Sunday, October 8, 2017

Recommended new books on silent film: Pola Negri, Marion Davies, Slapstick Divas and more

Ahead of a longer review, here are a few new books I wish to recommend to fans of Louise Brooks  as well as those interested in the silent film era. Brooks' career was contemporaneous with Negri, Davies,  Keeler and the actresses written about in Slapstick Divas. There are other points of intersection, as well. Each book can be found on and elsewhere.

Pola Negri—The Hollywood Years (CreateSpace)
by Tony Villecco

"Her films were silent. She wasn’t. Meet POLA NEGRI, the glamorous “vamp” who took Hollywood by storm in the Roaring Twenties. Already renowned in Europe for her acting talent, beauty, and passion, Negri quickly made her mark in dramatic black and white, both onscreen and off.

Vivid. Wild. Threatening. Gorgeous. Temperamental. Exotic. Pola Negri was called all that, and more. Love affairs with Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and a self-styled prince—and equally tempestuous relationships with colleagues, critics, the press, and the fans—kept Negri in the front page news. She wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Tony Villecco, author of the critically acclaimed Silent Stars Speak, shares his lifelong fascination with Negri. This new book features:

    - 100+ photographs (several never before available to the public)
    - Reminiscences from Negri’s colleagues and acquaintances, including film historian Kevin Brownlow
    - Filmography of Negri’s work in American cinema, 1922–1964
    - Accounts from fan magazines, newspapers, other publications, and correspondence

POLA NEGRI: THE HOLLYWOOD YEARS is not intended to be a complete historical retrospective or analysis of Pola Negri’s films. Rather, it offers today’s readers and film fans an intriguing glimpse into the life, times, and persona of a “silent” star who lived at full volume during the Golden Era of film."


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

"Funny girls, those comediennes from the silent movies, knew shtick from slapstick. Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler, Bebe Daniels, Dorothy Gish, Constance Talmadge, Marion Davies, and Colleen Moore brought riotous laughter to millions around the world, yet their hilarity may seem hidden to those only familiar with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and Harold Lloyd. Discover the women of wit, from the supporting players to the stars. Author Steve Massa covers their contributions to comedy with in-depth analyses of the most hilarious heroines of humor, followed by 459 biographies of other droll divas from the famous to the forgotten. Illustrated with 440 rare movie scene shots, formal portraits, candid behind the scenes photos, film frame enlargements, trade magazine advertisements, lobby cards, stage photographs, artist’s renderings and caricatures, and casting guide entries."

About the author: Steve Massa is the author of Lame Brains and Lunatics: The Good, The Bad, and The Forgotten of Silent Comedy and Marcel Perez: The International Mirth-Maker. He has organized and curated comedy film programs for the Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, The Museum of the Moving Image, The Smithsonian Institution, and The Pordenone Silent Film Festival.


The Silent Films of Marion Davies (CreateSpace)
by Edward Lorusso

"She was always a star... at least in the movies. Between 1917 and 1929 Marion Davies appeared in 30 silent films. This book profiles them all, the mega-hits and the not so successful, the costume epics, the romantic dramas, and the madcap comedies that made her one of the biggest stars of the silent era."

Edward Lorusso is a writer, film historian, and avid classic film collector. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English. He earned his Ph.D. in Modern American and British Literature from the University of New Mexico. He has taught at the University of Maine, University of New Mexico, and Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado. Along with collecting and writing about class films, he has produced several silent-film restorations, including "The Restless Sex" (1920) and "Enchantment" (1921); the latter film was broadcast on Turner Classic Movies in November 2014. He retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where he worked as a science writer and editor and also managed an education outreach program for climate research stations in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru. He resides in Maine.


Too Marvelous for Words: The Life and Career of Ruby Keeler (BearManor Media)
by Ed Harbur

"Come and meet those dancing feet! The lyrics from "42nd Street" still evoke fantastic memories of Busby Berkeley and actress, dancer, and singer Ruby Keeler, who is best-known for starring with Dick Powell in musicals produced at Warner Bros., notably 42nd Street (1933), Golddiggers of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933), Flirtation Walk (1934), and Go Into Your Dance (1935).

Ruby's life and career was no tap dance. Underage at fourteen, she first danced where the underworld meet the elite in New York speakeasies during the Prohibition Era. Plucked from obscurity and thrust onto Broadway in musicals, she captured the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld, and she soon appeared in his Whoopee! with Eddie Cantor and Show Girl (1929) with Jimmy Durante.

Topsy turvy Hollywood converted to talking pictures that were first popularized by Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (1927). Jolson met Ruby, and their eleven-year turbulent marriage swept the two of them into widely publicized movie successes, yet their acclaim stood on shaky ground.

In this first-ever book by actor and singer Ed Harbur, discover Ruby's childhood, her early career, her idyllic second marriage, and her phenomenal return to Broadway after twenty-seven years to star in No, No, Nanette. Tragedy followed the triumph, when Ruby suffered a life-threatening stroke, yet she emerged to enjoy a long and successful recovery and served as a champion advocate for stroke victims.

The four-part book spans sections devoted to Biography, Film Appearances, Stage Appearances, and TV and Short Subject Appearances. Illustrated with hundreds of never before seen photographs, including stage and screen productions and candid shots of Ruby at work and in private life."

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