Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Screen Test for Bobbed Hair

I do a lot of research - usually of the reading through old newspapers on microfilm variety. And I come across - often by chance - a lot of interesting material unrelated to Louise Brooks. Sometimes I will make a copy of what I find for my files, or to share.

Here is something nifty I recently found. "A Screen Test for Bobbed Hair" ran in a local newspaper in November, 1925.

Just below this contest application was an anonymous article of interest, "Bobbed Hair Brides Are the Fashion Now." Both pieces certainly reflect their times.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Italian censorship of Louise Brooks' films during the Fascist era

I have spent nearly 15 years looking into and researching various aspects of Louise Brooks life and career. One of the most fascinating though obscure aspects is the censorship of her films both in the United States and abroad.

Both Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl were censored in Germany - the country were they were made. This is documented in the biography by Barry Paris. What's less known is that a number of her other films were also censored in other parts of Europe as well in the United States.

My great good friend Gianluca Chiovelli, Italy's best Louise Brooks fan and her number one researcher there, has uncovered Italian censorship of Brooks' films during the Fascist era. He emailed me with what he found. Gianluca wrote, "Go to and type the Italian title of Brooks' films."

Trionfo di Venere (American Venus)
Un barbiere di qualità (A Social Celebrity)
Signore della notte (Evening Clothes)
Aviatori per forza (Now We're in the Air)
Capitan Barbableu (A Girl in Every Port)
Miss Europa (Prix de Beaute)
Amanti di domani (When You’re in Love)

In the results, you'll see very brief notes regarding censorship at the time of the Fascist government. Gianluca noted that both American Venus and A Girl in Every Port ran into a bit of trouble.


In the past, I have been able to gain access to the state censorship records of Kansas and New York State. (In the 1920's, many states and some cities had their own censorship boards.) And as with Italy, a few of Brooks' films were edited to conform to local standards.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Louise Brooks look-alike in new Dr. Who comic

Don't know if anyone has noticed, but there is a very obvious Louise Brooks look-alike featured in one of the newest Doctor Who comic books.

I recently picked up a copy of "Silver Scream," the first issue of a new ongoing series based on Doctor Who, a time traveling alien. I love the show - especially its recent incarnations.

Part of the body of literature that has grown up around this long-running British TV show are a slew of novels, comics and other spin-offs. Including this newest example.

In "Silver Scream," the good Doctor travels to 1920's Los Angeles where he encounters not only the Hollywood crowd but some aliens from God knows where intent on doing harm.

Louise Brooks is not the only silent film star depicted in this recently issued comic. Charlie Chaplin is also prominent - his character name is Archie Maplin. And in various panels I spotted Pola Negri, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Adolphe Menjou, Rudolph Valentino, Chester Conklin, and Buster Keaton look-alikes. Some sample pages from the comic can be found here.

Apparently, the second installment, titled "Film Lovers Almanac," has recently been issued. This comic, of course, is not the first Doctor Who - Louise Brooks intersection.

The Louise Brooks / Ed Wood / Elvis Presley connection

This falls into the category of "believe it or not" or "six degrees of separation" or "shook the hand that shook the hand." But whatever the case may be, it's true.

Recently, while researching a historic 1962 screening of Pandora's Box in Monterey, California I came across an amusing, somewhat curious and admittedly tenuous connection between Louise Brooks and Ed Wood - and by extension, Elvis Presley! I know its more than a bit of a stretch, but here goes.

The 1962 screening was part of a film seminar organized by a young curator named Philip Chamberlin. By invitation, James Card attended the event and brought along a print of Pandora's Box, where the German film was shown on the West Coast for the very first time! Pauline Kael was also there, as was the poet Jack Hirschman, as well as other significant figures in the film world of the 1960s.

Well, as it turned out, Chamberlin later moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the recently shuttered film series at LACMA, was a producer, archivist, etc..... He also eventually married the one-time actress and songwriter Dolores Fuller. Anyone who knows the story of Ed Wood and his attempts at film making knows her name. Fuller and Wood were romantically involved, and Fuller appeared in a couple of his films. After Fuller left Wood, she turned to songwriting, and contributed a number of songs to various Elvis Presley films. A few of the songs were minor hits.

That's it. A Louise Brooks / Ed Wood / Elvis Presley connection - of sorts.

I know it's a stretch - and really falls into the category of "six degrees of separation" (a la Kevin Bacon), but there you go. And just in time for Halloween. I think Ed Wood would have approved?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back in the USSR

I have seen this before - but here it is again. A scarce 1928 Soviet postcard depicting Louise Brooks. It is currently for sale on eBay.

Ironically (in the political sense), the portrait is by a former court photographer to the Austro-Hungarian empire, M.I. Boris. He fled his homeland around the time of WWI. Eventually, he ended up in New York City, where he came to work as a commercial portrait photographer. That's when this image was taken.

Some 90 years later, I had the chance to meet his son in San Francisco, and he showed me a number of original portraits of film stars taken by his father. There were some of W.C. Fields and two or three of Louise Brooks, including one inscribed to Boris from Brooks which read "To M.I. Boris, a true artist."

I am always impressed when I see something like this postcard or a vintage Japanese magazine cover or a Cuban matchbox featuring the image of Louise Brooks. Her stardom was truly international.

Here is the reverse of the postcard.

KRPS radio interview

Yesterday, I was interviewed by KRPS, a public radio station in Pittsburg, Kansas. Based out of Pittsburg State University, the station bills itself as "Public Radio for the Four States" (the NPR affiliate serves portions of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas).

The announcer interviewed me about Louise Brooks and the Louise Brooks Society. I guess I am some kind of expect or something - though Wikipedia doesn't seem to think so. (Wikipedia deleted the link to the Louise Brooks Society - claiming the website was merely a fansite.) I expect the KRPS story should appear sometime next week or there abouts.

Scrolling through the station's online archive, I noticed they had also done a story about another famous Kansas-born silent film star, Buster Keaton. That broadcast (in real media format) can be found here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dear Stinkpot

Publisher BearManor Media has announced the forthcoming publication of Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks, by Jan Wahl. I can't wait! It should be out in a few weeks.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Harry Kollatz Jr.

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of meeting a handful of far-flung members of the Louise Brooks Society. And yesterday, I enjoyed meeting LBS member Harry Kollatz Jr. of Richmond, Virginia. Harry was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area - and is a journalist, author (Richmond in Ragtime) and the justly celebrated organizer of Lulupalooza in 2005.

Check out Harry's website at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jan Wahl updates

Last week I received a letter from author Jan Wahl. Among other things, he thanked me for my recent review of his recent book, and mentioned that very soon he will have another book out titled Dear Stinkpot Letters from Louise Brooks. Wow wow wow. And more on that later.

Jan also mentioned he is giving a talk in Toledo this month, in conjunction with an exhibit at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery at the Owens Community College Center for Fine and Performing Arts. I believe that's near Toledo, Ohio. More on those happenings here.
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