Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goodbye, Rocky Mountain News

Newspapers are in trouble. I have read distressing reports about the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, each of which might limit distribution. Here in San Francisco, there is talk of either selling or shutting down the city's one remaining real paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. And just today, the venerable, nearly 150 year old Rocky Mountain News has shut down. Denver is a lesser place with only one paper.

Newspapers are not only a guardian of democracy (I know that sounds corny, but imagine a society without them ?), but newspapers help document our culture. They review films, and books, and they tell us what is going on at theaters and recitals. And they create a paper trail.

I love reading old newspapers. They have played a large part in my research and in my attempt to document all things Louise Brooks. So, it was with sadness that I read about the demise of the Rocky Mountain News. Over the years, I have gone through both the Denver Post and now defunct Denver Times. Each has given up a bunch of reviews and articles about the actress. I have also acquired a few articles from the Rocky Mountain News. And so, in memorium, here they are.

anonymous. "Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn Will Appear at City Auditorium." Rocky Mountain News, December 17, 1922. (United States)
--- article in Denver, Colorado newspaper

anonymous. "Dancers Gather Stuffs for Sewing Bee To Keep Her Busy During Vacation." Rocky Mountain News, December 20, 1922. (United States)
--- article in Denver, Colorado newspaper
anonymous. "Ruth St. Denis and Denishawn Dancers To Vary Entertainment for Holidays." Rocky Mountain News, December 24, 1922. (United States)
--- article in Denver, Colorado newspaper

anonymous. "Ruth St. Denis To Give Special Talk Via Radio." Rocky Mountain News, December 24, 1922. (United States)
--- article in Denver, Colorado newspaper

anonymous. "Denishawn Dancers Win Many Encores." Rocky Mountain News, December 28, 1922. (United States)
--- article in Denver, Colorado newspaper

Friday, February 27, 2009

Louise Brooks as Film Noir

Speaking of femme fatales . . . lately, I've noticed more and more web pages connecting Louise Brooks and film noir. What gives? Is Brooks a film noir actress? And why is she increasingly being associated with the genre?

According to Wikipedia, "Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression." 

The Wikipedia entry goes on to examine film noir's prehistory, especially it's origins in 1920's German film. Brooks, of course, made her two greatest films in Germany at the end of the silent film era. Each of those films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, were released in 1929. For me, that historical stylistic connection doesn't really define Brooks as a film noir actress. 

Nevertheless, just today, I came across a stylishly done youtube video - an elegant homage by "Rob in L.A." to some of the iconic femmes-noir. Included are two clips featuring Brooks (the only actress included twice); it also includes a clip of Clara Bow, the only other silent film star. (Early stars Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich are also included, but in clips from talkies.) The video is set to a haunting rendition of "Angel Eyes" by Bruce Springsteen.

A couple years back, film noir author and expert Eddie Muller told me about a film noir film he was working on featuring a Louise Brooks inspired character. I wonder what happened to it?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Whatever happened to the femme fatale?

The Independent ran an article in today's newspaper about next month's film series at the BFI celebrating vamps and femme fatales. The article by Sheila Johnston, "Whatever happened to the femme fatale?" mentions Louise Brooks, whose 1929 classic Pandora's Box will be included in the series. Johnston's article begins
They came prowling out of the shadows, wreathed in smoke, wisecracks and stolen mink; women no better than they should be, with only trouble in mind. They never needed to diet, displayed but a flickering interest in men for money, power and meaningless sex, and were more likely to accessorise with a gun than a Chihuahua.
Next month sees a monster celebration of the femme fatale in all her guises. Screened as part of the Birds Eye View women's film festival, some 30 movies will commemorate the vamp in silent cinema – the glorious likes of Louise Brooks and Theda Bara – and in later films up to today. A parallel event, at the BFI Mediatheque at QUAD, in Derby, highlights wicked ladies in British film and television in archive material that will be available to view indefinitely.
Be sure an click on the image of Rita Hayworth for additional images of femme fatales, including Brooks (and a rather revealing Theda Bara).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer Has Died

Science fiction pioneer Philip Jose Farmer "passed away peacefully in his sleep," his website noted this morning. The 91-year-old author was best-known for his Riverworld series, a surreal collection of books about a world where historical figures mingle on a watery planet. Wikipedia counts six Hugo Award nominations for the author during his long and illustrious career.

One of his Riverworld books, Gods of Riverworld (Putnam, 1983), featured a distinctly Louise Brooks-looking character on the front of the book. And I seem to recall an interview or review which mentioned the author's fondness for the actress.

Here is the publisher supplied description of the book: Thirty-five billion people from throughout Earth's history were resurrected along the great and winding waterways of Riverworld. Most began life anew--accepting without question the sustenance provided by their mysterious benefactors. But a rebellious handful burned to confront the unseen masters who controlled their fate--and these few launched an invasion that would ultimately yield the mind-boggling truth. Now Riverworld's omnipotent leaders have been confronted, and the renegades of Riverworld--led by the intrepid Sir Richard Francis Burton--control the fantastic mechanism that once ruled them. But the most awesome challenge lies ahead. For in the vast corridors and secret rooms of the tower stronghold, an unknown enemy watches and waits to usurp the usurpers . . . 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

O sono silente

It seems as though Louise Brooks is more popular in Europe than in the United States. Here is an article from a few days ago (from Galicia, in Spain) mentioning the actress . “ 'O sono silente', espectáculo inspirado no cine mudo, no Teatro Colón" appears on the Xornal website.

“O sono silente”, espectáculo inspirado no cine mudo, no Teatro Colón
Inspirase na actriz Louise Brooks e nas súas principais películas.

Miércoles, 18 de febrero de 2009

XORNAL.COM I A Coruña.- Mañá, xoves 19 de febreiro, ás 20.30 horas, o Teatro Colón Caixa Galicia acollerá a representación de ‘Sono Silente’, un espectáculo inspirado no cine mudo dos anos 20 e 30 que toma como referente a imaxe potente da actriz Louise Brooks e dous dos seu filmes máis coñecidos “The Canary Murder Case” e “Pandora’s Box”.

A ausencia da palabra, a forza da imaxe, o valor da mirada e a linguaxe corporal e xestual coinciden, en gran medida, coa visión plástica e poética das obras de BStudio. Unha análise da imaxe estereotipada da muller no discurso cinematográfico da época, para describir e clasificar os roles que se lle asignaban aos papeis femininos.

Este proceso ten como obxecto cuestionar o sentido da muller, tanto como figura dentro da pantalla, como creadora fóra dela.

BStudio é unha compañía de danza contemporánea (danza-teatro) que ten como obxectivo desenvolver unha linguaxe persoal de “corpos reflexivos” que sirva para expresar emocións e sentimentos. Representa coreografías sociais, conta historias próximas ao público que esperten a súa curiosidade e reflexión dentro dunha plástica que penetre polos sentidos. A dramatización, a escenografía, o vestiario e a música amalgámanse coa danza para ir máis alá dun mero espectáculo de danza.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Screen Seductresses tickets to be won!

The FutureMovies website in Britian is giving away tickets to a upcoming screening of Pandora's Box (1929) at the BFI, in London. 

Women have always been a commanding presence on the cinema screen and BFI Southbank, in association with the Birds Eye View Film Festival, are presenting a season of films dedicated to these vamps, vixens and femmes fatales. The season features an extended run of Joseph H. Lewis’s electrifying love-on-the-run cult classic Gun Crazy, in which Bart (John Dall) loves guns without wanting to kill, but Laurie (Peggy Cummins) yearns for violent excitement… Other highlights include Barbara Stanwyck’s glacial turn in Double Indemnity, Rita Hayworth’s infamous Gilda and ‘the miracle of Louise Brooks’ in Pandora’s Box. This is just a selection of the great films on offer; for more information

To find out more about the ticket give away, visit this webpage. And good luck!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

From Carmilla on-line

I recently came across an archived write-up of Pandora's Box, which was posted to Carmilla on line, an Italian blog devoted to dissident literature and the imagination. This recent blog was titled "Oblique visioni (dall'estrema sinistra) 2," and it contains short entries on various classic films. Here's what Carmilla on line had to say about Pandora's Box, which is called Lulu in Italy:

36-Lulù di Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germania 1928
La vamp fatale all’ennesima potenza: dai romanzi di Wedekind, Pabst trae la tragica vicenda di Lulù, bellissima donna attorniata da uomini allupatissimi e amata financo da una donna, cosa che sugli schermi mai era accaduta. Lulù provoca, in un crescendo melodrammatico, disperazione (e morte) in padri e figli, amici e protettori, tutti incapaci di resistere al suo proverbiale fascino, fino al tragico epilogo quando, dopo romanzesche e complicate avventure (un po’ noiose, tutto sommato), finisce a prostituirsi a Londra e ha il suo primo (e ultimo) incontro mercenario (anche se nella fattispecie rifiuta il denaro e lo fa per carenza d’amor) con il giulivo Jack lo Squartatore. Il nonno degli odierni serial killer, disorientato da cotanta disponibilità, sembra sul punto di cedere, ma poi la sua natura (come lo scorpione wellesiano) prevale e la bella dama, assetata d’amore e altro, viene accoltellata in un raptus inarrestabile. Che dire? La serata era iniziata pessimamente: il Lumière era riuscito a creare un piccolo evento portando il sommo poeta Sanguineti a discettare sul destino di questa femme fatale un po’ zoccola. Chiaramente, siccome la sfiga ci vede benissimo e prende la mira anche al buio, dalla Cineteca Nazionale è arrivata una copia de I bambini ci guardano e non della Lulù: disperazione e stridore di denti! La gran folla convenuta è stata ammansita con prossimamente vari e cine-Chiambretti, finché non è pervenuta una copia videoregistrata del film di Pabst e non si è proceduti a una videoproiezione, francamente non meno godibile (quanto a qualità dell’immagine) dello standard delle pellicole di settanta anni fa. Purtroppo l’operazione d’immagine non ha funzionato: la proiezione è iniziata con più di un’ora di ritardo e, alla fine, Sanguineti ha parlato solo per cinque minuti. Peccato: il film, anche se in certi momenti è sbrodolato e tedioso, ha momenti molto belli e Louise Brooks appaga la mia curiosità di verificare quanto il mito rispondesse a realtà. Era proprio una bella gnocca. (Cineclub Lumière; 28/2/98)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Molly Haskell on Lulu in Hollywood

The well known film writer Molly Haskell surveyed five autobiographies by actresses in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. One of them was Louise Brooks' Lulu in Hollywood. Here's what Haskell had to say.

After laboring for much of the 1920s in Hollywood, the black-helmeted Kansas-born free spirit Louise Brooks had to go to Europe to become a star. She was a revelation in two mesmerizing German silent films directed by G.W. Pabst, "Pandora's Box" (1928) and "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929) -- but then Brooks, independent-minded to a fault, refused to compromise once Hollywood came calling, and she basically threw her career away. By the late 1940s, she was working as a saleslady at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. She was rescued by admirers, chief among them James Card, curator of the George Eastman House film archive in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded Brooks to move to Rochester, where she lived in the 1950s as a recluse, watched films, her own and others, and was reborn as a writer. (She was also rediscovered as an actress by Kenneth Tynan, who championed her work in an influential piece for The New Yorker.) "Lulu in Hollywood" -- Lulu was the ill-fated innocent who drove men to distraction in "Pandora's Box" -- is a collection of Brooks's often brilliant essays. Some of the pieces recount her own joyous romp through the 1920s as a Ziegfeld showgirl (a job she enjoyed more than making movies) and party-girl courtesan. Other essays shimmer with insight as she discusses the work of Humphrey Bogart, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish and others. She paints a vivid picture of Bogie, for instance, still showing vestiges of the stiff stage actor in "The Roaring Twenties" in 1939, when he appears helpless opposite James Cagney, whose "swift dialogue" and "swift movements . . . had the glitter and precision of a meat slicer . . . impossible to anticipate or counterattack."

Haskell is well known as the author of the seminal 1974 book, From Reverence to Rape. She can also be seen discussing films with Robert Osborne on TCM, and has a just released a new book through Yale University Press, Frankly, My Dear: "Gone with the Wind" Revisited (part of their Icons of America series). Haskell has written about Brooks on at least a couple of occasions in the past. Once in the aforementioned From Reverence to Rape - discussing the treatment of women in the movies - and in a 1974 article in Film Comment, where she discussed the 1928 Howard Hawks film, A Girl in Every Port.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bangless Lulu, or P703-69

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lulu in Hollywood - the Russian Edition

Today, I was thrilled to receive the Russian-language edition of Louise Brooks' Lulu in Hollywood. I knew I was getting something special when I removed the package from my mailbox. The book was wrapped unsealed in plain brown butcher's paper and tied with string! Just like a present. It was addressed to me both in English and in Russian, and in forward leaning cursive lettering which reminded me of my Polish grandmother's handwriting.

The book was sent to me compliments of the publisher. This new edition was published late last year by Rosebud Publishing, a new enterprise located in Moscow. Scanned below are the front and back covers.

I was also thrilled to see the Louise Brooks Society and my name (in Russian) acknowledged on the copyright page. Just call me Tomacy from now on. This hardback book, which is 290 pages, is about the same size as an American softcover book. It measures 6 x 8 inches. And, as far as I can tell, it includes the same material found in the University of Minnesota reissue from 2000. The book begins with the introduction by Kenneth Tynan, and concludes with the afterword by Lotte Eisner and a filmography - all in Russian. The big difference is the number of images. There are four 16 page inserts featuring portraits and film stills, as well as other miscellaneous images scattered throughout the book.

All in all, it is a very nice production. I am very pleased to have it. Thank you Rosebud Publishing! I looked around online and found a European website from which this book can be purchased. The website is called RUSLANIA and the catalog page featuring this new edition can be found here. There may be other places on the internet to purchase this book. That is the first one I came across. Curiously, the RUSLANIA page shows a copy of the book with a different cover. I am presuming that it is an earlier design. I have to admit, I like it better than the actual cover as depicted above.

The back of this new edition contains a brief bit of text in Russian which I am curious to know what it means. Can anyone translate it? I would really appreciate it. Please post an translation in the blog comments.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

4th Annual Silent Film Winter Event

I am excited about today's 4th Annual Silent Film Winter Event at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The event is put on by the good folks at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (link to website). 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Set against the drama of an age-old feud between two families, Buster Keaton's ingenious take on Romeo and Juliet is a laugh-out-loud parody of Southern hospitality, circa 1830. Upon learning he's inherited the ancestral estate, Buster takes the first train home to reclaim his heritage. Soon he's courting a sweetheart and dodging her family's bullets. Buster's daredevil rescue attempt above a waterfall is one of the all-time great movie stunts. 

Live piano accompaniment by PHILIP CARLI

Directed by John G. Blystone & Buster Keaton Starring: Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Ralph Bushman, Craig Ward, Buster Keaton Jr. (1 year old) 35mm Print Source: Douris Corporation

Preceded by short, Alice Guy Blache's THE DETECTIVE AND HIS DOG (1912)

Admission Price: $12 Member/$14 General

Co-Presented by The Mary Pickford Foundation and The San Francisco Film Society

Movie stardom gets a gleeful once-over in this madcap slapstick farce from Russia. Goga is a brash young ticket-taker smitten by aspiring actress Dusia, but she only has eyes for movie idols like Douglas Fairbanks. Goga decides to become a famous screen star himself, starting with a stunt man job at a movie studio. But when Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford arrive on a promotional tour, (with rare footage of the Hollywood couple which only exists in this film!) Goga gets all the fame he could ever want - at his own peril!

Live translation of Ukranian intertitles read by Steven Jenkins from San Francisco Film Society.

Live piano accompaniment by PHILIP CARLI

Written & Directed by Sergei Komarov Starring: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Igor Ilinsky and Anel Sudakevich 35mm Print Source: The Mary Pickford Institute

Preceded by short, Alice Guy Blanche's MATRIMONY'S SPEED LIMIT (1913)

Admission Price: $12 Member/$14 General

Saturday, February 14, 2009
6:30pm - SUNRISE: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Co-Presented by Film Noir Foundation

One of the supreme artistic achievements of the silent era, SUNRISE is a timeless ode to the forces of love, desire, guilt and redemption. Director F. W. Murnau infuses his fable of a man, a temptress, and a wife with a lyrical, dreamlike intensity that makes for a heightened emotional experience you'll never forget. Recipient at the very first Academy Award ceremony in 1929 of the only Oscar ever given for Unique and Artistic Picture.

Live accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer by DENNIS JAMES

Directed by F.W. Murnau Starring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston 35mm Print Source: 20th Century Fox

Preceded by short, Alice Guy Blache's FALLING LEAVES (1912)

Admission Price: $15 Member/$17 General

9:30pm - THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927)
Co-Presented by MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS

At the stroke of midnight, the heirs of Cyrus West gather at his old dark house for the reading of the will. One of them will inherit his estate and take possession of the famous West diamonds - if they can survive the night without going insane. And wouldn't you know it, there's an escaped lunatic somewhere on the premises. Who shall live? Who shall die? In this thriller-chiller comedy, horror and hilarity lurk behind every secret panel! From the director of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, our sold-out hit at this past summer's 2008 Festival!

Live accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer by DENNIS JAMES and Foley Artist, Mark Goldstein.

Directed by Paul Leni Starring: Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Forrest Stanley, Tully Marshall 35mm Print Source: Film Preservation Associates

Preceded by short, Alice Guy Blache's THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1913)

Admission Price: $12 Member/$14 General

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lulu von Frank Wedekind

Here is the cover of a recent German edition of Frank Wedekind's Lulu. It was published by Königshausen & Neumann in 2006. It's an edition I haven't seen before. I like the fact that Lulu is so bored.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Louise Brooks & the F. Scott Fitzgerald connection

Though it's known that Louise Brooks met F Scott Fitzgerald (and his wife Zelda) on a couple of occasions, the connection between the two Jazz Age figures is slight. In terms of actresses of the time, Fitzgerald was much more interested in Colleen Moore, and Lois Moran. He wrote about each of these silent film stars.

Nevertheless, Louise Brooks (or at least the image of Louise Brooks) is becoming increasingly linked to the life and works of the celebrated author. This fact came to my attention moments ago when I noticed the amazon Kindle edition of Fitzgerald's Flappers and Philosophers features Louise Brooks. That edition is depicted below.

I know of at least two other editions of Fitzgerald's works which features Brooks on the cover. They are both British softcover editions of the author's novels. And, of course, me being me, I collect such things. Its interesting to note that there are nearly enough books with Brooks on the cover (not about or by the actress) to fill a bookshelf. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The It Girl

Speaking of flappers. The Atlanta Lyric Theatre is presenting "The It Girl" March 6th through the 22th at the Strand Theatre. The company's website describes their production this way:

This flapper musical is a light-hearted tribute to silent movies and Clara Bow that reinvents her 1927 film about a sassy department store salesclerk who wins an advertising contest held to find the girl with the elusive, thrilling quality known as "It." Among those she enchants with sexy charm is the heir to the retail empire that employs her.

Tickets range from $32 to $38 and season ticket packages are available through The Lyric box office at (404) 377-9948 or

What caught the attention of Colleen Moore scholar Jeff Codori was the depiction of a flapper used in promoting the stage production. She is a Louise Brooks look-alike, complete with a bob haircut and strand of pearls.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Show-Off" staged in Ann Arbor, MI

The Show-Off, the popular stage play by George Kelly which was the basis for the 1926 Louise Brooks film of the same name, is being staged at the University of Michigan - reports the Ann Arbor News. In recounting the remarkable history of this celebrated but now seldom staged work, the local newspaper noted

"The Show-Off" was the judges' choice for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the year it premiered on Broadway, but Columbia University, which awards the prize, scandalously rejected the recommendation and instead awarded the prize to Columbia faculty member Hatcher Hughes for his play, "Hell Bent for Heaven." (Seemingly, as a kind of "make-up call," Kelly received a Pulitzer in 1926 for his play, "Craig's Wife.")

The article didn't mention the 1926 Brooks' film or subsequent movies with Spencer Tracy (1934) or Red Skelton (1946). No matter, Ford Sterling will always be my favorite Aubrey Piper. More information on the production, which runs February 12th through the February 15th, can be found here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No wonder they complained about nudity

The 1926 film, The American Venus, was the subject of complaints from various state and local censorship boards. The complaints, which often demanded cuts in the film, usually centered around "nudity." While I don't think there was actual nudity in the film (as the film is lost, we shall never know for certain), there does seem to have been a fair number of scantily clad bodies. And among them was Louise Brooks', as can be seen in this image currently for sale on eBay.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lulu in London at BFI

Pandora's Box will be shown at the British Film Institute in London on March 11. Louise Brooks shines as the free-spirited, luminous Lulu. With specially commissioned live musical accompaniment from The Monroe Transfer. For more info, see 
Wed 11 Mar 18:00 NFT1
A distinguished society man becomes enraged by jealously on his wedding day, with disastrous consequences.
Free-spirited and luminous, Lulu affects those around her like a flame attracting moths. When her affair with distinguished society man Dr Schön (Kortner) becomes public, he marries her. But already on his wedding day Schön is enraged by jealousy, with disastrous  consequences. Brooks plays Lulu with astonishing insouciance and impenetrable allure; the film reveals, in Lotte Eisner's words, 'the
miracle of Louise Brooks'.
Directed by: GW Pabst 
Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer 
Country: Germany 
Year: 1929 
Running time: c131min
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