Friday, August 31, 2007

A fashion plate

A bunch of images from the San Francisco Examiner photo archive have been put up for sale on eBay. One particular image ran alongside a fashion column by Babette, which was syndicated in Hearts' newspaper syndicate.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spring Awakening, a new translation

Today, I received an advance copy of Jonathan Franzen's new translation of Frank Wedekind's play, Spring Awakening. Here is what the publisher has to say.
First performed in Germany in 1906, Frank Wedekind’s controversial play Spring Awakening closed after one night in New York in 1917 amid charges of obscenity and public outrage. For the better part of the twentieth century Wedekind’s intense body of work was largely unpublished and rarely performed. Yet the play’s subject matter—teenage desire, suicide, abortion, and homosexuality—is as explosive and important today as it was a century ago. Spring Awakening follows the lives of three teenagers, Melchior, Moritz, and Wendl, as they navigate their entry into sexual awareness. Unlike so many works that claim to tell the truth of adolescence, Spring Awakening offers no easy answers or redemption.
I haven't had a chance to yet read the work, though I did read Franzen's challenging introduction. In it, the acclaimed, National Book Award winning novelist (The Corrections, etc...) notes Wedekind's California origins, his troubled history, as well as the play's controversial New York City debut. Franzen also mentions Wedekind's Pandora's Box, the character of Lulu, and their relationship to Spring Awakening, as well as the fact that Alban Berg wrote an opera based on the Wedekind play. (Franzen did not mention Pabst's film or Louise Brooks.)

I term Franzen's introduction challenging because Franzen does not hold his punches when discussing earlier translations, or even the recent Broadway musical - which he terms "insipid." From what I gather, this new translation promises a fuller and more truly representative version of Wedekind's work. We shall see. It would be great to see him translate Pandora's Box.
Spring Awakening is the best play ever written about teenagers, and Jonathan Franzen's fraught yet buoyant translation is the best I've ever read.  In a culture where lies about adolescence prevail, this funny and honest play is more relevant than ever. Spring Awakening is essential reading.”  — Christopher Shinn

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A sort of silent film

The Belgian comic duo Circoripopolohas has created a web feature (not unlike a short silent film) whose design includes affecting your Internet browser. Click on their site and your browser will immediately shrink. At first, you'll see two pairs of hands squeezing out of a small crack in the otherwise black screen. The duo keep pushing outward until they've successfully expanded your browser. Later, when they explode a large balloon, your browser shakes. Pretty nifty me thinks. Check it out at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pandora's Box - new soundtrack

The BBC website is reporting that a new soundtrack for Pandora's Box has been commissioned. The score will debut at a special screening in Bristol on September 15. According to the BBC
New meets old at the Watershed in September, with the world premiere of a brand spanking new musical score for a silent classic.
The orchestral score, from composer Paul Lewis, has been specially commissioned by Watershed and Bristol Silents for the gala screening of silent classic Pandora's Box.
The event, taking place at the Colston Hall on Saturday, 15 September, will be hosted by actor Paul McGann, a big fan of the film's star, Louise Brooks, and is part of the media centre's 25th birthday celebrations. . . .
Two years in the planning, music for the gala event will be performed by members of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by composer Paul Lewis.
Lewis has produced more than 500 pages of handwritten A3 score sheets to accompany the two hours and 11 minutes of Pandora's Box.
"The score is operatic and the melodies full-blooded," he explained.
"In spite of this I am scoring it for a relatively small orchestra as I believe this gives greater intimacy and a closer connection with the individual characters."
Adapted from the controversial plays of Frank Wedeking, Pandora's Box, released in 1929, stars Louise Brooks as young temptress Lulu who wreaks havoc in the lives of a wealthy newspaper editor, his hapless son and a lovelorn countess.
Chris Daniels of Bristol Silents said: "It's incredible that a film of this standing in world cinema hasn't had an orchestral score composed of this quality or on this scale before.
"Even people who know the film well will be experiencing it for the very first time in this way."
I would love to hear from anybody who attends this screening. I wish I could be there!

Monday, August 27, 2007

From Rudolph Nureyev to Louise Brooks

here was an article in yesterday's New York Times about Rudolph Nureyev. ** The piece was prompted by the debut of a new documentary about the Russian dancer which airs on PBS later this week. Well anyways, the article began in a most thoughtful kind of way. For me, the situation the reporter depicts rang true. The article began:
A POINT comes in the afterlife of an artist when, for the time being, biography has pretty much done its work. The essential history is known; the ambience is broadly understood; the relationship between the life and the work has yielded its chief mysteries. Barring bombshells any future surprises are apt to be minor: not revelations, just minutiae.
Sometimes, that's the situation I find myself in regarding Louise Brooks. There may not be all that much left to find out. Critics of the Louise Brooks Society - and there are a few - have complained that my efforts are too much focussed on picking through the scraps. Well, that's all I have access to. Sometimes, I find something interesting. . . like the unlikeliness of G.W. Pabst having seen A Girl in Every Port before he decided to cast Brooks in Pandora's Box, or the fact that Pandora's Box was screened in Newark, New Jersey in 1931 with sound effects! These simple facts may not be revelations, only minutiae. But they do alter some long held believes in the story of the actress.

My hunt goes on.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been back to the San Francisco Public Library looking at inter-library loan material. More microfilmed newspapers had arrived. I got a bit of Denishawn material and a few film reviews from the Bangor Daily News (Maine), Reading Times(Pennsylvania), Louisville Post (Kentucky), Virginian-Pilot and Norfolk Landmark (Norfolk, Virginia), and Montreal Gazette (Canada). My request for the Milwaukee Herold (a German-language newspaper from Wisconsin) was rejected as "title not on shelf." Oh well, that sometimes happens. Likewise, nothing turned up in the Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon), though I did find a short article and a large advertisement forBeggars of Life in some January, 1930 issues of the North China Daily News (Shanghai). Bad luck sometimes runs with good.

One unusual source I also examined was the New York Commerical. This New York City financial paper was something like today's Wall Street Journal. (Like so many other publications I have looked at, the Commerical is no longer published. I believe it either folded or merged with another paper in the late 1920's.) Anyways, somewhere along the line I had come across a reference to a Denishawn article appearing in that publication. So, I figure I would request some key dates and see what I could find. As it turns out, I found that review and bit more. Happily, the Commercialran a small amount of "entertainment news" pretty much every day - mostly reviews of New York happenings.

Along with the Denishawn dates, I also requested microfilm for the period when the George White Scandals opened in NYC in 1924. And lo and behold, I came across a June 30th article referencing Brooks as a performer in the Scandals. Wow, she was hardly a principal - but there was her name in an article in a newspaper. That article ran before the show opened. I also came across a interesting review titled "George White Excels His Best Scandals" after the show's debut. Brooks was not mentioned in it.

My luck with the Commerical convinced me to request additional microfilm.Thus, on the docket are microfilm requests for the period covering the opening of "Louie the 14th," the 1925 Ziegfeld Follies, and even the NYC openings of Brooks' early silent films. You never know what you may find. . . . Speaking of things found, here is a nice advertisement I came across in the Evening Bulletin (Providence, Rhode Island).

Last week, I also spent a little time organizing my projected inter-library loan requests. I have pending requests for some additional issues of theEvening Bulletin, as well as the New Orleans States (Louisiana), Hagerstown Morning Herald (Maryland), Evening Telegram (Superior, Wisconsin), and a few other papers. From here on out, I plan on putting in probably no more than two ILL requests per week till I am through. It should take me less than a year to get through  all of those.

** Trivia buffs: which silent film star with whom Brooks was acquainted did Rudolph Nureyev play in a film?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Beggars of Life to play at Cinecon

According to a story in today's Los Angeles Times, the 1928 Louise Brooks film Beggars of Life will be shown at this year's Cinecon film festival. The article, by Susan King, reads in part, "Other films in the lineup include the complete version of 1927's "The Patent Leather Kid," starring Richard Barthelmess in an Oscar-nominated performance; a newly restored print of the 1922 Mary Pickford classic "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall"; the 1928 William Wellman drama "Beggars of Life" with Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks; and Paramount's first talkie, 1928's "Interference," starring William Powell and Evelyn Brent."

The Cinecon website - located at - doesn't reference the film. Perhaps it was just added to the schedule. Cinecon takes place in Hollywood. I have been a few times. That's were I saw Franz Lederer speak. (Lederer was Brooks co-star in Pandora's Box.) Once, I bumped into Kenneth Anger in the memorabilia room, and saw Kevin Brownlow present a John Ford film. I have also seen a bunch of silent and early sound films screened there. Cinecon is well worth going if you have never been.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fashion Decrees, from Mme Lisbeth

Here is a clipping I ran across while looking through old newspapers on microfilm. As can be seen, Louise Brooks is one of the models included in this syndicated fashion column.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Valentino Is Dead

It was 81 years ago that Rudolph Valentino died. His passing made headlines across the United States and the world. Here is but one example. Louise Brooks - then a young actress - was acquainted with the "Latin Lover." They had met at a party. At a funeral mass in New York City - held just a few days after Valentino's death, one newspaper reported that Brooks was seen crying. Film buffs and the world shared her grief.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lulu in Albany

The New York State Writers Institute has announced its Fall 2007 Classic Film Series, which includes an October 19th screening of Pandora's Box, with live music by pianist Mike Schiffer. Further details to come.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Google maps fun

Over the weekend, I spent some time playing around with Google maps. Basically, I was trying to figure out how they worked and how I might use them. To teach myself, I created an annotated map called "My Louise Brooks Research." In map form, it is a list of the libraries, museums, archives and historical societies I visited in search of material on the actress. Red pins mark more than 35 institutions in nearly as many cities. I also added green pins to indicate institutions which have been significant lenders of inter-library loan material. Check it out, it is kinda cool.

The next map I have started working on is much more complicated. It details the "
Denishawn Tour 1922-1923." It's still a work in progress. In the future, I hope to make a map for the "Denishawn Tour 1923-1924," as well as a "Louise Brooks Gazetteer" detailing important places in the actresses' life. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Louise Brooks mentioned on BBC website

Clive James - a well known British author, critic and commentator - mentioned Louise Brooks in an article posted yesterday on the BBC website. Brooks was also pictured in the piece, along with Garbo and Marlon Brando. You can read the piece, or hear the author read it aloud on the radio.

James' article - entitled "Just a Pretty Face" - is prefaced thus. "There are not as many movie icons out there as we think. What makes one? Well it's not talent - they can just look pretty and our imagination does the rest." James goes on to write, "Since Garbo, every female film star has wanted the same for herself. Louise Brooks achieved iconic status without making many films that a mass audience ever saw, and nowadays almost nobody has seen any film she made, yet she is instantly recognizable by her hairstyle, which in itself gets described as iconic."

Louise Brooks is more than a haircut. And more than just a pretty face. I agree with James when he says that Brooks has not achieved a mass audience. However, I would qualify his statement and add that more people today have seen a Brooks film than he suspects. Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl are shown pretty regularly these days - both in revivals and even on television. Also, I would add that Brooks has now achieved a level of mass recognition that her more celebrated contemporaries enjoyed. A few years ago, Movie Star News - a company that reprints movie star images - reported that Louise Brooks was the second most popular star in their expansive catalog. Brooks trailed only Marilyn Monroe.

I am not sure how I feel about James' piece overall.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beggars of Life screens in Chicago tomorrow

If you live in the Chicago area and are a Louise Brooks fan, don't miss this chance to see the actress on the big screen in Beggars of Life (1928). The film is being shown tomorrow at 8 pm as part of the Silent Film Society Summer series at the Portage Theater. For more information, see the Society's web page. When and if this outstanding Brooks film will ever be released on DVD is unknown - so this is a great chance to see it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beach Blanket Babylon

Tonight I saw the latest incarnation of Beach Blanket Babylon, the long running San Francisco musical farce . . . . And I think I picked-up on a very slight allusion to Louise Brooks. In one scene, set in Paris, an actor playing King Louie of France comes on stage to the tune of "Louie-Louie." That song quickly changes to the familiar "Louise,"  as in "every little breeze seems to whisper Louise. . .".  And Snow White, I think it was, then addresses him as Loulou. The King responds with, "just call me Lou." And allusion, or just a play on words - who can say?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Uncommon edition

Today, I received a copy of a book I had ordered over the internet. I received Lulu en Hollywood, the Spanish edition of Lulu in Hollywood. This first edition copy was published in Barcelona by Ultramar Editores, S.A. in November, 1984. As far as I can tell, this Spanish-language edition is pretty similar to the English-language edition. There is the introduction by William Shawn, seven essays by Louise Brooks, and an afterward by Lotte Eisner - all in Spanish. The only exception I have noted is in the filmography.

For some curious reason, the translator or editor of this edition added a film to Brooks' credits. In Lulu en Hollywood, Brooks is credited with having appeared in Robert Florey's Hollywood Boulevard (1937). Of course, Brooks did not appear in this film. And it's not the first time she is listed as having appeared in it. But there it is in this book. Why someone added I don't know.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Uncommon poster

Here's something I haven't seen before. According to it's eBay description, "This laminated poster advertises the German Film Season at the Barbican Theatre, which ran from October 1st – 31st 1982. It features a picture of Louise Brooks in profile, plus a list of films, including Diary of a Lost GirlNosferatu and Metropolis. It was taken from a London tube wall by a friend at the time and I have had it ever since. I think it came from somewhere on the Victoria line as it has "Vic 6/33" on the reverse.  . . . The white mark on my photo is the light shining on it. Thankfully it was laminated by whoever produced it."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lulu in Bristol

Pandora's Box will be shown in Bristol, England on September 15th at 7:30 pm. The Weston & Somerset Mercury ran a short article about the screening in today's paper.

Pandora's Box opens in Bristol
ONE of the greatest silent films in cinematic history is to be shown at Bristol's Watershed.

Adapted from the controversial plays of Frank Wedekind, Pandora's Box stars the legendary Louise Brooks as young temptress Lulu.

The seductive youngster wreaks havoc on the lives of wealthy newspaper editor Dr Shon, his handsome but hapless son Alwa, and the lonely and lovelorn Countess Geschwitz, cinema's first lesbian.

The film has been brought to life by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, who will be performing the music, composed by Paul Lewis.

Watershed and Bristol Silents have been working to produce the special event over the past two years and the evening will be hosted by Paul McGann.

Pandora's Box is being screened on September 15 at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £20, are available from the Colston Hall box office on 0117 922 3686.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My library research continues II

Spent an hour or so at the library today, as a few inter-library loans had come in. (I receive email notifications when my requests arrive and are processed and are made available.) I looked through microfilm of the Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Hartford Times(Connecticut), and Providence Evening Bulletin (Rhode Island). It was a messy bunch of loans, as some of the dates I requested hadn't come and in one instance, the wrong reel of film was sent. Nevertheless, I managed to find a few reviews and articles about films in which Louise Brooks had a role.

I also looked through a few reels of the Montreal Standard, a weekly, English-Language Canadian newspaper. I found some material on Beggars of Life (1928) and The Canary Murder Case (1929). I won't reproduce the article I found on the later film (as it wasn't that interesting), but here is a captioned photograph and an advertisement for the film. These are typical of the sort of clippings I uncover. I have hundreds - if not thousands of examples of this kind of material.

Finishing up, I noted which dates from which newspapers I would need to re-request. I then added a few citations to the LBS bibliographies. And then I submitted a few more inter-library loan requests. This round, I asked for the Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon), Bangor News (Maine),North China Daily News (Shanghai, China), and Milwaukee Herold (Wisconsin). The later is a German-language newspaper which I haven't look at before. The search continues.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Allan Milkerit, r.i.p.

With sadness, the Louise Brooks Society is sad to report the death of Allan Milkerit. He was a friend to the LBS and a noted book dealer in San Francisco. Allan passed away suddenly on June 24th. Over the years, I had purchased or traded many books with Allan. He was exceptionally knowledgeable about and loved both books and films. We had numerous enjoyable conversations about book collecting and favorite films over the years. Many of the finest photoplay editions which I now possess - as well as other books on the movies - came to me through Allan. I will miss you, my friend.

Friday, August 3, 2007

My library research continues

Though I haven't been blogged about it for some time, I have continued my Louise Brooks library research. I am still placing inter-library loan requests, though at a somewhat slower pace. As I've mentioned before, I am coming to the end of my long, long, long list of newspaper and magazine requests. How long is this list? My log of such requests runs some 45 pages. I figure I have placed as many as 800 requests for inter-library loans!

Louise Brooks' two years with Denishawn have been the focus of some of my research. Recently, I have gotten some articles, reviews and advertisements from the Jamestown Morning Post and Watertown Daily Times (New York), Williamsport Gazette and Bulletin and Lancaster New Era (Pennsylvania), New Haven Times-Leader (Connecticut), Daily Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey),Louisville Herald (Kentucky) and New Orleans States (Louisiana). I also found a whole bunch of interesting and original material in a college newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian (from the school located in Manhattan, Kansas). You never know where things will turn up. Speaking of which, a friend turned me onto the on-line archive of the Jewish Criterion, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania paper. And there, I was able to dig up a few clippings relating to Denishawn performances in that city.

The bulk of my requests of late have been for newspapers through which I have searched for film reviews and other material. And, I am happy to report, I found some rinteresting and unusual stuff. Among the papers I have looked through are the Knickerbocker Press (Albany, New York),Newark Star-Eagle (New Jersey), South Bend Tribune (Indiana), Chatanooga Daily Times and Nashville Banner (Tennessee), San Antonio Light(Texas), Salt Lake Telegram (Utah), Tacoma News Tribune (Washington), and Capitol Journal (Salem, Oregon).

As of now, I have about 50 to 100 requests left to process. The bulk of these are from New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Canada. It is slow work, as I am only able to place so many requests at a time. In theory, the readers of this blog will be spared these dull reports in the future.

Digging around on-line databases and archives on the internet have also turned up fresh material. I found articles and other clippings - including anecdotes and mentions in various syndicated film-related columns - in the Amarillo Globe (Texas), and the Hamilton Daily News and Hamilton Evening Journal (Ohio). I also got some remarkable reviews from the Benton Harbor News-Palladium (Michigan). In 1927, Louise Brooks' Mother spoke in Michigan before a women's group in Benton Harbor, a resort town located not far from her then residence of Chicago, Illinois. And after that appearance - this western Michigan newspaper consistently highlighted Brooks' role in any film of her's which played in town. As if she were a local girl, Louise Brooks name was prominent in headlines on the entertainment page.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lulu at Pordenone

A schedule of films for the 2007 Giornate film festival in Pordenone, Italy has just been announced. If you don't know - this many day festival is the big annual event in the world for those who love silent movies. This is mecca for silent film buffs. Among the films being screened is Pandora's Box (1929), starring Louise Brooks. The G.W. Pabst directed film be shown with a new score by Paul Lewis. The score was jointly commissioned by the Giornate and Bristol Watershed. I wish I could be there, but alas, Italy is far away.
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