Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today's library report

I looked at a whole bunch of microfilm, which was waiting for me at the San Francisco Public Library. Of late, most all of my inter-library loan requests are geared toward Louise Brooks tour' with Denishawn, and the corresponding performances and reviews in newspapers across Canada and the United States. To date, I have been able to get ahold of material on about 90% of the nearly 200 performances Denishawn gave during Brooks tenure.

I looked at the Peterborough Examiner (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), as well as Rochester Daily Bulletin and the Rochester Daily Post and Record (both from Rochester, Minnesota) and Kenosha Evening News (from Kenosha, Wisconsin). I also examined the Waterloo Evening Courier & Daily Reporter (from Waterloo, Iowa), Sedalia Democrat (from Sedalia, Missouri), Columbia Daily Tribune (from Columbia, Missouri) and The State (from Columbia, South Carolina). Each newspaper contained at least an article, review, or advertisement documenting a performance. Some of the papers contained multiple articles, and even a few interviews with Ruth St. Denis. Recently, I was also able peruse the Galveston Daily News, and acquire copies of articles from that elusive Texas newspaper.

Today, I also managed to dig a few film reviews and advertisements out of the Boise Capital News (from Boise, Idaho - the first reviews I've found from that Western state) and Winnipeg Free Press (from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Citations for all of these finds have been added to the LBS bibliographies.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New DVD on the way!

I have heard from a couple of sources that a new DVD - most likely featuring Pandora's Box - will be issued in the United States sometime in the Fall. At last ! And what's more, this new release may be a double disc, or box set. I am awaiting confirmation . . . . and will let everyone know more when I find out something concrete.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Girls in Pearls

There is a new book coming out in September called Girls in Pearls. According to the publisher, "This book brings together a fascinating collection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs of noble women, imperial princesses, society ladies and Hollywood divas wearing their finest pearl tiaras, necklaces, brooches and earrings. Engaging commentaries explain the context in which each image was created and provide glimpses into the life of the artist and his or her model."

I mention it because Louise Brooks appears on the cover, and there is a two page spread inside devoted to the actress. I had a chance to see a copy of the book recently at the bookseller's convention in Washington D.C. It may or may not be a German release, or a bilingual edition. I am not sure. The author is Claudia Lanfranconi, an art historian and author. The publisher is Merrell. 

Needless-to-say, the cover bears a strong resemblance to an earlier release on the same subject, People & Pearls, which was published in 2000. What's better than one book on pearls with Louise Brooks on the cover? Two books!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Street of Forgotten Men

While visiting the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., I took the oportunity to see The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), the first film in which Louise Brooks had a role. Wow - I really liked it. It is a fine film - and despite the fact that it is incomplete, it is worthy of commercial release. I didn't have any trouble following the story.

The LOC has six of seven reels. The second reel is apparently lost. Brooks single scene takes place in the seventh reel, somewhat near the end of the film. According to the LOC catalog, the library has a 35mm print of The Street of Forgotten Men, which was directed by Herbert Brenon. (Brenon, who the year before directed Peter Pan, would go on to oversee such well regarded silents as Beau GesteThe Great Gatsby, andLaugh, Clown, Laugh.) I was able to view a 16mm copy print. I took a bunch of notes.

Louise Brooks looked dishy in her broad-striped jacket, sleek bob and cloche hat adorned with a question mark pin. (Barry Paris describes it as a question mark feather.) And though she is only on screen for about five minutes, she certainly made an impression. She comes off as cunning, and quick. Brooks is first seen sitting and talking with her con artist companion, Bridgeport White-Eye, a professional beggar who pretends to be blind. They are conspiring to extort money from the character played by Neil Hamilton (the future Police Commissioner Gordon from the 1960's television series, Batman). Brooks and Bridgeport are approached by Easy Money Charlie (played by Percy Marmont), and a fight breaks out between Bridgeport and Charlie. The two slug it out while Brooks is jostled about in the crowd gathered around the two brawlers.

Brooks' role was slight  - she was even not listed in the credits. Nevertheless, her brief appearance was memorable and would draw the attention of at least one reviewer in 1925. The Los Angeles Times singled out the actress when it noted, "And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed." It would be her first film review. Eighty-one years later, that review and Brooks role still hold up.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Quick LOC research notes

While in Washington D.C., I spent about 25 hours looking through microfilm. I went through dozens of reels, and found numerous film reviews and advertisements (including many on Louise Brooks' films of the 1930's), some articles and reviews of Denishawn performances, a few vintage and a few contemporary articles on the actress, and a bunch of material on the 1925 Miss America beauty contest. I returned home with more than three inches of photocopies - I spent more than $100.00 on photocopies. It was all worth it.

The material I looked through included microfilm of newspapers such as the 
Wichita Eagle, Rochester Times Union and Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (each important to Brooks' story), as well as the New York Morning TelegraphBrooklyn Daily Eagle, and Newark Star-Eagle. I also examined papers from Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany, New York. As well as the Indianapolis NewsMinneapolis JournalDuluth News TribuneBirmingham Age Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Times, Boston Post and Baltimore News. And the Rocky Mountain News,Idaho Daily Statesman and Honolulu Star Bulletin. And Washington Star, Washington Times, and Washington Herald. And Montreal Daily Star (from Canada) and Neues Weiner Journal (from Vienna, Austria).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu

On Monday, June 19th Turner Classic Movies will be showing Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu (1998). "Exclusive interviews, rare footage and family photos trace Louise Brooks from Kansas farm girl to silent screen seductress to renowned film historian." Check your local listings for the exact time, which could be late.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

At Skywalker Ranch

I am back from Washington D.C. and my trip to the Library of Congress. I'll write more about that later . . . . Last night, I attended a gathering of booksellers at Skywalker Ranch - the Northern California workplace of director and producer George Lucas. The reason for the gathering was the launch of a new book, Cinema by the Bay, by Sheerly Avni and Michael Sragow. The book celebrates the many filmmakers who reside and make films in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The party was good fun, and the house in which it took place quite extraordinary! Lucas has some lovely art - and the research library is mighty impressive. 
There was a lot to look at, to say the least. A selection of props used in various Lucasfilm productions are on display. I saw the hat and whip used by Indiana Jones, and a light saber from Star Wars. Also on display were a few items dating back to the silent film era. I spotted an autographed photo of Rudolph Valentino from The Eagle, as well as a whip used by the actor in the film! There was also a photograph of the Keystone Cops, and a display box holding their police badges! And next to that was a picture postcard autographed by Mata Hari ! Too cool.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Louise Brooks exhibit

Speaking of the San Francisco Public Library, I have been given the green light to mount a Louise Brooks exhibit at the library later this year. The title will be something like "Homage to Lulu: Celebrating 100 Years of Louise Brooks." I plan to fill the exhibit with many of my treasures, including a number of rare books (naturally), magazines, newspaper clippings (including a rare full page, color Sunday Dixie Dugan comic strip), sheet music, postcards, photographs and more. All kinds of stuff!

This will be the second exhibit I've put on at the library. A few years back - maybe as long ago as 5 years - I put on a show called "Collecting the Stars," which featured all kinds of silent film memorabilia which I had acquired. Of course, Louise Brooks had a prominent part in that show. This time, she will dominate the exhibit. I will post additional information once the details are worked out.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Go to to find out about the screening of a new print of Pandora's Box at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival in July. I'll be there !

Monday, May 15, 2006

Polly Glotto Translates & Reads Translations

In searching for new Louise Brooks material, I look at webpages and documents from around the world and in many languages. One tool I use is Babel Fish ( ), which can perform rudimentary translations of text or webpages from one language to another. One new nifty tool I've come across is Polly Glotto, which also translates from one language to another and - what's more - reads the translations. Check it out at

Sunday, May 14, 2006

American silent film

The other day, I finished reading William Everson's American Silent Film. It's an excellent book - and one of the few I know of which surveys silent film in the United States. The book was originally published in 1978, and is still in print. I would recommend it. A few chapters I found quite nearly thrilling. Everson mentions Louise Brooks a few times, and speaks highly of Love Em and Leave Em and Beggars of Life. My next book is James Card's Seductive Cinema. I read parts of it in the past, but have never say down and read the whole thing. And, so far so good. I am about 40 pages in. Card has referenced Brooks a few times already - and it's very opinionated.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wladyslaw Starewicz

If you've never seen the animated films of Polish-born animator Wladyslaw Starewicz (1892 - 1965), then be sure and check out these links. His work - all mostly done in the teens, twenties and thirties - is poetic and surreal.

The Insect's Christmas

The Cameraman's Revenge part 1

The Cameraman's Revenge part 2

The Town Rat & The Country Rat

The Frogs Who Wanted A King

Voice of the Nightingale part 1

Voice of the Nightingale part 2

Friday, May 12, 2006

George Grantham Bain news photograph collection

The Library of Congress has announced that the George Grantham Bain news photograph collection (about 40,000 glass negatives) have been digitized and are available in the LOC's Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. You can start searching for your favorite subjects or film stars (be they Louise Brooks or Clara Bow or Olive Thomas) at I know you will find at least a few photographic treasures.

"The George Grantham Bain Collection represents the photographic files of one of America's earliest news picture agencies. The collection richly documents sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, political activities including the woman suffrage campaign, conventions and public celebrations. The photographs Bain produced and gathered for distribution through his news service were worldwide in their coverage, but there was a special emphasis on life in New York City. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1900s to the mid-1920s, but scattered images can be found as early as the 1860s and as late as the 1930s."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Scattered thoughts

At the library today, I looked at yet more microfilm! I dug Denishawn material out of the Poughkeepsie Evening Star and Enterprise (from Poughkeepsie , New York), Marshalltown Evening Times Republican (from Marshalltown, Iowa), and Pueblo Chieftain (from Pueblo, Colorado). As much as I enjoy research, I am looking forward to the day when I have finished looking for Denishawn material for each and every performance. The end is near, I think. 

I also looked for film reviews in the Hartford Courant (from Hartford, Connecticut) and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (from Fairbanks, Alaska). I found nothing in either publication. The Fairbanks newspaper is the second Alaska newspaper I have looked at. I failed to find any Louise Brooks material in either - as Fairbanks and Anchorage were small towns at the time and didn't seem to support very many movie theaters. I had planned to look at another Alaska newspaper, but will not. I can't imagine it will yield any material. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any vintage reviews from Alaska, as I have most nearly every other state. (I do have a bunch of pre-statehood Hawaiian reviews.) Wyoming is also proving elusive.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

This just in . . .

Turner Classic Movies will air the television premiere of five Rudolph Valentino films during a film festival dedicated to the silver screen's first male sex symbol on Sunday, May 21. The schedule for the film festival is as follows:

     8 p.m.      
Beyond the Rocks (1922) - TV premiere of recently discovered Valentino/Swanson film
9:45 p.m.       Moran of the Lady Letty (1922) - TV premiere 
   11 p.m.      The Young Rajah (1922) - TV premiere with still reconstruction by Jeffrey Masino
   12 a.m.      The Delicious Little Devil (1919) - TV premiere 
1:15 a.m.      Stolen Moments (1920) - TV premiere
     2 a.m.      The Conquering Power (1921)
3:30 a.m.      Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

More information is available at the TCM Web site at

Monday, May 8, 2006

To the LOC

I leave for Washington D.C. in eight days. I am very excited. Because, in less than 10 days time I will be hunkered down at the Library of Congress pouring over their massive collection of newspapers on microfilm. I've prepared an extensive checklist of papers I hope to look through. And, if I'm lucky, I may also look through bound issues of certain newspapers not on microfilm. And, I am also very excited that I was able to secure an appointment to view the surviving reels of The Street of Forgotten Men, Louise Brooks' first film. More to come. . . .

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Pandora's Box stills on eBay

A rather nice collection of scene stills from Pandora's Box is for sale on eBay. The description reads "Set of nine vintage original 3 ½ x 4 ½” (9.5 x 12 cm.) still photographs, Germany. Louise Brooks, Francis Lederer, dir: G.W. Pabst. Very rare collection of original German stills from late silent film classic in which Brooks attained immortality in the role of Lulu. Two of these show Brooks, one in profile, one from behind; the other seven depict most of the film’s other main characters. All the stills have either printed information or handwritten numberings on the backs. These all came from the private collection of Francis Lederer (1899-2000), who played the role of Alwa Schon in the film." Check it out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Article on Louise Brooks

An article on Louise Brooks appeared in today's Morning Sun, a newspaper from Pittsburg, Kansas. The article was titled "Do You Recall?"

Do You Recall? 

Louise Brooks: Silent Screen Star
Louise Brooks, a product of Cherryvale, became one of the most controversial actresses during the 1920s. Who would have ever known that the daughter of a small-town attorney and granddaughter of a country doctor would become one of America's most dazzling silent movie stars of the era.
Mary Louise Brooks, also known as "Brooksie" was born Nov. 14, 1906, to Leonard and Myra Brooks at 531 East 7th Street in Cherryvale. Four children were born of this marriage. Having been forced to care for her siblings due to a sickly mother, Myra told her husband that he was her escape to freedom and the arts. If there were any "squalling brats" born to them, they would have to take care of themselves. She was not the most loving mother.
If not for Louise's talent for dance, Mrs. Brooks would not have helped enhance and promote her career. Louise made her debut at age 4, when she portrayed the bride in a church-benefit production of "Tom Thumb's Wedding". Venus Jones and her little sister, Vivian Jones (Vance) of "I LOVE LUCY" fame, were childhood friends and lived across the street from each other for about a year. They often made mud-pies together and romped outside the local monument company among the tombstones. How odd that these two beauties would both become professional actresses later in life.
By age 10, Louise became known as a professional dancer, performing at men's and women's clubs, fairs, theaters, and dance halls throughout southeast Kansas. Although her father highly objected, her mother, in the interest of improving Louise's image, had a barber chop off her long black braids and shape what remained of her hair in a straight Dutch bob with bangs. Later, she would become known for this Buster-Brown/Page Boy type cut. Thousands of women were attracted to that style, and adopted it as their own, in a way that has been repeated many times since then.
At age 15, she was discovered by Ted Shawn and began touring nationwide with Denishawn Company. These locations also included Wichita and Pittsburg, Kansas as well. Often she had what we would call "temper tantrums", but her mother, Myra, usually came to her rescue. However, at age 17, she was fired from Denishawn as a "bad influence", but went on to the George White "Scandals Review" and later to the 1925 Ziegfeld Follies (which also included an affair with Charlie Chaplin). In 1922, she realized that she had to get rid of her Kansas accent and to learn etiquette of the socially elite. Since she could not afford speech lessons, she found a soda jerk who was working his way through Columbia University and within a month, her accent was eliminated.
Because of her dark-haired look and being the beautiful, modern woman that she was, she was not popular in the Hollywood crowd. She was ahead of her time. At age 19, she signed a 10-year contract with Paramount Studios and became the flapper symbol. An icon of the age, women all over America copied her look, but they could never copy her style.
Louse came into her own when she left Hollywood for Europe.
She appeared in a few German productions which were very well made and further proved that she was an actress with an enduring talent. German director, G.W. Pabst, cast her as Lulu in the movie Pandora's Box (1929). It has been hailed as a masterpiece of silent cinema. He also directed her in Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) which further proved her talent.
In 1930, she returned to Hollywood which was the first step of her decline. After appearing in several B movies, she permanently abandoned the film industry in 1938. He last film was a western with John Wayne, the Overland Stage Raiders. She only made 25 movies in her career, but after that, she spent most of her time reading and painting. She also became an accomplished writer, authoring a number of books, including her own autobiography. On Aug. 8, 1985, Louise died of a heart attack in Rochester, N.Y. at the age of 78. Although she was never "accepted" by Hollywood, her influences continue on as another southeast Kansas native proves her talent.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever

If you are like me, I know you are excited about the forthcoming book on Louise Brooks. Here's a little bit more info about the book - a page from the publisher's catalog. The book is scheduled to be released on October 31st. It is a coffee table book measuring 8 1/2 inches by 12 1/2 inches and runs  256 pages with 175 photographs. (Notice the alternative cover pictured here - which differs from the one posted to I can't decide which I like better.)

Monday, May 1, 2006

Prix screening

Did anyone attend yesterday's screening of Prix de Beaute at the the Tribeca Film Festival? I would be interested in any thoughts or comments. Was there a big turn-out?
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