Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

As mentioned in my previous post, I come across a lot of interesting material while researching Louise Brooks and her films. One item, pictured here, made an impression. I thought it moving, though a little sad.

And, as it is a kind of send-off or good-bye, I also thought it might make a good post for the final day of the year. "Auld Lang Syne."

This newspaper advertisement, for the Sonora Theatre in the Sonora, California, dates from November, 1927. As can be seen in the ad, the theatre was showing Paradise for Two (staring Richard Dix) on November 26th, and The Midnight Sun (starring Laura LaPlante) on November 27 and 28th. [My apologies for any difficulty in reading this ad. But that is how photocopies off microfilm often look.]

What struck me about this clipping was the personal message from the manager of the Sonora Theatre. "This is our closing program" notes that the manager, A.G. Clapp, was leaving and would no longer conduct this theatre.

Obviously, A.G. Clapp loved his job - and he loved presenting movies to the people of Sonora and Tuolumme County.

I don't know why the manager left, but I did notice that the Sonora Theatre closed not long after this advertisement ran in the local paper. Whatever the case, its sad when you stop doing what you love doing. I think that is why A.G. Clapp said goodbye, in the form of a newspaper advertisement.

[The Sonora Theatre never showed any Louise Brooks' films, as far as I have been able to tell. All of her films that did show in Sonora did so at the Star Theatre.]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Did small pox kill The Canary Murder Case?

I come across a lot of unusual things while researching Louise Brooks and her films. Here is one more example.

In the same June, 1929 issue of the North Sacramento Journal  that carried an advertisement for a local showing of The Canary Murder Case at the Del Paso theater, the newspaper also ran an informational advertisement concerning a supposed small pox infestation at the same theater. Here is that advertisement.

According to Wikipedia, "Transmission of smallpox occurs through inhalation of airborne variola virus, usually droplets expressed from the oral, nasal, or pharyngeal mucosa of an infected person. It is transmitted from one person to another primarily through prolonged face-to-face contact with an infected person, usually within a distance of 6 feet, but can also be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects (fomites) such as bedding or clothing. Rarely, smallpox has been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as buildings, buses, and trains."

And apparently, it was believed by some back in 1929 that one could become infected by sitting in a theater seat.

I didn't notice any later articles mentioning that people stayed away from the Del Paso and its June 7-8 screening of The Canary Murder Case, which starred William Powell and Louise Brooks. But, if the Del Paso was concerned enough to place a newspaper advertisement, I could imagine many individuals did not go the movies at a certain theater in north Sacramento in 1929. [The Del Paso theater, located at 2120 Del Paso Blvd, closed at some later date. Curiously, there is no Cinema Treasures webpage devote to it.]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

David Levine, painter and illustrator, has died

The New York Times reports that David Levine, "a painter and illustrator whose macro-headed, somberly expressive, astringently probing and hardly ever flattering caricatures of intellectuals and athletes, politicians and potentates were the visual trademark of The New York Review of Books for nearly half a century, died Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 83 and lived in Brooklyn." The NYT article can be found here.

To fans of Louise Brooks, Levine is well remembered as the creator of an especially charming and pointed caricature of the silent film star and memoirist. He drew her for the NYRB at the time Lulu in Hollywood was published. That likeness, among Levine's finest, was reproduced countless times on the subscription cards inserted into thousands and thousands of newsstand copies of the publication. (I know I have one of those somewhere in my files. I just can't lay my hands on it right now.)

Levine's likeness of Louise Brooks was also reproduced on the cover a book of postcards of the illustrator's art which was published a few years back. That book is pictured above.

Levine's reputation is quite high. According to the write-up in the New York Times, "Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one. Those qualities led many to suggest that he was the heir of the 19th-century masters of the illustration, Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast."

As a book lover and longtime reader of the New York Review of Books, I saw many of Levine's caricatures. They stood out. They were distinct. And, his caricature of Brooks is one of my favorites. I am even fortunate enough to own a signed limited edition print of the image, which I obtained from the artist. It can be seen in the image below. Brooks is just over my right shoulder, along with a few other treasures at "LBS headquarters."

Levine's death was breaking news. I expect the New York Times will run a full obituary sometime soon. That will be worth looking for.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays from the Louise Brooks Society! (Here's an image of the actress circa late 1925 - and from what I can tell, Brooks is dressed & ready for a party.) KUQ48NXD43PS

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wishing and hoping

Happy Holidays to Louise Brooks' many fans all over the world!

We all wish for things - especially around the holidays. That's why I posted a new article at about just that - what we all wish for, what we all want - more DVD's featuring Louise Brooks!

It seems to me that too many of her best films have not been properly restored and released on DVD. Some of my "fantasy" releases are detailed at this new article at  Please check it out if you have a chance. And maybe, just maybe, someone at some company like Kino, or Milestone, or Criterion, or Flicker Alley, or Facets or wherever will read this piece and issue a new DVD with lots of good bonus material.

I think Louise Brooks deserves to have all of her films released on DVD. Don't you?

Lately, I have spent some time tinkering with this blog. I have added a whole bunch of related links to other websites and other blogs of interest. I also added a nifty widget so fans of the Louise Brooks and the LBS can listed to RadioLulu while they read this blog or surf the net. The new RadioLulu widget is located in the left hand column of this page.

There are now, as well, links to other worthwhile internet radio stations which play vintage music - as well as an rss feed to my articles on silent film from

Cheers! And lets all hope that 2010 will be a good year for new releases featuring Louise Brooks!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best DVDs of 2009

For those interested, I posted an article on highlighting what I consider the "Best DVD's of 2009." Of course, I focused the list on films originally issued during the silent era - or there about. If you care to take look, the article can be found at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best film books of 2009

For those interested, I recently posted an article on highlighting what I consider the "Best Film Books of 2009." Of course, I limited the list to titles largely about the silent film and pre-code eras (the time when Louise Brooks was most active as an actress). If you care to take look, the article can be found at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Report from the SFSFF

It was a wet and sometimes windy day on Saturday in San Francisco. But in the Castro Theater, thousands of silent film fans turned out for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's now annual Winter Event. I was among them. And so was big-time Buster Keaton-fan and Louise Brooks Society associate director Christy Pascoe (pictured to the left on a rainy Castro street).

We were all there to take in the day's worth of films and programming.

One of the splendid things about the festival is the sense of comradery and community it engenders. I saw many old friends (most all of whom I've met over the years at the Festival), and even made a few new ones. And, I connected with a few never-met-in-them- in-the-flesh-before-Facebook friends. Hello Joan Myers and the other "Daughters of Naldi" who were present.

Here I am engaged in conversation with Rudolph Valentino expert Donna Hill (pictured below to the right). I have known Donna for years. She runs Falcon Lair, the excellent Rudolph Valentino website located at and also  blogs about silent film via "Stolen Moments" - the only silent film podcast I  am aware of. Check them both out sometime.

Donna and I were chatting about some of the films we had seen earlier in the day - as well as the latest on our various silent film projects. Donna is continuing work on a new book about Valentino called Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol. I am very excited about this project, and can't wait till Donna is done. You can find out more about this new book by visiting this page.

Though we have spoken on the phone and corresponded via email for a number of years, I also had the chance to meet Elaine M. Woo in person for the first time. I was truly delighted. Here we are pictured to the left and below.

Elaine is a producer and documentarian responsible for Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows. That 2007 documentary has shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and has screened at Pordenone (where it premiered) and elsewhere around the United States and the world. And, it has drawn rave reviews where ever it plays. For more on this film, visit its website at

Like me, Elaine is an enthusiastic researcher. She has traveled all over the world in search of new material on Anna May Wong's career. Though she has completed her documentary, Elaine is still researching the iconic Chinese American actress and silent film star.  

Elaine and I chatted about libraries and microfilm and archives and film journals and newspapers and obscure publications and our own collections of research material and the challenges of getting at difficult to reach stuff. It was shop talk - and it was fun!

Though no Louise Brooks films were shown at the 2009 Winter Event, the actress did have a small presence at the day long event. This snapshot, taken from the balcony inside the Castro (a grand 1922 movie theater), shows an image from a slide show projected on the big screen. I think you may recognize the actress.

Next Summer's event will be four days! The 15th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival is set for July 15 - 18, 2010. Programs and special guests will be announced in the Spring. I hope to see you there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

I am looking forward to tomorrow's San Francisco Silent Film Festival winter event. It's an all day affair - with a great line-up of films and stars and special guests.

I hope internet friends and members of the Louise Brooks Society attend the event. It's a lot of fun. I"ll be wearing a nifty mini Louise Brooks button. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unusual 1954 Louise Brooks image for sale

A rather uncommon news photo, which includes Louise Brooks and a number of other silent film stars, is currently for sale on eBay. What makes it so uncommon, first of all, is that there aren't that many images of Brooks with other actors and actresses. Most images of Brooks are portraits. And secondly, it dates from 1954 - years after Brooks had left  films, was largely forgotten, and was thought to be living a solitary life. And what's more, she is smiling.

The photo was taken at a New York City reception honoring silent film stars and other theatrical personalities. It most likely was occasioned by a series of screenings held in New York at the time.

The image above was taken by a photographer for the Central Press Association. It is quite similar to an image taken by a photographer for International News (another wire service) which ran in newspapers in early April, 1954. That image can be seen below. It's caption helps identify the various individuals depicted in each photo.

Anita Loos, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Aileen Pringle and Josef von Sternberg can all be seen. Neil Hamilton, who in 1925 starred in The Street of Forgotten Men (the first film in which Brooks had a part - though she was uncredited), stands smiling next to the actress in the first image. In the second image, he stands on the far left. In the following years, Hamilton would make numerous television appearances - and gain pop culture immortality as Commissioner Gordon on Batman.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A new silent film blog

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has launched a new blog featuring news, announcements, notes and more. The blog can be found at Be sure and check it out!
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