Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Louise Brooks il diavolo a Hollywood

La Stampa, an Italian newspaper, ran an article about or mostly about Louise Brooks in today's paper. The article, by Osvalda Guerrieri, is titled "Louise Brooks il diavolo a Hollywood."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"The Vanity"

Just finished reading "The Vanity," an unpublished story by a published writer which features a distant, almost ghostly Louise Brooks character. The story, which I enjoyed a good deal - it's a kind of gentle fantasy, reminded me of the work of Jack Finney. And what's more, the story contains a couple of incidental shout-outs to the Louise Brooks Society and myself. More on it when it gets published.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A youthful Louise Brooks

This unusual though not rare image of a youthful Louise Brooks is for sale on eBay. I have seen it before, though it has been seldom reproduced. According to the seller, it comes from the September 1925 issue of Arts and Decoration magazine. The portrait of Brooks, then a showgirl and likely no older than 18 years old at the time, is by John DeMirjian - the same photographer involved in the "draped nudes" scandal & lawsuit. The image was part of an article by the famous theater critic George Jean Nathan.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another significant find!

On and off for more than a few years I have been searching for any sort of record regarding a couple of appearances Louise Brooks made in 1935. At the time, she was working as a ballroom dancer as part of a dance act known as Dario and Brooks.

In his biography, Barry Paris recounts a number of Brooks' dance performances. "Louise and Dario danced at the Place Pigalle for almost three months - until January 5, 1935 - a phenomenal run by dance-act standards. From there they went on tour, performing at the Embassy Club in Miami, the Patio in Palm Beach, and clubs in Indiana and Kentucky, returning to New York in between engagements at the Central Park Casino and the Capital Theatre . . . ."

Over the years, I have been able to find material (listings, advertisements, articles, etc...) about each of these performances. Sometimes, that material has been interesting and surprising. However, the only two performances I couldn't find material on were the appearances in Indiana and Kentucky. They were the two I had the least to go on.

Well, eureka. After more than a few years and a number of attempts, I finally found something on the Kentucky appearance. It took hours of looking through microfilm of Kentucky newspapers, scrolling and skimming and reading each day's paper for months on end. Here is what I found.

This plain advertisement may not seem like much, but it is the first record found on this particular 1935 engagement in Kentucky. I was thrilled to find it. And hopefully, I'll be able to uncover even more with additional searching. Now that I know when and where to look.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flying Elephants

Today, I finally had a chance to see Flying Elephants, a 1928 silent short starring Laurel & Hardy. I'm not a big, big fan of the comedic duo. (My Father was, however. I remember him watching their sound films on numerous occasions, just about whenever they were shown on TV back in the 1960's. Somehow, I simply didn't inherit the gene.) Nevertheless, I found this film quite amusing.

My interest in this particular Laurel & Hardy film lay in the fact that Fay Lanphier has a bit part in it. Though bit part may be putting it generously. Lanphier, of course, was the 1925 Miss America, a San Francisco Bay Area celebrity during the Jazz Age, and the nominal star of the 1926 film, The American Venus. That film, of course, also features Louise Brooks.

I have long been interested in Lanphier, via her connection with Brooks. She's an interesting figure. At the time, much was made of her appearance in The American Venus and of her prospects for a career in the movies. That career, however, never materialized for reasons not readily apparent.

Lanphier's brief appearance in Flying Elephants was her second and last role in the movies. It came two years after her role in The American Venus. Lanphier, an attractive honey blonde, is on screen for no more than a minute or so near the beginning of the film. Lanphier is easily noticed. She is the only blonde in the entire 17 minute short!

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a copy of Flying Elephants available for online viewing. Nevertheless, those interested in Lanphier can catch a glimpse of her in all that remains of The American Venus, a minute long trailer. It can be found on YouTube. Lanpier is the bobbed-hair blonde at the center of a group of women standing on stage. There quickly follows a brief close-up. The trailer is embedded below.

Are there any other Fay Lanphier fans out there? If so, please contact me. I would like to share information. I have a two inch think file folder of material about her.

1920's Louise Brooks Cuban Tobacco Card

For sale on eBay, a 1920's tobacco card from Cuba depicting Louise Brooks (identified as "Louise Brook"). Spanish language text on the reverse identifies this card as number 716 in the "Serie Artistica."

Tobacco cards, sometimes also referred to as cigarette cards (or candy cards), were small promotional items packaged along with items like cigarettes or candy.

The image on the card was taken by M.I. Boris. The actress looks especially lovely in this portrait. She was probably no older than 18 or 19 at the time.

Interestingly, Louise Brooks had something of a presence in Cuba. I have managed to look through a few Cuban magazines and newspapers from the 1920s and have run across her image a number of times. Paramount did a good job promoting the actress on the island.

I also own a vintage box of stick matches which features Brooks' image. I've bid on this item. Let's hope I win. Then, at last, the match box will be "reunited" with the cigarette card. (Who knows, maybe the matches once lit a smoke from a package which contained just such a card....)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Louise Brooks tops TCM list of movies that created style trends

As New York Fashion Week kicks off , Turner Classic Movies has released a list of the network's favorite fashion trendsetting films.

Pandora's Box
- starring the one and only Louise Brooks - has topped the list of 15 "Fashion Trendsetting Classic Films." According to the TCM website, "Film has provided fashion inspiration for audiences and fashion designers alike; costumes not only help create a character, but can spur real-life trends and runway looks. In honor of Fashion Week and the far-reaching influence that film has had on our closets, we present 15 of our favorite fashion trendsetting movies." Pandora's Box (1929) was the earliest film, as well as the only silent film, on the list.

Brooks' look has had a substantial influence on fashion. The actress took the number one slot, however, not for the clothes she wore (though both Travis Banton and Poiret both dressed her) back in the day), but for her much copied hairstyle.

The TCM website noted "Louise Brooks once said, 'A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world.' That could have been the motto of Lulu, the role that made her a fashion icon for the ages. Brooks had been wearing her famous Buster Brown haircut and dressing in the height of flapper fashion for years, as had many other actresses, but her sleek hairdo and half-naked beaded gowns were such a perfect match for the amoral charmer in Pandora's Box they remain one of the screen's most enduring images. The look would prove just as lucky for Cyd Charisse and Melanie Griffith, who copied it for their star-making roles in Singin' in the Rain and Something Wild, respectively. And in many countries the severe black bob that led critic Kenneth Tynan to call Brooks 'The Girl in the Black Helmet' is still referred to as 'the Lulu'."

Be sure and check out the entire list of trendsetting films at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

a Mighty Wurlitzer then and now

When Louise Brooks' first film first played in San Francisco, it was at the Granada Theater at 1066 Market Street. The Street of Forgotten Men opened there on August 8, 1925 and played for a week. (Seven days was a typical run for a first run film in a big city during the Twenties.) The film received very good reviews in the local press.

The Granada Theater was an opulent, Andalusian-style movie palace. It was part of Publix, a chain of movie theaters allied with Paramount - Famous Players Lasky. As a result, all but two of Brooks' Paramount features opened in San Francisco at the Granada. The films which showed there were

The Street of Forgotten Men (Aug. 8-14, 1925)
The American Venus (Jan. 9-15, 1926)
A Social Celebrity (Apr. 24-30, 1926)
It’s the Old Army Game (May 29 – June 4, 1926)
Love Em and Leave Em (Jan. 8-14, 1927)
Evening Clothes (Mar. 19-25, 1927)
Rolled Stockings (Aug. 13-19, 1927)
City Gone Wild (Nov. 5-11, 1927)
Canary Murder Case (Feb. 8-14, 1929)

The Granada was a real old fashioned movie palace. When it opened in November of 1921, it had an operating staff of 122 people! In addition to its opulent interior, the Paramount also boasted a 4 manual, 32 rank Wulitzer organ. It was, at the time, the largest such instrument in the United States. When the Granada changed names in 1931 - the theater was renamed the Paramount - the organ remained. And, as a matter of fact, the theater's Mighty Wurlitzer remained on site till the Paramount closed in April of 1965.

All this is to say that you can hear this very instrument played in the very theater which screened so many Louise Brooks films. (Isn't that kinda time trippy!) On the following webpage, you can listen to a recording of a live 1964 radio broadcast of the Paramount Wurlitzer near the end of its life in San Francisco:

If you are interested in learning more about the Granada Theater, follow this link to a webpage on the outstanding Cinema Treasures website. There, you can also find links to interior and exterior images of the theater dating from the 1920's.
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