIGNED by Swanson. And an uncommon, oversized, illustrated photoplay edition of Evangeline published by the Milton Bradley company. I collect vintage photoplay editions, and thought this a nice find.]
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