Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Louise Brooks Singpore dilema: Can you help?

Just like the many vintage Czech articles I came across in the Czech National Library database (see my earlier blog entry), I have come across a digitized newspaper database of Louise Brooks articles and film advertisement from Singapore which are just beyond my grasp. Can any Singapore resident help?

The articles come from The Straits Times, and date from the late 1920's and early 1930's. My search results can be found here.  Among the search results is a 1930 article / review of The Canary Murder Case around the time of its showing in Singapore, as well as an article titled "Exit the Flapper" from 1935 which mentions the actress. How interesting !

However, when a non-Singapore resident such as myself attempts to access the articles, a message comes up: "Full page views are only available at the Multimedia Stations at all libraries. For more current archival news of The Straits Times, please see FAQ for details." If there is anyone in Singapore who reads this blog and would be able to visit the library to print out articles, I would be ever so grateful. And of course, I would pay for the copies and postage to send them to my home office in San Francisco.

[ I assume these articles are in English. But even if they are not, I would still like copies for my archive.]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Steven Bach dies at age 70

Steven Bach, a noted studio executive and biographer, has passed away at the age of 70. He was the author of Final Cut, an account of the making of Heaven's Gate, as well as of well received biographies of Marlene Dietrich, Moss Hart, and Leni Riefenstahl. I had a chance to work with Bach when I hosted an event with him in 2007, at the time of the release of Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl. We spoke about Louise Brooks and old German films, both of which he had an interest and passion. I found him to be a scholar and a gentleman, as his obituary in today's New York Times suggests.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Speaking of things Czech

A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about a 1929 Czech book I recently acquired which contained a handful of references and images of Louise Brooks. Well, that got me thinking . . .  might I be able to find more vintage Czech material? Certainly, Brooks' films - especially Pandora's Box - played in Prague and elsewhere.

I looked around on the internet and found a remarkable site called Kramerius. After searching under "Louise Brooks" I got more than 100 relevant results - mostly articles, advertisements and images. What I found can be found here

However, not being a Czech citizen, I am not able to view the results. Seemingly, they are only available to patrons of the National Library of the Czech Republic, or to Czech citizens able to request prints. How frustrating, as these search results promise to be quite exciting. Can anyone help? Are there any Czech citizens able to visit the National Library of the Czech Republic?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A remarkable find

I found this remarkable image in a book I recently purchased on eBay. The book, Studio 1929, was published in Czechoslovakia. It is an annual, a summation of film from around the world - though this book focuses heavily on Europe and European productions.  There are more than half-a-dozen references to Louise Brooks, including a couple of images and a Czech review of Pandora's Box

As best I can tell, this remarkable image depicts Brooks' name in lights, perhaps at the premiere of Pandora's Box (or Lulu, as it was known elsewhere on the continent). Can anyone offer a translation of the text below the image?

I have never seen this image before. Can anyone offer any additional information ?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

LBS at LibraryThing

The Louise Brooks Society has established a presence at LibraryThing, the popular website where you can catalog your books and connect with other readers and booklovers. The LBS page on Library Thing is located at http://www.librarything.com/profile/LouiseBrooksSociety

So far, I have added more than 100 books (including many cover images) by and about Louise Brooks which are held in the collection of the LBS. I hope to add dozens more.

"The LBS LibraryThing is a collection of essential books both by and about the actress - her life, her career, and her films. This collection serves as a reference to those interested in finding out more about the actress and her best known role, that of Lulu. Also included are related works of literature, biography, and film history, as well as photoplay editions and books which feature the actress on their cover." Check it out!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A mystery

I spent a good part of the day at the San Francisco Public Library. I was tracking down what turned out to be a false lead on a screening and personal appearance by Louise Brooks in 1965!

It all started with a clipping I came across - an October 1, 1965 column by Hedda Hopper in which the famous columnist noted a special tribute to director William Wellman which included a screening and appearance by Louise Brooks. Hopper wrote, "Director Bill Wellman had his day at the San Francisco Film Festival. They ran A Star is Born. Both Frederic March and Janet Gaynor appeared with the picture. Louise Brooks was on hand with Beggars of Life. 'I told them they could run any of my pictures except for my stinkers,' said Bill. 'I made a few - but not on purpose'."

Hopper's use of the past tense made me think that the Wellman tribute had already happened. And so, I searched the September issues of the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle (and even the old San Francisco Progress). I found nothing. Then I searched the October issues, and found a handful of articles about the Festival and Wellman's appearance. However, instead of Beggars of Life, the Festival screened Wings.

Hopper's column confuses me. Why did she write in the past tense, like the event had already taken place? And why have done so three weeks in advance? Had it been the plan to screen Beggars of Life - but then plans changed?

While scrolling through newspaper microfilm for October 1965, I noticed Clara Bow passed away just a few days after Hopper's column first appeared. I wonder if her death led Festival programmers to choose another film - like Wings, in which she stars? Or perhaps Wellman suggested Beggars of Life, but it wasn't available - and another film was screened in it's place.

I also noticed an anecdote in one of the local papers about Festival programming. Local writer, Festival programmer and man-about-town Barnaby Conrad stated that he had visited the George Eastman House, where he found one of the then few remaining copies of Wings. Did he go there in 1965 looking for Beggars of Life? Did he meet Louise Brooks?

It remains a mystery.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Louise Brooks screenings in Florence, Italy

Three films featuring Louise Brooks are being featured in Florence, Italy. The screenings are included in the March calendar at the Cineteca di Firenze. On the 9th, the film center showed Diary of a Lost Girl. And on March 23rd, they will be screening Prix de Beaute and Windy Riley Goes Hollywood. For more information, visit this link.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fat Man

A new chapter of The Fat Man is now online at http://www.myebook.com/ebook_viewer.php?ebookId=2367 It introduces Louise Brooks as a character.

The Fat Man is the latest in a ever growing list of appearances / homages to Louise Brooks in comics, graphic novels, and comix. This list begins with Dixie Dugan and "Show Girl" in the late 1920's and continues through Guido Crepax's Valentina in the 1960's through to today.

Catch up with the entire Fat Man story from the beginning at http://www.myebook.com/ebook_viewer.php?ebookId=2170

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Guido Crepax in mostra - Oltremoda

Check out this fabulous Italian video clip (on youtube) about Guido Crepax and his graphic novel heroine Valentina. I don't speak Italian and don't really know what they are talking about, but I do know that Louise Brooks is featured throughout! There even seems to have been an exhibit in Italy about Crepax that also featured the comix silent film star muse.

Thank you Gianluca Chiovelli for forwarding this clip.

Friday, March 13, 2009


While doing research, I found this item in an Austrian newspaper dating from 1928. As may be noticed, portraits of each individual are composed of the letters of their name. 

Can anyone come up with a similar Louise Brooks name-o-graph?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This Time The Dream's On Me

Speaking of things I have only now come across . . .  I just discovered this somewhat interesting 2008 youtube video featuring "This Time The Dream's On Me" (Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer) and  "Dream" (Johnny Mercer) as sung by Susanna McCorkle. The clips are mostly of Louise Brooks, though Clara Bow, Colleen Moore and a couple of others also feature in this video. I kinda like it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lulu in Abu Dhabi

An article about fashion in today's The National, an English-language newspaper from Abu Dhabi, mentions Louise Brooks. Is there no limit to Brooks' reputation as an international icon?

Fur did indeed make an appearance on John Galliano’s catwalk for Dior, but it was just one part of a beautiful Far Eastern fantasy harking back to the 1920s, with exquisite hats by Stephen Jones, that mimicked Louise Brooks-style bobs, and lavish brocades, draping and beading. This was by far the most luxurious show of the week so far, with designers elsewhere concentrating on harsh power-dressing in black, black and more black. At Gareth Pugh and Anne Valérie Hash on Wednesday, Balmain, Nina Ricci and Balenciaga on Thursday and in Lanvin’s outstanding show on Friday, the palettes were almost entirely limited to charcoal, black, oyster, grey and stone, with the occasional blast of bright colour.
Heels soared, models stalked, shoulders were extended and waists cinched in a series of collections that drew on the 1940s and the 1980s for their silhouettes and their look-but-don’t-touch attitude.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A couple of bits

Just yesterday, I received word that a reprint of Beggars of Life is in the works. The book by Jim Tully, a celebrated bestseller in 1925, served as the basis of the 1928 Louise Brooks film of the same name. A reprint is expected in 2010. Kent State University Press will reissue the book, with a new introduction by speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison. The press plans to reissue other Tully books as well. Scheduled for release this summer is Circus Parade, Tully's gritty novel of circus life, with a foreword by American Splendor author Harvey Pekar. As well as Shanty Irish, a memoir, with a foreword by independent film director John Sayles.

Recently, the university press took on the job of reviving interest in Tully, an Ohio-born writer who came to fame as a hobo-author and publicist for Charlie Chaplin. Along with reprints of Tully's own books, the press will also publish a long awaited biography of the author. I can't wait to read it. No date has been set on the release of the biography, which is nearing completion.

Speaking of things retro and cool . . . 

I came across a nifty website called www.hairarchives.com. And what caught my attention on this nice looking site was an extensive page devoted to the bob hairstyle. There is some good historical information, and lots of little seen illustrations. And of course, Louise Brooks is included. Check it out here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sydney Chaplin dies at age 82

I have just heard that Sydney Chaplin, son of silent film legend Charlie Chaplin, has died. He was 82, and had lived in Southern California. He was the second son born to Charlie Chaplin and his second wife, Lita Grey. Their other son, Charles Chaplin Jr., died in 1968. From the Associated Press article
Sydney was named for his father's older half-brother, who helped young Charlie launch his theater career in England. After Charlie became a superstar in the movies, he returned the favor by bringing Syd Chaplin into the business.
Lita Grey was 16 when she married the 35-year-old Chaplin in 1924. Sydney was born two years later and his parents divorced a year after that in a court battle that brought sensational headlines.
He spent much of his boyhood in boarding schools — "I had been thrown out of three schools by the time I was 16," he recalled — with occasional weekends at his father's house. He recalled playing tennis with Greta Garbo and turning the music pages for the violin-playing Einstein.
Sydney Chaplin was an accomplished actor in his own right, and scored big on the New York stage. He was a Tony-winning actor who starred on Broadway opposite Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing (1957) and Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1964). He also appeared in two of his father's later films, Limelight (1952) and The Countess from Hong Kong (1967).

I had a chance to meet this gracious man a few years back. In 2003, author Jeffrey Vance convinced the elderly Sydney Chaplin to make a special appearance at the Castro Theater in San Francisco (as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival) to help promote Vance's then new book, Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema, which had just been released. Chaplin spoke about his father after a screening of The Circus, and then graciously signed books and autographs for many fans. I still treasure my signed books. I think I will dip into them in memory of Sydney.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lulu in Calcutta, 1966

Just today, I came across a film book published in Calcutta, India titled The Marketing of Films. The book, by Trishla Goyal, was published in 1966. It's really not about marketing films. Rather, its a broad, worldwide history of the medium. What's remarkable about it - and what caught my attention, is the 1 1/4 pages given over to Louise Brooks and her role as Lulu in Pandora's Box. Here are those pages:

Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl are mentioned elsewhere in the book, in the chapter devoted to German film. So far, this is the only work published in India which I have come across discussing Brooks. It is also an early-contemporary (post Twenties and Thirties) citation. How interesting!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Femme fatales article in Warsaw

A Polish publication, Dziennik, ran an article today about femme fatales in film. The piece, "Femme fatale wciąż podnieca mężczyzn" or "Femme fatales still exciting men," mentions and pictures Louise Brooks. From what I can tell, it was "inspired" by an article in the British paper, The Independent. Here's whatDziennik said 

Louise Brooks oprócz tego, że wylansowała na długie dziesięciolecia słynną fryzurkę, która ostatnio doczekała się triumfalnego powrotu, była jedną z piękniejszych i bardziej inspirujących kobiet swoich czasów. Co ciekawe, pokonała odwrotną drogę w kierunku kariery niż większość kobiet. Z krainy snów, Hollywood, wyjechała do Europy, gdzie dostała się pod skrzydła Georga’a Wilhelma Pabsta. To u niego zagrała swoje najlepsze role, w "Lulu" i "Puszce Pandory" czy "Dzienniku upadłej dziewczyny", które emanowały erotyzmem pomimo wycięcia z nich bardziej kontrowersyjnych dla ówczesnej publiczności scen.
Which roughly translates into English via my google bar translation button as
Louise Brooks in addition to the fact that for many decades, promoted the famous fryzurkę, which has recently doczekała de Triomphe to return, was one of the most beautiful and more inspiring women of their times. Co ciekawe, pokonała odwrotną drogę w kierunku kariery niż większość kobiet.Interestingly, it defeated the opposite way in the direction of their careers than most women. Z krainy snów, Hollywood, wyjechała do Europy, gdzie dostała się pod skrzydła Georga’a Wilhelma Pabsta. From the land of dreams, Hollywood, went to Europe, where he got under the wing Georga'a Wilhelm Pabst.To u niego zagrała swoje najlepsze role, w "Lulu" i "Puszce Pandory" czy "Dzienniku upadłej dziewczyny", które emanowały erotyzmem pomimo wycięcia z nich bardziej kontrowersyjnych dla ówczesnej publiczności scen . It played with him his best role, in "Lulu" and "tin Pandory" and "the fallen girl," which, despite the cut emanowały eroticism of these more controversial scenes for the audience then.
For more from the article - including "other beautiful stars of cinema noir," check out the above link.

As an historical footnote, I might mention that Pandora's Box premiered in Warsaw on May 31, 1929. So far, I have been able to uncover a couple of reviews and a few advertisements (one even in a Warsaw Yiddish-language paper) about the Polish premiere. Here are my citations for those two reviews.

anonymous. "Przed Ekranem." Kurjier Warsawski, June 1, 1929.
--- review in Warsaw newspaper
anonymous. "Lulu Puszka Pandory." Kurjer Polski, June 4, 1929.
--- short review in
 Warsaw newspaper

Monday, March 2, 2009

Through a Lens Darkly, by Jan Wahl

Jan Wahl - acclaimed children's author and longtime friend of Louise Brooks - has recently published a memoir detailing his many friendships with actors and artists. The book came out late last year from Bear Manor. And Louise Brooks is mentioned on the cover! I can't wait to get a copy.

Book description: "Noted children's author Jan Wahl has led a storybook life-much of it connected to Arts and Movies. THROUGH A LENS DARKLY invites you to share personal encounters with many luminaries from the Golden Age of Entertainment. You are treated to revelations about Gloria Swanson, Isak Dinesen, Robert Mitchum, Rita Hayworth, and more. His essays will charm and mesmerize. Join him as he sheds light on the artistic contributions of lesser-known personalities like animators Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising-and legendary dancer Paul Swan. Navigating his life is truly an adventure. Journey to Denmark with him as he participates in the now classic film Ordet by the great director Carl Th. Dreyer. Come along as Jan relives a poignant twenty-year friendship with Louise Brooks. Enjoy his sense of humor as Mae West chases him out of her dressing room-and feel his shock as he almost kills Greta Garbo. You will come away from this book knowing why Jan Wahl is, as one child has put it, "America's Best Otter."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Louise Brooks forgery for sale

A while back I blogged about Lee Israel and her book recounting her life as a biographer - and forger of letters. That story was told in Israel's Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger. In that widely reviewed book, the once well-regarded author confessed to having forged letters by the likes of Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward, and Louise Brooks - among others.

Recently, Israel has begun to sell some of the forged letters apparently NOT noticed by the FBI when the "scandal" over her "work" broke. And just the other day, she listed a forged Louise Brooks letter for sale on eBay. (She has also recently listed forged Dorothy Parker letters, etc....)

The eBay description reads, "Lee Israel, author of the recently published Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger, which The New York Times called “pretty damned fabulous,” is offering several letters for sale – the hilarious forgeries that experts from coast to coast could not distinguish from the extraordinary letters written by the silent film star. These are the letters Lee Israel had not yet sold when the FBI came knocking at her door. $75 each, suitable for framing to bamboozle your literary friends. Letters of inauthenticity provided." 

What you're really buying here is a letter by Lee Israel, not Louise Brooks. I'm tempted to make a bid - but likely won't. But what a curious thing it is.
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