Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lulu in Mapplewood, MO

Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora)
(G.W. Pabst, 1929, Germany, 133 min.)
Saturday, October 18 at 8 pm

Screening as part of the Webster Film Series in Mapplewood, Missouri

One of the masters of early German cinema, G. W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst's lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora's Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora's Box is one of silent cinema's great masterworks and a testament to Brooks's dazzling individuality.

With live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Unless otherwise noted, admission is:
$6 for the general public
$5 for seniors, Webster alumni and students from other schools
$4 for Webster University staff and faculty
Free for Webster students with proper I.D.
Advance tickets are available from the Film Series office (Webster Hall - Room 223a) or at the box office before each screening.

The Webster Film Series is a year-round program that prides itself as the most comprehensive alternative film series in the St. Louis area.

Now in its 29th year of operation, the Series offers a premiere film almost every weekend and frequently screens classic cinema on weeknights as well. The Webster Film Series offers the newest in independent features and documentaries, avant-garde, animation, retrospectives and short works, not to mention the latest in world cinema. Webster has become the host site for many international tours and continues to be the only venue in the area that regularly hosts artists working in film. For more information call (314) 868-7487 or visit

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Harem pants, the newest rage

According to an article in a newspaper based in India, Harem pants will be the newest rage. "Immortalised by Turkish belly dancers and brought into the realm of fashion by Hollywood icons like Louise Brooks, Harem pants are the rage now." 

So begins the article by Nithya Caleb in the Express from South India. What is interesting to me is the casual reference to a long-dead American silent film star, with any sort of contextualization - as if readers of this paper would know who she is. Is Louise Brooks that much of a trans-cultural icon ?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Love Em and Leave Em screens Thursday in NYC

Love Em and Leave Em (1926) screens Thursday in New York City. I wish I could be there. This short piece appeared in theNew York Times.

HOLLYWOOD ON THE HUDSON (Wednesday and Thursday)

Based on Richard Koszarski’s book “Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York From Griffith to Sarnoff,” this fascinating monthlong series at the Museum of Modern Art gets under way this week with a few rare screenings. Sidney Olcott’s 1923 film “The Green Goddess,” with George Arliss, and John Robertson’s 1920 “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” with John Barrymore, are showing on Wednesday, and Frank Tuttle’s “Love ’Em and Leave ’Em,” with Louise Brooks, and Robert Vignola’s 1921 “Enchantment,” with Marion Davies, on Thursday. Much more to come. (Through Oct. 19.) Museum of Modern Art Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, (212) 708-9400,; $10.

The book the series is based on looks great. I plan to get a copy. So far, I have only had a chance to look through it briefly, but there are a number of references in it to Louise Brooks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

John Ashbery

There is a fine article in today's New York Times about the 81 year old poet John Ashbery and his first ever art exhibit. Ashbery is exhibiting collages from throughout his long and distinguished career at New York's Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Holland Carter's article, "The Poetry of Scissors and Glue," notes "That he was a childhood film freak helped form a Surrealist sensibility, though there were also more specific influences."

I mention Ashbery's interest in film because when I had the chance to meet the poet some half-dozen years ago, he told me of the time he met the silent film star Louise Brooks. At the time, as Holland Carter's article mentions, the poet was living in Paris where he was working as an art critic. Brooks was staying in a hotel where Ashbery was also in residence. And, because Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York and Brooks was then living in that upstate, New York city - the actress and the poet / journalist were introduced.

I can't rememeber how the subject of Louise Brooks came-up (though I suppose I am always talking about the actress), but it might of had to do with Ashbery's friends, the poets Frank O'Hara (wrongly identified in the NY Times article as John O'Hara) and Bill Berkson. Both had written poems "about" Louise Brooks, and both were fans of the actress' films. Ashbery, as it turned out, was also something of a fan.

p.s. Interestingly, Frank O'Hara's roommate in college was the illustrator / artist Edward Gorey, another admirer of Louise Brooks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lulu in Pittsburgh

Prix de Beaute (1930), featuring the one and only Louise Brooks, will be screened at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday, December 12th. For more info see

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More on Lee Israel

NPR ran a story on literary forger Lee Isreal, whose output of fake letters included some by Louise Brooks. The actress was mentioned in the text summation, as well as on the radio broadcast, which can be found here.
"I used what talent I had and what voice I had to duplicate the voice and the letters of some very famous people," she says.  It was also a bit like writing fiction, Israel says, which can sometimes be more fun than writing reality.

"You own the character. I finally owned Noel Coward and Edna Ferber and Louise Brooks and people like that," she says. "I had always adored large personalities, I had a good ear and I guess a talent to amuse. I could be funny, and that's how I did it."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Robert Giroux

Along with the passing of Anita Page, the film world recently lost another friend, Robert Giroux. He is best known as an editor and publisher who introduced and nurtured some of the major authors of the 20th century,  and, ultimately added his name to one of the nation’s most distinguished publishers, Farrar Strauss Giroux. He was also a lover of film, and to the film world, Giroux was known as the author of a significant book, A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor (Knopf, 1990). For more about Robert Giroux, check out this interesting, detail filled article in the New York Times.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Anita Page dies

Anita Page, one of the last living silent film stars and a contemporary of Louise Brooks, has died, according to an article syndicated by the Associated Press.

Her longtime friend and companion Randal Malone says Page died in her sleep of natural causes early Saturday morning at her home in Los Angeles. Anita Page, a beautiful blond MGM actress who appeared in the films of Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton during the transition from silent movies to talkies, has died. She was 98.
The New York-born Page began her film career as an extra in 1924. She had a major role—as the doomed bad girl—in "Our Dancing Daughters," a 1928 film that featured a wild Charleston by Crawford and propelled them both to stardom. It spawned two sequels, "Our Modern Maidens" and "Our Blushing Brides." Page and Crawford were in all three films.

Here is a link to another wire service story -

They didn't need dialogue. They had faces

An interesting, effusive article in yesterday's Guardian (UK) newspaper concerning the history of the cinematic gesture of the close-up on a woman's face mentions Louise Brooks.

Louise Brooks's black bobbed hair framing her pale kittenish face in GW Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928) and The Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) burns itself into the mind. It was Pabst who gave the 20-year-old Greta Garbo her first real chance to emote as a woman on the brink of prostitution in Joyless Street (1925), the role that led to her Hollywood career, prompting Roland Barthes to write in 1957: "Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced."

Marlene Dietrich's career only began to bloom with the coming of sound and her meeting with Josef Von Sternberg, who created her iconographic figure as the eternal femme fatale in various guises, conjured up by makeup, costumes and the subtle play of light and shadow on her face in close-up. Dietrich's face became an erogenous zone in Sternberg's pictures.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lily Koppell, "The Red Leather Diary"

I am looking forward to Lily Koppel's author event on Wednesday, September 10th at The Booksmith in San Francisco. Lily will be discussing her new book, The Red Leather Diary. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the 1920's / 1930s.

New York Times journalist Lily Koppel found the inspiration for her book after discovering an old diary in a Manhattan dumpster. The diary recorded the thoughts and feelings of an intelligent, ambitious and creative teenager on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 1930s. In the diary, the young author recorded everything from her first kiss (with a boy) to her crush on actress Eva Le Galliene (whom she had met - and which led her to question her sexuality) to her passion for writing and art. There are also numerous observations on daily life in 1930's NYC. Ultimately, the diary acts as a window into a fascinating and privileged world, one that Lily Koppel successfully recreates by telling a story in a novelistic way using no more than snippets of text from the teenager's diary.

Remarkably - and this is a big part of the story - Lily Koppel was able to reunite the long lost diary with it's then 90-year-old author after locating its her in Florida. I am reading The Red Leather Diary now - and enjoying it a great deal. Check out this event if you can.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Filmmaking in New York, exhibit

17 September – 19 October 2008

Hollywood on the Hudson traces the roots of the modern American film industry to New York City between the two world wars, when an industry built on centralized authority began to listen, for the first time, to a range of independent voices, each with their own ideas about what the movies could say and do.

The Hollywood studio system was geared toward creating a standardized product and sought to appeal to all ages and classes, whereas New York cinema was technically innovative and culturally specific, and played to niche audiences, from art houses to ethnic enclaves. But the collapse of Hollywood's economic and industrial model in the post–World War I era forced American filmmakers to rethink the way they made films and sold them to audiences.

Finding they could no longer depend on a system that required long-term contracts and studio backlots with elaborate standing sets, they began to adopt the methods being used by writers, directors, and actors in New York.

This exhibition surveys filmmaking in New York during the hegemony of Hollywood, from D. W. Griffith's return from the West Coast in 1919 to the World's Fair of 1939. Screenings include pioneering sound films shot at the Paramount Studios in Astoria, Queens, and starring Broadway luminaries; films featuring such stars as Louise Brooks, Marion Davies, the Marx Brothers, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino; and noteworthy African American and Yiddish films.
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