Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beggars of Life & Locomotive 102

Philip Vorwald's guest blog concerns the 1928 Louise Brooks film Beggars of Life and it's unlikely star Locomotive 102.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A new song tribute to Louise Brooks

Here is a new song tribute to Louise Brooks, by Champ Clark, as performed by Warren Davis. To my untrained ears, this has a bit of Leonard Cohen and a bit of Tom Waits about it, though more tenderly tender. I like it.

This track is one of a number from the Picture Show: The Dustbowl Carnival Songs of Champ Clark as Reimagined by His Friends album (link to iTunes). Among the other tracks is "Buster Keaton's Blues," "The Crooner," and "The Boyish Bob and the Drugstore Cowboy."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Marion Davies Kickstarter for Beauty's Worth

I adore Marion Davies. Don't you? I must admit, Show People is one of my favorite silent films (along with each of Louise Brooks' silent films, of course).

Here is another worthwhile Kickstarter project: to buy, edit, and score the 1922 Marion Davies' film, Beauty's Worth, and get it back into circulation. I have contributed to past campaigns for reviving rare Davies films, and would like to encourage everyone to do so. And, knowing how much Brooks loved watching old films and appreciated knowing Davies ever so long ago, I think she would have donated to this project. Don't you?

This project is to fund the purchase of a 35MM print of Beauty's Worth (1922) from the Library of Congress, edit the film, and add a professional music score. The film is in the public domain and is one of hundreds of silent films preserved in archives or in private collections, unseen by the vast majority of film buffs and historians. More information HERE.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies

Did you know that Laurel & Hardy are pictured on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, and that Paul McCartney gave Oliver Hardy a shout-out on his hit single, “Junior’s Farm.”  What’s more, actor Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) is a passionate and knowledgeable Laurel & Hardy buff, and so is John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who wrote about the comedians in his autobiography. And so was the singer / songwriter Harry Nilsson, whose lyrics referenced the duo. Famed critic Kenneth Tynan thought they influenced Samuel Beckett.

Among other prominent fans were Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. The late President once sent Stan Laurel an autographed photograph; Laurel hadn't asked for it, it "just came in the mail one day." Other devotees include Dick Cavett, Marcel Marceau, Peter Sellers, and Johnny Carson—each of whom visited Laurel late in his life. Add to this roster the singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, comedians Jerry Lewis and Ricky Gervais, and the legendary Dick Van Dyke. There are others. In fact, famous or not, Laurel and Hardy fans are legion.

There is an international Laurel & Hardy society called the Sons of the Desert (the name is taken from one of their films) which is devoted to keeping Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy before the public, and to have a good time doing it. At last count, there are some 100 chapters of the Sons of the Desert all around the world, with many members in each chapter.

One of Laurel & Hardy’s most devoted fans / buff / scholar is entertainment historian Randy Skretvedt, author of the recently published Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies (Bonaventure Press). This detailed account of how the beloved comedy team made their many classic films is also an impressive 632 page, 8.5” by 11” hardcover work which stands as one of the most comprehensive books ever issued on any actor or team. And by the way, it’s about 1.5” thick and weighs nearly six pounds.

When Skretvedt’s book was first published in 1987, it was hailed by Kirkus Reviews as the “best book on Laurel and Hardy ever assembled,” and by the New York Times as “exhaustively researched.” But as someone once said, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Over the last 20-plus years, Skretvedt has worked hard to compile an “ultimate edition” of this labor of love, with twice the text and four times as many photos. With this new edition, he has succeeded, brilliantly.

The text of this new edition is based on interviews done in the 1970s and early 1980s with 65 of Laurel & Hardy's associates (including legendary producer Hal Roach), as well as scripts, studio files, and vintage newspaper and magazine clippings. The amount of detail is impressive. There is full cast and credit information for each film, details about the locations where the team filmed many of their most famous scenes, along with detailed accounts of unused scenes culled from original scripts.

There is also a who’s who of regular supporting players such as Mae Busch, Edgar Kennedy, and Thelma Todd, collaborators like Harry Langdon, and directors such as Clyde Bruckman, Leo McCarey, Malcolm St. Clair (The Show-Off and The Canary Murder Case), and George Stevens. And, there is information on the Laurel & Hardy films which are still missing, as well as a section about the short subjects created for TV (where many of us, no doubt, first encountered this unlikely pair).

Most impressively, there are now 1,000 photographs in this wholly revised and greatly expanded new edition of Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies. Close to 800 of the images are new, among them many never-before-published, including one-of-a-kind pictures from Oliver Hardy’s personal collection.

The joy in reading this book is found in the often surprising detail. Like the fact that sultry Jean Harlow had a small role in the Laurel & Hardy short Double Whoopee (1929) as well as two other films early in her career. And so did Peter Cushing, who had a role in A Chump at Oxford (1939) well before becoming a star in the Hammer horror films. Others who appeared in the comedy team’s 107 films (that’s 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, 23 full-length feature films, and 12 guest or cameo appearances) include everyone from cross-eyed actor Ben Turpin to the Mexican spitfire Lupe Vélez.

And did you know that Fay Lanphier, the 1925 Miss America who was named the 1926 Queen of the Tournament of Roses Parade (the only person to hold both titles simultaneously) appeared in only one other film besides The American Venus (1926), the Laurel & Hardy short, Flying Elephants (1927)? The delight is in the details.

Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies also pays special attention to the music behind the movies, with comprehensive information on the musical scores of each film, including the titles of all cues and names of composers. For example, the duo's famous signature tune, known variously as “The Cuckoo Song” or "The Dance of the Cuckoos," was composed by Hal Roach musical director Marvin Hatley as the on-the-hour chime for the Roach studio radio station. As noted in Skretvedt’s book, Laurel heard the tune, and asked if they could use it as their theme song. And the rest, as they say, is musical history. Until… a compilation of music from their films, titled Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was released in 1975. It's title track was released as a single in the UK and reached #2 in the charts.

This edition, Skretvedt thinks, is the third and last. Aside from some minor corrections in a future soft cover edition, Skretvedt feels he has done as much as he can on the subject. As Oliver Hardy once said in a film, "A task slowly done is surely done." Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies, which blends fandom with scholarship, is a surely done, monumental achievement. If you love Stan and Ollie, this is it.

A variant of this piece first appeared in the Huffington Post

Friday, November 25, 2016

Louise Brooks Society wishlist

In case you are wondering, or even worried, what you might give the Louise Brooks Society this holiday season, wonder or worry no more.

The Louise Brooks Society has created a wish list on which can be found HERE. It contains a handful of books, compact discs, and DVDs of interest to the LBS.

And what's more, RadioLulu also has a wish list made up of CDs and digital music which the LBS is interested in obtaining for possible inclusion on it's streaming music station. The RadioLulu wish list can be found HERE.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

San Francisco Day of Silents on December 3

On Saturday, December 3rd, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents "A Day of Silents," a day-long six program event showcasing great directors, great performances and great films.  With so many festivals devoted to so many different aspects of the cinema, festivals goers in San Francisco are fortunate to take in movies one may have only heard or read about. And not just that: at this event one can experience films on the “big screen” with live musical accompaniment in the confines of a historic movie theater, the Castro, which dates to the time these films were first released.

This year, this now annual event presents a Jazz Age gem by the great Ernst Lubitsch, the first full-length feature by legendary director Sergei Eisenstein, the oldest surviving film with a homosexual protagonist, a classic by Josef von Sternberg which features a performance by the winner of the first-ever Best Actor Oscar, and more—including three short films by Charlie Chaplin made here in the San Francisco Bay Area!

And what’s more, each film features live musical accompaniment by either favorites Donald Sosin or the Alloy Orchestra. For complete details and tickets, visit Here is the line-up of films for the day.

Chaplin at Essanay — 10:00 AM (84 min)

Charlie Chaplin signed with the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in late 1914 after making a name for himself at Keystone. It was at Essanay that Chaplin was able to develop as a filmmaker—where he became truly "Chaplinesque." This program features three short films that chart this development, all from 1915. His New Job is Chaplin’s first title at Essanay and it has the Tramp working behind the scenes at a film studio. In The Champion, the Tramp wins a championship fight with the help of his pet bulldog. Chaplin plays dual roles in the hilarious A Night in the Snow—as Mr. Pest in the orchestra seats and Mr. Rowdy in the peanut gallery.

Restorations by the Chaplin Project (led by Lobster Films and Cineteca di Bologna). DCP from Lobster Films. Copresented by Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and the Exploratorium.

So This Is Paris — 12:15 PM (68 min)

 Ernst Lubitsch’s fabled "touch" is on full display in this Jazz Age gem, as married couples (Monte Blue and Patsy Ruth Miller, Lilyan Tashman and George Beranger) find their attentions straying to the opposite’s spouse. The ecstatic Charleston dance number seen in the film is justly famous, with its swirling camera and dizzying optics adding to the film’s feeling of seductive intoxication. 

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin: Restored 35mm print from the Library of Congress. Copresented by the Art Deco Society of California.

Strike (Stachka) — 2:15 PM (94 min)

Legendary director Sergei Eisenstein’s first full-length feature, Strike tells the story of a massive factory uprising in six powerful episodes. Cinematographer Eduard Tisse’s brilliant camerawork gives a semi-documentary feel to the striking workers and their suppression by the czarist factory owners and police. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, Eisenstein’s dazzling montage is a riveting display of revolutionary filmmaking that changed the face of cinema forever.

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra: 35mm print from the George Eastman Museum. Copresented by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern) — 4:45 PM (74 min)

Thought to be the oldest surviving film with a homosexual protagonist, Different from the Others was recently restored by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Directed by Richard Oswald and co-written by famed psychologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the film tells a devastating story of queer life under Paragraph 175, the 1871 German law criminalizing homosexuality. Young virtuoso Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz) approaches acclaimed violinist Paul Körner (Conrad Veidt, of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari fame) with the hope of becoming his student in early-1900s Germany. Paul agrees to take Kurt under his tutelage, which quickly blossoms into affection, but their relationship is thwarted when a blackmailer threatens to reveal Körner’s homosexuality.

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin: Restored 35mm print from the UCLA Film and Television Archive (50 m.) Different from the Others will be preceded by preserved newsreels from UCLA: Flashes of the Past: A review of historic events from 1910 to 1925 / Pathé Exchange, Inc. (24 m.) Introduced by Des Buford, Frameline's director of exhibition & programming. Copresented by Frameline and Goethe-Institut/Berlin & Beyond

The Last Command — 7:00 PM (88 min)

Emil Jannings won the first-ever Best Actor Oscar for his nuanced portrayal of an exiled Russian general turned Hollywood extra. Movie director Lev Andreyev (William Powell), a former Russian revolutionary, is making a Hollywood epic about the Russian revolution when he recognizes his czarist foe—now going by the name Grand Duke Sergius Alexander—in a book of headshots and casts the destitute extra as a general in his movie. Josef von Sternberg’s stunningly photographed The Last Command displays an insider’s look at life and work in Hollywood. Bay Area academic and author Anton Kaes wrote that the “underlying project” of the movie was “to probe the magic and mystery—and perils—of double identities inherent in the very nature of film acting."

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra: 35mm print from Paramount Pictures. Copresented by the San Francisco Film Society.

Sadie Thompson — 9:15 PM (97 min)

This first version of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Rain stars Gloria Swanson as San Francisco prostitute Sadie Thompson who’s waylaid on the remote tropical island Pago Pago with a sexy sergeant (Raoul Walsh) and a crusading moralist (Lionel Barrymore). The film project was beset by problems from the beginning—the censors were dubious and the studios were reluctant. It was Swanson’s perseverance that won the day. She negotiated with the censors, put up $200,000 of her own money, and handpicked the cast. The film marks Swanson’s greatest performance, and happily for all, it was an enormous success at the box office. Sadly, the last reel of the film is missing. The search is on, but in the meantime the film’s end has been reconstructed with production stills and footage from a 1932 adaptation. Dennis Doros reconstructed the missing reel, and Kino Lorber funded the reconstruction.

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Introduced by Swanson’s step-son Bevan Dufty, who was recently elected to the BART Board of Directors, District 9: 35mm print from Kino Lorber.   Copresented by California Film Institute.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

L.A.'s Legendary Restaurants: Celebrating the Famous Places Where Hollywood Ate, Drank, and Played

For a few years at the time in the 1920s and 1930s, Louise Brooks lived in Los Angeles. And, like other residents and celebrities, she frequented the city's various restaurants and nightclubs.

A swell new book from Santa Monica Press, L.A.'s Legendary Restaurants: Celebrating the Famous Places Where Hollywood Ate, Drank, and Played, by George Geary, gives some sense of what it would have been like to dine out in golden age Hollywood.

From the publisher: "L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants is an illustrated history of dozens of landmark eateries from throughout the City of Angels. From such classics as the Musso & Frank Grill and the Brown Derby in the 1920s, to the see-and-be-seen crowds at Chasen’s, Romanoff’s, and Ciro’s in the mid-twentieth century, to the dawn of California cuisine at Ma Maison and Spago Sunset in the 1970s and ’80s, L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants celebrates the famous locations where Hollywood ate, drank, and played.

Award-winning chef, best-selling author, and renowned educator George Geary leads you on a tour of these glamorous restaurants through a lively narrative filled with colorful anecdotes and illustrated with vintage photographs, historic menus, and timeless ephemera. Over 100 iconic recipes for entrées, appetizers, desserts, and classic drinks are included, and all have been updated by Chef Geary for today’s cook and kitchen.

L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants is sprinkled with fun facts and trivia, from Elizabeth Taylor’s craving for Chasen’s chili on the set of Cleopatra, to Bob Hope’s favorite place to enjoy a hot fudge sundae after the Academy Awards, to the restaurant where a table was sawed off to accommodate a pregnant Lana Turner, to the soda fountain counter where composer Harold Arlen wrote “Over the Rainbow” for The Wizard of Oz.

The book runs the gamut of L.A.’s restaurant scene, covering not only the fashionable, high-priced eateries favored by the Hollywood cognoscenti, but also the drive-ins, drugstores, nightclubs, and bars frequented by the average Angeleno. What book on L.A. restaurants would be complete without tales of ice cream sundaes at C. C. Brown’s, cafeteria-style meals at Clifton’s, late-night breakfasts at Ben Frank’s, or mai tais at Don the Beachcomber?

Most of the locations in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants no longer exist, but George Geary has brought their memories back to life. And with Chef Geary’s updated recipes, we can still enjoy many of the same iconic dishes that kept customers coming back to their favorite haunts again and again."

The book is organized by when each restaurant was in business. (A few still are.) Early film buffs will enjoy the images of movie stars likeCharlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis, Norma Shearer, Thelma Todd, Constance Bennett, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, and the Marx Brothers as they ate out at the Pig 'n Whistle, Brown Derby, Musso and Franks, Romanoff's, Clifton's Cafeteria, Schwab's Pharmacy and elsewhere.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Follow the Louise Brooks Society on Twitter

Do you follow the Louise Brooks Society on Twitter? If not, you should! The LBS ( @LB_Society ) has been on the popular social media platform since 2009. In fact, the LBS is followed by more than 4,200+ fans and other interested individuals (including a few famous names).

And while you're at it, be sure and check out the LBS Twitter profile, and the more than 5,000 LBS tweets ... so far! 


Friday, November 18, 2016

Happy Birthday to Fave Rave Bruce Conner

Bruce Conner was born on this day in 1933 in McPherson, Kansas, and raised in Wichita, Kansas.

This great American artist, who passed away in 2008, is still renowned for his work in painting, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, collage, photography, and performance, among other disciplines. Though primarily a visual artist, Conner is perhaps best known for his work as a film maker. His short 16mm and 35mm experimental films like “Report” (1963-1967), “Breakaway” (1966), and “Crossroads” (1976) are each a mini tour-de-force. And so is his first work in the field, a 16mm non-narrative short titled “A Movie” (1958). In 1991, it was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Conner is currently the subject of a major retrospective exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (through January 22, 2017). The exhibit, "Bruce Conner: It's All True," opened at the New York Museum of Modern Art, where it received a rave review in the New York Times, which called it an "extravaganza" and "a massive tribute." Times critic Roberta Smith called Conner a "polymathic nonconformist" who was "one of the great outliers of American Art" and who "fearlessly evolved into one of America’s first thoroughly multidisciplinary artists."

After having seen the exhibit in San Francisco, I wrote about it in the Huffington Post.

It's worth noting that Conner had a not uncritical nostalgic affection for old Hollywood. He obliquely appropriated imagery and themes from pulp and pop culture. Witness the works in "Bruce Conner: It's All True" with titles like "St. Valentine's Day Massacre / Homage to Errol Flynn" (1960), “Homage to Mae West” (1961), “Homage to Jean Harlow” (1963), and "Son of the Sheik" (1963), as well as others not includes in this retrospective. Granted, these works are not "about" the movie stars or films they reference, but that doesn't mean they are not an intentional oblique nod.

Conner also had a lifelong interest in his fellow Kansan, Louise Brooks. On more than one occasion, he told me so. They both grew up in Wichita. Conner was also familiar with the biography of the actress by Barry Paris.

Back in 1997, I mounted a small exhibit about Louise Brooks at a small neighborhood cafe here in San Francisco. Conner, who lived in the next neighborhood over, read about it in the local paper and visited the exhibit. (So did the artist known as Jess.) Conner must have appreciated my little exhibit, which was made up of film stills, vintage magazine covers, sheet music, and other ephemera I had collected. Conner even wrote a note in the guestbook. I was wowed, and flattered, to say the least, as I had long been interested in Bruce Conner's art. (I can't really fix a date on the beginning of my deep interest in the artist, but it could date to around the time I read Rebecca Solnit's brilliant 1990 book, Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era.) Well, anyways, here is that note.

Sometime later, Conner and I got in touch, at first by phone and then in person. Eventually we met, and he had me over to his San Francisco home, where at his kitchen table and in between phone calls from friends like Dennis Hopper, Conner told me of his "near encounter" with Brooks. Conner also told me of his involvement with early showings of her films in San Francisco. It was information, it seemed to me, he was desirous to pass on.

Their near encounter took place around 1942 (as best I can date it), after Brooks left Hollywood and returned to Wichita, where the one time world famous film star moved back in with her parents. It was not a harmonious scene, as Brooks was flat broke and the world (including gossiping locals) had deemed her a failure. As a former Denishawn dancer and Ziegfeld showgirl, Brooks knew how to move with grace, and so, she opened a dance studio in downtown Wichita in a half-hearted attempt to earn some money. Conner, still just a boy, was aware that a movie star was in town (there were articles in the local paper), and he told me he took to keeping on eye on her dance studio. Conner admitted to spying on the studio, watching Brooks come and go. Conner even drew a map of the area, marking the location of Brooks' studio in the Dockum Building on East Douglas and its relationship to the theaters where Conner would go to the movies.


Conner also told me how, at one point, he wished to take dancing lessons from Brooks, but his parents would not allow it. Conner told me that it was because of Brooks' scandalous reputation, something no doubt talked about by neighbors. If I recall correctly, he also told me that his parents and other neighbors or  friends knew Brooks' and her family, and that this social circle of friends and acquaintances once encountered one another at a Wichita party, and a punch was thrown. Conner himself never got up the nerve to make contact with Brooks, telling how he once almost rang her doorbell.

In 2006, the Louise Brooks centenary was celebrated by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival when they showed a restoration of Louise Brooks' most celebrated film, Pandora's Box. I was asked to introduce the film, and to introduce Bruce Conner; the artist spoke about what the actress meant to him and his near encounter with this singular silent film star. Somewhere, there is video of this occasion at the Castro Theater in San Francisco before a sold-out audience of more than 1400 people. Here, at least, is a photograph.

In a sense, Louise Brooks is one of the great outliers in film history. And her films, like the art of Bruce Conner, has touched many. John Lennon, a kindred spirit to both, once wrote to Conner, “You don’t know me but I know you and you are my fave rave.” Happy birthday Bruce Conner.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Happy birthday Louise Brooks

Happy birthday to Louise Brooks. The silent film actress, Denishawn dancer, and best-selling author of Lulu in Hollywood was born on this day in Cherryvale, Kansas in 1906. She graced this world for 28,758 days.

Brooks' birth even made the Associated Press' Today in History syndicated feature, as seen in the Pattaya Mail, and English Language newspaper from Thailand!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Snapshots from the New Mission theater in San Francisco

My wife and I had a blast at the Alamo Drafthouse / New Mission theater where we saw Diary of a Lost Girl starring Louise Brooks on the big screen. I also signed books and DVDs for new fans of the film. Here are a few snapshots from the evening, which I was told had sold-out!

I love their neon!

Thank you to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival for co-sponsoring this event and for asking me to participate. Thank you Lucy, Peter and Anita.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Today / tonight: Diary of a Lost Girl with Louise Brooks screens in San Francisco

Tonight, in San Francisco, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Cinema will screen the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl. Start time is 7 pm. The event is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

And what's more, yours truly will be there in the theater lobby selling and autographing copies of the Diary of a Lost Girl book and DVD / Blu-ray both before and after the show.

In 2010, I edited, wrote the introduction, and published the "Louise Brooks edition" of The Diary of a Lost Girl, the sensational & controversial 1905 book that was the basis for the 1929 film. My efforts were praised by the likes of Louise Brooks biographer Barry Paris, film historian Leonard Maltin, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle critic Jack Garner, and others. (More info about the book can be found HERE.)

And, last year, in 2015, my audio commentary to the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. My efforts were likewise praised by film historians James L. Neibaur and Glenn Erickson, and critics from DVDtalk,, and elsewhere. I recommend both the book and the movie highly. I hope to see some of you at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Cinema.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Louise Brooks and the New Mission Theater

Tomorrow evening, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Cinema will screen the  Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl. It marks the first time the 1929 film will have been shown at this historic San Francisco theater. It does not, however, mark the first time a Brooks' film will have been shown at the New Mission. (More information about this event can be found HERE.)

From "The Mission Theatre was opened in 1907. It was a narrow theatre on the west side of Mission Street, between 21st Street and 22nd Street. It was renamed Premium Theatre in 1911 and renamed Idle Hour Theatre in mid-1913. In 1916, the architectural firm Reid Brothers reused the original theatre as an entrance lobby to their newly built auditorium of the 1,500-seat New Mission Theatre that sits on Bartlett Alley, behind the Mission Street storefronts. It opened May 6, 1916 with Mary Pickford in Poor Little Peppina....  The entire building was now in a Spanish Colonial Revival style and the auditorium had 1,500 seats, all in the orchestra level. On November 15, 1917, a balcony was added, which was said to have 1,000 seats. In 1918 a 300-seat second balcony was added. In 1932, for the Nasser Brothers circuit, architect Timothy Pflueger transformed the theatre especially the outer lobby, marquee, and 70ft blade sign, into an Art Deco style wonderland with 2,012 seats. After closing as a movie theatre in the 1980’s, the former New Mission Theatre spent the next 25 or so years virtually unaltered as a furniture store."

In 2012, Alamo Drafthouse announced plans to convert the New Mission Theatre into a five auditorium dinner & drinks cinema. A few years later, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Cinema opened, on December 17, 2015, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As can be seen above, in the 1920s the New Mission was part of a thriving Mission street theater district. The New Mission was a popular "neighborhood theater," showing second run fair for a couple of days at a time, especially Paramount films.

The New Mission (and its sister theater, the New Fillmore) had a relationship with Paramount, and that's why so many of Brooks' films showed at the two theaters. In fact, the only two of her Paramount films which didn't show at the New Mission were The City Gone Wild (1927) and The Canary Murder Case (1929). One other Brooks' silent which didn't show there was Just Another Blonde, a First National release. Here is which Brooks films showed at the New Mission and when it showed.

The Street of Forgotten Men
New Mission in San Francisco (Oct. 12-14, 1925)

The American Venus
New Mission in San Francisco (May 27-28, 1926)

A Social Celebrity
New Mission in San Francisco (July 3-4, 1926)

It’s the Old Army Game
New Mission in San Francisco (Sept. 4-5, 1926)

The Show-Off
New Mission in San Francisco (Oct. 23-24, 1926)

Love Em and Leave Em
New Mission in San Francisco (Mar. 12-13, 1927)

Evening Clothes
New Mission in San Francisco (May 16-18, 1927)

Rolled Stockings
New Mission in San Francisco (Dec. 19-21, 1927)

Now We’re in the Air
New Mission in San Francisco (Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 1928)

A Girl in Every Port
New Mission in San Francisco (July 3-5, 1928)

Beggars of Life
New Mission in San Francisco (Jan. 19-20, 1929)

It Pays to Advertise
New Mission in San Francisco (May 14-15, 1931)

When You’re in Love
New Mission in San Francisco (May 11-13, 1937 with Too Many Wives)

Though Diary of a Lost Girl was released in Germany in 1929 and shown all over the world in the early 1930's, the film was not shown in the United States until the mid 1950's. It made its San Francisco Bay Area debut at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley on September 10, 1972, on a bill that included with The Last of the Mohicans and Madame du Barry. [In case you are wondering, Pandora's Box was first shown in the SF Bay Area at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey sometime between Aug. 2 and Aug. 5, 1962, as part of the Peninsula Film Seminar. This historic event was organized by James Card, who attended with film prints in hand. Also in attendance was Pauline Kael, poet Jack Hirschman, and others.]

For the records, here is an exhibition history of Diary of a Lost Girl in the San Francisco Bay Area. Any and all additions and corrections are welcome.

Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (Sept. 10, 1972 with The Last of the Mohicans and Madame du Barry); Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (Feb. 15, 1978); Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley with Hoopla (Apr. 12, 1981); Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (Oct. 12, 1983); Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (Oct. 5, 1985 as part of the series “A Tribute to Louise Brooks (1906-1985)” with Lulu in Berlin); San Francisco Cinematheque at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco (October 2, 1986 with The Dream Screen); Castro in San Francisco (Jan 22, 1987 with Sadie Thompson as part of “Vamps” series); Castro Theater in San Francisco (Nov. 8, 1988); Castro in San Francisco (May 11, 1992 with Pandora’s Box); Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (Nov. 5, 1999 as part of film series “Revivals & Restorations”); Castro in San Francisco (Jan. 14, 2002 American premiere of restored print, as part of the Berlin & Beyond Festival); Jezebel’s Joint in San Francisco (Dec. 8, 2002 as part of SF IndieFest Microcinema); Stanford in Palo Alto (Aug. 4, 2006); Castro Theater (July 17, 2010 as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival); Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library in San Francisco (Nov. 14, 2010); Alamo Drafthouse (Nov. 12, 2016).

Incidentally, I'll be in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission signing Diary of a Lost Girl books and DVD before and after the film. This marks my first appearance at this venue.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Children of Divorce with Clara Bow coming to DVD & Blu-ray

Great news for all you flappers, shebas & sheiks

Almost 15 years after the release of its first publication, Flicker Alley, in partnership with the Blackhawk Films® Collection, is proud to celebrate 50 fully-published titles with the Blu-ray/DVD world premiere of Children of Divorce, starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper.

FormatBlu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition (NTSC)
RegionAll: A,B,C/0
DirectorFrank Lloyd and Josef von Sternberg (uncredited)
FeaturingClara Bow, Gary Cooper, Esther Ralston
ComposersMont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Length71 minutes

More info HERE.

The film begins in an American "divorce colony" in Paris after the First World War, where parents would leave their children for months at a time. Jean, Kitty, and Ted meet there as children and become fast friends. Years later, in America, when wealthy Ted (Gary Cooper) reconnects with Jean (Esther Ralston), the two fall deeply in love, vowing to fulfill a childhood promise to one day marry each other. But true love and the most innocent of plans are no match for the scheming Kitty—played by the original Hollywood “It” girl, Clara Bow—who targets Ted for his fortune. After a night of drunken revelry, Ted wakes up to find he has unwittingly married Kitty. This unfortunate turn of events, however, carries with it the traumatized pasts of the three players, whose views of marriage have been shaped as children of divorce.

Sourced from the original nitrate negative held by the Library of Congress, as well as their 1969 fine grain master, this new restoration of Children of Divorce was scanned in 4K resolution, and represents over 200 hours of laboratory work by the Library of Congress in order to create the best version possible. Though some deterioration remains, this is the first time the film has ever been released on home video, allowing audiences to enjoy a rare viewing of classic performances from two of early cinema’s most recognizable stars.

Flicker Alley is delighted to reach the milestone of its 50th publication with Children of Divorce. This Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition features a new score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and was made possible thanks to the Blackhawk Films® Collection, Paramount Pictures, and the Library of Congress.

This title is currently available for PRE-ORDERS ONLY. If purchased, the item will be shipped on or before the official release date of DECEMBER 6, 2016.

Bonus Materials Include:

    “Clara Bow: Discovering the 'It' Girl” – Narrated by Courtney Love, this hour-long film documents the life of the woman who would become the icon of the flapper era, from her tragic childhood to her tumultuous personal life as Hollywood’s first sex symbol.

    Souvenir Booklet – Featuring rare photographs; an essay by film preservationist and Clara Bow biographer David Stenn; notes on the production of the documentary by producer-director Hugh Munro Neely; and a brief write-up about the music by Rodney Sauer, score compiler and director of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pola Negri: Temptress of Silent Hollywood

Pola Negri is, without doubt, one of the most interesting and (relatively speaking) little appreciated stars of the silent era. She was a major star in the United States in the 1920s, as well as in Europe, where earlier she had risen through the ranks of the Polish and German film industries. In fact, Negri was so big in America (she was both hugely popular, and, she had a BIG personality) that many up and coming stars were compared to her. Negri was sophisticated, worldly, and alluring. Early on, Louise Brooks was once described as a "junior vamp" a la Negri.

I've long been interested in the Polish-born Negri. And my interest was rekindled after having seen a restoration of the Malcom St. Clair directed A Woman of the World (Paramount, 1925), starring Negri, at last year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It was funny and enjoyable, and Negri was simply terrific. I can't wait till the restoration is released on DVD, hopefully sometime soon.

Recently, I finished reading a new book on the actress, Pola Negri: Temptress of Silent Hollywood, by Sergio Delgado. The book was published by McFarland, a long standing publisher of books on the silent film era.

From the publisher: "Femme fatale Pola Negri (1897-1987) was one of the great stars of the silent film era, an actress whose personal story of hardships and successes, loves and tragedies is more compelling than most Hollywood dramas. Yet today she is largely overlooked, her name tarnished by myths and scandals. Taking a fresh look at her life and career, this book debunks the myths and gossip, presenting a candid portrait of one of the silent screen's most sensational leading ladies. Rare photographs are included, along with in-depth discussions of her films."

As it is, Delgado's book serves as an introduction to the actress and her films. And as just that, I enjoyed it. It is a good read. However, all along I was hoping for something more, something more in depth -- especially in regards to Negri's European years.

As the author admits, his sources for Negri's are somewhat problematic: they are the various, publicity-driven movie and fan magazines of the day, like Photoplay, as well as Negri's own book, Memoirs of a Star, which was published in 1970 and was described at the time of its release (as relayed by the author) as "fiction."

Delgado as much as admits these sources are not always to be trusted, but then writes a book based almost exclusively on them. That left me frustrated.

That's why I was left wondering, time and again, where were the Polish or German or French sources? Negri was born and raised in Poland, worked there and in Germany making some of her best and worst movies (including some with Ernst Lubitsch), and later lived on and off in France. Certainly there is a Continental paper trail of some sort? In Pola Negri: Temptress of Silent Hollywood, the European incidents in Negri's life and the films she made in Europe are described almost always through the eyes of the American press, or the star's own "suspect" memoirs.

Pola Negri: Temptress of Silent Hollywood is not a bad book. I enjoyed reading it. And, I suggest you get this book, and check it out on your own. Pola Negri was a fascinating if not temperamental personality, as well as a good actress. That, certainly, comes across in Delgado's new book. Heck, who else can claim or did claim to have had affairs and been engaged to BOTH Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino?

[In the meantime, if you want to learn a little more about Negri, start with her Wikipedia page, or the 1987 obituaries which appeared in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Along with her now out-of-print Memoirs, which were published in 1970, a more recent account of the actress's life can be found in Pola Negri: Hollywood's First Femme Fatale by Mariusz Kotowski. First published in Poland as Pola Negri: Legenda Hollywood in 2011, the book was issued here in the United States by the University Press of Kentucky in 2014.]

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election results at movie theaters in 1928

With the 2016 election upon us, its worth noting that back in 1928 one could go to the movies and be kept informed of election results! This, of course, was long before television, and while radio was still in its infancy.

The 1928 election, which took place on Tuesday, November 6th, pitted industrialist businessman and Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover (a Republican) against New York state governor Al Smith (a Democrat). Hoover won in a landslide; and within a year, the stock market crashed and the economy sank into a depression. But that's getting ahead of the story.

Wanting not to loose anxious patrons who might otherwise stay home to learn election results, movie theaters across the country promised to keep their patrons informed of the results "by wire."  Over the years, I have found a number of newspaper advertisements which promised moviegoers the latest election results if they come to their theater. Simply look for the words "election night" on the following advertisements.

In the first ad below, featuring the Al Jolson film, The Singing Fool, and the Louise Brooks film, Beggars of  Life, the election night announcements reads, "Get national, state, county returns while you enjoy a show in a comfortable seat. Come early -- stay late. Come to either theater for the news first."

Kansas City, Missouri

Scranton, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - with "Special Returns by Post-Gazette wire"

St. Louis, Missouri
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