Saturday, May 31, 2014

New edition of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone from Spain

A new edition of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone is out today in Spain. This handsome softcover edition of the bestselling American novel features Louise Brooks on the cover. The book was translated by Carlos Milla and Isabel Ferrer.

The Chaperone, in Spanish titled Una acompañante en New York, tells a story focusing on the 15 year old Louise Brooks and her trip to New York City in the summer of 1922 to join the Denishawn Dance Company. "Inspirada por la vida de la estrella de cine mudo Louise Brooks. esta es la historia de dos mujeres que representan dos mundos opuestos, y del verano que cambió su vida."

This Spanish edition has French folds which have additional text about Louise Brooks not included on the American editions. Also, the Louise Brooks Society is credited.

Here is a bit more text about the book in Spanish, from the publisher's website. "En 1922, la joven y precoz Louise Brooks y su amiga, Cora Carlisle, una mujer casada muy tradicional, viajan juntas desde Witchita, Kansas, a Nueva York, la metrópolis de moda de la época. Cada una tiene sus propios motivos para hacer ese viaje: la rebelde Louise se ha inscrito en la academia de danza vanguardista Denishawn, porque sueña con llegar a ser una famosa bailarina. Una ilusión que cumplirá de largo, convirtiéndose en una conocida actriz del cine mudo y en la mujer más deseada del Hollywood de la época. Por su parte, Cora no solo busca escapar de la monotonía de su vida, sino que quiere cumplir un deseo que lleva tiempo postergando: encontrar sus orígenes, ya que nunca ha conocido a sus padres. Obligadas a pasar juntas un verano en la fascinante y caleidoscópica ciudad de moda, estas dos amigas aprenderán a entenderse y descubrirán que la vida les tienere servadas muchas sorpresas. "

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ramona, the song (at San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

Tonight, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival screens the 1928 historical drama Ramona, based on Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel of the same name. Directed by Edwin Carewe, the film stars Dolores del Rio and Warner Baxter. Ramona was the first United Artist film with a synchronized score, though it was not a talking picture.

For decades, this 1928 version of Ramona was thought to be lost until archivists rediscovered it in the Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague, Czech Republic. Transferred to acetate safety stock, the restored version had its world premiere in the Billy Wilder Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles on March 29, 2014.

Dolores del Rio, the first Latin American star to be recognized internationally, can be heard singing the film's theme song on RadioLulu, the Louise Brooks Society's online radio station streaming music of the Teens, Twenties, Thirties and today. "Ramona" is one of a number of vintage recordings of silent-era theme songs heard on RadioLulu. The song, as sung by Dolores del Rio in 1928, is also embedded in the video below. (To listen to "Ya Va Cayendo" ["Falling in Love"], the B-side of the 78 rpm of "Ramona," follow the link. "Ya Va Cayendo" was, incidentally, recorded in the Blossom Room of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel in 1928.)


Ramona / words by L. Wolfe Gilbert, music by Mabel Wayne

I wander out yonder o'er the hills
Where the mountains high, seem to kiss the sky
Someone's up yonder o'er the hills
Waiting patiently, waiting just for me

Ramona, I hear the mission bells above
Ramona, they're ringing out our song of love
I press you, caress you
And bless the day you taught me to care
I'll always remember
The rambling rose you wore in your hair

Ramona, when the day is done you'll hear my call
Ramona, we'll meet beside the waterfall
I dread the dawn
When I awake to find you gone
Ramona, I need you, my own

Ramona, when the day is done you'll hear my call
Ramona, we'll meet beside the waterfall
I dread the dawn
When I awake to find you gone
Ramona, I need you, my own

The popularity of the film and its charming theme song led it to be recorded by a number of different artists, including the Brunswick Hour Orchestra, with vocal chorus by Frank Munn (see the audio-video embedded below).

The song was also recorded by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, featuring Bix Beiderbecke with vocals by Austin Young and Jack Fulton, and the popular crooner Gene Austin, with orchestra and pipe organ (for the latter, see the audio-video embedded below, with promotional images from the film).

Ramona was a hit in Europe, as was its theme song. In fact, the Ramona theme song was recorded in a handful of different languages. Here is a French language version of the song sung by Fred Gouin, which can also be heard on RadioLulu.

As well, there were cover versions of "Ramona" recorded at the time in Belgium (as "Ramonache") by Esther Deltenre, in Germany by Dajos Bela and his Tanzorchester, and by Berlin cabaret celebrity Paul O'Montis, and in Poland, by Tadeusz Faliszewski for Syrena-Electro in 1929. The audio video for this last version is embedded below.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lulu's debut. . . on this day in 1905

On this day in history, Lulu made her debut in Vienna.

The premiere of Frank Wedekind’s Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box), a restricted performance due to difficulties with the censor, had already taken place in Nuremberg  in 1904. A second staging, in Vienna, was arranged at the instigation of the critic and satirist Karl Kraus. This second stage production took place at the Trianon Theater in Vienna, Austria on May 29, 1905.

The production was notable, as was the cast. It featured dramatist Frank Wedekind as Jack the Ripper, Tilly Newes (Franks Wedekin's wife, Tilly Wedekind) as Lulu, Arnold Korff as Dr. Hilti (Korff also played the Elder Count Osdorff in the 1929 film, Diary of a Lost Girl), and Irma Karczewska as “Bob.” The play’s producer, Karl Kraus, played Kungu Poti.

Who was Irma Karczewska? She was a striking personality and noted beauty who was involved in an erotic triangle with Kraus and Sigmund Freud's first biographer, the pioneering psychologist Fritz Wittels. Read all about it in Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels, edited by Edward Timms, published by Yale University Press in 1995.

According to the publisher, Yale University Press, "In his memoirs, Wittels writes frankly and vividly about the erotic subculture of fin-de-siècle Vienna, early controversies within the Psychoanalytic Society, and the interactions between the two. Freud himself plays a crucial role in the story, and the erotic triangle in which Kraus, Wittels, and Irma Karczewska were involved is shown to have impinged directly on the activities of the famous Society."

One wonders who might have been in the audience on that historic day. Perhaps Sigmund Freud? If not, was he aware of or had he read Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays?

On a not unrelated note, it is known that members of Freud's circle had read and written about Margarete Bohme's famous book, The Diary of a Lost Girl.

Also, on this day in 1967, G.W. Pabst, who directed Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, died in Austria.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler, Jodi Picoult, and The Diary of a Lost Girl

I am continuing to research The Diary of a Lost Girl, Margarete Böhme's controversial 1905 novel which served as the basis for the equally controversial 1929 film starring Louise Brooks. In 2015, I plan on issuing a revised and expanded print edition of my 2010 "Louise Brooks edition" of The Diary of a Lost Girl which will include new findings. Among them are these two items.

Heinrich Himmler, one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the individuals most directly responsible for the Holocaust, is known to have read Böhme's novel in 1920, 15 years after it was first published and three years before he joined the Nazi party. That's according to two books on Himmler which I have just come across.

Both Bradley F. Smith's Heinrich Himmler: A Nazi in the Making (Hoover Institution Press, 1971) and Peter Longerich's Heinrich Himmler (Oxford University Press, 2012) record that the then 20 year old student read Böhme's The Diary of a Lost Soul (an alternate title). Himmler kept a record of his reading, and notes having read Böhme's book in March 1920, while in Munich and Ingolstadt. At the time, according to Longerich, Himmler's reading was largely novels and stories "concerned with love, erotic attraction, and the battle of the sexes."

According to Smith, The Diary of a Lost Soul caused Himmler to "reexamine his attitudes" and doubt "the scorn he usually poured on those who had wandered from the path of virtue." It was a book, Himmler noted, "that offers insight into dreadful human tragedies and makes one look at many a whore with different eyes." Afterwords, he went on to read other not-unrelated books, including Henrik Ibsens's A Doll's House.

I also just recently learned that The Diary of a Lost Girl received a shout-out in The Storyteller, a 2013 novel from author Jodi Picoult. The Storyteller, a #1 New York Times bestseller, is based on an incident which took place during the Holocaust. In one scene, a key character is preparing to flee, and is gathering important possessions.

I contacted Picoult, and asked about her character's mention of The Diary of a Lost Girl. Picoult wrote back, "I was looking for a book of the time period that would have been something Minka might have read - so I did a little digging for some popular titles of the time!"

Picoult's choice is apt. Böhme was an especially popular author, especially with women, and apparently with somewhat curious males like Himmler.

From the time it was first published in 1905, The Diary of a Lost Girl continued to sell and remained in print in various editions all the way into the early 1930's, when it was driven out of print by right wing German groups upset with its story. (Himmler read an edition published in 1917.) Along with the anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front and works by Thomas Mann, Böhme's The Diary of a Lost Girl was one of the dozen bestselling books in Germany in the period from 1900 to 1939. It is believed to have sold more than 1.2 million copies. The book is back in print in Germany and the United States.

Pictured here is a newly acquired edition of Böhme's bestseller. This rare softcover copy was published in 1919.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Louise Brooks as a lost girl

Louise Brooks in a scene from Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), directed to G.W. Pabst. She awaits tomorrow's shocking post here on the Louise Brooks Society blog.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Louise Rutkowski, Diary of a Lost Girl

A new album by Louise Rutkowski titled Diary of a Lost Girl was released on Jock Records in February of 2014.

Recently, I emailed the Scottish singer songwriter and asked if her new album of ethereal electro pop had any relationship to Louise Brooks. She wrote back, "There is indeed a relation between my new album title and Louise Brooks.  I have been a fan since I was a teenager."

Diary of a Lost Girl is the first solo album from Rutkowski,  former vocalist with This Mortal Coil and The Hope Blister.  Rutkowski signed with CBS Records at age 19, recording three singles and an album with soul producer Pete Wingfield. However, it's her work with cult independent label 4AD and the above named bands for which she is best known.

Funded through the direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic, Diary of a Lost Girl has been described by supporters as "A truly haunting and beautiful album," and "Beautiful, stirring, and alive with emotion." The Daily Express called it "a gorgeous and simple album that highlights her powerful voice." The Scotsman said it was "immaculately produced" and "elegantly accomplished." The Louise Brooks Society agrees.

Louise Rutkowski in 1996
Produced by Irvin Duguid, the album includes mixes by Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile), and Steve Orchard; it also marks Rutkowski's return to writing original material  her first compositions since her music career began with the soul-influenced band Sunset Gun.

Rutkowski went on to note: "I first came across Louise Brooks when I was in my early 20s and in my first band.  I saw a photograph of her and was totally enchanted by her look.  I collected many photographs (two of which are still on my walls at home), I read Barry Paris’ biography, and went to see her films at the Scala in London (now a music venue).  Sadly, my book and photograph collection got destroyed in a house fire, but I still have a few things left.  One is the Diary of a Lost Girl poster, which hangs in my flat. I also remember watching an interview with her when she was older?  I have Kenneth Tynan in my head but not sure if that’s correct."

"I also had my hair in a bob for many years! I was, and still am, inspired by her.  It wasn’t just her look, it was her acting and who she was as a person – so feisty and witty."

"As for the album title, I had been searching for a while for a suitable one, and found myself staring at the poster one night, realising 'that was it'!  I chose it as it fitted perfectly with the feeling behind the songs as a collection.  This is a very personal album, written mostly around the time of my mother’s death (also a huge film fan and admirer of LB), and the word 'lost' rather fitted at that point. It has such a beautiful ring to it in any event."

Louise Rutkowski in 2014
The Louise Brooks Society encourages everyone to check out Louise Rutkowski's new album, Diary of a Lost Girl.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's the Old Army Game - A round-up of reviews

It's the Old Army Game, Louise Brooks' fourth film, was officially released on this day in 1926. The film is a comedy about a small town druggist who gets involved with a Florida real estate scam. This silent film is extant and can be found on unofficial VHS and DVD releases.

The film stars W.C. Fields as Elmer Prettywillie (the small town druggist), Louise Brooks as Mildred Marshall (his assistant), Blanche Ring as Tessie Overholt, and William Gaxton as George Parker. This Famous Players-Lasky Corporation film, based on the screenplay by Thomas J. Geraghty and J. Clarkson Miller, was directed by Edward Sutherland (Brooks' future husband, and Blanche Ring's nephew).

The film received generally positive reviews, though some criticized its "thin plot." The film proved somewhat popular while playing all over the United States. Many critics praised Fields, and just as many noticed Brooks, especially when she wore her bathing suit. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.

Eddie Sutherland and Louise Brooks on the set of It's the Old Army Game (1926)
anonymous. "W.C. Fields, Comedian Howard Film Star." Atlanta Constitution, May 23, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks, a little lady who promises to create nothing short of a sensation because of her portrayal as the girl Fields would like to marry, gives a mighty fine performance."

anonymous. "Pictures Playing Atlanta This Week." Weekly Film Review, May 26, 1926.
--- review; "There was considerable good acting on the part of the star, who was ably supported by Louise Brooks and William Gaxton."

Helm, Carl. "Army Game is Amusing Picture." San Francisco Examiner, May 31, 1926.
--- ". . . and the gloriously-wrought Louise Brooks . . . Miss Brooks has nothing much to do but look lovely in a swimming suit, no difficult task for her."

anonymous. "Hilarious Comedy Is Featured at Strand." Modesto News-Herald, June 1, 1926.
--- "Then there is the piquant pert little Louise Brooks featured along with Mr. Fields. She contributes a performance second only to that given by the star."

Starr, Jimmy. "New Comedy In Old Army Game." Los Angeles Record, June 5, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks is evidently very proud of her comely figure. This is the third picture in which she has worn that black bathing suit. However, Louise is a clever little actress."

Craig, Betty. "Many Attractions Are Booked For the Week." Denver Post, June 6, 1926.
--- "In the meantime the young fellow from the big town has fallen in love with the lovely creature that serves as the store's only clerk, who is none other than the captivating Louise Brooks."

S., W. R. "Views and Reviews." Film Mercury, June 11, 1926.
--- "A new actress has broken into pictures in the name of Louise Brooks, she shines like a gem in the rough."

Irvin. "Fine Comedy Film Showing at Palace." Washington Herald, June 21, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks played in Ziegfeld's Follies when Fields was running wild with Ray Dooley, et all. In this picture she has the feminine lead, and she surely confirms all promises of being the movie 'find' of the season."

McCormick, Ella H. "Reel Players." Detroit Free Press, June 21, 1926.
--- "Fields scored a splendid triumph in this picture. A great part of the success of the offering, however, is due to Louise Brooks, who takes the lead feminine part."

Marsh, Ward W. "Fields Whole Show in Allen." Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 21, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks and William Gaxton carry what is generaly known as the necessary love interest. Gaxton amounts to nothing, but Miss Brooks parades the personal magnetism to the limit, and late in the story is found wandering around in a bathing suit - for no sound reason except to display a form which assuredly needs not bathing suit to set it off. There is no complaint, however, on the appearance in the bathing suit."

Adams, Carl B. "Photoplay Reviews." Cincinnati Enquirer, June 28, 1926.
--- "Next to Fields, the chief attration of It's the Old Army Game is Louise Brooks, one of the most promising finds of the season. All that she has to do to make a hit is wear a bathing suit, which she does in this picture."

Patton, Peggy. "Fields Pleases in Comedy Film." Wisconsin News, June 28, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks, Blanche Ring and Rose Elliot are the featured players. Each contributes a very good bit of acting."

Service, T.O. "Service Talks." Exhibitor's Herald, July 3, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks is the other important person in the picture and, as insinuated rather bluntly on the occasion of her first appearance - in The American Venus - she's important. Miss Brooks isn't like anybody else. Nor has she a distinguishing characteristic which may be singled out for purposes of identification. She's just a very definite personality. She doesn't do much, perhaps becuase there isn't much to do but probably because she hits hardest when doing nothing, but nobody looks away when she's on screen. If Miss Glyn should say that Miss Brooks has 'it,' more people would know what Miss Glyn is raving about. But in that case she would not be raving. "

Hall, Mordaunt. "A Clattering Farce." New York Times, July 5, 1926.
--- "Mr. Fields's clever and energetic performance is helped along by the attractive Louise Brooks."

McGowen, Roscoe. "Fields-Brooks Picture Lacks Real Sunshine." Daily News, July 5, 1926.
--- "The picture is worth going to see just to look at Louise Brooks, one of the most ornamental young persons we have on the screen."

anonymous. "It's the Old Army Game." Variety, July 7, 1926.
--- ". . . a chance for Louise Brooks to strut her stuff. Miss Brooks photographs like a million dollars and shows a screen personality that's 'there.' This girl is going to land right at the top in the picture racket and is a real bet at this time."

anonymous. "W. C. Fields and Pole Film at Mosque." Newark Star-Eagle, July 12, 1926.
--- "This picture not only affords a good deal of typical Fields comedy in a suitable story frame, but also reveals the possibilities of Louise Brooks, Follies girl who is making decidely good in the cinema. . . . All told, Fields need not regret his first Paramount production. Louise Brooks, with a touch of piquancy, a good range of registration, and the conception of restriant, is pleasing as the heroine."

Sherwood, Robert E. "The Silent Drama." Life, July 29, 1926.
--- "Mr. Fields has to carry the entire production on his shoulders, with some slight assistance from the sparkling Louise Brooks . . . ."

anonymous. "W.C. Fields, Comedian, Aids The Old Army Game." Portland Oregonian, August 16, 1926.
--- "Louise Brooks, the pert young woman who will be remembered for her work in The American Venus and A Social Celebrity, the latter with Adolphe Menjou, has the lead role opposite Fields. She poses a bit. An excuse was found to get her into a bathing suit too, which wasn't a bad move, on the whole. . . . By the way, Edward Sutherland, who directed the picture, has just married Louise Brooks." 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Another Louise Brooks inspired novel

Valentina is an erotic novel based on the Valentia comix  by Guido Crepax, which were inspired by Louise Brooks. Pictured here is the Italian edition (along with descriptive text in Italian). The book, which is part of a trilogy, has been issued in various countries, and the covers vary accordingly. For more on these books and their author's take on the Valentina character and Louise Brooks, see Evie Blake's "Valentina's World."

Noëlle Harrison (writing as Evie Blake)
January 1, 2012
Editora Europa - Publisher

Criada pelo célebre artista gráfico italiano Guido Crepax, a jovem fotógrafa de moda Valentina Rosselli é uma das mais emblemáticas heroínas de graphic novels de todos os tempos. Com seus cabelos pretos cortados rente à nuca, inspirados na artista de cinema dos anos 1920 Louise Brooks, ela é a essência da sofisticação europeia. No seu íntimo, vive uma mulher apaixonada e excitante, que não pensa duas vezes para mergulhar em mundos desconhecidos e experimentar seus desejos mais secretos. Neste romance, Valentina vive em Milão com seu amante Théo e recebe dele um presente inusitado: um álbum de fotos antigas, com negativos enigmáticos, cujas imagens, à primeira vista, são indecifráveis. Adepta do processo fotográfico tradicional, ela amplia os negativos em sua câmara escura e, ao montar o quebra-cabeça, descobre que se tratam de closes de uma mulher retratada em poses eróticas.

Ao mesmo tempo, Valentina recebe uma proposta de trabalho igualmente inusitada: criar uma série de fotos artísticas e eróticas em um clube de sadomasoquismo. Inicialmente avessa ao tema, acaba acreditando que suas incursões nesse mundo podem ajudá-la a descobrir quem é a mulher retratada nos negativos. E também qual a relação dela com a sua vida.

Louise Brzezinska, por sua vez, vive em Veneza no ano da Grande Depressão, 1929. Presa num casamento infeliz com um poderoso homem de negócios, certa vez é confundida com uma prostituta e resolve viver a experiência. Ao ver aflorar toda a sua sensualidade e desejo reprimidos, passa a levar uma vida dupla, alternando a recatada vida de socialite com seu alter ego, Belle, a cortesã mais famosa de Veneza.

Mesmo separadas por décadas, Valentina e Belle têm uma relação atemporal entre elas: ambas estão em busca de sua verdadeira identidade. Belle acredita que só o amor pode ser libertador, enquanto Valentina mergulha em uma viagem erótica que vai revelar traços de sua personalidade que ela jamais pensou existir.

Friday, May 23, 2014

1933 Italian crossword puzzle with Louise Brooks

Here is a page from a famous weekly Italian puzzle magazine, published in Italy and distributed in other European countries. This special number, with an image of Louise Brooks, dates from 1933. The first issue of La Settimana Enigmistica was published in January 1932, and featured the Mexican actress Lupe Vélez on the front cover. The magazine is still published to this day. [Special thanks to Gianluca for finding this treasured item.]

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Zealand premiere of silent Prix de beauté

The New Zealand International Film Festival have announced they will screen the rarely shown silent version of Prix de beauté, the 1930 French sound film starring Louise Brooks. The film was initially shot as a silent, and was then adapted to sound. The sound version, with dubbed dialogue and music, was released as "talkies" were beginning to dominate the film world. The silent version quietly faded away. This special screening on August 3, 2014 features Marc Taddei conducting the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in a single performance of Timothy Brock’s recent original score. More information on this event can be found at

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Zealand Truth: In dreams invention we bestow to change

New Zealand Truth, October 10, 1929

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Must watch: Andy McCluskey introduces Louise Brooks on the big screen at an OMD concert

Here is another must watch video of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) performing their hit song "Pandora's Box (It's a long, long way)" live in concert, with images of Louise Brooks projected on the screen behind the band. YouTube has a number of similar videos.What I love about this particular video is the song's introduction given by OMD singer and big-time Louise Brooks fan Andy McCluskey.

 Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran my article on Louise Brooks and popular music. The article, "Natalie Merchant's 'Lulu' Latest Pop Tribute to Silent Film Icon Louise Brooks," features an OMD concert video, and a slideshow of album covers related to the silent film star. Check it out.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Huffington Post article on Louise Brooks and popular music

Today, the Huffington Post ran my article on Louise Brooks and popular music. The article, "Natalie Merchant's 'Lulu' Latest Pop Tribute to Silent Film Icon Louise Brooks," features a couple of videos and a slideshow of album covers related to the silent film star. Like this one from The Freeze, a little known Scottish punk group (think The Buzzcocks meet The Cure). This 1980 single is in all likelihood the first rock tribute to the actress. Vocalist Gordon Sharp went on to work with the Cocteau Twins.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The World of Josef von Sternberg, by Kevin Brownlow (1967 mini documentary)

An approximately 20 minute, 1967 interview and profile with film director Josef von Sternberg, researched, written, and directed by Kevin Brownlow. In the this interview Sternberg talks about Hollywood, his career, and  Marlene Dietrich (star of The Blue Angel), with whom he made and directed seven films. Sternberg also give a practical demonstration of his lighting and camera techniques. Presented in two parts.

The first part can be seen here on YouTube:

The second part can be seen here on YouTube:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

San Francisco Screening of Anna May Wong documentary

For PBS viewers in the San Francisco Bay Area: Join KQED and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) for an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration and film screening on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 from 6:00 - 8:30pm. The film to be screened is a 2012 PBS documentary, Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words, by Yunah Hong.

"Anna May Wong knew she wanted to be a movie star from the time she was a young girl—and by 17 she became one. A third generation Chinese American, she went on to make dozens of films in Hollywood and Europe . She was one of the few actors to successfully transition from silent to sound cinema, co-starring with Marlene Dietrich, Anthony Quinn and Douglas Fairbanks along the way. She was glamorous, talented and cosmopolitan—yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted doll or a scheming dragon lady. For years, older generations of Chinese Americans frowned upon the types of roles she played; however today, a younger generation of Asian Americans sees her as a pioneering artist, who succeeded in a hostile environment that hasn't altogether changed." For more information, visit

Friday, May 16, 2014

Breaking news: Natalie Merchant releases video for her Louise Brooks song "Lulu"

Natalie Merchant performs "Lulu," from her self-titled album, out now on Nonesuch Records. The video features excerpts from the silent film masterpiece Pandora's Box (1929) by Austrian director, Georg Wilhelm Pabst. American silent film legend Louise Brooks stars.

Used with kind permission from United Film Enterprises, Praesens-Film AG, Zurich/ / Switzerland © 1929. Special thanks to The Criterion Collection.

Music & lyrics by Natalie Merchant

Order Natalie Merchant's self-titled 2014 album at:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brox Sisters sing "Falling in Love Again"

The Brox Sisters are one of the many Jazz Age musical acts included on RadioLulu, the online radio station of the Louise Brooks Society. The trio of singing sisters can be heard performing a medley of songs from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927, in which they starred along with Eddie Cantor (who can also be heard on the station). The sister act are pictured below tuning into RadioLulu using a special trans-dimensional receiver able to pick-up digital signals across time and space.

The Brox Sisters were among the earliest artists to appear on Vitaphone sound shorts in the late 1920s. There are a number of video clips of the act on YouTube. Here is a clip of the trio singing "Falling in Love Again" from the film short Hollywood on Parade (1932). It has a clever "special effect."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Natalie Merchant talks about Louise Brooks, & Rufus Wainwright too

Earlier this week, Salon ran an interview with Natalie Merchant regarding her just released sixth solo album. This self-titled and self produced collection of 10 new and original songs is her first offering in 13 years. Two of the questions in the Salon interview address the singer-songwriter's interest in Louise Brooks. The complete interview can and should be read here.

There are a lot of proper names on this album: Ladybird, Lulu, Maggie. Are these real women or fictional characters?

They’re composite characters, but I choose a name that will identify them, then I use that technique of stepping into their lives. “Ladybird” and “Maggie Said” are both conversations with these women I’ve created. So they’re composite characters, except for “Lulu.” That song is about a specific person, the silent screen star Louise Brooks.

What inspired you to write a song about her?

I just think she had an extraordinary life. Now that I’ve reached 50, I feel like I’m beginning to understand the journey that people take through their lives — the significant events that make you and form you. I’ve always had an interest in biographies, especially about famous women. I want to know so much about them. Did they have children? Did they have conflicted relationships with their parents? Did they have to move frequently? Were they drawn to urban spaces or rural spaces? What inspired them as artists?

I read Louise Brooks’ autobiography a couple of years ago, “Lulu in Hollywood.” I grew up near where she spent the last 20 years of her life, in Rochester, New York. My best friend Mary Beth and I used to have a fantasy. We couldn’t drive, but when we were teenagers we wanted to take the bus to Rochester and have tea with Louise Brooks. The song echoes that sentiment, but reading her autobiography allowed me to visit her in a different way. She never had children and could never keep a marriage together, and she felt like a failure in her career. Yet she endures. She rose and fell and fell and rose again. And just when she was at this low period in her life, when she was living hand to mouth and living in a studio apartment in Manhattan, there was a revival happening of her films. She didn’t even know it.

Natalie Merchant (Credit: Dan Winters)


And earlier this month, Out magazine ran an interview with Rufus Wainwright regarding his latest (gay) opera commission, why Helena Bonham Carter inspires him, and the reason performing with 'slutty straight boys' was a perfect antidote to a heavy period of his life. One of the questions in the Out interview address the singer-songwriter's interest in Louise Brooks. The complete interview can and should be read here
I was also curious: In the concert, you put on a paper Helena Bonham Carter mask on for a bit and I wondered what it was about her. We've been asking people what their spirit animal is, and I wondered if she was your spirit animal in some way?

Well she is definitely a spirited animal. [Laughs] That's for sure. She's amazing. I admire her and have a slight crush on her as well. You know, what I love most about her is she's whip smart, so intelligent. She has depth. Besides being a fantastic actress and fantastic beauty, she's also really witty, intelligent, and kooky broad. And I love that about her.

So how would you answer that question: what is your spirit animal?

My spirit animal is Louise Brooks from Pandora's Box. That character she plays in the film, Lulu. That's why I wrote Songs for Lulu, she needed to be appeased.

Rufus Wainwright (Credit: Sean James)


Both artists can be heard on RadioLulu, the Louise Brooks-inspired, silent film-themed online radio station from the Louise Brooks Society streaming music of the Teens, Twenties, Thirties and today. RadioLulu plays Natalie Merchant's "Lulu," from her new self-titled album, and Rufus Wainwright's "What Would I Ever Do with a Rose?" from his 2010 album All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Louise Brooks recommends these three recordings

Louise Brooks concludes her 1940 booklet, The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing, by recommending three recordings with which to practice dancing. Here is a scan of Brooks' musical recommendations from that rare booklet:

Along with some real "hot" jazz, the three recordings, Wayne King's "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," and Xavier Cugat's "Siboney" and "Caminito," can each be heard on RadioLulu, the Louise Brooks Society's unique online radio station. As of today, the station has more than 425 mostly vintage tracks and 22 hours of programming. Check it out at

Here is a YouTube video of Cugat's tango "Caminito."

Monday, May 12, 2014

RadioLulu, a Louise Brooks-inspired, silent film themed online radio station

Don't forget to "tune-in" to RadioLulu, a Louise Brooks-inspired, silent film themed online radio station streaming music of the Teens, Twenties, Thirties, and today. RadioLulu's unique mix of programming features music from Brooks' film, recordings by Brooks' co-stars, along with the biggest hits of the Jazz Age, songs sung by silent film stars, music from early talkies, show tunes, novelty numbers, and lots, lots more.

The Louise Brooks Society was pleased when @Richard_Kadrey - the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim series and other books (including Dead Set, his first YA horror novel), tweeted early this month, "A recent musical obsession is @Radio_Lulu, a web station playing great music from the 20s & 30s". Thank you Richard!

RadioLulu has a Facebook page and a Twitter account @Radio_Lulu. Please visit each and "like" or follow each. Thanks for your interest and support, and thanks for listening!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

More Louise Brooks on

For five years, I've been writing about silent film for; and for four of those years, I've also been the national Louise Brooks correspondent. My first piece appeared on May 11, 2010. I've written dozens of pieces, perhaps more than one-hundred (I've lost count). To mark my fourth anniversary as the national Louise Brooks examiner, I've put together this checklist of some of my favorite pieces about the actress. A few have enjoyed some buzz, including tweets by the likes of Roger Ebert and Neil Gaiman (each fans of Louise Brooks).

Diary of a Lost Girl, with Louise Brooks, screens in Brooklyn
May 11, 2010

Pandora's Box, with Louise Brooks, screens in SoCal
May 17, 2010

Six questions with . . . the Dodge Brothers
May 23, 2010

Interview with a bassist with an interest in Louise Brooks
June 4, 2010

Canary Murder Case screens in Rochester, NY
June 9, 2010

Daisy D'Ora, one-time German actress, dies at age 97
June 26, 2010

New short film homage to Louise Brooks
June 29, 2010

Berlin film festival features Louise Brooks
July 6, 2010

Rolled Stockings screenwriter turns 110
July 8, 2010

The Show-Off screens in Los Angeles July 10
July 8, 2010

Celebrating G.W. Pabst at Bard College
July 14, 2010

Discovering a Polish Lulu
August 2, 2010

Beggars of Life to show in Los Angeles
August 13, 2010

Louise Brooks' first review on this day in 1925
August 31, 2010

New restoration of Pandora's Box announced
September 8, 2010

The Curious Case of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
September 13, 2010

Rufus Wainwright talks about Louise Brooks
August 8, 2010

Valeska Gert rediscovered
September 17, 2010

A Beggars of Life revival
September 21, 2010

The Diary of a Lost Girl: A brief history of a banned book
September 25, 2010

Kevin Brownlow talks about archives and Louise Brooks
September 29, 2010

Who was Margarete Bohme?
September 30, 2010

Louise Brooks’ private journals to be revealed
October 2, 2010

Louise Brooks letters revealed in Dear Stinkpot
October 16, 2010

Rare documentary part of Louise Brooks celebration
October 27, 2010

Louise Brooks films celebrated in Paris
December 23, 2010

Beggars of Life, by Jim Tully, back in print
December 29, 2010

Louise Brooks & Bruz Fletcher: Camped, Tramped, Riotous Vamps
December 16, 2010

A Girl in Every Port set to screen at BFI in January
November 30, 2010

Remembering Richard Leacock
March 29, 2011

Louise Brooks film featured at Toronto Silent Film Festival
April 3, 2011

Remembering Theodore Roszak
July 9, 2011

New Lou Reed - Metallica album inspired by Lulu plays
September 22, 2011

Pandora's Box to screen in Dubai
November 20, 2011

Rolled Stockings screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas dies at age 111
January 7, 2012

Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life in New York
February 17, 2012

Louise Brooks' film debut screens in Syracuse
March 12, 2012

Pandora's Box in America - A Brief History
March 25, 2012

Louise Brooks stars in Montreal Film Series
May 21, 2012

Laura Moriarty talks about Louise Brooks and her new novel, The Chaperone
June 6, 2012

Rare screening of Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté
June 23, 2012

Sid Kay's Fellows - Music in Pandora's Box
July 5, 2012

Pandora's Box shows twice on July 14, in Chicago and San Francisco
July 11, 2012

Louise Brooks and The New Woman in Film
September 29, 2012

Louise Brooks film screens at Andy Warhol Museum
October 30, 2012

Louise Brooks and Downton Abbey
January 27, 2013

Louise Brooks stars in new music videos
May 19, 2013

Interview with British musician Stephen Horne
July 12, 2013

Beggars of Life with Louise Brooks in England and Italy
October 6, 2013

Louise Brooks, a magnet of meaning, more popular than ever
November 14, 2013

Pandora's Box with Louise Brooks shows in Seattle and Toronto
January 22, 2014

Nominate a Louise Brooks film for the National Film Registry
February 17, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

The 19th San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The 19th San Francisco Silent Film Festival

May 29–June 1, 2014
Castro Theatre, San Francisco

  True art transcends time.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2, 2014 – Live cinema takes the spotlight at the 19th San Francisco Silent Festival from May 29th through June 1st at the Castro Theatre. For information, please visit

From iconic silent film actors to fantastic restorations, the lineup for this year spans the globe to bring an outstanding mix of classic film from this golden age of movies – all accompanied by live music. Here are some highlights from this year’s stellar lineup:

The film that made Rudolph Valentino a star and brought director Rex Ingram to prominence, Four Horsemen is one of the greatest of the Great War chronicles. Valentino brought a new kind of leading man to the screen in the role of Julio Desnoyers: the Latin lover. Desnoyers is the favorite grandson of a wealthy Argentinean rancher, who spoils the boy. After his grandfather’s death, Julio moves to France, falls in love with a married woman (Alice Terry) and is finally shamed into joining the army. Based on the best-selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and adapted for screen by June Mathis, Four Horsemen was among the biggest box office hits of the silent era, premiering in March 1921 to great critical acclaim. The film was re-released in a shortened version in 1926, the year Valentino died, and was seen in that truncated form until Kevin Brownlow and David Gill undertook a restoration in the early 1990s. Brownlow and Gill returned the film to its original length with its original color tints, as well as restoring the famous tango to its scintillating splendor. SF Silent’s presentation commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War I, as well as the 25th anniversary of the accompanying ensemble—who started life as a Ragtime and Tango Orchestra. Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (9:15 p.m., Thursday May 29) An opening night party will follow the screening at the top floor loft of the historic McRoskey Mattress Company Building (1687 Market Street in San Francisco) with party food by Bartavelle and Poesia.

Cinema legend Buster Keaton stars and co-directs this brilliant comedy with Donald Crisp. As his fourth feature film, Keaton stars as a wealthy man who tries to win the heart of Kathryn McGuire only to end up adrift at sea. THE NAVIGATOR is a wonderful feat of filmmaking, complete with elaborate stunts and an amazing underwater sequence. The film was a critical success at the time and was one of Keaton’s favorites. Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble (9 p.m., Sunday June 1st)

The Silent Film Festival continues their AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES program with a three behind-the-scenes presentations. The first presentation features Bryony Dixon, the British Film Institute’s Curator of Silent Film. Dixon will present early innovative nature films preserved by the BFI National Archive. Daniel Streible, Founder and Director of the Orphan Film Symposium, takes an in-depth look at the iconic snippet of film known as FRED OTT’S SNEEZE, which had been missing almost half of the frames shot in 1894. Finally, Craig Barron (Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor) and Ben Burtt (Academy Award-winning sound designer) explore the technical effects Charlie Chaplin used in his legendary films. From matte shots to sound effects to miniatures, Barron and Burtt’s presentation shows how Chaplin adapted new technology to his process via behind-the-scenes stills and film clips. The event is free. Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne on piano (10 a.m., Friday May 30)

The Soviet Union was serious about its science fiction, bringing in rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky as a technical consultant on Cosmic Voyage. Tsiolkovsky designed miniatures for this big budget project that enjoyed the full backing of the Communist Youth League. A trip to the moon, what better way to inspire the youth of a nation! Set in 1946 (a mere 10 years away!), Cosmic Voyage portrays the Soviet space program fractured by warring factions—those who want to play it safe and those who are eager to go to the moon. Professor Sedikh (of the pro-moon-trip faction) is considered too old to lead the first manned moon flight, but he and his assistant Marina elude the naysayers and blast off on their mission, aided by a boy scout (Andryusha) and a fluffy Cat. Cosmic Voyage is a wonderful adventure with hilarious subplots and remarkably sound science. In fact, the film is visionary in its relevance to real-life developments in space exploration. Cosmic Voyage had a brief release in early 1936 before Soviet censors took it out of release. Scenes of cosmonauts hopping across the low-gravity lunar surface didn’t fit with their ideal of socialist realism. Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius, as Silent Movie Music Company (10 p.m., Friday May 30)

DRAGNET GIRL (Japan, 1933)
Best known for his gentle family comedies and dramas, Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu also made three silent gangster films. Dragnet Girl, the last and best of them, stars future Mizoguchi muse Kinuyo Tanaka as a typist by day, and gun-toting gangster’s moll by night. As her ex-boxer lover, Joji Oka matches her tough bravado. Ozu, a fan of American films, pays stylish homage to the genre, filling the frame with Hollywood-style décor and costumes, moody lighting and noir shadows. The sets and cinematography were reportedly influenced by the work of Joseph von Sternberg. Not typical Ozu, but a surprising, delightful anomaly. Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald on piano (12 p.m., Sunday June 1)

Douglas Fairbanks is producer, writer, and star of this silent western directed by Allan Dwan and photographed by Victor Fleming. Fairbanks stars as the character Passin’ Through, a Robin Hood-like bandit who robs from the rich to aid unwanted children. The film also stars Bessie Love and Pomeroy Cannon and was beautifully photographed in picturesque Tucson. THE GOOD BAD MAN was thought to be lost for many years, but materials were found and restored by the SFSFF’s Tracey Goessel and Rob Byrne for the World Premiere screening at the festival. Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin on piano (10 a.m., Saturday May 31)

This extraordinary documentary is the official film record, shot by Captain John Noel, of the third British expedition to attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest peak. We begin with the large contingent of men, animals and equipment gathered to journey across the Tibetan Plateau towards Everest. En route the film records some of the earliest images of the Tibetan people and their culture and when the camera can go no further on the slopes of Everest, a specially designed telephoto lens records the final attempts of climbers Mallory and Irvine to reach the summit. Noel’s film served both as an absorbing documentary of an extraordinary journey into the interior of Tibet and as a memorial to a tragedy. The loss of Mallory and Irvine turned the failed expedition into one of the 20th century’s most compelling mysteries. Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne on piano and Frank Bockius on Tibetan bells (2 p.m., Saturday May 31)

THE GIRL IN TAILS (Sweden, 1926)
A fizzy comedy that makes some serious feminist points, The Girl in Tails was directed by forgotten multi-hyphenate Swedish director Karin Swanström. The film is based on one of a series of novels satirizing small-town life by one of Sweden’s leading early 20th writers. Katja (Magda Holm) wants a new dress for her graduation dance, but her father won’t buy her one. So Katja dresses up in her brother’s tuxedo and attends the dance, smoking cigars, drinking brandy, and shocking the locals. Director Swanström gives herself a juicy role as a formidable dowager who is the town’s leading citizen. Today, Swanström is a footnote in film history, a studio talent scout who is sometimes credited with discovering Ingrid Bergman. But during the 1920s and ’30s, Swanström—a character actress, director and studio executive—was one of the most powerful people in the Swedish film industry. Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2:30 p.m., Sunday, June 1)

RAMONA (USA, 1928)
Edwin Carewe directed the 1928 version of what had by then proven a durable story, filmed twice previously (and at least once subsequently). Adapted from Helen Hunt Jackson’s hugely popular 1884 novel, RAMONA’s narrative is set in early California where powerful rancher Señora Moreno (Vera Lewis) is raising the mixed-race orphan Ramona (Dolores del Rio) along with her own son Felipe. Ramona falls in love with Alessandro (Warner Baxter), a Temecula Indian who works at the ranch. Defying Señora Moreno, Ramona elopes with Alessandro, and starts a new life embracing her Indian heritage. But her new family endures tragedy and persecution in an age that held little tolerance for Native Americans. Director Carewe, himself of Chickasaw descent (a very rare thing in Hollywood), represented a felicitous match for the material and a sensitive interpreter of the action. Also inspired was the choice of Dolores del Rio as the star of the 1928 version, being herself a proud Mexican actress who famously declined to be identified as “Spanish” during her career. Thought lost for many years, RAMONA was restored from a surviving print discovered in the Czech National Archive in 2010.
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (7:30 p.m., Friday May 30)

Tickets Information, Festival Dates and Public Contact Numbers
The 19th San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place May 29-June 1 at the historic Castro Theatre. For the complete lineup of films and to purchase tickets and festival passes, go to Festival passes are available for sale in person with no fee at McRoskey Mattress Company (1687 Market Street at Gough, SF).

For more information, visit the SFSFF website at
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