Friday, November 30, 2007

Back in the USSR

Ever wondered how to spell Louise Brooks in Russian? This postcard, dating from the late 1920s, shows how. It is for sale oneBay.

This Soviet era postcard depicts the photographic work of M.I. Boris, a photographer once associated with the Austro-Hungarian Royal Court. That's a bit ironic, historically speaking. Ah, the currents of history . . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lulu in New York, Louise Brooks in New York Times

Today, the New York Times ran a piece on a new stage production of Lulu, which is playing at BAM as part of the Next Wave Festival. (An earlier, and equally informative article about this new production, "The Nymphet Is a Lethal Weapon," appeared in the 11-25-07 New York Times. The article can be found at

Today's article by Caryn James, "A Woman of Thoughtless Erotic Force Has Her Day, and Many Men," reads in part:
Wedekind wrote “Pandora’s Box” and “The Earth Spirit,” which together became “Lulu,” soon after “Spring Awakening,” the 1891 play that is the basis for the current (when the stagehands aren’t on strike) Broadway musical. Although his sexual frankness shattered the mores of his society, we can see now that his plays were not so much ahead of their time as timeless. Just as the musical “Spring Awakening” speaks to the eternal theme of adolescent sexual discovery, this “Lulu” distills the story of a woman and the many men with whom she has lethal affairs to its primal elements: desire, willfulness, blind obsession.

That approach shatters the Lulu stereotype. From Louise Brooks in the 1929 silent film “Pandora’s Box,” staring out from the screen with her dark-rimmed eyes and trademark black bob, to her descendant, Lola Lola, the Marlene Dietrich character in “The Blue Angel,” the typical Germanic femme fatale has swept through men’s lives with the destructive force of a tornado. Mr. Thalheimer offers a nonjudgmental “Lulu,” with a heroine who is more careless than seductive, and men and women who are neither good nor bad, strong nor weak. Until it is undermined by a melodramatic ending, his version has an elemental sexuality that transcends the taboos of any moment.
According to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) website, this performance is sold out for the duration of its short run. I know I have asked this question before, but might there be a Wedekind revival in the works?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Louise Brooks, the fairy

magine Louise Brooks as a fairy. Imagine Louise Brooks as a fairy doll. Must be seen to be believed. . . .  Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stolen Moments on Louise Brooks

Don't forget to check out the latest installment of "Stolen Moments," Donna Hill's always interesting silent film podcast. "Episode "Forever Lulu"  is number 19 in the series. I am a regular listener.

Though the show is usually focussed on "all things Valentino" (Donna also runs a fantastic Valentino website and is the author of a book in the works about the great silent film star), this latest episode is devoted to Louise Brooks. What's the connection? Brooks was a fan of the actor. We know that. And, according to one published account, she met him at a party not long before his premature death in 1926. Brooks also attended his New York funeral. But anyways, who needs a reason to talk about Louise Brooks?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mike Nichols on Natalie Portman and Louise Brooks

Once again, Natalie Portman is associated with Louise Brooks. . . . The first time was in 1994, when Portman appeared in The Professional wearing a bob haircut.

And now again, in an article in today's Guardian newspaper, "The actress was a paragon of principle, a hugely talented brainbox who happened to be both bombshell and bewitcher, who rewrote the rule book for young Hollywood hot shots. 'It confuses people to think that someone so completely beautiful could be a first-rate actor, too,' says veteran director Mike Nichols, to whom Portman is very close. 'It's hard to grasp, but it's happened. It's happened a few times before, with Garbo and Louise Brooks'."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

TONIGHT: Louise Brooks double feature at Harvard

A Girl in Every Port (1928) and The Canary Murder Case (1929) will be shown at the Harvard Film Archive, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy Street, in Cambridge, Mass. Tonight's start time is 7:00 pm. For more information about this rare double bill, click there.*

Special Event Tickets $10 - Double Feature Admission 
Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
Introduction by Caroline Yaeger, Assistant Curator, George Eastman House

A Girl in Every Port

Directed by Howard Hawks
With Louise Brooks, Victor McLaglen
US 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 64 min.

A rousing action comedy, A Girl In Every Port is arguably the first quintessential Howard Hawks film, one of the earliest to fully explore the themes of male bonding and sexual relations that would preoccupy the director throughout his entire career. Brooks plays Marie, a protofemme fatale who lures sailors to commit acts of folly. Brooks' wonderful turn in the film brought her to Pabst's attention and rocketed her to sudden celebrity.

The Canary Murder Case

Directed by Malcolm St. Clair
With Louise Brooks, William Powell, Jean Arthur
US 1929, 35mm, b/w, 82 min
One of Paramount's biggest hits of 1929, The Canary Murder Case is a wonderful example of the sophisticated brand of comedy that remained extremely popular in the years leading up to the Production Code. One of Hollywood's earliest private eye films, The Canary Murder Case stars William Powell as the debonair detective Phil Vance, investigating the suspicious career of the eponymous Canary (Brooks), an immoral nightclub singer with a cast of impatient lovers. The script, co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, sparkles with sexual innuendo. Brooks' refusal to dub her own voice when Paramount decided to turn the film into a talkie helped alienate her from the studios.

* When A Girl in Every Port was first shown at Harvard in 1928, The Crimson, the Harvard student newspaper wrote, "The main interest of the story comes when Spike meets his rival, and 'the' girl - Louise Brooks. From then on the picture might well be entitled 'A Text Book for Pugilistic Aspirants.' In a word, the picture is very amusing and eminently well worth seeing; well directed with Miss Brooks and Mr. McLaglen forming a very delightful contrast."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Films to Know About . . .

This bit appeared in Kristi Turnquist's "Pop Talk" column in Friday's Portland Oregonian.
Dreading holiday party chitchat? Here's a resource to consider: "In the Know: The Classic Guide to Being Cultured and Cool" (Penguin, $13, 240 pages). Author Nancy MacDonell arms you for cocktail conversation with such tidbits as "Ten Books You Should Read" (example: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender Is the Night"); "Ten Films to Know About" (the silent Louise Brooks classic, "Pandora's Box"); "Ten Landmark Buildings and their Architects" (Lovell Health House, by Richard Neutra, with bonus pronunciation guide of "NOY-tra").

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Images of Louise Brooks, set to the music of Underworld, a Liverpool band. Enjoy . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Window display

A snapshot of the little window display I created at The Booksmith in San Francisco. I placed a copy of Silent Movies, by Peter Kobel, in the store window to promote the San Francisco Silent Film Festival screenings on December 1st. And of course, I couldn't help but put a copy of Barry Paris' Louise Brooks biography in the window as well. (I have subsequently added Matthew Kennedy's new Joan Blondell book, as well.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes

For those in the San Francisco Bay Area: Tuesday night, I will be hosting film historian Matthew Kennedy for a talk and booksigning to mark the publication of Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes, the first major biography of the effervescent, scene-stealing actress (1906-1979) who conquered motion pictures, vaudeville, Broadway, summer stock, television, and radio. Frequent co-star to James Cagney, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart, friend to Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis, and wife of Dick Powell and Mike Todd, Blondell was a true Hollywood insider. By the time of her death, she had made nearly 100 films in a career that spanned over fifty years. Blondell, as many of you may know, also appeared along with Louise Brooks in God's Gift to Women (1931).

Kennedy’s book offers extensive research and insights gained from the cooperation of Blondell’s friends, family, and colleagues – this new book is a must read for anyone interested in early Hollywood. I hope some of you can make it to this special event, which will take place at The Booksmith (1644 Haight Street) in San Francisco. Start time is 7 pm

Matthew Kennedy teaches anthropology at the City College of San Francisco and film history at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is the author of Marie Dressler: A Biography and Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birthday anecdote

Because it was Louise Brooks' 101st birthday, I wore my Lulu pin to work. It was my little way of saying "Happy birthday!"

Tonight, at work, I hosted an event with the Adrian Tomine and Glen David Gold. (Gold wrote the novel Carter Beats the Devil, a national bestseller. He is also a big fan of comic books, and was on hand to interview Tomine, whose new graphic novel,Shortcomings, has just been released.) When Gold arrived, he took one look at my lapel and exclaimed "Louise Brooks." A bit later, we had a nice chat about Brooks . . . . He is, seemingly, a big fan of the actress and had read both the Barry Paris and Peter Cowie books. Gold also said he has always wanted to include Brooks as a character in a work of fiction, but hasn't had the opportunity yet. Tomine and Gold and I also spoke about the various cartoon and comic book incarnations of Brooks, like Dixie Dugan and Valentina.

Happy 101st !

Today would have been Louise Brooks 101st birthday. Happy birthday Louise !

Why not go out and rent a movie, like Pandora's Box, or buy yourself a present, like Peter Cowie's Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday events

Pandora's Box at BAM: To accompany the Thalia Theater's production of Lulu in the Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn, BAM Rose Cinemas will screen G.W. Pabst's 1928 adaptation of the same story starring Louise Brooks tonight at 7:30 with live musical accompaniment from 3epkano. Click here to buy tickets.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vanity Fair calendar

Louise Brooks adorns the latest Vanity Fair calendar. New subscribers receive the 2008 "Masters of Photography" calendar as a bonus item. Check it out here.

The funny thing is that Julie Roberts once owned the film rights to the Barry Paris biography. And here they are, once again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Anyone who goes through life without seeing Louise Brooks on film, I feel sorry for them"

There is an interview with Peter Kobel, author of the just released, beautifully illustrated book, "Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture," appears in the current issue of The Express, a weekly publication of the Washington Post. Kobel discusses the impetus of his writing the book, as well as various aspects of silent film. He also briefly discusses Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box.
» EXPRESS: It seems that there was a lot of very challenging filmmaking, what we now call adult themes, even though we make the mistake of thinking of our ancestors as childlike and simple.
» KOBEL: They dealt with all kinds of serious subjects and in most cases, in the case of Hollywood films, vice would be punished. In Europe — "Pandora's Box" is actually a good example. In the end of "Pandora's Box," Lulu is killed by Jack the Ripper, but that is not like the punishment of vice; it's just something that happened. It's not like some god or force is punishing her — it's just this tragic arc of her life. But the American version has to end with her working for the Salvation Army.
Anyone who hasn't gotten into silent film at all has this impression that it's Victorian, that it's melodrama, that it's 30-year-old women in pigtails trying to look like teenagers. There is that. But there's so much really brilliant, thought-provoking, daring stuff happening.
That's the biggest prejudice you have to get people past. Some people will never get past it. ... Anyone who goes through life without seeing Louise Brooks on film, I feel sorry for them.
There will be a series of film screenings in celebration of the book in Washington D.C. (see the link at the bottom of the interview for details). And as well, the book will be celebrated at the December 1st San Francisco Silent Film Festival screening at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. I am certainly looking forward to that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Short article

rom today's San Francisco Chronicle

Louise Brooks book features rare photos

Peter Cowie is a major international film critic, a British national based in Switzerland who has written 30 books, including "Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography," the most intelligent and lucid book on Bergman in the English language. Cowie is the founder of the International Film Guide, and he is regarded as an authority on Swedish and foreign-language cinema, Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles and films of the 1960s. But, in his youth, he was also friends with film legend Louise Brooks (1906-1985), and that friendship has become the occasion for a superb book about the actress, "Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever," a gorgeous, glamour-packed, coffee-table extravaganza just published by Rizzoli.

For most people who buy the book, the photos will be the draw -- there's a 256-page deluge of them, many full-page, some double-page and most of them rare. Yet the text is what makes this book invaluable as film history. Cowie augments the story of Brooks' life with his own recollections and with direct quotes from Brooks' correspondence. A full picture of the woman emerges.

Cowie will be in the Bay Area this weekend promoting the book and its subject. At 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rafael Film Center (, he will introduce a screening of G.W. Pabst's "Pandora's Box" (1929). The program will repeat at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Balboa Theater ( For fans, this is a must-see. Even those immune to the Brooks mystique (myself included) should welcome the chance to hear Cowie's lucid and informed response to her life and work. -- Mick LaSalle

p.s. please note that the Sunday program at the Balboa starts at 7:30 pm - and that "Pandora's Box" will NOT be shown; there will be other rare Louise Brooks' film shown instead (not shown in San Francisco in 80 years)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Scarce Japanese Book for sale

A copy of a scarce Japanese book on Louise Brooks is for sale on eBay. The seller description reads "Louise Brooks, published by Chuokorou-Sha, Tokyo, 1984, 122 pages, large hardcover in dust jacket with photographic endpapers, 10.25" by 10.25". Text in Japanese. Scarce Japanese book on silent screen legend Brooks, profusely illustrated with over 100 film stills, portraits, and publicity images. Beautifully printed and very uncommon." I have seen this book, and as far as I can tell, it is really a book by and about the actress. The book contains Brooks' "Gish and Garbo" and "Pabst and Lulu" along with a filmography and bibliography and many illustrations.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Annie Leibovitz

Last week, famed photographer Annie Leibovitz dropped by the bookstore where I work to sign copies of her new book, A Photographers Life. (The store was hosting an event with Leibovitz the following day.) After she was done signing, I asked the good natured photographer if she would take my picture. Leibovitz agreed! I handed her my camera. The snapshot (an original Annie Leibovitz no less) is seen below. The incident even merited a mention in the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why mention this happenstance on this blog? Because I am wearing one of my Louise Brooks t-shirts! That's why. I am standing next to my co-worker and wife, Christy Pascoe, as we rest on a big stack of autographed Annie Leibovitz books in the backroom of  The Booksmith. (Tonight, we are hosting gonzo artist Ralph Steadman - whose aunt, incidentally, was the silent film actress Vera Steadman.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Lulu in Austria & Vienna subway stations

An advertisement for the Louise Brooks film retropspective is running in subway stations in Vienna, Austria. I have short mpg file of the ad and will try and figure out how to post it.

ere's a look at the new German-language book on Louise Brooks published by the Film Archiv Austria,  Louise Brooks. Rebellin, Ikone, Legende.  For more info visit this page. A copy is on its way to me. I can't wait!

Marion's Wall

Upon Kevin Brownlow's recommendation, I read Jack Finney's 1973 novel, Marion's Wall. I liked it pretty well. The story starts a little slow, but picks up and finishes with a flourish. Anyone who likes silent film might well like this novel.

Set in San Francisco in the early 1970's, the story involves a young married couple whose bodies are taken over by two long-dead silent film stars. The story moves forward as the couple comes to terms with the ghosts/personalities who have taken them over. Eventually, the couple makes their way to Hollywood, where they encounter a very different film industry and individuals from their long ago past. Throughout, various silent films and actors are referenced.

Brownlow mentioned the book to me while we were talking about literary homages and allusions to Louise Brooks. The actress does not make an appearance in this book, nor is she mentioned. Nevertheless, I would suggest that the books' main character - a blonde named Marion Marsh - brings Brooks' map cap spirit to mind.

Has anyone else read this novel? [ Finney wrote a number of other nostalgic novels involving "time travel," such as Time and Again, as well asThe Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He lived just north of San Francisco.]

Friday, November 2, 2007

Barry Paris article on LB

There is an article by Barry Paris in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box, which screens Sunday evening in Pittsburgh. This mere newspaper article is yet another example of Paris' considerable gifts as a writer. Check it out !

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Louise Brooks pics on eBay

Anyone who watches eBay will have noticed the many new images of the Louise Brooks currently for sale.
On November 7 and 8, Profiles in History will be offering over $1 million worth Hollywood glamour photography dated from the period before the Production Code was implemented.
These classic photographs -- in one of the greatest assemblages of its kind -- include the works of legendary portrait photographers George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull (Head of MGM's still department for nearly 40 years), and Ruth Harriet Louise, the first woman photographer active in Hollywood, who ran Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's portrait studio from 1925 to 1930. Their sexy, glamorous subjects include Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks, Norma Shearer and Thelma Todd. Also included in the auction will be rare photos of actors Clark Gable, Lon Chaney Sr., Gary Cooper, John Barrymore, and William Powell, to name a few.
Worldwide bidding will begin at noon on both days. Bids may be placed either in person, in advance via mail, by phone or fax, or live over the Internet via eBay Live Auctions at
Be sure and search under "Louise Brooks" (or for that matter "Clara Bow" and "Carole Lombard").
Powered By Blogger