Sunday, December 31, 2017

Louise Brooks Society: Looking Back at 2017, Looking Forword to 2018

It's been a great year for all things Louise Brooks....

In 2017, fans were gifted with the discovery of a previously lost film, Now We're in the Air. Wow! I must admit, after nearly 25 years of being a Louise Brooks' fan, I thought I would never see the day.... To date, there have been a few screenings of the preserved film, at its premiere at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, at the Library of Congress, and in Pordenone, Italy at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival -- where it proved popular. Fingers-crossed, they may be more next year.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
This year also saw the home video release of what is by consensus Brooks' best American film, Beggars of Life, on DVD / Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. This new release marks the first time this now digitally restored film has ever been released on home video. And it looks great -- so much better than the poor and rather dark version floating around the web! This new release has received many good reviews, and in fact, it has made a few critic's lists of the best new release. If you haven't gotten a copy, do so today!

And that's not all. Also out this year were not one, not two, but three new illustrated books about the actress' films, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film and Now We're in the Air (both Louise Brooks Society publications from PandorasBox Press), as well as Pamela Hutchinson's excellent Pandora's Box (BFI Film Classics).

As well in 2017, there have also been many screenings of Louise Brooks' films, especially Beggars of Life and Pandora's Box, held all around the United States and the world. Notably, as a result of these screenings and the accompanying media interest around the various new releases, the number of readers of this blog has increased steadily. As have the number of people following the Louise Brooks Society on Facebook and Twitter. Louise Brooks is more popular than ever.

Next year promises to be nearly as good a year for all things Louise Brooks. A few screenings have already been announced (watch/follow this blog for announcements), and there is at least one film (It's the Old Army Game, Kino Lorber) coming out on DVD / Blu-ray.  

The Chaperone, which features a young Louise Brooks as a character, is also expected to be released next year (from PBS Masterpiece), as is, hopefully, Charlotte Siller's promising Documentary of a Lost Girl. And that's not all. I am also planning on releasing another book on Louise Brooks, and am working on another. Of late, I've also added a few new pages to the LBS website, and there have been nearly 150 LBS blog posts in 2017.

Who knows what else might pop up next year? It's just around the corner! Happy new year.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

If you are in Brixton, UK for New Year's eve

If you are in Brixton, England for New Year's eve, might we recommend this club with Louise Brooks borrowed imagery . . . . more at

WHITE MINK is the zeitgeist-capturing speakeasy where the sounds and styles of the 1920s and 30s are turned on their head and smuggled into the 21st century.

What started out as a launch party for our compilation CD series; White Mink : Black Cotton (Electro Swing vs Speakeasy Jazz), became the accidental hub of a clubbing scene and subsequently a hot festival circuit attraction. White Mink also runs the regularly sold out Electro Swing nights at London’s Book Club, our own pop-up nights and has hosted stages at dozens of major UK festivals since 2009.
The production company is run by a stylish triumvirate of Nick Hollywood, Chris Tofu and Dan O’Neill. Under the White Mink name they bring together the finest DJs, VJs, live bands, dancers, cabaret and burlesque performers for an unforgettable and unrivaled speakeasy experience.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Beggars of Life screens in Tromsø, Norway on January 20, 2018

Beggars of Life will be shown in Tromsø, Norway on Saturday, January 20, 2018. (Thanx Tim.) This event, sponsored by the Tromsø International Film Festival, is part of the festival's "Special Screenings" series. More information about this event with LIVE music by the Dodge Brothers & Neil Brand can be found HERE.

Nancy (Louise Brooks) kills her abusive stepfather and tries to flee from the law and leave the country. Dressed as a man and accompanied by a vagabond named Jim (Richard Arlen), Nancy heads for Canada. Together they face the harsh reality and struggles of hobo life. Things get dangerous when they encounter a group of ragged and violent drifters led by Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery). In a high-speed runaway drama cutting through the American continent in freight trains and stolen cars, with romantic as well as threatening undertones, three of the great stars of the silent film era give some of their best performances.

BEGGARS OF LIFE is an intense and entertaining story about oppressed and desperate people on a dangerous journey through the dark underworld of pre-depression America. All aspects of his rollercoaster of a story are enhanced by the live soundtrack, composed and performed by skiffle/bluegrass combo The Dodge Brothers, together with silent film pianist Neil Brand.

The Dodge Brothers are renowned for playing the hell out of classic Americana with their exuberant hybrid of country blues, rockabilly, jugband and skiffle. Firmly rooted in these traditions, The Dodge Brothers bring to them a freshness that has feet stomping and hands clapping wherever they go, now also Tromsø.

Neither brothers nor from Dodge City, the band consists of Mike Hammond (lead guitar, lead vocals, banjo), Mark Kermode (bass, harmonica, vocals), Aly Hirji (rhythm guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Alex Hammond (washboard, snare drum, percussion). Cinematic landscapes come to life when this potent musical brew joins forces with virtuous silent film pianist Neil Brand, AKA The Fifth Dodge Brother, a previous guest at Silent Film Days in Tromsø. These musicians and this film can only be described as a match made in heaven. More at

Want to learn more about the film? This Spring saw the release of my new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film (which mentions the Dodge Brothers), and this Summer saw the release of a new DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber. If you haven't secured your own copy of either the book or the DVD / Blu-ray, why not do so today?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pandora's Box screens in Manchester, England on January 28

A 35mm print of Pandora's Box will be shown at HOME in Manchester, England on January 28. This special event will feature live music by Stephen Horne and an introduction by Pamela Hutchinson, author of the terrific new book on the film from BFI Film Classics. More information HERE.

Pandora’s Box Live Accompaniment + Intro

The film will be introduced by Pamela Hutchinson, freelance writer and author of the BFI Film Classics volume on Pandora’s Box and will feature live accompaniment from Stephen Horne, silent film musician and composer.

Film details

One of the masters of early German cinema, G. W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst’s lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora’s Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora’s Box is one of silent cinema’s great masterworks and a testament to Brooks’s dazzling individuality.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

RadioLulu Redux

Did you know that the Louise Brooks Society has its own online radio station? It's called RadioLulu. You can listen to using the Tune-In app, or using Winamp or the Windows Media Player, or, you can even listen via the Tune-In app on ROKU on your TV.

RadioLulu is a Louise Brooks-inspired, silent film-themed internet station streaming music of the 1920s, 1930s, and today. Located on the web at — RadioLulu features vintage and contemporary music related to Louise Brooks as well as the silent and early sound eras. This is music you're not likely to hear anywhere else.

Launched way back in 2002, this unique station now features vintage music from five of Brooks’ films — the haunting themes from Beggars of Life (1928) and Prix de Beauté (1930), as well as musical passages from The Canary Murder Case (1929), Empty Saddles (1936), and Overland Stage Raiders (1938). On RadioLulu, you’ll also hear the familiar “Sidewalks of New York” (which was played on the set of The Street of Forgotten Men), as well as John Philip Sousa’s seldom heard “Atlantic City Beauty Pageant” (which was written for the Miss America contest, as seen in The American Venus).

Vintage recordings by Brooks’ screen co-stars are also featured on RadioLulu. Among them are Adolphe Menjou, Esther Ralston, Dorothy Mackaill, James Hall, Lawrence Gray, Noah Beery, Frank Fay, Joan Blondell, and Buck Jones. There is even a song by Blanche Ring, who appeared in It’s the Old Army Game and was the aunt of Brooks’ first husband, Eddie Sutherland. A few of Brooks’ European co-stars are also represented, among them Siegfried Arno (Pandora’s Box), Kurt Gerron (Diary of a Lost Girl), and Andre Roanne (Prix de Beauté). Each is a rarity. As well, there are vintage tracks associated with Brooks’ brief time with the Ziegfeld Follies, including a handful of recordings by performers who shared the stage with the actress, such as Ethel Shutta, Leon Erroll, and the great W.C. Fields.

RadioLulu includes a number of songs by Brooks’ friends and acquaintances, as well as individuals she worked with over the years. Actress Tallulah Bankhead, chanteuse Lucienne Boyer, torch singer Libby Holman, bandleader Emil Coleman, and nightclub owner Bruz Fletcher can all be heard on RadioLulu. Other tracks associated with the actress and featured on RadioLulu include George Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me” (Brooks knew Gershwin, and this was her favorite Gershwin song), Xavier Cugat’s “Siboney” (recommended by Brooks in her rare booklet, Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing), and two numbers by Sid Kay’s Fellows (the jazz band seen playing in the wedding reception scene in Pandora’s Box).

All together, RadioLulu features more than 850 tracks! Notably, many of them come from rare 78 rpm discs you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else. Of course, there’s Maurice Chevalier’s much-loved “Louise” as well as more than a dozen tracks with Louise, Lulu, or LouLou in the title. Among them is the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks’ recording of “Louise, You Tease,” as well as a number of different recordings of both “Don’t Bring Lulu” and “Lulu’s Back in Town”.

Many contemporary tributes to the actress can also be heard on RadioLulu. These include songs by Natalie Merchant, Rufus Wainwright, Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (OMD), John Zorn, and Soul Coughing. Famed cartoonist Robert Crumb is heard on “Chanson pour Louise Brooks”. And there’s Ross Berkal’s tribute, “MLB (for Louise Brooks).” Berkal, who is mentioned in the Barry Paris biography and is a longtime member of the Louise Brooks Society, was acquainted with the actress later in her life.

Beyond songs related to Louise Brooks, RadioLulu also features hundreds of songs from the 1920s and 1930s (along with a smattering from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s). There is music from the movies aplenty, as well as rare recordings by early Hollywood stars and Jazz Age celebrities. There are tracks by the popular crooners and torch singers of the time, as well as little known numbers by regional dance bands and hotel orchestras. There are also early Broadway show tunes, early European jazz, popular vocal numbers, theme songs, and even a few novelty numbers.

Recordings by early Hollywood figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Lupe Velez, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford are streamed. So are recordings by later stars Buddy Rogers, Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, Paulette Goddard, Barbara Stanwyck, and Dorothy Lamour. A few of the European actors and actresses heard on the station include Brigitte Helm, Camilla Horn, Anny Ondra, Conrad Veidt, Pola Negri, and Marlene Dietrich (notably, her early German-language recordings).

Among others, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell are heard singing the classic “If I Had A Talking Picture Of You,” one of a number of movie-related songs. There’s also “Take Your Girlie to the Movies,” “At the Moving Picture Ball,” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” as well as rare vintage recordings about Chaplin, Garbo, Keaton, Mickey Mouse and Zasu Pitts. Be sure not to miss H. Robinson Cleaver’s “Grace Moore Medley,” Fred Bird & Luigi Bernauer’s “Hallo Hallo Hier Radio,” and Jack Hylton and His Orchestra’s “My brother makes the noises for the talkies.”

What else can be heard on RadioLulu? How about Constance Bennett singing “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” or Alice White & Blanche Sweet singing “There’s A Tear For Every Smile in Hollywood” (from the soundtrack to Showgirl in Hollywood). The Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra performs “The Vamp,” Nate Shilkret plays “Flapperette,” and Marion Harris sings “I’m a Jazz Vampire.” Regulations explaining proper radio station identification are given by none other than Cary Grant, co-star of the 1937 Brooks’ film, When You’re in Love.

RadioLulu features many of the leading stars of the Jazz Age and Depression era—Rudy Vallee, Russ Colombo, Ben Selvin, Fred Waring, Ted Weems, Paul Whiteman, Annette Hanshaw, Helen Kane, Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley, Ruth Etting, Kay Thompson, and Frankie Trumbauer. There are recordings by such famous names as Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Benny Goodman, alongside rarely heard artists like the Eskimo Pie Orchestra and the Brox Sisters, as well as Scrappy Lambert, Fred Elizalde, and Dorothy Dickson! You never know who or what will turn up on this eclectic, always entertaining station.

And that’s not all…. RadioLulu plays Ragtime, swing, standards, and some real hot jazz, including such popular hits as the “Charleston,” “Black Bottom,” and “Varsity Rag.” There are vintage recordings of popular favorites like “Stardust” and “As Time Goes By,” along with great, but little known works like James P. Johnson’s “You’ve Got to be Modernistic.” By the way, the single longest track is George Jessel’s spoken word history “The Roaring Twenties 1920-1929.”

Among the unusual European numbers on RadioLulu are little heard gems from the 1930s Polish chanteuse Hanka Ordonówna as well as the Gershwin of Czechoslovakia, Jaroslav Jezek; there’s a stirring number by the great British cinema organist Sidney Torch; and even a 1929 recording of the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht singing “Mack the Knife.” Along with lovely favorites by the likes of Josephine Baker, Django Rheinhart, and Mistinguett. Also heard are artist models Suzy Solidor and Kiki of Montparnasse. Both posed for the surrealist photographer Man Ray, an admirer of Louise Brooks.

There is nothing else quite like RadioLulu.

Here are ten vintage RadioLulu tracks you won’t want to miss: “Makin’ Whoopee” by B.A. Rolfe & His Lucky Strike Orchestra, “Runnin’ Wild” by Isabella Patricola, “The Sheik of Araby” by Fats Waller, “My Man” by Fanny Brice, and “Puttin on the Ritz” by Harry Richman, as well as “You Oughta be In Pictures” by Little Jack Little & His Orchestra, “College Rhythm” by Jimmy Grier, “Singin’ In The Rain” by Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike), “Slumming On Park Avenue” by Alice Faye, and “Ramona” by Dolores Del Rio.

And here are ten contemporary RadioLulu tracks you won’t want to miss: “Lulu” by Twiggy (the 1960’s supermodel), “Valentino” by Connie Francis, “Louise” by Eric Clapton, “Weight Lifting Lulu” by The Residents, “Interior Lulu” by Marillion, as well as “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” by Peter Murphy, “I’m In Love With A German Film Star” by The Passions, “Just Like Fred Astaire” by James, “Lulu Land” by Camper van Beethoven, and “Brandenburg Gate” by Lou Reed & Metallica (from their Lulu album).

Over the years, this unique, long running station has gained many fans and listeners. Famed film critic Leonard Maltin once rated it a “Wow.” Likewise, Louise Brooks devotee and celebrated Dr. Who actor Paul McGann called it “incredible.” The Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) has tuned-in on occasion, and told us so. As has the award-winning science fiction writer Richard Kadrey. And would you believe that a retro Spanish pop/swing/rock group named Radio Lulu named themselves after the station?

Music has played a significant role in the life and films of Louise Brooks. That’s why RadioLulu was started, as a means of sharing some of the many rare and related recordings collected by the Louise Brooks Society. Listen today for free by clicking on the widget at the top of the page. Let us know what you like or don’t like, and what you might want to hear. Got something to contribute. We would like to hear about that too.

Louise Brooks listens to RadioLulu. How about you?

Thank you for your interest in Louise Brooks, RadioLulu, and the Louise Brooks Society. Be sure to follow RadioLulu on TWITTER or FACEBOOK. And, for even more fun, visit the LBS account on SOUNDCLOUD for more related audio rarities.

In 2018, the LBS hopes to put together some thematic podcasts featuring material from RadioLulu, as well as material (like classical music) not featured on the streaming station. For example, there is music related to the time Louise Brooks was in Denishawn....

Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy holidays from the Louise Brooks Society

Happy holidays from the Louise Brooks Society,

or in other words, happy Christmas and a merry new year!

Visit the Louise Brooks Society website at

and give a listen to RadioLulu as well!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Louise Brooks Wish List !

If I were to make a Louise Brooks wish list of things I would like in the new year, here is what I would wish for:

1) For someone to find one previously "considered lost" Louise Brooks film. My pick, Rolled Stockings (1927). Why? Because it's the one American film where Louise Brooks was given star billing. And from the stills I have seen, she looks pretty flapper-esque.

2) DVD/Blu-ray release of Prix de beaute (1930), with both the silent and sound versions included. I think such a release would generate considerable interest. Whenever either version is shown, it generates great response.

3) DVD/Blu-ray release of The Street of Forgotten Men (1925). Though Louise Brooks is only in it for about five minutes near the end, it is a terrific, Lon Chaney-esque silent film. I think so. And so does Kevin Brownlow, who has told me he thinks so as well.

4) DVD/Blu-ray release of The Canary Murder Case (1929), with both the silent and sound versions included. Though I've never seen it, I've read that the silent version is considered superior. Why? This was a major release in 1929, and is considered an early modern detective film. And, it features not only Louise Brooks, but also William Powell and Jean Arthur. Those are reasons enough!

5) For someone to find another previously lost Louise Brooks film. My second pick, The City Gone Wild (1927). Why? Because this James Cruze-directed early gangster film shows Brooks in a whole new [dark] light.

If you were to make a Louise Brooks wish list, or a silent film list, what would it include? Post your lists in the comments field below, or email me direct. If there are enough of them, I will post the best wishes next week.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Last minute gift recommendations for the Louise Brooks fan on your holiday shopping list

Here are some last minute gift recommendations for the Louise Brooks & silent film fan on your shopping list

And here are some more recommendations . . . .

And here are just a few more recommendations . . . .

Why not consider these as well . . . .

I promise, this is the last bunch!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Beggars of Life, starring Louise Brooks, screens in Austin, Texas Jan 5-8

The Austin Film Society in Austin, Texas is screening the "newly restored" 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life on Friday January 5th, Saturday, January 6th, and Monday, January 8th. Here is the bit from the society website. More information can be found HERE.

Newly Restored

Directed by William Wellman
USA, 1928, 1h 40min, DCP, Silent with musical score

In this silent film from director William Wellman, Louise Brooks plays a girl on the run who disguises herself as a boy, teams up with a young man (Richard Arlen) and tries to stay one step ahead of trouble.  — Tickets:

It has been a great year for the film Beggars of Life. This Spring saw the release of my new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, and this Summer saw the release of a new DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber. And better yet, each received great reviews! If you haven't secure your own copy of eith the book or the DVD / Blu-ray, why not do so today?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Beggars of Life with Louise Brooks screens in Seattle, Washington on Dec 21

The Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington is screening the "newly restored" 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life on Thursday, December 21 at 7:30 pm. Here is the bit from the film forum website. More information can be found HERE.

Newly Restored

Directed by William Wellman
USA, 1928, 1h 40min, DCP, Silent with musical score

Louise Brooks’s best American film was made shortly before she left for Germany and found everlasting fame in G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Brooks plays a young woman who flees her cruel stepfather and, dressed in boy’s clothing, rides the rails with hobos. Based on the memoirs of rough-and-tumble writer Jim Tully, this long-thought-lost silent classic features an unforgettable turn by Wallace Beery as the hobo Oklahoma Red and dazzling location photography set aboard speeding trains. Featuring a new score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, the new restoration of Beggars of Life is a triumphant resurrection for a classic of the silent era.

It has been a great year for the film Beggars of Life. This Spring saw the release of my new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, and this Summer saw the release of a new DVD / Blu-ray of the film from Kino Lorber. And better yet, each received great reviews! If you haven't secure your own copy of eith the book or the DVD / Blu-ray, why not do so today?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pandora's Box book by Pamela Hutchinson out today in USA

Pamela Hutchinson's new book on the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Pandora's Box (BFI Film Classics) releases today in the USA.

According to the publisher: "Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box, 1929), starring Hollywood icon Louise Brooks, is an established classic of the silent era.

Pamela Hutchinson revisits and challenges many assumptions made about the film, its lead character and its star. Putting the film in historical and contemporary contexts, Hutchinson investigates how the film speaks to new audiences."

To learn more about this book and its author, check out my interview with Pamela Hutchinson on PopMatters, "The BFI Re-Opens Silent Film Pandora's Box."

Or, give a listen to this podcast interview with Pamela by Jose Arroyo.

"A conversation with Pamela Hutchinson on her great new book, as witty as it is informative, Pandora's Box, a BFI film classic. What you hear in the background is the bubbles in a glass of champagne and one can only hope that our chat is as fizzy. The conversation ranges from the film's aesthetic achievements to its continued influence, the appeal of Louise Brooks, what Marlene Dietrich might have done with the part and what the film has to tell us on sexual desire, the options open to women and the prevalence of rape culture then and now. Pandora's Box seems more pertinent than ever and just as powerful and beautiful as it always was. Pamela Hutchinson's book is not just a beautifully written introduction to the film but one which provides new information and enhances our understanding in various ways but does so with great charm and wit."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Best Film Books of 2017: Silent Comedy Edition

No kidding.
There were so many worthwhile film books this year that they necessitated a second piece, a look at new books on early comedy. As was true with this year’s general selection of film books, the best among this early comedy group are biographies, a couple of which break new ground by being the first on their subject or by shining light on otherwise little known aspects of cinema history. There is also a book which will prove handy for those seeking a guided tour of the field. So, without further ado, here they are, the “Best Film Books of 2017: Silent Comedy Edition.”

Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy (BearManor Media) by Steve Massa

One can’t say enough about this book, and that’s why it’s included in this round-up as well as in my earlier piece on the “Best Film Books of 2017.” This book looks at the careers of the many funny ladies of early film—who, compared to their male colleagues, haven’t received the attention they rightly deserve. Besides the better known Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, and Marion Davies, Massa’s book looks at the careers of Flora Finch, Louise Fazenda, Alice Howell, Madge Kennedy, Dorothy Devore, Edna Purviance, Dot Farley, Baby Peggy, Ethel Teare, Merta Sterling and numerous other “droll divas” and “film comedy Eves.” It includes hundreds of rare illustrations, as well as capsule biographies of once famous, now little remembered or wholly forgotten screen comediennes. It also includes a short passage on Louise Brooks and her handful of comedies.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Steve Massa has written a highly recommended book which belongs on the shelves of anyone interested in early film comedy or women’s film history.

Reeder’s impressive, 767 page, heavily detailed book is billed as a “cautionary tale for all aspiring artists whose dreams exceed their grasp.” It tells the story of the otherwise little known actor, screenwriter, producer and director Henry Lehrman, and in doing so sets out to untarnish and restore his reputation in film history. Considered the architect of silent comedy and acknowledged for his absurd, frenetic, gag-filled films, Lehrman helped launch the film career of newcomer Charles Chaplin while both were working for Mack Sennett at Keystone; Lehrman directed a few of Chaplin’s very first shorts in 1914. Early comedy greats Roscoe Arbuckle, Ford Sterling, Mabel Normand and others likewise benefited from his guidance and friendship. By 1919, Lehrman’s rapid rise led to the fulfillment of his dream: complete artistic control in the form of his own, namesake studio. And then it all collapsed. Lehrman’s career hit the skids with the studio’s failure, which was followed by his association with the era’s most notorious scandal—the alleged rape and subsequent death of Lehrman’s fiancé, Virginia Rappe, at the hands of his friend Roscoe Arbuckle. Lehrman kept on working into the 1930’s, but never at the heights he once envisioned—and briefly attained. Along with an extensive filmography, Mr. Suicide: Henry “Pathe” Lehrman and The Birth of Silent Comedy includes a foreword by the legendary Sam Gill and an introduction by equally reputable Steve Massa.

Charlie Chaplin’s Red Letter Days: At Work with the Comic Genius (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) by Fred Goodwins,‎ edited by David James and Dan Kamin

This 300+ page book is made up of a gathering of thirty-five articles, dating from 1915 and 1916 and reproduced here for the first time since, which provide a vivid account of daily goings-on at the Chaplin studio. Their author is Fred Goodwins, a British actor who joined Chaplin’s stock company in early 1915 and began writing short pieces which he submitted to a British magazine, Red Letter.

The articles have been edited by film historian David James and annotated by Chaplin expert Dan Kamin, to which have been added introductory material and rare images. All together, it adds up to a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at a comic genius.This book is highly recommended to the many, many Chaplin fans.

Harry Langdon: King of Silent Comedy (University Press of Kentucky) by Gabriella Oldham and Mabel Langdon,‎ with a Foreword by Harry Langdon Jr.

Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd stand out as the three kings of early comedy. Their prince is Harry Langdon, who parlayed his considerable pantomime talents and remarkable, wide-eyed, childlike face into silent-era stardom in classic films like Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926), The Strong Man (1926), and Long Pants (1927). Each was produced by Langdon, and each was directed by the great Frank Capra. After Langdon fired Capra, Langdon’s popularity dimmed, and his career declined. This biography, which features behind-the-scenes accounts and personal recollections compiled by Langdon’s late wife, provides a considered picture of this multifaceted entertainer—as well as his meteoric rise and fall.

[If you don’t already own a copy, Langdon fans will also want to check out last year’s Nothing on the Stage is Permanent: the Harry Langdon Scrapbook (Walker & Anthony Publications) by Harry Langdon Jr., who provided the foreword to this new book.]

100 Essential Silent Film Comedies (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) by James Roots

Film lovers still remember and laugh at the cinematic clowning of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and Langdon, as well as Laurel & Hardy, Roscoe Arbuckle, Charley Chase and others. In this new book, Roots looks at the major comedies produced in the first three decades of the twentieth century, ranging from brief shorts to epic farces. Each entry includes details on the cast and crew, a synopsis, critical evaluation, and commentary. 100 Essential Silent Film Comedies is a useful book, as is Roots’ 2014 title, The 100 Greatest Silent Film Comedians.

There were a few other notable books on early comedians published this year. Three that caught my attention include Max Linder: Father of Film Comedy (BearManor Media) by Snorre Smári Mathiesen, The Silent Films of Marion Davies (CreateSpace) by Edward Lorusso, and The W.C. Fields Films (McFarland) by James L. Neibaur.

Max Linder was a French comedian and director whose early start made him one of the first international movie stars, even before Charlie Chaplin. Mathiesen, a Norwegian cartoonist and film buff, tells Linder’s tragic story. Marion Davies was a charming and brilliant comedian who produced and starred in two of the great silent films, The Patsy (1928) and Show People (1928), but whose reputation was eclipsed by her longtime relationship with William Randolph Hearst. W. C. Fields got his start during the silent era in films like It’s the Old Army Game (1926), but went on to even greater acclaim in the sound era in films like The Bank Dick (1940) and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). Neibaur’s book surveys his work.

BTW: It's the Old Army Game, which stars W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks, is being released on DVD by Kino Lorber early next year, likely in the Spring, perhaps in March. 

Along with idiosyncratic books on Rudolph Valentino and Lon Chaney, Kevin Scott Collier is an industrious self-published author who has also written and/or compiled short books on a few early comedians. If you are interested, or a complete-ist, then you may want to check out these 2017 Collier titles: Film Comedian John Bunny: Funny Bunny (CreateSpace), Mack Swain: The Ambrose Years (CreateSpace), Billy Dooley: The Misfit Sailor: His Life, Vaudeville Career, Silent Films, Talkies and more! (CreateSpace), and Luther J. Pollard: Ebony Film Corp. (CreateSpace). The latter looks at what has been called the first company to feature an entirely black cast in their films, a string of comedy shorts in 1917 to 1918.

a variant of this article by Thomas Gladysz appeared in the Huffington Post

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Best Film Books of 2017

The better film books, in particular the best biographies and histories, are those works which break new ground, or illuminate some previously little seen aspect of the cinema. This year saw the release of at least five books which do just that—four of them are biographies of important figures which till now have received scant, or insufficient, recognition. (That’s a relative claim, of course.) The other is an exceptional group study which reveals a host of undervalued performers. For movie lovers who like to read up on film history, each of these titles is worth adding to your shelves.

This list of recommended film books compares with last year’s, which was also bountiful and demanded a second take. As a matter of fact, there were so many worthwhile books this year that I am considering a second shortlist, something along the lines of “Best Film Books of 2017: Silent Comedy Edition.” Until then…. Check out these highly recommended titles.

Although a Hollywood studio still bears his name, William Fox has largely been forgotten. Entertainment journalist Vanda Krefft sets the record straight, and in doing so, shows why Fox’s legacy is central to the history of the motion picture and entertainment industries. Like Thomas Edison (with whom he did battle) and Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, Fox was a captain of industry. His improbable rags-to-riches story is told in grand style, but spoiler alert, it’s not a happy ending. Fox would lose it all. At nearly a thousand pages, Krefft’s thoroughly researched, engagingly written book shows this scrappy visionary to be an enabler of the best sort of talent. We have Fox to thank for vamp Theda Bara, cowboy star Tom Mix, directors John Ford and Howard Hawks (the latter the director of the 1928 Louise Brooks film A Girl in Every Port), F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, and so much more.

(For more on Fox’s legacy, see Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment below.)

Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film (University Press of Kentucky) by Alan K. Rode
In this first biography of the Academy Award–winning director Michael Curtiz (1886–1962), film scholar Alan K. Rode takes us through the colorful and sometimes temperamental personal life and magisterial films of a multifaceted overachiever. During his remarkable twenty-seven year tenure at Warner Brothers, Curtiz directed swashbuckling adventures, westerns, war films, gangster films, musicals, historical dramas, horror films, tearjerkers, melodramas, comedies, and even a film noir masterpiece. The director’s staggering output of 180 films surpasses that of John Ford, and exceeds the combined total of films by George Cukor, Howard Hawks, and Victor Fleming! And it wasn’t just quantity—there was quality, aplenty. Curtiz’s best-known efforts include such classics as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945) and White Christmas (1954). I love Captain Blood (1935), Passage to Marseille (1944), and Young Man with a Horn (1950), and have a not-so-secret weakness for one of his lesser films, God’s Gift to Women (1931). On top of all that, the Hungarian-born Curtiz (who worked in Europe before coming to America) co-wrote the screenplay for the first known Dracula film, Drakula Halala (1921)! As Rode shows in this impressive book, Curtiz did it all; Rode has written the definitive biography of a major figure in Hollywood history.

Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy (BearManor Media) by Steve Massa

This book looks at the careers of the funny ladies of early film—who, compared to their male colleagues, haven’t really received the attention they deserve. Besides the better known Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler, or Marion Davies, Massa’s book looks at the careers of Louise Fazenda, Madge Kennedy, Dorothy Devore, Dot Farley, Baby Peggy and numerous other “droll divas.” It includes hundreds of rare illustrations, as well as capsule biographies of once famous, now little remembered or wholly forgotten screen comediennes. There is also a passage on Louise Brooks and the comedic films in which she appeared.

Steve Massa has written a highly recommended book which belongs on the shelves of anyone interested in early film comedy or women’s film history. Oh, and that’s Alice ("she could be Chaplin") Howell on the book’s terrific cover; Howell was described as “the scream of the screen.”

Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood (University Press of Kentucky) by Sherri Snyder
It’s unusual, but not unprecedented for an actor to write a book about another actor. Simon Callow’s epic life of Orson Welles comes to mind, as does Diana Serra Carey’s (Baby Peggy’s) book on Jackie Coogan. Sherri Snyder is a Los Angeles actress who portrays Barbara La Marr in a one-woman performance piece. Having researched her subject, she found the once famous silent film star was far more than just the “girl who was too beautiful” (as she was often described). La Marr was a multitalented woman tortured by adversity who compensated for her troubles in all the wrong ways, especially through drinking and serial relationships. “I take lovers like roses” La Marr once said, “by the dozen.” Few stars have burned as brightly and as briefly as La Marr. With the help of her only child, and drawing on never-before-released documents, Snyder has penned a compelling portrait of a forgotten star.

Ricardo Cortez (1900-1977) was a leading man and later character actor with bedroom eyes and an easy smile. Widely publicized as a “Latin lover” during his rise to fame in the 1920s, Cortez was actually Jacob Krantz, a poor Jewish kid who started out as an amateur boxer and businessman. He enjoyed a long Hollywood career, appearing in Torrent (1926) opposite Greta Garbo in her first American film, a couple of Lon Chaney films, and other notable works directed by the likes of D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. When the talkies came, Cortez transitioned successfully. He was Sam Spade in the first film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1931)—it was just shown on TCM, and would play opposite leading ladies Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, and Bette Davis. With the passing years, Cortez settled into character roles in films like The Case of the Black Cat (1936, as Perry Mason), Charlie Chan in Reno (1939), and Mr. Moto’s Last Warning (1939). His last film was John Ford’s The Last Hurrah (1958). Cortez, who was once married to actress Alma Rubens (1897-1931), was proclaimed cinema’s “magnificent heel.” Find out why in this new book.

Regrettably, I am happy to report that there are even more worthwhile biographies and works of film history than can’t be fully recounted in this article. Nevertheless, here are a few more books readers and film buffs will want to know about.

Sex In the Cinema: The Pre-Code Years (1929-1934) (BearManor Media) by Lou Sabini & Hollywood’s Pre-Code Horrors 1931-1934 (BearManor Media) by Raymond Valinoti Jr.

As the Christian right tries to push the country back to a time which never really existed, it’s worth noting that the movies of their parent’s and grandparent’s time were nearly as lurid as movies today. These two titles shine a spotlight on the Pre-code era, when gangster films, horror films, and social problem films depicted violence, drugs and sex with an honesty and flair which led to censorship (the censors were trying to return America to a time which never really existed).

Among the many films under consideration in these two worthwhile books are Baby Face (1933), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), and Call Her Savage (1932), as well as Freaks (1932), Frankenstein (1931), and Dracula (1931).

Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment (Lyons Press) by Michael Troyan,‎ Jeffrey Paul Thompson,‎ and Stephen X. Sylvester & Paramount: City of Dreams (Taylor Trade Publishing) by Steven Bingen, with Marc Wanamaker

These two studio histories impress. Each book is oversized, detailed, and each is filled with hundreds of seldom seen or never before published images. Both take readers behind the scenes of these two important studios, past the studio gates and onto their historic sound stages, prop rooms, outdoor sets, and backlots. Have a favorite star or film associated with either Fox or Paramount (Louise Brooks' primary studio)? Chances are you will find something you’ve never seen before in one of these recommended new books.

Too Marvelous for Words: The Life and Career of Ruby Keeler (BearManor Media) by Ed Harbur & He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly (University Press of Kentucky ) by Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson

Both of these entertainers were too marvelous for words, and both were among the most beloved of their time. Keeler (who was once married to Al Jolson) was a star of the stage and screen famous for her on-screen coupling with Dick Powell in a string of successful early musicals at Warner Brothers, particularly 42nd Street (1933). Kelly was a dancer, choreographer and actor whose memorable films include Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

More than half a century later, each is still a tonic for trying times.

Silent Films in St. Augustine (University Press of Florida) by Thomas Graham & Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era (Men With Wings Press) by Frank Thompson

Before Hollywood, when America’s emerging motion picture industry was largely based on the East Coast, early film stars like Rudolph Valentino, Ethel Barrymore, Oliver Hardy and Thomas Meighan (the star of The City Gone Wild) made movies in places like St. Augustine, Florida and Asheville, North Carolina. These two books tells the story of the producers, directors, actors and crews who—in search of new locales—escaped New York winters to make movies in the sunny South. This is local film history writ large. (BTW: The 1926 Louise Brooks' film, It's the Old Army Game, was filmed primarily in Ocala, Florida.)

[Here is an earlier write-up on the Louise Brooks Society blog of Frank Thompson's fascinating new book.]

And without going into detail, here are yet a few more interesting, fun and worthwhile books film buffs will want to check out: We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (W. W. Norton & Company) by Noah Isenberg; Pandora’s Box by Pamela Hutchinson (BFI Film Classics); Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio (Yale University Press) by the inestimable David Thomson; Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart (Simon & Schuster) by the equally inestimable Scott Eyman; Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes (Lyons Press) by Stephen X. Sylvester,‎ Mary Mallory,‎ & Donovan Brandt; and not one, but two books on the vivacious star of the 1931 Louise Brooks' film, It's the Old Army Game, Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star (The History Press) by Michelle Morgan, and Screwball: The Life of Carole Lombard (Echo Point Books & Media) by Larry Swindell.

And hot off the press is a new edition of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: The Modern Era.

a variant of this article by Thomas Gladysz appeared on Huffington Post

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A little something about the new Louise Brooks book on Now We're in the Air (1927)

As a few of you may know, I've recently written a new book on the Louise Brooks film Now We're in the Air. Here are links to the book on various sites, which I might suggest, would make the perfect gift for the silent film buff friend or Louise Brooks devotee:

This companion to the once "considered lost" 1927 Louise Brooks' film, Now We’re in the Air, tells the story of the film’s making, its reception, and its discovery by film preservationist Robert Byrne. Also considered is the surprising impact this otherwise little known film has had on Brooks’ life and career. With two rare fictionalizations of the movie story, more than 75 little seen images, detailed credits, trivia, and a foreword by Robert Byrne, the scholar who found the film in Prague, the Czech Republic.

On December 3, 2017, the curiously named Monsieur Chelaine (a personage not known to me) gave the book it's first amazon review, calling my book "The absolute final word on the film from the world's foremost expert on Louise Brooks. Thoroughly researched and expertly written, oh, and did I mention lavishly illustrated? If you love silent film and if you love Louise Brooks (and who doesn't) you really should pick up a copy for your library."

And that's not all. Earlier, a fine fellow named Paul Joyce posted this tweet praising the book. ithankyou Paul.

Now We're in the Air is chock-full of images, including a number that even the most devoted Louise Brooks fan will not have seen, including this rare photo of Brooks' name in lights above a Prague theater in 1929, around the same time that Now We're in the Air was showing in the Czech capitol! (Why Brooks' name was in lights is explained in the book.)

I had a lot of fun writing and compiling this 130 page book. I wanted to thank all those who helped, and did so in my acknowledgements, which I shaped into an airplane.

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