Friday, April 27, 2018

Film fragment discovered: Louise Brooks like you've never seen her before

Pamela Hutchinson / Silent London helped break the news that a previously unknown, 3 second fragment of technicolor film featuring Louise Brooks has been discovered at the BFI National Archive (British Film Institute). The all-to-brief piece is from The American Venus (1926), one of the earlier examples of the use of Technicolor. Hutchinson wrote up the discovery on her wonder-filled Silent London blog. The news was also covered by the BBC, which ran this story "BFI finds movie gold of silent era star Louise Brooks." The June 2018 issue of Sight & Sound (out next week) will contain the full story of the fragments’ discovery.

(The use of Technicolor in The American Venus was considerable: there are three scenes which utilize the process. One is of the boardwalk parade of beauty contestants at the Atlantic City beauty pageant, the second is of series of artistic tableaux, and the last is of a fashion revue.)

Via YouTube, here is a 8:17 compilation of the various newly discovered fragments, many of which are repeated because they are so brief. Louise Brooks enters the fray around 1:00 minute in. (But do watch the entire video. It is fabulous.)

In The American Venus, Brooks plays Miss Bayport, a beauty contestant and mannequin (then a term for a fashion model). The film -- which was sometimes screened in the UK under the title The Modern Venus -- includes a few tableau, which amount to a kind of still-life fashion show. This fragment may be from one of those tableau (notice the pole at Brooks' feet, used to position and steady the model), or it may be a screen test/color test, as BFI curator Bryony Dixon suggests in her narration over the YouTube video.

It might be a test, or it might be a censored cut from the Frank Tuttle directed film.

At the time of the film's release, newspapers and local censorship boards complained about the skimpy outfits worn by many of the women in the film. To our eyes today, this is pretty tame stuff. But back then, such skimpy outfits amounted to nudity. (The term "nudity" was in fact used in a few critiques of the film.) As is evident in the above clip, Brooks' belly button and midriff are clearly visible. At the time, such exposure was pushing the boundaries of decorum.

The American Venus was a big success, and was widely reviewed. Rose Pelswick, writing in the New York Evening Journal, stated “Famous Players-Lasky tied up with the recent beauty contest, and the result is a bewildering succession of events that range from artistic tableaux to a Keystone comedy chase.” However, Quinn Martin, writing in the New York World, called the film “A glittering piece of dramatic trash, as cheap a thing and still as expensive looking as anything I have seen from the Paramount studio…. It presents a raw and effortful desire to photograph scantily attired women without any sensible or appreciable tendency to tell a reasonably alive or plausible story. Any nervous high school boy might have done the plot and there isn’t a director in captivity who could not have told the cameraman when and where and how to shoot.”

Soon-to-be famous poet Carl Sandburg liked it, calling the film a "a smart takeoff on our national custom." The film also found favor with playwright Robert E. Sherwood. Writing in Life magazine, Sherwood call the film “The primmest bit of box-office bait ever cast into the sea of commercialism…. The American Venus is to cinematographic art what the tabloid newspaper is to journalism. It is designed to appeal to those charming people who fill out the coupons and enclose their dollars for ‘Twelve Beautiful Photographic Studies of Parisian Models in Nature’s Garb’. Not that it is the least bit immoral. On the contrary, it is flamingly virtuous and teeming with the highest principles of 100 per cent American go-gettery.”

The American Venus had enough eye candy appeal that it remained in circulation for nearly two years. In one of its last recorded theatrical screenings, The American Venus is shown at the Ramona theater in Phoenix, Arizona on December 30, 1927.

The American Venus is considered a lost film. That's a shame, because it pictures Brooks in all her youthful beauty. (The film was shot in the Fall of 1925, and officially released in early 1926.) In the late 1990’s, a few minutes of material was found in Australia. The surviving material includes fragments, variously in black and white, tinted and in Technicolor, from two theatrical trailers. These surviving trailers, each about 180 feet in length, are housed at the Library of Congress and at the Pacific Film Archive. The two trailers were screened at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2002, and can be found on the DVD box set, More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894 – 1931. Via YouTube, here is a technicolor trailer.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Louise Brooks films throughout May in Yorkshire, UK

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival in Yorkshire, England will be screening two Louise Brooks films throughout the month of May, as part of their regular series of silent film programming. More information HERE. Each screening will feature live musical accompaniment!

Beggars of Life will be shown on May 12, 16, 18, and 22

Dir. William Wellman. USA, 1928, 81 mins, certificate U
After escaping her violent stepfather, Nancy (Louise Brooks) disguises herself as a  boy and goes on the run. She meets a kindly drifter and together they ride the rails through stunning American landscapes. Alternately action-packed and lyrical, and with a nail-biting final scene set atop a speeding train, Beggars of Life is an American classic. [Here is a link to Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film on -- which is described as "A great companion to go with the film" and "a very fine and informative small book."]

On May 12 and 16, the film will be accompanied by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp)

On May 18 and 22, the film will be accompanied by Jonny Best (piano), Jacqui Wicks (ukeleke/voice), Seonaid Mathieson (violin)

AND, the rarely seen silent version of Prix de beaute will be shown on May 26 (with musical accompaniment to be announced)

Dir: Augusto Genino, Italy, 1929/1930, 1hr 53m
The luminous Louise Brooks stars as a French typist whose life is turned upside down when she wins a beauty contest in San Sebastián. If you’ve loved Brooks in Pandora’s Box or Beggars of Life, this is a rare opportunity to see Cineteca Bologna's beautiful restoration of this unusual and beguiling film.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Louise Brooks shout out in new John Malkovich film, 'Supercon'

There's a Louise Brooks shout out in new John Malkovich film, Supercon.

In the Zak Knutson directed film, a ragtag group of friends hope to pull off a heist at a comic book convention. "Love this disguise. It's like Louise Brooks-goth nerd," the Malkovich character, Sid, says to Allison Sweeney, played by a bobbed Maggie Grace, who responds in the affirmative, "It's Louise Brooks-ish." See the video clip below.

Interestingly, Maggie Grace starred on Lost (2004), the acclaimed TV series which had it's own connection to Louise Brooks via material which inspired its story line. Wheels within wheels keep on turning.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Louise Brooks around the world in the United States

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were numerous non-English (ethnic) newspapers in the United States. Usually, these papers were based in cities or large metropolitan areas where large numbers of people from a particular country or region settled. For example, there were Polish-language papers based in Detroit and Chicago which served readers in the Midwest.

I am always researching Louise Brooks, and am always on the look-out for unusual articles and publications. So far, I have turned up articles about or mentions of the actress in German, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese-language newspapers based in the United States. The German and Russian papers were based in New York City, the Spanish publications in Los Angeles, and the Portuguese paper in Massachusetts. (Besides Polish-language publications, I have also looked through Swedish and Czech-language papers, but was not able to find any mention of Brooks nor advertisements for her films.)

Recently, I turned up my first Danish-American article! This June, 1928 piece about Hollywood was published in Bien, a weekly Danish language newspaper published California. The article is, I think, about news from Hollywood. Brooks's name shows up twice, and can be found at the end of the first paragraph and at the end of the article.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

New silent film festival in Vallejo, California

Word has come that a new silent film festival is being set up in Vallejo, California (that's in the greater San Francisco Bay Area). The 2018 Silent Film Festival, presented by the Empress Film Club, will take place May 4th, 5th, and 6th.

Here is the line-up of films and events for the inaugural event:

Friday evening, May 4th

7PM – Film – Paul Wegener’s Golem with live musical score by Members of the Club Foot Orchestra

Saturday afternoon, May 5th

3PM – Films & Music by the VCS Radio Symphony
Music: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – movement one
Talk:  Ralph Martin, VCS Radio Conservatory
Film: Georges Melies’ Trip to the Moon
Music: Raymond Scott’s Bumpy Weather over Newark
Talk: David Kiehn, Niles Essanay Film Museum
Film: David Kiehn’s Broncho Billy and the Bandit’s Secret

Saturday evening, May 5th

7:30PM – Films: Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr. & comedy shorts.
10PM – Films: Sexy Silents & Flaming Flappers (Adult only, private access from the speakeasy bar)

Sunday afternoon, May 6th

12PM – Brunch included – Bagels & Champagne
1pm – Film: Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Master of the House with live musical score by Nitrate Blaze Chamber Ensemble

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit set for May 19

This year's annual Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit is set for May 19th. For more information click HERE.

31st Annual Silent Film Benefit & Art Auction
Saturday, May 19
1:00 pm, Avalon Casino Theatre

One day each year, the Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit offers a rare and authentic 1920s cinema experience in the historic Avalon Casino Theatre. This year's film is Terror Island (1920).

Harry Houdini stars as an inventor who travels to the South Seas, where there is buried treasure belonging to a girl. The girl's father is being held captive by cannibals until she returns a pearl that belongs to one of their idols. Terror Island was filmed on Santa Catalina Island.

Live Musical Accompaniment
by Michael Mortilla and The Accompanists

Award-winning composer, sound designer, and friend of the Louise Brooks Society, Michael Mortilla, and a group of the very best musicians in the nation will provide the live orchestral accompaniment. The group will perform an original score written by Mortilla.

​This year's event also features an art auction and a member's only pre-performance magic show. More details to come. Period dress is encouraged.

Make it a Roaring Twenties Weekend: The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles hosts the annual Avalon Ball on Saturday, May 19th at 6:00 pm in the historic Casino Ballroom. Attend our Silent Film Benefit in the afternoon and then dance the night away to Big Band music! Click HERE for more info.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks screens in Warsaw on April 21

The 1929 Louise Brooks film Pandora's Box (in Polish Puszka Pandory) will screen in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday, April 21 at the Kino Iluzjon. More information on this event, with live musical accompaniment, can be found HERE. (This page link includes notes in Polish on the film by the 8th Doctor Who, actor Paul McGann, the star of Withnail & I and other films.)

What follows are notes in Polish from the Polish venue.

W sobotę 21 kwietnia w ramach 15. Święto Niemego Kina zapraszamy na pokaz filmu „Puszka Pandory” z muzyką na żywo w wykonaniu Resiny & Mirona Grzegorkiewicza.

W programie:
„Puszka Pandory” / „Pandora’s Box”, reż. Georg W. Pabst, Niemcy 1929 r., 133’
Muzyka: Resina & Miron Grzegorkiewicz

W 1926 roku w Berlinie reżyser Georg Wilhelm Pabst rozpoczął obsesyjne poszukiwania aktorki, która zagra główną rolę w „Puszce Pandory”, historii uwodzicielskiej Lulu, której niemoralne zachowanie doprowadza do upadku kilku zakochanych w niej mężczyzn. Trwały one dwa lata. Przesłuchano dwa tysiące kandydatek, kilkaset poddano próbom przed kamerą. Wszystkie zostały jednak odrzucone – jedne nie miały odpowiednich warunków fizycznych, inne – talentu. Historię śledziły gazety i czasopisma. Wybór aktorki stał się wkrótce sprawą narodową.
We wrześniu 1928 roku 21-letnia Louise Brooks, niezwykle piękna i wyzywająco seksualna, opuściła Hollywood, by stać się nieśmiertelną. Pierwszy raz zwróciła na siebie uwagę Pabsta występem w „A kochanek miał sto” („A Girl in Every Port”) Howarda Hawksa, gdzie grała wyrachowanego drapieżnika. Reżyser poprosił o możliwość współpracy z aktorką, ale studio Paramount, z którym była związana kontraktem odmówiło. Legenda głosi, że w momencie, gdy Brooks odmawiała podpisania nowego kontraktu z Paramountem, młoda Marlena Dietrich stała właśnie pod drzwiami Pabsta w Berlinie, umówiona na spotkanie w sprawie głównej roli w „Puszce Pandory”. Reżyser dowiedział jednak się, że Brooks jest wolna i z miejsca ofiarował jej rolę w swoim nowym filmie. W czasach, gdy Ameryka kusiła wiele talentów z Niemiec, Brooks postanowiła wyjechać w przeciwnym kierunku i w ciągu zaledwie dziesięciu miesięcy, pod kierunkiem Pabsta na nowo zdefiniowała sztukę gry aktorskiej i zajęła ważne miejsce w historii kina.
Więcej o filmie:

Wyjątkowe spotkanie muzyczne, którego rezultatów nie sposób przewidzieć. W duecie wystąpią wiolonczelistka i kompozytorka Karolina Rec oraz gitarzysta, twórca muzyki elektronicznej Miron Grzegorkiewicz. Artystka znana szerzej pod pseudonimem Resina ma duże doświadczenie w graniu do filmu, które zdobywała między innymi na kilku poprzednich edycjach Święta Niemego Kina. Przeważnie wykonuje jednak materiał autorski łączący brzmienie wiolonczeli z prostymi narzędziami elektronicznymi. Wśród nich centralną rolę odgrywa looper, który sprawia, że budowane z kolejnych pętli utwory Resiny gęstnieją i rozbudowują się w czasie. Poszukiwania artystki czasem prowadzą w stronę zaskakująco piosenkowych kompozycji, innym razem przybierają formę bardziej abstrakcyjnych impresji. Można je usłyszeć na albumie „Resina”, który ukazał się w 2016 roku nakładem 130701 – neoklasycznego oddziału popularnej brytyjskiej wytwórni FatCat.
Więcej o muzykach:

Bilety do nabycia on-line i w kasie kina Iluzjon.
Kasa kina: (22) 848 33 33;

Pełen program wydarzenia:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks shows in Greece on May 3

Pandora's Box, the 1929 German film starring Louise Brooks, will be shown in Greece on May 3. This screening is part of a series of films to be shown in late April and early May under the sponsorship of the local Goethe Institute. The film was based on a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind; the title of Wedekind's work was in turn suggested by a Greek myth. More information on the event can be found HERE (near the bottom of the page).

Πέμπτη 3/5
11:00 – 20:00  Σε λούπα στο κάτω φουαγιέ
Ο Κάφκα πάει σινεμά/Kafka goes to the Movies (2002, 55´)
Ντοκιμαντέρ του Hanns Zischler

20:30 Αίθουσα Εκδηλώσεων
Το κουτί της Πανδώρας (Die Büchse der Pandora) (1929, 131´)
του Georg Wilhelm Pabst με μεγάλα ονόματα της εποχής Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer κ.ά.

Βασισμένη στα έργα «Το πνεύμα της γης» και «Το κουτί της Πανδώρας» του Φρανκ Βέντεκιντ
Ζωντανή μουσική: Someone Who Isn’t Me (S.W.I.M.)

Follow this unrelated page for MORE information on Brooks and Pabst. A Google search using the Greek title for Pandora's Box ( Το κουτί της Πανδώρας  1929) along with the date of it's release will turn up a number of Greek-language pages about the film.

«Ένα tour de force κινηματογραφικού ερωτισμού», New York Times.

«Δεν υπήρξε, ούτε θα υπάρξει ξανά άλλη Λούλου», Village Voice.

«H Μπρουκς ως Λούλου είναι κάποια που μόλις τη δει κανείς, δε μπορεί να την ξεχάσει»,
Henri Langlois

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pandora's Box screens in Chicago on April 17

Chicago's Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St. in St. Charles, is continuing its "Silent Film Night" series with the silent film classic Pandora's Box (1929), featuring Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. This German film was directed by G.W. Pabst. More information may be found HERE.

Chicago was a one-time home to Louise Brooks (in the early 1930s.) The Arcada Theatre opened in 1926 as a silent film and vaudeville theater. Tickets are $10 or $8 for members of the Chicago Area Theatre Organ Enthusiasts or the Silent Film Society of Chicago. Visit 

The movie will be accompanied live by Jay Warren, Chicago's foremost pipe organ expert, on the classically restored 3/16 Marr Colton/Geneva Arcada organ. As a regular photoplay organist for the Silent Film Society of Chicago, Warren has accompanied most of the great silent films throughout his 40-year career. He has been featured annually for the society's highly regarded Silent Summer Film Festival since its beginning in 2000.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985 - additional dates from the 1930s

A follow-up of sorts to my last post.... recently, I have been researching Brooks' life for material to ad to the "Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985" page on the Louise Brooks Society website when I came across these additional dates from the 1930s.

Jan. 14, 1931
Attends performance of Porgy stage play at the Music Box Theater in Los Angeles. Also in attendance were other cast members of God’s Gift to Women, as well as Barbara Stanwyck, Frank Capra, Jack Holt, Hobart Bosworth, and Ralph Graves.

January 10, 1932
Florenz Ziegfeld's article, "I Knew 'Em When," notes, "Another name well known to the movies not so long ago was Louise Brooks. She joined my companies as a chorus girl in Louie the 14th. Her beautiful and colorful personality won my immediate attention, however, and I soon decided I must give her some prominence. I placed her in the madcap dance number there fore, a kind of fight number which opened the first act. Her flaming intensity in this flight, her beauty and the cracking of the lash seemed to set off the whole show at a high tempo."

Feb. 10, 1932
United Press reports Brooks files for bankruptcy in Federal Court, listing liabilities as $11,969, and assets only of personal wearing apparel, most of which, according to Associated Press, were "purchased in exclusive Fifth avenue shops." Brooks gave her occupation as "motion picture actress, unemployed."

Oct. 10, 1933
Brooks (26) marries wealthy Chicago playboy Deering Davis (36) at City Hall in Chicago, Illinois. The ceremony was read by Judge Francis J. Wilson, and witnessed by Davis' brother and sister-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Nathan S. Davis III. After a few days, the couple leave for a three month honeymoon in Tucson, Arizona, where they were expected to "live on a ranch." The marriage makes news in papers across the country.

Feb. 20, 1935
Syndicated columnist Ed Sullivan writes: "Dario and Louise Brooks, the former cinema queen, one of the more exciting dance teams in Florida."

October 25, 1936
Los Angeles Times columnist Gabrielle Landon reports Brooks was seen at the Brown Derby with Addison Randall, as were Margo and Francis Lederer, and Clark Gable and the Mervyn Leroys.

 Dec. 11, 1936
Associated Press reports Brooks is "starting her movie comeback," as a chorus girl in the new Grace Moore musical. The AP piece notes that she was a chorus girl in The Canary Murder Case, "her last Hollywood picture." Many subsequent mentions of Brooks regarding her comeback reference her role as the Canary.

May 23, 1938
Los Angeles Times columnist Read Kendall reports "Just few minutes after Addison Randall walked into Bruz Fletcher's Club Bali with Louise Stanley, his former girlfriend, Louise Brooks put in an appearance with Howard Shoup but none appeared embarrassed."

May 31, 1938
Syndicated columnist Ed Sullivan writes that Brooks and Howard Shoup are "going places."

May 3, 1939
Los Angeles Times columnist Read Kendall reports "Louise Brooks looked comfortable in blue slacks" while attending the opening of Gilmore Field, a new baseball ballpark in the Pacific Coast League. Actress and team sponsor Gail Patrick threw out the first pitch. Also in the stands were Joe E. Brown, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Jack Benny, Roscoe Karns, Rudy Vallee, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom and others.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Louise Brooks on stage in the 1930s

In the 1930s, Louise Brooks attempted -- or was seen to attempt -- a series of comebacks. Hoping to relaunch her sputtering film career, the actress kept her name in gossip columns and made it known she was interested in working; she tested with a few studios, took the occasional role in films for which she was poorly suited (namely Westerns), and even worked on the stage.

Recently, I have been researching Brooks' life for material to ad to the "Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1985 " page on the Louise Brooks Society website when I came across a couple of little known occurrences regarding Brooks' work on the stage.

It is known, for example, is that in the Fall of 1931, while living in New York City, Brooks was under consideration for the ingenue role in Norma Krasna’s Louder Please, a comedy about Hollywood press agentry. Replacing Olive Borden at the end of October, Brooks appeared in a pre-Broadway staging of Krasna’s play at Brandt’s Boulevard Theater in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Within a few weeks, however, the actress left the cast and was replaced by Jane Buchanan. Here is a rare newspaper advertisement of that production which mentions Brooks. Tickets were only 50 cents. Don't you wish you could have been there?

What is not known is that earlier in the year, while living in Los Angeles, Brooks was under consideration for the role of Poppy in an upcoming stage production of The Shanghai Gesture at the Music Box theater in Hollywood. The production was being staged by no less a person than Mrs. Leslie Carter, the red-haired American silent film and stage actress known as "The American Sarah Bernhardt." Brooks did not get the role, despite being under serious consideration for three weeks. Because of a disagreement over billing, Brooks and Mary Duncan were passed over for a young actress named Isabel Dawn, a former Indiana newspaper reporter.

Over the next few years, mentions would appear in various newspapers noting Brooks come back. On New Year's Eve in 1936, the New York Times wrote ”Louise Brooks, star of the silent screen, is making her screen comeback as a member of the ballet in Grace Moore’s forthcoming Columbia production, When You’re in Love.” Nothing came of it.

In June of 1938, the Los Angeles Times columnist Read Kendall reported “Louise Brooks, under the name Linda Carter, is essaying a comeback through the Bliss-Hayden Miniature Theater. Her first appearance is in the play Miracle for Two by Stanley Kaufman and Effie J. Young. Others in the cast include Beverly Holden, William Stelling, Margaret Meri, Harry Hayden, Howard Johnson, Walter Murray, Nell Keller, Michael Stuart, Mary Rains, Geraldine Gorey and Franco Corsaro.” A couple of days later, Louella Parsons reported in her syndicated column that “Louise Brooks has changed her name to Carrington [Carter], dyed her hair black and opened in a play at the Bliss-Hayden Theater. It is the first step in her new career.” The following day, in its review of Miracle for Two, which the Los Angeles Times thought "zestful," the newspaper coyly remarked “Linda Carter used her every artifice to give an interesting portrayal.”

Brooks seemed to have stuck with it, despite the fact that her part was only a supporting role. In early July, syndicated columnist Paul Harrison reported that Brooks, under the stage name Linda Carter, has been appearing in a play in Los Angeles. “A 20th-Fox talent scout spotted a girl called Linda Carter in a little-theatre play and offered her a screen test. It turned out that ‘Linda Carter’ really is Louise Brooks, who’s aiming at a screen comeback under a different name.” I don't think the production ran much more than a month, or five weeks, as other productions were announced in mid-July.

The Miracle for Two actress who did get some attention was the star of the production, Beverly Holden (who seemingly replaced Margo Bennett just before opening?). Despite a bit of press, I wasn't able to find any other screen credits for Holden. Nor could I find any other stage credits for Linda Carter. In early August, production work began on Overland Stage Raiders, a film which would turn out to be Brooks' last.

I was able to learn a little more about the Bliss-Hayden Miniature Theater. The building still stands, and is now known as the Beverly Hills Playhouse, an acting school with theaters and training facilities in Beverly Hills. From the pictures I found online, it's stage is indeed a small one. The Bliss-Hayden School of Acting was founded and run by a husband and wife team of motion picture actors—actress Lela Bliss with over 45 credits stretching from 1915 to 1965, and her husband actor Harry Hayden with over 260 credits from 1936 to 1955. Veronica Lake, Mamie Van Doren and many other professional actors later studied there. I contacted the Beverly Hills Playhouse asking if they had any  archives or records from 1938, and they responded that they did not. Might any reader of this blog know if any sort of regional theater archives cover this historic little theater exists?

[In 1954, the Bliss-Hayden Theatre was acquired by Douglas Frank Bank and Jay Manford, and renamed The Beverly Hills Playhouse. Many actors had performed there including Anne Baxter and Louella Parsons. Bank and Manford owned the theatre until 1959. Later stars who studied and performed under later owners include George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Tom Selleck, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ted Danson, Tony Danza, Jeffrey Tambor, Tyne Daly, Patrick Swayze, Miguel Ferrer, James Cromwell, and others.]

A footnote to Brooks' 1930s stage work was her work as a ballroom dancer and her curious appearance at the Racquet Club of Palm Springs. On November 4, 1939, Brooks and dance partner Barrett O’Shea performed at a Saturday night party at the Racquet Club in support of headliner Rudy Vallee. (Actor Ralph Bellamy (one of the founders of the Racquet Club), actor Charles Butterworth, director Edmund Goulding, and singer Judy Starr were also present, and took their turn on the Racquet Club’s "stage.") According to a report in the Palm Springs Desert Sun,  O’Shea, and “his charming partner Louise Brooks, did a very clever mask dance, imitating Mrs. Roosevelt and [English Prime Minister] Chamberlain, doing an old time square dance.”

Louise Brooks and Barrett O'Shea

The Racquet Club in Palm Springs was a Hollywood hot spot. Reportedly, Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey Bogart had their own table near the dance floor, and Harry Cohn, Howard Hawks, Franchot Tone, Peter Lorre, and others were occasional visitors.

A week after Brooks did her mask dance, The Desert Sun reported that O’Shea and Brooks had been hired as staff dance instructors at the Racquet Club. “They will teach Saturday and Sunday afternoons until the middle of the season and then every afternoon for the rest of the season. Rhumba and La Conga classes, as well as ordinary ballroom dances and private lessons, will be their feature.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Annual Toronto Silent Film Festival is set to take place April 6 - 9

This year's annual Toronto Silent Film Festival is set to take place April 6 - 9. Further information, including the line-up of films and ticket availability, can be found HERE.

  Saturday and Sunday Passes available this year.
These passes get you into all films screening that day, and saves $3 off regularly priced tickets.

Their spotlight on Women in Film this year focuses on Producer (Asta Nielsen for Hamlet); Director (Lois Weber for Sensation Seekers); and Comedians (the criminally under seen Louise Fazenda, Alice Howell, Mabel Normand, Anita Garvin & Marion Byron). Various short films will be added to most programs

FRIDAY Hamlet (1921) Germany
SATURDAY 1000 Laffs & The Sensation Seekers (1927) USA
SUNDAY Battle of the Somme (1916) Great Britain & Page of Madness (1926) Japan 
MONDAY The Strong Man (1926) USA

And this just announced!

WINGS (starring Richard Arlen, Buddy Rogers, Clara Bow, and with Gary Cooper)

Saturday April 28 @4pm
Fox Theatre 2238 Queen St. East Toronto
Tickets $15/$13 for Fox members from

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

DVD Review: The Beginnings of Fritz Lang from Kino Lorber

Dubbed the "Master of Darkness," Fritz Lang is counted among the most influential directors of all time, alongside the likes of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Truffaut, and Orson Welles. His best known films include the futuristic Metropolis (1927), and the chilling M (1931), a film noir precursor made before he moved to the United States.

Lang is considered one of the great German directors – he is certainly the single greatest German director between the two World Wars, a period straddling the silent and sound eras. (His only rivals are, arguably, G.W. Pabst and F.W. Murnau.) Lang was also an accomplished Hollywood director – his American movies include Fury (1936), a classic, as well as a handful of notable dramas, Westerns, and thrillers including Ministry of Fear (1944). Today, Lang’s reputation rests largely on the dozen or so film noirs he made in Hollywood, stylish, brooding, gritty films like Scarlet Street (1945), The Big Heat (1953), and While the City Sleeps (1956).

Kino Lorber, a label best known for their reissues of cinema classic, has just released Fritz Lang: The Silent Films, an impressive twelve-disc, Blu-ray only collection gathering the complete surviving silent films of the cinema's supreme early stylist. Along with a 32-page booklet and a generous helping of special features and bonus material, the boxed set includes The Spiders (1919), Harakiri (1919), The Wandering Shadow (1920), Four Around the Woman (1921), Destiny (1921), Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1927), Spies (1928), Woman in the Moon (1929), and The Plague of Florence (1919). The latter, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” was directed by Otto Rippert from a screenplay by Lang. All of the other films were directed by Lang, with a few having also been written or produced by the director.

Lang enthusiasts or silent film buffs who purchased earlier video tapes or DVDs or even boxed sets of the director’s early work will find each of their treasures represented here in best available or restored versions (including original tints). Metropolis, for example, is the newsworthy 2010 restoration which incorporates 25 minutes of missing footage found in Argentina. (That missing footage include the material featuring Diary of a Lost Girl star Fritz Rasp.) There is also a 50 minute documentary on the making and restoration of the dystopian classic about a worker’s revolt.

The pleasure of a collection like Fritz Lang: The Silent Films is the chance to see the director’s lesser known and sometimes hard-to-find work. Two years after revolutionizing the science fiction film with his epic Metropolis, Lang revisited the genre with Woman in the Moon (1929), an ambitious spectacle that dramatizes the first lunar expedition. There’s also the strange and haunting film, Destiny. Inspired by a childhood dream, this is the work that first brought Lang widespread recognition. It is the story of a young man, taken by Death as he about to be married, whose fiancé makes a deal with Death to save him. Director Luis Bunuel wrote that Destiny “opened my eyes to the poetic expressiveness of the cinema … I suddenly knew that I wanted to make movies.”

Lang's monumental Die Nibelungen is well known in film history, but how many have seen it? This beautifully remastered edition of the more than four hour retelling of a Nordic legend boasts a high definition transfer that sweeps you into its mythic past.

The Spiders is an adventure film, and The Wandering Shadow is a thriller. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (along with the later, sound-era Mabuse films) had an impact on the development of the crime film, as did Spies on the espionage genre. In some way, each anticipates the visual and metaphorical darkness of Lang’s later film noir efforts.

The Austrian-born Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang (1890 – 1976) had a five-decade long career as a filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional producer and actor in the two of greatest centers of film making in the 20th century, Weimar Germany and Hollywood. He worked in different genres and styles, successfully transitioning from silent to sound film and producing masterpieces in both forms. As noted film scholar Tom Gunning states in his booklet essay, “No other filmmaker had a career like Fritz Lang…. his silent films forged his unique vision. This box set brings together all of Lang’s existing silent films in restored versions (including original tints), offering a chance to experience the unity of his work as never before possible.”

I agree. Whether of not you own one or two or three of these films already, this affordably-priced box set is one every silent film enthusiast will want to own.

Lang’s films are at the heart of another recent release from Kino Lorber, From Caligari to Hitler,  a 2014 documentary by Rüdiger Suchsland. Anyone interested in exploring the cinema of Weimar Germany should check out this compelling study, which explores the many connections between the expressionist cinema of Germany and the subsequent rise of Nazism. Looking at landmark films like Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, Metropolis, The Golem, and others, Suchsland tracks the timely concept of the charismatic villain who bewitches the people. Sound familiar?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Fake Louise Brooks images, including nudes

Since it is April Fool's Day, there is no better day to look, once again, at some of the images of Louise Brooks recently for sale on eBay and elsewhere which are, for obvious reasons, simply wrong. Some are images of Louise Brooks look a-likes which have been misidentified, purposefully I would guess, in some instances. Others are fakes, poor photoshop efforts that just don't look convincing. Alas, I censored three of the nude images so as to not run afoul of the blogger censor.

ABOVE: Simply put, a BAD photoshop job. Louise Brooks' real head has been placed on another body. And, her head is obviously too big for the body, the proportion is off. Yes, Louise Brooks posed in the nude, but this ain't her.

ABOVE: This item has been identified on eBay as Louise Brooks. Yes, Louise Brooks posed in the nude, but this ain't her. This postcard model is pretty. And she does have the same hair style, but it ain't her.

ABOVE: Again, this item has been identified on eBay as Louise Brooks. Yes, Louise Brooks posed in the nude, but this ain't her.

ABOVE: Again, this item has been identified on eBay as Louise Brooks. Yes, Louise Brooks posed in the nude, but this ain't her.

ABOVE: Another unreal image, another BAD photoshop job. That is Louise Brooks, but she did not pose with a bird/hat on her head. Ridiculous.

It is too bad eBay sellers and Facebook fans continue to promote these images as being authentic. They ain't. And while we're at it, here are a couple of more images which are sometimes said to be Louise Brooks.  They ain't. The first features a model named Mischa Barton, who is sometimes mistaken for the silent film star. Not sure of the name of the contemporary model in the second gothic image.

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