Saturday, February 27, 2010

Remembering Chile

The earthquake which struck Chile earlier today is a terrible thing. Hundreds have died, and there is much damage in this thin strip of a country which hugs the western coast of South America. In our minds, and in our imaginations, Chile may seem far away. But it is not.

Even Louise Brooks' films played there. Here is a newspaper advertisement for the 1928 film, Beggars of Life. It showed at the Imperio theater in Santiago, Chile in December 1929 as Mendigos de la vida.

Remember Chile in your thoughts and prayers. And please donate to earthquake relief. Chile is our neighbor in the world.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hotel Jacumba

Yesterday, I received a copy of Cinema Cinemas, a four DVD boxed set which I recently ordered from France. It collects episodes of a French TV series which constitutes "a sort of monument to hardcore cinephilia," as one American reviewer put it. The series lasted approximately a decade (from 1982 to 1991) and is made up of various documentary and essayistic segments.

There is all kinds of interesting and rare material included in the set. 

For example, there's the 45-second sound test Alfred Hitchcock made with actress Anny Ondra for Blackmail (1929), his first talkie. (There is other Hitchcock material as well.) And there's Jean Seberg’s 1957 screen test for Otto Preminger, an interview with James Dean made for a road safety commercial, Orson Welles speaking at a lunch with members of the French press, Federico Fellini shooting a scene from Satyricon, and filmed interviews with everyone from Frank Capra and Martin Scorsese to Robert Mitchum, Fay Dunaway, Aldo Ray, and Jane Russell. There are also features about the novelists John Fante and F. Scott Fitzgerald , the death of Rita Hayworth, and a piece on William Faulkner’s affair with Howard Hawks' script girl during the 1930's.

I ordered the set because it contains a rare sixteen minute short about Louise Brooks and the making of the 1928 William Wellman film, Beggars of Life. Its called Jacumba Hotel, and this short was made in 1985.

Alternately, in Jacumba Hotel, a woman reads aloud (in English) from Brooks’s essay “On Location With Billy Wellman” while a male voice (in French) gives a short account which helps set the scene. All the while film clips from Beggars of Life alternate with contemporary footage of the Jacumba Hotel (where cast stayed during the making of the film) with what remains of the rugged location where some scenes were shot. 

Fascinating stuff. All of it. [I got my copy of Cinema Cinemas from Amazon France.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

San Francisco origins of Lulu

On Monday, I wrote a piece for about researching local history online. My local library, the San Francisco Public Library, recently announced on one of its blogs that a number of city directories and other old books and records had been uploaded to the wonderful Internet Archive.

To see a list of these newly available documents and other content scanned from the San Francisco Public Library, follow the link

These newly available documents join a number of other works of interest at the Internet Archive. As one can guess, these directories are a great source of historical and genealogical information. Looking around as I love to do, I came across some interesting and obscure informations regarding the origins of "Lulu."

Did you know that the German playwright Frank Wedekind has San Francisco roots? Wedekind, of course, is the author of both Spring Awakening (the basis for the popular Broadway rock musical) and Pandora’s Box (the basis for both the 1929 Louise Brooks silent film, as well as Alban Berg’s 1937 opera).

During the early years of his life, Wedekind's father served as physician. A progressive democrat, he also participated in the 1848 Revolution, and next year escaped to America, where he made a fortune in land speculation. In San Francisco he married Emilie Kammerer, a singer and actress twenty-three years his junior. (Some scholars have speculated that this relationship might have served as a kind of model for the relationship between Lulu and Dr. Schon in Pandora’s Box.)

A search of the newly available city directories for 1858, 1860, and 1862 reveals that the future playwright’s Father, Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind, had a medical practice at 136 and later 524 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Doctor Wedekind was also a prominent member of the local German General Benevolent Society as well as President of the local German Club.

Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind and Emilie Kammerer’s second child – the future writer, was conceived in San Francisco - though born in Hanover, Germany. Early in the pregnancy, the patriotic couple decided to return to their native land. And that’s where Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (named for the free-thinking American revolutionary - and later known simply as Frank) was born in 1864.

I was able to find additional information about the Wedekind's San Francisco sojourn utilizing these newly available online documents. Thank you SFPL. Thank you Internet Archive.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon

Its sad but true, the majority of silent films are lost. And not just lesser films by little known producers, films one might not notice not being on the archive shelf. If you can think of a major star or notable director, chances are one or more of their films have disappeared.

That's especially true for Louise Brooks. The actress had a brief career, and appeared in only 13 silent films between 1925 and 1928. Half of her films from 1926, and ALL of her films from 1927, are GONE. One of her films, A Social Celebrity, was lost in a fire as recently as the 1950's.

This somber reminder of our disappearing heritage only brings to mind the need for film preservation.

Today is the final day of the "For the Love of Film: Film Preservation Blogathon." It's a effort by film bloggers from all around the world to call attention to the need for continuing film preservation - as well as to raise funds to benefit the National Film Preservation Foundation. For more information, visit Ferdy on Films and Self-Styled Siren, the hosts of the blogathon. There is also a page on Facebook with even more details. If you would like to make a donation, follow this link.

One blogger,"Thoughts of Stream," posted a blog (as part of the blogathon) reflecting on the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Pandora's Box. It makes for interesting reading. Check it out here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lulu, by Frank Wedekind (as comix)

Just today, I came across a new version of Frank Wedekind's Lulu as told in comix form. 

This retelling is by John Linton Roberson, an artist based in Seattle, Washington. As Roberson readily admits, his Lulu is not quite drawn from the character played by Louise Brooks in the 1929 film, Pandora's Box. Though she did inspire him. Lulu, both the play and the character, remain an endlessly adaptable archetype. Check out this new Lulu here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lulu en Hollywood

As a kind of follow-up to an earlier post regarding Louise Brooks' image  having been included in European store windows  . . . . My attention was recently called to this online visual tour of small town bookstores in Spain. A familiar title, a familiar face can be found in the tenth image, which I've also included below in a smaller version.

I would love to hear from anyone around the world who knows of any similar images.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Louise Brooks, indeed

Louise Brooks, as pictured on a somewhat uncommon British postcard currently for sale on eBay. The card is said to be from 1988. Nice image.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Girl in Every Port - French novelization

Speaking of French fiction relating to Louise Brooks . . . as this blog has been doing of late.

A rather uncommon French novelization of the 1928 Howard Hawks-directed film, A Girl in Every Port, is currently for sale on eBay. This 1929 softcover edition is 96 pages long and includes 16 pages of stills from the film. I suppose it might be considered a photoplay edition

How it survived I'll never know. I already own a copy of this ephemeral publication, and it reminds me of the old pulp fiction periodicals of the 1930's. The paper is indeed pulpy!

Louise Brooks might well be more popular in France then in the United States. And certainly, one of her most popular films in that country has long been A Girl in Every Port. Its title is here given as Poings de Fer Coeur d'Or.

What's especially interesting about this publication is the author, Jean Mitry. According to his page at Wikipedia, Mitry was a "was a French film theorist, critic and filmmaker, co-founder of France's first film society and later of the Cinémathèque Française in 1938." He was also the first lecturer on film aesthetics in France, as well as one of the first intellectuals responsible for taking film studies out of the era of the film club and into that of the university. I have run across Mitry's name in the past, as a film historian and as the author of later articles about Louise Brooks. I guess when he wrote this cheap paperback novel back in 1929 it was love at first sight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Familiar with ? It's a great site - like Pandora - where you can listen to music over the internet. Yesterday, I set up a page on for the Louise Brooks Society. This new satellite site can be found at

And in setting up a profile, I also created a playlist of some of the music which can be heard RadioLulu, the online radio station of the LBS.

Generally speaking, this short playlist contains contemporary tracks about or inspired by Louise Brooks. There is Les Primitifs du Futur (featuring comix artist Robert Crumb) performing "Chanson pour Louise Brooks," Jen Anderson's "Lulu - The Song," Soul Coughing's "St. Louise is Listening," Marillion's "Interior Lulu," OMD's "Pandora's Box," a couple of tracks by Clan of Xymox, and John SaFranko's "The Final Years of Louise Brooks."

In the future, I hope to add some more tracks to the playlist, doesn't contain some fo the more obscure Brooks' inspired tracks. And sometime soon, hopefully, I'll be able to add a track or two from Rufus Wainwright's forthcoming All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lulu now, Lulu forever - European shop windows

Here are a couple of pictures of shop windows in Europe. The first, of a store window (likely a photography studio) is from Paris circa 1929 / 1930. It features Louise Brooks' image which are either for sale (quick, get the time machine) or as examples of the studio's work. At the time, Louise was the toast of the town.

The second, of a cartoon museum (?) or shop in Rome, is a contemporary image. It features images of the Louise Brooks inspired cartoon Valentina, by the late Guido Crepax.

Know of other similar images? Please let everyone know or send scans to the Louise Brooks Society. [ When I used to work as a bookseller on Haight Street in San Francisco I did my part: I used to quietly sneak books into the store window displays which featured Brooks' image. And they often drew customers in to purchase a book. . . . ]

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another vintage postcard

Yesterday, I posted a bit about some vintage Louise Brooks postcards for sale on eBay. Among those for sale, here is another of my favorites. As Brooks is not wearing her customary bob, its a little bit unusual. Nevertheless, she photographs quite lovely. Don't you think?
The vintage Russian postcard I also mentioned yesterday has also shown up again. Here is a link to its eBay listing. The seller's page says this card dates from 1928.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vintage postcards on eBay

Attention Louise Brooks collectors. There are a bunch of rather nice vintage Louise Brooks postcards for sale on eBay. They are all of French, German, or Austrian origin. (A few weeks back, there was even a scarce vintage Russian postcard for sale.)

Visit eBay and search under "Louise Brooks" and "postcards." You are sure to find them. The asking price is a bit steep, with opening bids starting in the low three figures (around $100.00). Nevertheless, its always fun to look. Here is one of my very favorites, a French postcard circa 1930 featuring an intense close-up of the actress.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pandora's Box anniversary

It was 81 years ago tomorrow that the first reviews of Pandora's Box began to appear in Berlin newspapers. The G.W. Pabst-directed film, starring Louise Brooks as Lulu, premiered at the Gloria–Palast theatre in Berlin on February 9, 1929. On the 11th of the month, articles appeared in Berliner Tageblatt, Berliner Morgenpost, Die Welt, Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Neue Berliner Zeitung / Das 12 Uhr Blatt and numerous other publications. (Boy oh boy did they have a lot of newspapers back then.) More articles appeared on the 12th. 

Over the years, I have collected a thick portfolio of vintage German articles, reviews and other clippings documenting the making of the film and its subsequent release in Germany. I have also compiled a multi-page bibliography of material about the film. All of this material will end up in a book someday, I promise.

And as well, I've also collected photocopies of vintage German newspaper advertisements from around the time of its debut. In honor of the anniversary of its premiere, I have included a scan of one of these glorious advertisements.

In the years since its release, Pandora's Box has been shown not just in Germany but all around the world. One of my ongoing projects has been to track the exhibition of the film over the course of time and in different countries. To me, its interesting to find out what others from around the world (and in past decades) have said about this classic work.

One of my more unusual finds was a 1929 advertisement for the film in a Jewish newspaper published in Warsaw, Poland. (See below). It's interesting to note that the actress' name in the ad is given as "Luiza Brooks." 

Advertisements can tell us a lot. What I learned from another Polish newspaper advertisement is that the film opened at the Casino Theatre, and that Adam Furmanskiego led an orchestra at the Polish premier. [Unless I am mistaken, this is the same Adam Furmanski (1883-1943) who founded and led a Jewish Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto around 1940. Furmanski died there.]

The film has been advertised or written about under various titles, and even sometimes under two different names in the same country. So far, I have documented the film having been shown as جعبه‌ی پاندور (Arabic countries); La caja de Pandora (Argentina); Lulu (Argentina); Le boîte de Pandore (Belgium); Loulou (Belgium); A caixa de Pandora (Brazil); La caja de Pandora (Chile); Lulu (Chile); Pandorina skrínka (Czechoslovakia); Umrít Büchse der Pandoru (Czechoslovakia); Pandoras æske (Denmark); Pandora laegas (Estonia); Pandoran lipas (Finland); Loulou (France); Le boîte de Pandore (France); Λούλου (Greece); Lulu- το κουτί της Πανδώρας (Greece); Pandóra szelencéje (Hungary); תיבת פנדורה (Israel); Lulu (Italy); Il vaso di Pandora (Italy); Jack lo Sventratore (Italy); Pandoras lade (Latvia); Pandoros skrynia (Lithuania); La caja de Pandora (Mexico); De doos van Pandora (Netherlands); Pandoras eske (Norway); Puszka Pandory (Poland); A bocéta de Pandora (Portugal); A caixa de Pandora (Portugal); Cutia Pandorei (Romania); Pandorina skrinjica (Slovenia); La caja de Pandora (Spain); Pandoras ask (Sweden); Pandora’nýn Kutusuö (Turkey); Pandora's Box (United States); La caja de Pandora (Uruguay); Lulu (Uruguay); Lulu (U.S.S.R.), Ящик Пандорьі (U.S.S.R.); Лулу (U.S.S.R.); and La caja de Pandora (Venezula).

Certainly, there are other listings to be found. I should probably stop blabbering and look for more. (If you, dear reader, live in a country not noted here and know of a contemporary or historic screening of the film, please send me an email telling all . . . . )

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

re: Michel Mohrt's "La Guerre Civile"

Today, I returned to the San Francisco Public Library to pick up an interlibrary loan request. Another contemporary French novel which I had requested had arrived, and was "ready for pick-up." The book was Michel Mohrt's La Guerre Civile, published by Gallimard in 1986.

La Guerre Civile is the second book by this now elderly French writer which mentions Louise Brooks. The other is his 1991 novel Un Soir, à Londres, which I blogged about on February 1st.

Though I don't read French, I paged through (aka visually skimmed) the novel on the streetcar on the way home from the library and found the page which includes the reference to the actress. It's page 49. Here it is.

I would certainly appreciate it if any French speaking Louise Brooks fans could provide a quick translation into English of the sentences around the reference to the actress. And do any readers of this blog have contact with the author, Michel Mohrt? I would love to know about his interest in Louise Brooks. The search goes on . . . .

Monday, February 8, 2010

Follow up: Jacques Arnaut

I have finally finished "visually skimming" all 607 pages of Jacques Arnaut, a 1933 French novel by Leon Bopp. (See this blog as well as this earlier blog for the story so far.) I failed to find the brief reference to Louise Brooks which I know exists in this book. As I don't read French, visually skimming is the best I could manage.

My inter-library loan copy of this rare book is coming due. Thus, my search to contextualize the reference will have to wait. Perhaps, one day, should I ever obtain a keyword searchable copy of the text, I may yet uncover the passage which refers to the actress. (If anyone could help with this matter, it would certainly be appreciated.)

On to other things . . . . Speaking of early 20th century French literature, did you know that the acclaimed French writer Paul Claudel saw the 1927 Brooks' film, Evening Clothes?

Claudel, a poet, dramatist, and diplomat as well as the younger brother of the sculptor Camille Claudel (who was muse to Rodin) attended a special screening of Evening Clothes in Los Angeles on March 7, 1927. The event was held at the Metropolitan Theatre, the largest movie theater in Los Angeles at the time.

The film's story concerned a French gentleman farmer who goes to Paris to win back the affections of his bride. The premiere, and the presence of the French writer, generated a considerable amount of press as Claudel was, at the time, the French ambassador to the United States. A few weeks later, on March 21st, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine.

As a celebrated writer and as an ambassador, Claudel was something of a celebrity. Newspaper coverage of the event noted his attendance as well as that of the film's star, Adolphe Menjou. Each were introduced from the stage. If there are any Paul Claudel scholars out there who are aware of the author having written about this event - I would love to hear from you. There was no mention of Brooks herself being in attendance, though its possible, as she was living in Southern California at the time. 

[A couple of days earlier, Evening Clothes had its world premiere at the Metropolitan. Menjou was in attendance at that event as well, and according to newspaper articles at the time, he made his way through the crowds unnoticed wearing a beard.]

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Classic Movie Kisses

A scene from Pandora's Box (1929) made the list of "50 Classic Movie Kisses" in today's LA Times Magazine. Gosh, who wouldn't want to kiss Louise Brooks? 

However, I would have chosen a different scene from the film than the one noted in the LA Times piece. I think the backstage scene in Pandora's Box - depicted below - where Lulu and Dr. Schon are caught embracing is especially torrid.

Check out the complete list, along with video clips, at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Considering Evelyn Brent

Of all the actors and actresses with which Louise Brooks worked, only a few appeared in more than one film with the Kansas-born star. They include Adolphe Menjou in A Social Celebrity (1926) and Evening Clothes (1927), Wallace Beery in Now We're in the Air (1927) and Beggars of Life (1928), Richard Arlen in Rolled Stockings (1927) and Beggars of Life (1928), and Evelyn Brent in Love Em and Leave Em (1926) and King of Gamblers (1937).

Based on a popular stage play of the time, Love Em and Leave Em is an entertaining film which proved equally popular with movie goers. It's quite good, as is each actress in their roles as sisters. The proto-noir King of Gamblers (alternately known as Czar of the Slot Machines) is also recommended, though Brooks' role was cut from this Robert Florey-directed crime drama and Brent only appears briefly. [The image of the two actress pictured here dates from 1937. It was a publicity still taken at the time each were working on King of Gamblers.]

If you ever have the chance to see either of these Brooks-Brent pairings, don't miss out.  Evidently, Brooks herself felt there was something special about Brent. In 1975, Brooks penned a brief, little known essay titled "Stardom and Evelyn Brent" for the Toronto Film Society. The essay has yet to be published in a book.

Recently, the McFarland publishing company issued Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Lady Crook, by Lynn Kear and James King. This 300-page work - which includes a forward by Kevin Brownlow, tells the remarkable story of a remarkable actress whose personal life and professional career paralleled that of Brooks' own.

In his review of this new book, film historian Anthony Slide (whose work I appreciate) evokes Brooks' reputation in relation to Brent's. In reviewing the book, Slide states that this new book ". . . . looks at the career of one of the most coldly beautiful and very up-to-date in terms of her good looks and restrained performances of silent actresses. No, I am not talking about Louise Brooks. The latter is not quite frankly as talented an actress, and certainly does not boast a career as long as that of the lady to whom I refer."

Anyone familiar with the up and down trajectory of Brooks' life and career will feel on familiar ground in reading Lynn Kear's new book. 

The publisher encapsulates this new book this way: "Evelyn Brent's life and career were going quite well in 1928. She was happily living with writer Dorothy Herzog following her divorce from producer Bernard Fineman, and the tiny brunette had wowed fans and critics in the silent films The Underworld and The Last Command. She'd also been a sensation in Paramount's first dialogue film, Interference. But by the end of that year Brent was headed for a quick, downward spiral ending in bankruptcy and occasional work as an extra. What happened is a complicated story laced with bad luck, poor decisions, and treachery detailed in the first and only full-length biography." Like I said, anyone familiar with the up and down trajectory of Brooks' life and career . . . .

Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Lady Crook is half biographical study and half filmography. It's packed with details, and a few images. Any fan of Louise Brooks will want to check it out - as it does contain a good number of references to Brooks and the two films Brooks and Brent made together. Kear, who authored an earlier book on Kay Francis, has done a more than worthwhile job in telling Brent's remarkable story. Evelyn Brent is available on-line and through the publisher.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let me tell you about my day, again

I returned to the San Francisco Public Library this morning to look at the three inter-library loan requests which had arrived. All together, there were nine rolls of microfilm from the State Library in Sacramento. They were each rolls I wanted to look at during my last visit, but just didn't have the time to go over.

There was microfilm of the San Jose Mercury Herald, Lodi Sentinel, and Delta News (Sacramento County). I spent a little more than two hours going through it all, and found four more screenings (and supporting advertisements) to add to my project, Lulu by the Bay. (My wife says I have creeping project syndrome.)

Nevertheless, I had fun, and love researching. Truly. I found two more listings for Lodi (a small, not-so-far-away Central California town located between the state capital of Sacramento and the city of Stockton -  made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival), as well as one listing for the South Bay city of Santa Clara (found in the San Jose newspaper), and one first ever listing for the small hamlet of Rio Vista (found in the Delta News).

Pictured here is a rather typical example of the kind of stuff I have uncovered in my research. It is an advertisement for the 1927 Louise Brooks film, Rolled Stockings. Incidentally, that film largely shot in and around Berkeley, California.

According to the Cinema Treasures website, the T&D Theatre opened in 1912. "It was a long, narrow theater with a tall, brick stage house. For many years it was operated by T&D Theatres" and was eventually renamed The State Theatre. Interestingly, there was a T&D Theater located in Oakland, California - I have a handful of listings for Brooks' films having screened there as well. The Lodi theatre was advertised as a "T&D Jr.," so perhaps it was part of a chain of theaters in Northern California.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Lodi theater is now closed but the building still stands. Today, it serves as a banquet hall.

I take a streetcar to get to the library, and always bring along something along to read. And as noted in my previous blog, of late I have been visually skimming Jacques Arnaut by Leon Bopp. It is a French novel from 1933. Visually skimming is the best I can do, as I don't read French. However, I am hoping to spot a reference to Louise Brooks which I know exists in this book. I am 300 pages into the Bopp's book, and so far have not come across Brooks' name. 

However, I did come across a rather interesting looking passage, or chapter, called "Haine." It begins on page 183. And, it is filled with American references - to Chicago and New York, to Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis, to Babe Ruth, Lake Michigan, Chrysler, the Morning Pictorial, and American dollars. Lots of American dollar$.

I wish I could read French and could understand what appears to be a rather interesting novel. In my previous post I suggested this book was comparable to James Joyce's A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. Now, I'm thinking John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer or USA Trilogy.

In order to learn something about this intriguing novelist, I put in an ILL request for A study of Léon Bopp: the novelist and the philosopher, a 1955 English-language book. Perhaps it will provide some info on Bopp and his work. I will let my few readers know if I find that still elusive reference.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Let me tell you about my day

Yesterday, I received an email that my inter-library loan request for a book which I didn't think would come actually arrived! I was excited, and headed down to the San Francisco Public Library later in the day. Little did I know that this email would set off a chain of events . . . .

The book in question was Jacques Arnaut (or Jacques Arnaut et la Somme Romanesque as it is sometimes listed) by Leon Bopp, a French novelist, literary critic, and philosopher born in 1897. I had come across the book while searching through Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. My search of the keywords "Louise Brooks" revealed that the actress was mentioned in this French-language work published by Gallimard in 1933.

I had blogged about this book and my discovery of its Brooks' connection back on January 22. And subsequently, I put in an inter-library loan request in hope of borrowing the title. According to a search of WorldCat, there were a few copies (7 to be exact) in the United States. There are barely twice that number listed in libraries around the world. Though I don't read French, I wanted to try and find the reference to Brooks, and perhaps determine the context of what is a rather early literary reference to the actress.

Well, the book arrived - or rather, a facsimile of the book arrived. I guess it really is rare. Wow.

What I took home with me was a bound hardback copy of a photocopy of Bopp's 1933 book. The item I received came from the library of a major American university; and I wonder what happened to the original. I am not complaining about receiving a facsimile. And I am really, really, really glad to be able to borrow books via ILL and to examine the text of this elusive title. Here is a peak inside this curious sub-species of printed publication.

Bopp's Jacques Arnaut is more than 600 pages long. Originally, I thought it was a short story collection. But that turns out not to be true. Rather, it is a long work of fiction composed of many short and shorter passages. There don't see to be any chapters. From what I have been able to gleam from the internet, the book was considered an experimental novel at the time and it's story was concerned with the life of an artist. Who knows? Perhaps it is some early kind-of metafictional mash-up of James Joyce's A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man with Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. Proto Jorge Luis Borges anyone?

I don't read French, so it is going to be at least a few days before I am able to visually skim the entire book and spot the reference to the actress - which reads in part, "comme ceux de Louise Brooks." That snippet is all that I got from the Gallica database. On first glance, I did notice a character named Lola. That's all I can say at this time.

But let me tell you about my day . . . libraries are wonderful places. Especially the San Francisco Public Library. It is one of my favorite places in The City. There is still so much to be discovered in libraries - so much beautiful information. So many unexpected connections.

For example, one of the women working at the information counter where I picked-up my facsimile book was none other than Penelope Houston. No, not Penelope Houston the well known film writer and editor of Sight & Sound (who as such had her own connections to Louise Brooks), but Penelope Houston the singer / songwriter for The Avengers, the seminal 1970's San Francisco punk band. How cool. I like her recordings. 

Libraries are indeed wonderful places filled with unexpected connections . . . . However, the best was still to come. 

Browsing the CD and DVD room, I found a few things to borrow including Julian Schnabel's filmed performance of Lou Reed's Berlin, a video of the Theater Music of Brecht & Weill with Lotte Lenya and Gisela May, and Rufus Wainwright's tribute to Judy Garland - which I am enjoying as I write this; Wainwright's interpretation of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as performed here with his late mother, Kate McGarrigle, is lovely. Afterwords, I headed on over to the library bookstore / gift shop.

I was browsing their selection of donated, mostly second-hand books when I noticed someone enter and begin to look over the cart of new arrivals. It was none other than the San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman.

I had been meaning to get in touch with this acclaimed writer because, as I explained after approaching him, I had recently come across his name in a 1962 newspaper article about a screening of Pandora's Box in Monterey, California. According to my research, this was the first time the film had been shown anywhere in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, or Northern California.

I wasn't sure what Hirschman, a poet and translator (I cherish his 1965 Artaud Anthology from City Lights Books) would have been doing at a screening for what was then a somewhat obscure foreign silent film at a small college south of San Francisco. Hirschman was described in one article I found about the event as a "film authority" who would be joining the film critic Pauline Kael and the film curator James Card (who brought the print of Pandora's Box from George Eastman House) in a series of formal and informal discussions. Perhaps there was another Jack Hirschman in the world?

When I asked Hirschman if he had attended this 1962 screening in Monterey, he immediately interjected in his tender singular raspy voice, "ah, Louise Brooks."

"Yes, I was there," Hirschman explained, "along with Pauline Kael." The poet remembered seeing Pandora's Box nearly 50 years ago, and said that the film and Brooks were a favorite of those in attendance.

We chatted a bit more - about the actress, poetry readings (I had put on an event with him a few years back - and took the snapshot of the poet pictured here), the actress and model and muse Tina Modoti, and  the filmmaker Bruce Conner (who not only aspired as a child to take dance lessons with Louise Brooks but also years later took photographs of Penelope Houston during her punk days). And, we spoke briefly about Wichita, Kansas and Detroit, Michigan. Hirschman described himself as a fan of the Detroit Tigers, and I grew in Motor City suburbia. . . .ah, unexpected connections.

An email alert just popped up. I got a message from the San Francisco Public Library.  Some microfilm I requested just came in. There are bunch of rolls of microfilm of the San Jose Mercury Herald, Lodi Sentinel, and Delta News (from Sacramento County) awaiting me. I will head to the library tomorrow to look at what arrived. Hopefully, more beautiful information will be found.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Louise Brooks book coming in Spring

There is a new Louise Brooks book on the horizon! 

It's called LULU, and its by longtime Louise Brooks Society member and Hollywood writer / screenwriter Samuel Bernstein. The author describes the book as a non-fiction novel, and it centers on the actress and the time around the making of Pandora's Box.The book is due out from Walford Press in the Spring of 2010. There is a bit more info from the publisher here.

I have an advance copy, and am looking forward to reading it.

I've been in email contact with Samuel for a number of years. He, like most all of us, is a sincere and longtime fan of Louise Brooks.

Just who is Samuel Bernstein? "Born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1970, Samuel Bernstein is the award-winning author of Mr. Confidential, winner of a 2008 Hermes Award for Non-Fiction, and which is now being adapted into a stage musical. He is the writer and producer of the Paramount and Showtime film Bobbie's Girl and the multi-festival award-winning Silent Lies, in addition to writing for various television programmes. He is the winner of a Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association for his work on Uncommon Heroes." Check out his IMDb entry or his website for his various projects at Babyhead Productions.

Monday, February 1, 2010

re: Michel Mohrt's "Un Soir, A Londres"

In a recent blog post discussing some recently uncovered references to Louise Brooks in modern French fiction, I mentioned the now elderly writer Michel Mohrt. From what I discovered through a search of Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Mohrt mentioned Louise Brooks in a couple of books.

I put in a request for those books, and one arrived via inter-library loan just the other day. It was Mohrt's 1991 novel Un Soir, à Londres. Though I don't read French, I paged through the novel and found the page which includes the reference to the actress. Here it is.

I would certainy appreciate it if any French speaking Louise Brooks fans could provide a quick translation into English of the sentences around the reference to the actress. The search goes on . . . .
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