Friday, June 30, 2017

Beggars of Life shows this weekend in Portland, Oregon

Beggars of Life (1928) will be shown twice this weekend in Portland, Oregon. The film will be shown on Saturday and Sunday at the historic Hollywood Theater. HERE are the details.

This month, our Cinema Classics series presents a new digital restoration of the early sound film BEGGARS OF LIFE!  Widely regarded as Louise Brooks’ best film, BEGGARS OF LIFE features a largely silent narrative supplemented with talking sequences and recorded score.  The Sunday screening is free for Hollywood Theatre members!

BEGGARS OF LIFE (1928): After killing her violent stepfather, Nancy (Louise Brooks) tries to evade police and flee the country.  She befriends kindly drifter Jim (Richard Arlen) and, dressed as a boy, rides the rails with him en route to Canada, until an encounter with a rowdy band of hobos led by the blustery Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery) leads to a daring, desperate conflict on top of a moving train.  Based on the memoir of real-life hobo Jim Tully and directed with adventuresome verve by William Wellman, BEGGARS OF LIFE is an essential American original.  Featuring a new original score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
Director: William Wellman
Starring: Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Wallace Beery
Year: 1928
Forma: Digital
Runtim: 100 mins
Assistive Listening: Available

Buy Tickets

Saturday July 01
Sunday July, 02
With this showing, it is a good time to remind folks (especially those who might attend this Pacific Northwest event, that I have just recently authored a new book on this important silent film. The book is called Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film. Get your copy today!

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Book: Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era by Frank Thompson

I want to recommend a new book, Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era, by film historian Frank Thompson. Recently published, this is a work of film history, but more specifically, local film history. In that regard, it is a pioneering work -- as well as interesting, entertaining, thoroughly researched, and briskly written. I recommend it highly.

Back in the silent era, there were a handful of regional centers of film making. Films were made in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as in Chicago, Florida, New Jersey, the San Francisco Bay Area, and elsewhere.** As well, just about every town had it's own film company; these local companies shot not only local events of note (parades, visiting dignitaries, civic anniversaries, etc...), but occasionally, if they were a little more ambitious, a drama which utilized local scenery and landmarks as well as individuals.

In Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era, author and film historian Frank Thompson rediscovers a lost era of North Carolina history. Thompson's new book is the first exploration of the films made in and around Asheville from the earliest actualities in 1900 to the final silent film, We're Careful Now, in 1929. Itinerant movie makers as well as major national film companies such as Edison, Selznick, Vitagraph, Metro, and Paramount found Asheville provided the perfect backdrop to all kinds of films from urban dramas to mountain adventures. One allegorical movie, The Warfare of the Flesh (1917), which survives in very fragmentary form, even recreated Hell in a quarry in near-by Swannanoa.

Of the fifty-plus motion pictures filmed in and around Asheville, only one survives today more or less complete: The Conquest of Canaan (1921), starring Thomas Meighan and Doris Kenyon and filmed almost entirely on the streets of Asheville (see image below). Six silent films made in Asheville between 1916 and 1929 were cast locally. Each were sponsored in part by local newspapers. All these films are missing, and presumed lost. Also lost are nearly all the memories of these important pieces of film history and North Carolina history. Thompson, as a kind of film archeologist, has done a superb job digging up the cinematic history of Asheville and environs.

Actor Thomas Meighan steps off a trolley car in front of the Swannanoa-Berkeley Hotel at 45-47 Biltmore Ave in Asheville. Director R. William Neill stands with his back to us, while Harry Perry cranks the camera. Reflectors were used to coax a little more light onto the star. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Collection, Pack Memorial Library

Some of the other major productions shot in Asheville and documented in this new book include The Foolish Woman (1916), with Clara Kimball Young, The Panther Woman (1918), with Olga Petrova, The Ordeal of Rosetta (1918), with Alice Brady.

As much as Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era is the story of local film history, it is also the story of American film history. So much of what took place in Asheville was also taking place around the country. The book is illustrated with 133 stills, photographs, posters, ads and other imagery, most of which has not been in print for a century and some which have never been published anywhere.

Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era should appeal to those interested in silent film, including fans of Louise Brooks. The star of the most significant film made in Asheville, The Conquest of Canaan, later appeared in the 1927 Brooks' film, The City Gone Wild. And as well, the cinematographer of The Conquest of Canaan was Harry Perry, who shot another 1927 Brooks' film, Now We're in the Air (which included Emile Chautard, who directed The Ordeal of Rosetta). The scenario for The Conquest of Canaan, by the way, was by Frank Tuttle, who directed another Brooks' film, The American Venus, from 1926. I also came across mention of another Brooks' associate, Ruth St. Denis. As skirt dancer Ruth Denis, she appeared in what was likely the first film shown in Asheville, a Kinetoscope made in 1895!

On July 2, The Conquest of Canaan, starring Thomas Meighan and Doris Kenyon, will be screened at Asheville's Grail Moviehouse. It will be introduced by Frank Thompson. 

Thomas Meighan and Doris Kenyon in a scene from The Conquest of Canaan

Asheville Movies Volume 1: The Silent Era will appeal to those interested in silent film, no matter where they live. It is an exemplary book, and one I would love to see others across the country emulate. Thompson’s book is currently being sold in three Asheville locations, the Grail Moviehouse, Battery Park Book Exchange, and Malaprop’s. Copies of Thompson's latest can also be purchased online HERE. Want to find out more, here is a LINK to a review of the book.

** Louise Brooks appeared in films made in and around New York City and Los Angeles, and also went on location to Connecticut and Florida, as well as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Berkeley and Jacumba, California.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Prix de beauté screens in Bologna, Italy

The sensational 1930 Louise Brooks' film, Prix de beauté, will be shown on Sunday, June 25 at the Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy. The silent version of the film will be shown with Italian subtitles, and with musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne. More information and more HERE.

Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 18:15
Augusto Genina


Prix de beauté represents a truly successful mix of the tenants of neorealism and elaborate fantasy (note the names of the screenwriters). Despite unrefined post recording and overacting by Georges Charlia, in standard silent movie fashion, the film is a masterpiece. The ever present documentary style, evident in the scenes of weekend beach resorts and the printer’s work, clashes with two departures from the world of film: Genina’s expert directing on one hand, and the attraction that film holds over the pretty girls uncomfortable in their social milieu on the other. The film emphasizes this with its dirtiness and coarseness (skillfully captured by the camera) that seem to affect the very core of the heroine’s being. The temptation to leave this squalid universe, which is more unhealthy than vulgar (and this is the real subtlety of the film), proves too strong for her. The first suicide attempt is prompted by curiosity; the second by an unbearable contrast between two lifestyles. Death is the end product of this choice. Her lover from the beach ends up shooting her during the projection of the screen tests that would launch Lucienne as the new star. There is nothing more beautiful than the dead face of Louise Brooks illuminated by the flickering lights of the projector as the screen tests end with her singing: “Je n’ai qu’un amour, c’est toi…”. A superb ending that closes an exceptional film, above and beyond the legendary and justifiable attraction that the actress may have exerted over the director. Genina asserts himself not only as a precursor to the Italian school, but also as an immensely talented film author. The most remarkable aspect of his work is his ability to integrate all the elements of a screenplay, fashionably, yet treating them with simplicity: the character of the boyfriend as naive and pleasant; the dangers that threaten the aspiring star in the corrupt environment of cinema, which makes genuine love appear more reassuring and pure by contrast. But no, this is not the case! Genina proves it with his stark style: love and jealousy go hand in hand, gnawing away at the banality of day-to-day, which is no longer sublimated by feelings. The extraordinary beauty of light and the skill and intelligence with which it is used add other noteworthy elements, placing this movie among the most important works of the first years of talkies even though it is a silent film!
Paul Vecchiali, L’Encinéclopédie. Cinéastes ‘français’ des années 1930 et leur œuvre, Éditions de l’Œil, Montreuil 2010

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Augusto Genina, René Clair, Bernard Zimmer, Alessandro De Stefani. Scen.: René Clair, Georg W. Pabst. F.: Rudolf Maté, Louis Née. M.: Edmond T. Gréville. Scgf.: Robert Gys. Mus.: Wolfgang Zeller, René Sylviano, Horace Shepherd. Int.: Louise Brooks (Lucienne Garnier), Georges Charlia (André), Jean Bradin (Adolphe de Grabovsky), Augusto Bandini (Antonin), André Nicolle (segretario di redazione), Yves Glad (maragià), Gaston Jacquet (duca de la Tour Chalgrin), Alex Bernard (fotografo), Marc Zilboulsky (manager). Prod.: Sofar. DCP. D.: 113’. Bn.


Mélange davvero riuscito tra le premesse del neorealismo e una finzione molto elaborata (vedi i nomi degli sceneggiatori). Malgrado una post sincronizzazione approssimativa, e (secondo lo stile del muto) la recitazione caricata di Georges Charlia, questo film è un capolavoro. La visione documentaria, costantemente presente, dai bagni marini della domenica al lavoro dei tipografi, si scontra con una doppia irruzione del cinema: la regia esperta di Genina, da una parte, e dall’altra la fascinazione che esercita la settima arte sulle graziose ragazze a disagio nel loro contesto sociale. Viene sottolineato questo quotidiano dove sporcizia e grossolanità (d’altronde magnificamente fotografate) sembrano colpire l’eroina nel profondo di se stessa. Sarà più forte la tentazione di sottrarsi a questo universo più malsano che volgare (qui risiede la finezza del film) attraverso il suicidio. Una prima volta per curiosità. Una seconda perché il contrasto fra queste due forme di vita è troppo forte. La morte è l’approdo finale di questa scelta. Il suo innamorato della spiaggia arriva a spararle addosso durante la proiezione dei provini che impongono Lucienne quale nuova star. E nulla è più bello del viso morto di Louise Brooks sottomesso ai fremiti delle luci del proiettore mentre terminano i provini dove lei canta: “Je n’ai qu’un amour, c’est toi…”. Superbo finale che chiude un film sempre ispirato, ben al di là dell’attrazione legittima e leggendaria che l’attrice poteva esercitare sul regista. Genina si afferma non solo come un precursore della scuola italiana ma anche come un immenso autore di film. L’aspetto più rimarchevole del suo lavoro consiste nell’aver saputo integrare tutti gli ingredienti di una sceneggiatura ricalcata sulla moda dell’epoca trattandoli con semplicità: personaggio del fidanzato ingenuo e simpatico, pericoli che incombono l’aspirante-vedette nell’ambiente corrotto del cinema davanti al quale l’amore sincero dovrebbe apparire più puro, più rassicurante. Eh no! Non lo è per niente. Genina ce lo mostra nella sua crudele nudità: amore e gelosia vanno di pari passo, erodendo il quotidiano la cui banalità non è quindi più sublimata dai sentimenti. La straordinaria bellezza della luce e l’intelligenza con cui viene usata, aggiungono altri motivi di fascino, innalzando questo film al rango principale delle opere dei primi anni del sonoro, anche se è stato girato nel muto!
Paul Vecchiali, L’Encinéclopédie. Cinéastes ‘français’ des années 1930 et leur œuvre, Éditions de l’Œil, Montreuil 2010

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Augusto Genina, René Clair, Bernard Zimmer, Alessandro De Stefani. Scen.: René Clair, Georg W. Pabst. F.: Rudolf Maté, Louis Née. M.: Edmond T. Gréville. Scgf.: Robert Gys. Mus.: Wolfgang Zeller, René Sylviano, Horace Shepherd. Int.: Louise Brooks (Lucienne Garnier), Georges Charlia (André), Jean Bradin (Adolphe de Grabovsky), Augusto Bandini (Antonin), André Nicolle (segretario di redazione), Yves Glad (maragià), Gaston Jacquet (duca de la Tour Chalgrin), Alex Bernard (fotografo), Marc Zilboulsky (manager). Prod.: Sofar. DCP. D.: 113’. Bn.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Now We're in the Air screens tonight at Library of Congress

Now We're in the Air will be shown tonight at the Library of Congress Packard Campus (19053 Mt Pony Rd., Culpeper, Virginia). Here are at few more details on this late breaking event.

Now We're in the Air & Corporal Kate, tonight @ 7:30

NOW WE’RE IN THE AIR (Paramount, 1927) Louise Brooks appeared in 14 American films during the silent era. Five of these features are currently thought to be entirely lost, while two others survive only as fragments or incomplete copies. Following a tip from Academy Award winning film historian Kevin Brownlow, Robert Byrne learned of a fragmentary nitrate print of the hitherto considered lost “Now We’re in the Air” (1927) stored in the vaults of Národní filmový archiv in Prague. In this presentation, Byrne will present a brief description of the project to restore and preserve what remains, followed by a screening of the entire 22-minute restoration. 

CORPORAL KATE (DeMille Pictures Corp., 1926) Frequently cited as one of the first war films to feature the female angle, “Corporate Kate” is the story of a pair of Brooklyn manicurists who go to France during WWI to entertain the troops with a song-and-dance act. Both girls struggle not only with the brutalities of war but also with their love for the same man. This is the premiere screening of the newly preserved DeMille Pictures Corp. feature that stars Vera Reynolds, Julia Faye and Kenneth Thompson. Andrew Simpson will provide live musical accompaniment for the evening’s screenings. Seating may be limited for this screening as it is part of “Mostly Lost 6: A Film Identification Workshop” and many of the registered participants will be attending. Black & white, 85 min. No reservations - seating is on a walk-in basis.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Sneak peak at the forthcoming Beggars of Life DVD / Blu-ray

Here is a sneak peak at the forthcoming Beggars of Life DVD / Blu-ray from KINO Lorber. The release date is expected to be in August. The fantastic cover art is by my longtime friend Wayne Shellabarger, the artists responsible for the equally fantastic films posters for the film issued last year.

Synopsis: Louise Brooks has become a legend of cinema who continues to fascinate and Beggars of Life showcases her timeless beauty, her striking modernity, and the depth of her talent. While costar Wallace Beery receives top billing, it is Brooks who captivates the camera and captures our imagination.

The scenario for Beggars of Life is based on the 1924 autobiographical novel by Jim Tully, a writer called "the missing link between Jack London and Jack Kerouac" by one of his biographers. Tully spent several years of his childhood in an orphanage and, when he was twelve, worked for a farmer who abused him, perhaps planting the seeds for this story of escape and survival riding the rails. Dubbed the "Hobo Writer" because of his knockabout past, Tully held a wide variety of jobs, including as a publicist for Charlie Chaplin, before becoming an acclaimed writer for Vanity Fair and H.L. Mencken's American Mercury.

Louise Brooks, in her best American film, is luminous as a freight-train hopping runaway who dresses in a flat cap and trousers to escape capture by the police. She joins up with young vagabond Richard Arlen, and along the way they encounter a hobo encampment and its charismatic leader, played by Wallace Beery in a performance that Brooks later called "a little masterpiece." William A. Wellman, whose Wings (1927) had just won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture, directs with nuance and grace.

Special Features:

    NEW 2K restoration from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum
    Audio commentary by actor William Wellman, Jr.
    Audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society
    Booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton
    Musical score compiled and performed by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, employing selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet
    Reversible DVD and Blu-ray artwork


And don't forget, my new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, has just been released. It features more than 50 images (many of them rare), some 15,000 words of text, and an introduction by William Wellman, Jr. The book is available on and elsewhere. Autographed copies are available for $13.50. Please contact me through email (_silentfilmbuffATgmailDOTcom_) or Facebook to place an order.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wowza - Louise Brooks Giphoscope from Now We're in the Air

Here is something you don't see everyday, an analog GIF player .... The San Francisco Silent Film Festival Collection giphoscope displays animated GIFs excerpted from restored silent films selected by Robert Byrne, SFSFF Restorer and President. The first in the collection is Now We're in the Air (1927), featuring an image of Louise Brooks.

The Louise Brooks Giphoscope displays a 24 frame animated GIF excerpted from Now We're in the Air, a 1927 silent film starring Brooks and restored by the SFSFF in 2017. Only a few copies of these handmade objects will be produced. You can order the Louise Brooks Giphoscope in 2 versions: one comes with a one-piece aluminum structure, the other has a one-piece brass structure. More information may be found HERE.

I have one, whioch was given to me to honor my contribution to bringing this once lost film back to the screen -- 90 years after it was first shown. Trust me, these objects are very, very, very, very cool.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Louise Brooks / Beggars of Life booksigning with Thomas Gladysz

I will be signing copies of my new book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this weekend at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, on Friday June 2 following the Clara Bow / Louise Brooks double restorations (featuring Now We're in the Air), and on Saturday June 3 following the Polish classic, A Strong Man (one of my personal favorites).  

I promise to bring along my Now We're in the Air analog gif player given to me to honor my contribution to the restoration of that once lost film. 

 And of course, I will also be signing Diary of a Lost Girl books and DVDs. 

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