Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween: Louise Brooks as Death

Happy Halloween: Louise Brooks as Death

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Louise Brooks & Rina Ketty - "J'attendrai"

A great song: Rina Ketty sings "J'attendrai" to images of Louise Brooks.

For more French music like this, be sure and tune in to RadioLulu, the online radio station of the Louise Brooks Society, at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Libba Bray's The Diviners: a near Louise Brooks cover

Libba Bray's The Diviners, as
published in Italy.
Libba Bray's new young adult / teen novel, The Diviners, is set in 1920's New York City. It's story centers on Evie O'Neil, and features speakeasies, movie palaces, glamorous Ziegfield girls, rakish pickpockets, and a rash of occult-based murder. 

Kirkus Reviews said of The Diviners, "1920s New York thrums with giddy life in this gripping first in a new [series] from Printz winner Bray...The intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of character, dialogue and setting take hold and don't let go. Not to be missed."

The book contains a couple of references to Louise Brooks. One character, a Ziegfield girl named Theta Knight, is described as having "jet-black hair" cut into a "Louise Brooks shingle bob with bangs." Later, it is mentioned that Hollywood scouts were backstage and on the look-out for the "next Louise Brooks or Eddie Cantor."

The book has been published in a handful of countries, including Italy, where its cover (pictured above) features a Louise Brooks look-alike contemporary model sometimes mistaken for the actress. Thanks to Italian Brooks-scholar Gianluca Chiovelli for pointing this out! (He described the cover as "not Brooksian; Brooksiesque.") Here the book's American promotional video.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

LBS featured on LAMB

On October 19th, the Louise Brooks Society blog was featured on LAMB, the Large Association of Movie Blogs, the premier movie blog directory - "a one-stop shop for readers and bloggers alike." 

Thank you LAMB!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dressing up like Louise Brooks (for Halloween)

Thinking of dressing up or looking like Louise Brooks for Halloween? On eBay and other sites, you'll find Louise Brooks wigs - little black bobs, retro-looking dresses said to be like those Louise Brooks would have worn, and even a Louise Brooks mask.

On YouTube, you'll also find a handful of video's which instruct viewers on how to apply makeup to effect a Louise Brooks' look. I have watched some of them and think this is the best. Take a look.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

More on Sid Kay's Fellows

Earlier this week, I received an extraordinary email. It was from Israel, and it came from Dr. Uriel Adiv, the grandson of Shabtai Petrushka (Sigmund Petruschka), the noted German musician and composer and a co-founder of the Sid Kay's Fellows. That jazz combo seen in the Louise Brooks' film, Pandora's Box (1929).

Dr. Uriel Adiv wrote in response to an earlier LBS blog, "Music in Pandora's Box: Sid Kay's Fellows." He sent images and information, and promised to send more. 

Here are a couple of the scans which he sent, the front and reverse of a vintage flyer promoting the group. Dr. Uriel Adiv wrote, "You can see my grandpa playing the trumpet on the upper right side as well as playing the accordion on the middle of the right side."

Not only does its collage design (by Umbo, a Bauhaus artist) reflect a modernist aesthetic, but its also contains valuable bits of information about the widespread popularity of this group (which I had not known) who performed for various stage, film, and dance productions. Also of note is the fact that the group was managed by impresario Hanns Wollsteiner, who helped promote Marlene Dietrich early on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cool pic of the day: Louise Brooks

Cool pic of the day: the one and only Louise Brooks, 
and don't forget to check out and vote in the new LBS blog poll 
(in the lower right hand column) regarding "Which LOST 
Louise Brooks film would you most like to see?"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New for sale page

There is a new "For sale" page. It can be accessed as a tab at the top of this Louise Brooks Society blog. For now, there are only a few related books listed for sale. Other items will be added in the near future. Check it out.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sophie Kinsella - Twenties Girl

A few years back, British novelist Sophie Kinsella wrote a book called Twenties Girl. Published in the United States in 2009, it tells the story of a friendship between two young women. One is a twenty-something contemporary woman, the other the ghost of a 1920s flapper.

In an interview from the time, Kinsella, the popular author of Shopaholic novels, said "I've always loved the glamour and spirit of the 1920s, and the idea came to me of a flapper ghost. A feisty, fun, glamorous girl who adored to dance and drink cocktails and get her own way. I wanted her to be a determined character who would blast into the life of someone with no warning and cause havoc. I then decided she should haunt a thoroughly modern girl, with all the culture clashes and comedy that would bring."

"Having come up with this idea I loved it, so it then remained to plunge myself into 1920s research, which was no hardship at all, as I find the era fascinating. I researched vintage make-up, vintage dresses, read fiction from the period, investigated 1920s slang, and tried to channel as much I could of those feisty flappers who cut their hair short (shock!), smoked cigarettes in public (shock!), had sex (shock!) and generally rebelled in all the outrageous ways they could."

This book has only recently been called to my attention, that's why I am writing about it now. However, what's striking is the book's visual allusion to Louise Brooks, especially Eugene Richee's pearls portrait. The allusion to Brooks is even more noticeable on the cover of the Italian edition.

Would love to hear from anyone who has read this novel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Video: Louise Brooks and Clara Bow

Louise Brooks and Clara Bow, possibly the two greatest female screen icons of the 1920's. Their individual beauty helped define the flapper look as well as the Jazz Age. This YouTube video celebrates them both. Enjoy, and prepare to be mesmerized. The song which accompanies the video is "Rainbow Chaser" by 1960's UK band Nirvana. (No, not that Nirvana.... but it is an interesting coincidence that Courtney Love narrated the documentary, Clara Bow: Discovering It Girl.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On the theme of Lulu

 "On the theme of Lulu" is the title of a series of film screenings, talks, and musical performances taking place in Belgium. The series is being put on by La Monnaie De Munt, the Royal Opera House of Belgium, with each event relating to the Alban Berg opera, Lulu. Among the events is an October 18th screening of the 1929 G.W. Pabst film, Pandora's Box or LouLou, in which Louise Brooks stars as Lulu. Coincidentally, Pandora's Box also features the Belgian born actress Alice Roberts, who plays the Countess Geschwitz. Click on the links for more info.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cool pic of the day: Louise Brooks shoots marbles

Cool pic of the day: that's Louise Brooks on the left, playing marbles with other Paramount actors and actresses. James Hall is in the middle. Who else can you name?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Virginia Valli and Margaret Livingston on screen at Niles in October

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont has an October schedule worth checking out - especially if you don't mind a little fright. There is an early Douglas Fairbanks comedy - before he turned swashbuckler, a quirky, forward-looking 1925 film featuring a Tele-Visionphone (think smart-device), a downright creepy Lon Chaney movie before Halloween, a couple of Koko the Clown cartoons, and a film featuring two actresses who were once Louise Brooks co-star. Each is presented with live musical accompaniment. Here's what's playing.

"Saturday Night at the Movies," with Judy Rosenberg at the piano
Saturday, October 6 at 7:30 pm

Douglas Fairbanks and Constance Talmadge team up in The Matrimaniac (1916, Triangle), a romantic comedy written by the legendary husband and wife team of John Emerson and Anita Loos. The film tells the story of young lovers who elope but are separated before they can secure a minister and marry - all the while, the bride's irate father and a group of lawmen are in hot pursuit. Among the noted actors in uncredited parts in support of Fairbanks and Talmadge are Monte Blue, Mildred Harris, and Carmel Myers, while future great Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz) served as cinematographer. This rarely screened feature will be preceded by two shorts, The Dumb-Bell (1922, Hal Roach Studios) with Snub Pollard, and The Surf Girl (1916, Keystone) with Raymond Griffith and Ivy Crosthwaite.

"Saturday Night at the Movies" with Frederick Hodges at the piano
Saturday, October 13 at 7:30 pm 

Virginia Valli
Loosely based on a Broadway play by Owen Davis, Up the Ladder (1925, Universal) is something of a curiosity, with a plot involving the invention and use of a Tele-Visionphone. Directed by Edward Sloman, the film stars former Essanay Chicago studio actress Virginia Valli (Evening Clothes), Margaret Livingston (Canary Murder Case), as well as Forrest Stanley. The remarkable in-camera special effects are by cinematographer Jackson Rose, who also got his start at Chicago Essanay. 

Also in the cast is Olive Ann Alcorn, another beauty, who despite small roles in Chaplin's Sunnyside (1919) and Phantom of the Opera (1925), is best remembered today for the stunning nude photographs of her taken by the Alta Studio of San Francisco. Those images, reminiscent of the Louise Brooks nudes, are still in circulation today. Up the Ladder will be preceded by two shorts, Koko’s Field Daze (1928, Out of the Inkwell) with Koko the Clown, and Mystic Mush (1920, Hank Mann Comedies) with Hank Mann and Vernon Dent.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Diary of a Lost Girl: A brief history of a banned book

Every year since 1982, the American reading public observes Banned Books Week. This year, as in the past, hundreds of libraries and bookstores draw attention to the ongoing problem of censorship by hosting events and by creating displays of challenged works. It’s all about creating awareness.

In 2010, the Louise Brooks Society did it's part by helping bring a once censored work back into print. The book is The Diary of a Lost Girl. It's by a turn of the last century German writer few today have heard of, Margarete Böhme. Her book, a once-controversial bestseller, had been out of print in the United States for more than 100 years.

Though little known today, The Diary of a Lost Girl was a literary phenomenon in the early 20th century. It is considered by scholars of German literature to be one of the best-selling books of its time.

The Diary of a Lost Girl is an unlikely work of social protest. It’s also a tragedy – in 1909, a newspaper in New Zealand called it “the saddest of modern books.” In 1907, the English writer Hall Caine described it as the "poignant story of a great-hearted girl who kept her soul alive amidst all the mire that surrounded her poor body." Many years later, a contemporary scholar called it “Perhaps the most notorious and certainly the commercially most successful autobiographical narrative of the early twentieth century.”

The book tells the story of Thymian, a young woman forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution. Her story goes something like this. Seduced by her Father’s business associate, the teenage Thymian conceives a child which she is forced to give up; she is then cast out of her home, scorned by society, and ends up in a reform school – from which she escapes and by twists of fate hesitantly turns to life as a high-class escort. Prostitution is the only means of survival available to her. If its story sounds familiar, it likely because the book was the basis for the 1929 German movie of the same name. That silent film, still shown in theaters around the world, stars Louise Brooks.

The Diary of a Lost Girl, editions then and now

The author of The Diary of a Lost Girl, Margarete Böhme (1867-1939), was a progressive minded writer who meant to expose the hypocrisy of society and the very un-Christian behavior of some of its leading members. She also meant to show-up the double standards by which women of all ages suffer. Böhme’s frank treatment of sexuality (by the standards of the day) only added fuel to the fire of outrage which greeted the book in some quarters.

First published in Germany in 1905 as Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, Böhme’s book proved an enduring work – at least for a while and despite attacks by critics and social groups. The book was translated into 14 languages, and was reviewed and discussed across Europe. It inspired a popular sequel brought about by a flood of letters to the author, a controversial stage play banned in some German cities, a parody, lawsuits, two silent films - each of which were in turn censored, and a score of imitators.

The book confronts readers with the story of a likeable young women forced into a life of degradation. The complicity of her family – and by extension society – in her downward turn is provocative. However, Thymian – a truly endearing character and a heroine till the end, refuses to be coarsened by her experiences. She also refuses to let others define her - she defines herself. At the time, Böhme’s book helped open a dialogue on issues around the treatment of women.

In 1907, when the book was translated into English, its British publisher placed an advertisement in newspapers. The ads proclaimed Böhme’s work “The Book that Has Stirred the Hearts of the German People,” but somewhat defensively added “It is outspoken to a degree, but the great moral lesson it conveys is the publishers’ apology for venturing to reproduce this human document.”

In response to a review of the book in the Manchester Guardian, the Rev. J.K. Maconachie of the Manchester Association Against State Regulation of Vice wrote a surprising letter to the editor. He stated, “The appearance in Germany of this remarkable book, together with the stir it has made there and the fact that its author is a woman, betoken the uprising which has taken place in recent years amongst German women against the evils and injustice which the book reveals. . . . It may be hoped that discriminating circulation of The Diary of a Lost One will help many here to realize, in the forceful words of your reviewer, ‘the horror of setting aside one section of human beings for the use of another.’”

Back in Germany, the same sorts of groups which objected to the book also objected to the two films made from it. The first, from 1918, is considered lost, but we know from articles of the time that it was withdrawn from circulation because of its controversial story. The second film, which starred Louise Brooks, has come down in censored form.

As records from 1929 show, various groups including a German morality association, a national organization for young women, a national organization of Protestant girl’s boarding schools, and even the governor in Lower Silesia all voiced their objections to aspects of the film. As with the book, these groups objected to various key scenes. Each found the work to be demoralizing.

At the end of the Twenties, The Diary of a Lost Girl was still in print and was still being reissued in countries across Europe. It had by then sold more than 1,200,000 copies – ranking it among the 15 bestselling books of the era. Twenty five years after it was first published, however, Böhme's “terribly impressive book, full of accusations against society” was still considered a provocation. That’s why, just a very few years later at the beginning of the Nazi era, conservative groups still unsettled by its damning indictment of society deliberately drove it out-of-print.

In 1988, after decades of obscurity, a facsimile of the special 1907 edition was published in Germany. It was followed in 1995 by a small paperback which featured Louise Brooks on the cover. The recent "Louise Brooks edition" reprint of the original English language translation, also with Brooks on the cover and with some 40 pages of introductory and related material, appeared in 2010.

The impetus behind publishing a new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl was about creating awareness. More importantly, it gives voice to a story which critics had long tried to silence. For additional background, check out these articles on Deutsche Welle and RTV Slovenia.

The 2012 Banned Books Week runs through October 6. The Diary of a Lost Girl is available through Indiebound and and other select bookstores and libraries.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fritz Kortner : The Jewish Actor Who Would Not Be Intimidated

The Jewish Daily Forward has a good article on Fritz Kortner, the acclaimed Austrian-born Jewish actor who starred as Dr. Schön opposite Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box. The article can be found here.

Louise Brooks and the back of Fritz Kortner in
a scene from Pandora's Box (1929).

The article outlines Kortner's rather remarkable career. According to Wikipedia: "Kortner was born in Vienna as Fritz Nathan Kohn. He studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After graduating, he joined Max Reinhardt in Berlin in 1911, and then Leopold Jessner in 1916. Also in that year he made his first appearance in a silent film. He became one of Germany's best known character actors. His specialty was playing sinister and threatening roles, though he also appeared in the title role of 1930's Dreyfus.

With the coming to power of the Nazis, Kortner, being Jewish, chose to flee Germany in 1933. He emigrated to the United States, where he found work as a character actor and theatre director for a time before returning to Germany in 1949. Upon his return, he became noted for his innovative staging and direction, particularly of classics such as his Richard III (1964) in which the king crawls over piles of corpses at the end."

Below is a German-language video clip of Kortner sharing his memories of Gustav Gründgens, the German actor who collaborated with the Nazi regime, inspiring Klaus Mann’s 1936 novel Mephisto and its 1981 screen adaptation.

While writing this blog, I learned that there is a book on the actor, From Shakespeare to Frisch: The Provocative Fritz Kortner, by Richard D. Critchfield. It was published in 2008 by Synchron Publishers. I will have to try and track down a copy to see if there is anything in it about Pandora's Box or Louise Brooks. In closing, here is  swell vintage postcard of Kortner as Beethoven in Das Leben des Beethoven (1927).

Powered By Blogger