Monday, July 15, 2019

An Early Glimpse at Louise Brooks' Wichita, Kansas

On May 1, 1924 Louise Brooks was in New Brunswick, New Jersey -- performing at the Rivoli Theatre as a member of the Denishawn Dance Company. Some five days later, she was dismissed from the company by Ruth St. Denis, bringing an end to a glorious beginning to her professional life as a dancer and actress.

Had she not left her home to join Denishawn in the summer of 1922, the 17 year old Brooks might have been among the crowds lining the streets to watch the Boys Loyalty Parade as it marched down Douglas Avenue in downtown Wichita on May 1, 1924.

A few days ago, the Wichita Eagle broke the news about a rare five minute film documenting that very parade, offering rare glimpses of the very streets a teenage Brooks knew as home. According to the Wichita eagle, the recently discovered "five-minute clip, now posted on the [Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum's] YouTube Channel, shows a snapshot of life in Wichita 95 years ago. In it, hundreds of people in dresses, suits and hats fashionable in the day are lined up along the 100 block and 200 blocks of East Douglas watching as men and boys in suit jacks, ties and page boy caps proceed down the street representing various groups, including schools like Hamilton, Allison and Horace Mann and groups like the Lions Club and Boy Scouts."

Something that jumps out to me are the handful of young women wearing bobbed hair and bangs, similar to the style Brooks wore while attending high school in Wichita. One young women in particular is readily apparent in the lower left hand corner of the frame through out the beginning of this appropriately silent film.



The description of the film on Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum's YouTube page reads: "Parade on the 100 block of East Douglas looking west towards the Broadview Hotel (view of the Holland Theater, 118 E. Douglas and the Rothenberg at 128) and looking East to the Eaton Hotel and beyond (including the Kress at 224 and Innes at 300). Officials view the parade from a viewing platform in front of the Kansas Theater (221) the Walk-Over boot Shop (219) and Taylor's Cafeteria (217 E Douglas). Groups in the parade include the American Indian Institute, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, YMCA, Boy Scouts, Allison, Roosevelt, Hamilton, Harry Street, Ingalls, Horace Mann, and Cathedral schools, unidentified group of African American young men, and an unidentified girls and boys band. Most are on foot, but some ride bicycles. Street cars are in some scenes. Later footage shows the group swearing allegiance to the flag in what looks like a park.Boys' Loyalty Parade was sponsored by the Wichita Rotary Club."

I don't know that Brooks ever saw a movie at the Holland or Kansas theaters (mentioned above), or got a bite to eat at Taylor's Cafeteria  -- but she did go to Horace Mann school and was a member of the local girl scouts. This bit of film brings us that much closer to experiencing and understanding her early life. Here is a rare image of Louise Brooks, taken from her sophomore high school yearbook., followed by another rare image.


To learn more about the silent film star's early days, visit Louise Brooks: Day by Day 1906-1939 part 1 on the Louise Brooks Society website.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Diary of a Lost Girl, #MeToo classic of the silent era starring Louise Brooks, airs on TCM

Diary of a Lost Girl, a #MeToo classic of the silent era starring Louise Brooks, airs on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) tonight. Here is the LINK to today's schedule; check your local listing for the time this must-see film will be shown where you live.


Louise Brooks plays the title role — the “lost girl” — in Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, or Diary of a Lost Girl. The film tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and conceives a child, only to be sent to a home for wayward women before escaping to a brothel. Beneath its melodramatic surface, the film is a pointed social critique aimed at German society.


Here is the film's synopsis on the TCM website, "Thymiane is a beautiful young girl who is not having a storybook life. Her governess, Elizabeth, is thrown out of her home when she is pregnant, only to be later found drown. That same day, her father already has a new governess named Meta. Meinert, downstairs druggist, takes advance of her and gets Thymiane pregnant. When she refuses to marry, her baby is taken from her and she is put into a strict girls reform school. When Count Osdorff is unable to get the family to take her back, he waits for her to escape. She escapes with a friend and the friend goes with the Count while she goes to see her baby. Thymiane finds that her baby is dead, and the Count has put both girls up at a brothel. When her father dies, Thymiane marries the Count and becomes a Countess, but her past and her hatred of Meta will come back to her."

Diary of a Lost Girl is the second film Brooks made under the direction of G.W. Pabst. The first, Pandora’s Box, was also released in 1929. Like Pandora’s Box, this second collaboration was also based on a famous work of literature. Diary of a Lost Girl was based on the bestselling book of the same name by Margarete Böhme. At the time of its publication, one critic called it “the poignant story of a great-hearted girl who kept her soul alive amidst all the mire that surrounded her poor body.” That summation applies to the film as well.

If you can't watch Diary of a Lost Girl on TV, consider getting the DVD and book. In 2010, the Louise Brooks Society published a corrected and annotated edition of the original English language translation, bringing this important book back into print in the United States after more than 100 years. It includes an introduction by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society, detailing the book's remarkable history and relationship to the 1929 silent film. This special "Louise Brooks Edition" also includes more than three dozen vintage illustrations and is available through amazon.com



In 2015, Kino Lorber released the best available print of the film on DVD and Blu-ray. This recommended release features an audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz. Like the book, the film is also available through amazon.com

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs

Speaking of Rudolph Valentino, there is a new release available which I want to recommend. It is Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs by Donna Hill. This book is a newly expanded and revised edition of a title first released in 2010. I have a copy of the original release, and am pleased to have a copy of this new edition which is so much more. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should state that my wife, Christy Pascoe, designed the front and back covers of the new edition.)

The blurbs on the fron and back of the book, by film historian authors Kevin Brownlow, Leonard Maltin, and Tracy Goessel, rightly praise this outstanding work.

Back in 2010, when the book's original edition was first released, I wrote a piece about it for the now defunct examiner.com. It was one of the book's early reviews. I am running most of it below, as what I said then still applies. Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs is an outstanding book.


It’s surprising there hasn’t been a book like Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol until now. Donna Hill’s handsomely illustrated pictorial surveys the life of one of the great film stars and personalities of the Jazz Age. It is a singular achievement.

In the years since Valentino’s death in 1926, some four dozen books have been published which relate to the actor. Along with a number of biographies and “books about” the film star, there have also been a handful of recollections by friends and co-workers, a book chronicling the annual Valentino memorial service, another looking at his legacy, and even a few “transcripts” of psychic encounters with the actor from beyond the grave.  A few of these books have been illustrated.

The sheer volume of literature about Valentino suggests that despite his short life - he died suddenly at age 31 –  there is still a lot to talk about when talking about the man himself.

Hill’s book tells Valentino’s remarkable story through images. Intentionally so, it concentrates on the person – not so much the films. (That material, hopefully, will one day end up in another illustrated book.) For fans as well as those not familiar with the actor, these remarkable images reveal the charm and glamour of a man who continues to enchant movie lovers to this day.

As Valentino biographer Emily W. Leider (author of Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino) notes in her foreword, Valentino was an actor in life before he became one by profession. Leider writes, “The pictures tell us that long before he appeared in films, Valentino displayed a love of finery, a propensity for posing before the camera, and a preoccupation with his own image.”

Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol is an abundance of visual riches. We see young Rodolfo in his school uniform, and with members of his soccer team. There is also a formal portrait taken just before his departure for the United States in 1913, as well as similar portraits taken after his arrival in America - each meant to suggest to family back home that he had already made a success of himself.
There is a rare film still in which Valentino is a mere background extra in his first film – as well as an image of Valentino dressed in Chinese garb in hopes of winning a role in D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms. There is a remarkable image of Valentino posing as Nijinsky. Elsewhere, Valentino is pictured in rapt attention of Douglas Fairbanks at a Liberty Bond Rally in 1918.

We see Valentino having fun on the Santa Monica Pier in 1920 – and on the set during the making of The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. There are location shots taken in Truckee, California – and another relaxing with Gloria Swanson between scenes during the making of Beyond the Rocks. There are candid shots with movie stars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Thomas Meighan – as well as Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. Valentino is pictured at a Marion Davies poolside party. Another depicts Valentino alongside a microphone before a radio broadcast.

There is a portrait of Valentino ardently inscribed to Mary Miles Minter – as well as another inscribed to his wife of one month, the lovely Jean Acker. A number of others show him with second wife Natacha Rambova (some on the Mineralava tour when Valentino was on strike against Paramount).
One rare image shows Valentino in court during his trial for bigamy, another with the Mayor of New York, one pensively looking out the window of a Detroit hotel, another demonstrating the tango. We see him floating in the Great Salt Lake  – with beauty contest winners – aboard ship on his way to Europe. And once there, posing with the likes of Rene Clair, Emil Jannings, and members of his Italian family. Everyone wanted to meet Valentino and have their picture taken with the famous movie star – and so they did, ambassadors, policemen, and fans (but always in public).

There are photographs of Valentino attending a premiere, arriving by train in Los Angeles, riding a horse, with his beloved dogs, and attending Mae Murray’s wedding with Pola Negri. One could go on.

As this new book shows, Valentino was more than the “Latin Lover” or the “sheik” he played in his most famous films. The strength of this book – indeed its finest achievement – is its humanizing effect. There are images of Valentino at work and at home, with friends, costars, and lovers. Through family photographs, candid shots, snapshots taken while traveling, and other behind-the-scenes images, we come to know Valentino the man.

In assembling these images, Hill has selected many from her own collection (thirty years in the making) and borrowed others from fellow collectors and archives, including a few from the Valentino estate. Many of the 400 images found in this new book are rare. Some have not been published or generally seen since the 1920’s.

Strictly speaking, Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol is not the first illustrated book devoted to the Italian-born actor. But, it is by far the best. It is also beautifully printed. If you are a fan of Valentino in particular or silent film in general, then this book is a must for your collection.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Louise Brooks and Rudolph Valentino : A Meditation and an announcement

It's too bad there isn't a photograph of Louise Brooks and Rudolph Valentino together. What an iconic image that would be - Lulu and the Sheik, the flapper and the Latin Lover.

The two actors did know one another - if only in passing. Like many young women of the time, Brooks was a fan of Valentino and saw a number of his films, a fact she recorded in her diary. On January 1, 1921, the 15 year old Brooks began a diary. Four days later, she wrote that she saw Once to Every Woman, starring Dorothy Phillips and "Rodolph Valentino," at a local theater in Wichita, Kansas. Later that year, in September, she saw The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and wrote in her diary that she had "cried a barrel-full." Two-months later, in November, she saw Valentino in The Sheik and declared him her favorite, adding "What female don't admire the con man stuff."

We also know from later letters that Brooks encountered Valentino - or at least observed Valentino - from afar at parties and social gatherings. She wrote as much in a letter to Jan Wahl, one of her long term correspondents in later life. She also spoke of the last time she ever saw Valentino alive during one of her 1962 radio broadcasts, emphasizing his mysterious presence. That was in 1926, just days before Valentino died at a tragically young age. From one newspaper account at the time, we also know that Brooks attended his Valentino's funeral mass in New York City.

For a time, there were other points of intersection. The two actors shared a studio, Paramount (Famous Players-Lasky), and a screenwriter, Monte Katterjohn. He wrote two of Valentino's best films, The Sheik (1921) and Moran of the Lady Letty (1922), as well as a few of Gloria Swanson's films, another favorite of the young Louise Brooks. Katterjohn also wrote Brooks' break-out film, A Social Celebrity (1926). One could go a bit further, and note the general resemblance between Brooks and Valentino's estranged wife, Jean Acker. Both were pretty, and both effectively sported a bob haircut.



After Valentino died, Paramount rushed Valentino's biggest hit, The Sheik, back into circulation. I have run across a number of instances when the Valentino film and a Brooks film, usually the August 1926 release The Show-Off, were paired as part of a double bill,or followed one another in theaters not only in the United States, but also in Latin America and elsewhere around the world.



I mention all this because on Friday, August 23rd I will be speaking briefly about Louise Brooks and Rudolph Valentino at the 92 annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial service at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. I also plan to share some extremely rare material on the subject. At this annual event, fans from all corners of the globe come together to mark the passing of a true talent and legend. The Valentino Memorial, held each year on August 23rd (beginning at 12:10 pm, the time of Valentino's death), is the longest running annual event in Hollywood, pre-dating the Academy Awards. The event is free and open to the public. During the last few years, this event has also been streamed over Facebook, and I expect it to be so again.



I wish to thank the event's current organizer, Tracy Terhune, for inviting me to speak at the event. Not only is Tracy an authority on the life and films of Valentino, but he is also the author of a book on the remarkable history of the Valentino memorial, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Services. I should also add that Tracy is the son of Max Terhune, one of the stars of the Three Mesquiteers series of Westerns which included Overland Stage Raiders (1938), Louise Brooks' last film! That is Max Terhune , with Brooks' hands on his shoulders.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Q & A with Tom Graves, author of My Afternoon with Louise Brooks

If you haven't already done so, I would like to encourage you to check out Tom Graves' Kickstarter campaign for a limited edition copy of his book, My Afternoon with Louise Brooks. It is an account of the day Graves' spent with Louise Brooks back in 1980, when he was a young journalist.

As many of us are, Tom Graves is a longtime fan of Brooks deeply enamored by the actress and her films. Recently, he answered a few questions from the Louise Brooks Society about the actress and how he came to meet her.

LBS: Take us back to the beginning. How did you first come across Louise Brooks and her films?

TG: I saw Kenneth Tynan on The Dick Cavett Show and he was talking about his new book Show People. Cavett was more interested in Tynan's New Yorker profile of Louise than anything else. I was fascinated with his discussion because I did know who Louise Brooks was and about the film Pandora's Box, which I had not seen.  I bought his book, read the profile, and a film society soon after brought to Memphis Pandora's Box.  I was enthralled by it.

LBS: You are one of the few journalists who can claim to have met Louise Brooks. What led you to search her out?

TG: I thought she was deserving of a full biography beyond Tynan's great profile in The New Yorker.  I was 28 years old and excited by the prospect of writing my first book.  It took a great deal of moxie on my part to dare go to Rochester, New York in hopes of meeting her.  I had contacted Betty Fussell who had written an excellent biography of Mabel Normand.  Her advice to me was to go to Rochester and camp out on Louise's doorstep to get to meet her.  She thought that was a paramount importance. A few years ago Betty Fussell was at the Nashville Book Festival and I was also presenting a book there and I got a chance to finally meet her and tell her that because of her advice back in 1982 that I had actually gotten to spend an afternoon with Louise.

LBS: What was your initial impression of Brooks?

TG: That she was a bit of a grouch and really wasn't used to company.  Right off the bat I could tell how unusually intelligent she was. She spoke just like she wrote and she was a wonderful writer.  Thankfully she warmed up to me and we had a long and incredible conversation about many, many things.

LBS: What was her apartment like?

TG: I wrote that it was as orderly as an army foot locker.  Everything was in its place.  The books all had bookmarks and/or paperclips marking what I assumed was references to her.

LBS: Louise was a great reader. Do you remember seeing any particular books laying about?

TG: I do. One in particular stood out; it was Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia and it was bookmarked right where I deduced a reference to Louise was. I also noticed a copy of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon and it appeared to be a foreign edition.  It was released abroad before being released in the U.S.  Again it had the paperclip marking it.

LBS: Do you have a favorite Louise Brooks' film?

TG: Yes, it would of course be Pandora's Box.  I don't think Diary of a Lost Girl is quite as good.

LBS: Of her lost films, which would you most like to see?

TG: I always have assumed Windy Riley Goes Hollywood was lost.  I'd be interested in it because it was after Pandora's Box plus it was directed by disgraced comedian Fatty Arbuckle.

LBS: Your long-form essay, "My Afternoon With Louise Brooks," has been published elsewhere. What is new with this limited edition book?

TG: The text itself is available in complete form in my book Louise Brooks, Frank Zappa, & Other Charmers & Dreamers. This book contains the best of my long-form journalism from the 80s until the present and the Louise Brooks material is the lead piece.  I seldom write articles or reviews any longer but concentrate on books. I always thought it would be great if my Louise pieces could be a book unto themselves and thought how nice it would be to have an antiquarian-grade small gift book available to other Louise Brooks true fans.  Its limited edition will make it an instant collectible to anyone who buys one of the 100 copies.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

My Afternoon With Louise Brooks - Kickstarter campaign for a limited edition book

I encourage everyone to check out My Afternoon With Louise Brooks - a Kickstarter campaign for a limited edition, signed and number hardback book by Tom Graves. This Kickstarter campaign runs two months, so check it out NOW! More information about this very special project can be found HERE.


Pledging now guarantees you one of the 100 signed and numbered copies of My Afternoon With Louise Brooks, Tom Graves' critically-acclaimed long-form journalism article about his visit to the apartment of silent film recluse Louise Brooks.  As a bonus, this special edition book contains the childhood chapter of the aborted Louise Brooks biography that Tom Graves wrote prior to being de-authorized by Miss Brooks.  The book is approximately 80 pages in length. This will be entirely a Kickstarter funded special edition geared for the fans of Louise Brooks who wish to know precisely what it was like meeting the famed cult figure in her declining years.  When the Kickstarter goal is met production will immediately begin and funders will receive a copy of the hardcover collectible book shipped to their home.  The book is limited to 100 copies and will NOT be available after this press run.  So pledge now to secure your copy(s).


Tom Graves is best known as a writer of gritty fiction and nonfiction including his biography of bluesman Robert Johnson, Crossroads. His most recent book is the critically-acclaimed White Boy: A Memoir, the story of how Graves overcame the racism of his family and city. He was also a writer and producer of the Emmy-winning film Best of Enemies about the acrimonious 1968 debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. He owns the publishing company Devault Graves Books.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me? and the Louise Brooks connection

I finally got around to watching Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the based-on-a-true story about a literary forger starring Melissa McCarthy. It is a brilliant film, but not one I can say I enjoyed watching. Truth-be-told, it is just too much of a downer. McCarthy is really, really good in the role of Lee Israel, the author and biographer who turns to forging letters from famous writers after her own career stalls out. Richard E. Grant is also superb in his supporting role as Isreal's problematic friend. Both McCarthy and Grant deserve Academy Award nominations.

[After a well received  theatrical run, the film is now out on DVD. More info HERE.]

I was keen to see this film for various reasons, not least of which was the fact that among the more than 400 letters Israel forged were a bunch by Louise Brooks. The actress's role in Israel's book Can You Ever Forgive Me? is prominent. Nearly three chapters are given over to Brooks in Israel's slim 2008 book, in which she admits to forging at least a handful of letters from the silent film star. Four of the Brooks forgeries are depicted in the book. However, in the film, Brooks' role is greatly diminished. By my count, the actress is mentioned twice and pictured once.

Brooks is first mentioned during a rapid recital of the personalities who's letters Israel forged or embellished: Fannie Brice, Noel Coward, Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman and others. The second mention comes near the end of the films when (spoiler alert) Israel's character is seeing a lawyer, who tells his client that he enjoyed reading the Louise Brooks' letters.

An image of Louise Brooks can also be spotted in the film, pinned to a bulletin board above Israel's couch in her New York City apartment. In the screen capture below, Grant is lounging on the couch after he and Israel return from a night out drinking.


Curiously enough,this is not the first film in which co-star Richard E. Grant is seen next to a picture of Louise Brooks. The first was the not-so-dissimilar Withnail and I (1987), an acclaimed indie film about two out-of-work actors -- the anxious, luckless Marwood (Louise Brooks devotee Paul McGann) and his acerbic, alcoholic friend, Withnail (Grant) -- who spend their days drifting between their squalid flat, the unemployment office and the pub. Here is a screen capture from that film.

Grant, it should be noted, also had a role in the last season of Downton Abbey, and as any regular reader of this blog may know, that acclaimed television series has a number of well-known connections to Louise Brooks.

Well, back to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which I've written and blogged about in the past. There is a piece in my 2018 book, Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star on my own "brief encounter" with Israel - via email. I've also blogged about Israel's book and the film. Those with an eye for the obscure may notice Louise Brooks' name on the cover of the original edition of Can You Ever Forgive Me? It is the third on the list, x'ed out Louise Brooks.




Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Louise Brooks (or Louise Fazenda) on Sing it Again radio show

Well, here is something of a minor mystery in my ongoing research into the history of Louise Brooks and radio. It begins with these two 1950 clippings from the San Francisco Examiner newspaper.







Sing It Again was a weekly one-hour Saturday-night music variety quiz show that featured home viewers trying to identify songs with the help of special clues that were performed by the show's regulars. (The show has been described as a kind of audience participation version of Name That Tune.) If the player answered correctly, he or she received a chance to identify the "phantom voice" for a jackpot prize.

The program first aired on CBS radio in September, 1948. Musical quiz shows were the rage and CBS decided to out-do them all with a program that would feature popular performers and the largest jackpot ever offered. Musical conductor Ray Bloch assembled a cast consisting of handsome crooner Alan Dale, songstress Eugenie Baird, and pianist-singer Bob Howard. The master of ceremonies was the affable Dan Seymour.

Like most game shows, this show had a gimmick: A song would first be performed straight, then sung again  -- hence the show's title -- with new lyrics describing a famous celebrity. If the contestant (or a listener phoned at random) solved the puzzle, they would have the opportunity to try to identify the "phantom voice" from clues offered during the preceding weeks. (If you are interested in here an episode of the show from 1949, visit this PAGE. Spoiler alert, the famous celebrity sung about in this episode is Claudette Colbert!)

In 1950, Sing It Again became one of the few programs ever to be simulcast (broadcast on both radio and television). However, the move to TV resulted in changes in format: the size of the jackpot was reduced, and everyone was replaced except for singer Alan Dale, who by then had become the show's top attraction. Comedian Jan Murray became the show's master of ceremonies.

1950 press photo of Eugenie Baird and Alan Dale on Sing It Again



Could Louise Brooks have been the "phantom voice" mentioned in the two clippings shown above. It's possible. In 1950, the former silent film star was living in New York City, which was also the home to Sing It Again. (The show, produced by Lester Gottlieb Productions, was made at the CBS Playhouse #3 in New York.) Brooks had done a bit of radio work for CBS in the early 1940s, prompted by her friendship with William S. Paley, the head of CBS.

Sing It Again was broadcast nationally, and newspapers across the country carried listings for the show. However, the only paper I've been able to find which took an interest in identifying the "phantom voice" was the San Francisco Examiner. Here is another clipping from earlier in August, 1950 which mentions Irene Castle and Gloria Swanson.



Could Louise Brooks have been the "phantom voice"? We may never know. This time in Brooks' life is poorly documented, and few pictures of the former star dating from this period are known. Except for one, I couldn't find any recordings of the Sing It Again show online. Perhaps they exist in an archive or OTR collection somewhere. Or perhaps there still exist old records for the show identifying who the various guests and "phantom voices" were. Old radio magazines might also be useful in solving this minor mystery. If any reader of this blog has access to such records or archive or audio recordings, please let me know.

Louise Brooks in Central Park in NYC

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Norwood Public Library hosts The Chaperone reading group on June 19

The Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts will host a reading group on June 19 to discuss The Chaperone. More information can be found HERE.

Turn the Page Book Group - The Chaperone
Wednesday, June 1910:00—11:00 AM Simoni Room Morrill Memorial Library 33 Walpole St., Norwood, MA, 02062

The Morrill Memorial Library’s monthly Turn the Page Book Group will meet on Wednesday, June 19 at 10 am and 7 pm to discuss The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. The library describes the book as "A novel about the friendship between an adolescent, pre-movie-star Louise Brooks, and the 36-year-old woman who chaperones her to New York City for a summer, in 1922, and how it changes both their lives."

A New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick, The Chaperone is a captivating account of the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in the summer of 1922. It was recently made into a feature film starring Elizabeth McGovern by the creators of Downton Abbey.

Copies of the book in a number of formats will be available to pick up at the Circulation Desk. Light refreshments will be served.

To sign up for either the morning or evening session, led by Patty Bailey and first-time guest host Geri Harrold, please call 781-769-0200, x110, or stop by the library Reference or Information desk. Well more than half of the seats are taken for this highly anticipated event.

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On a not unrelated note, author Laura Moriarty was recently on "One on One with Victor Hogstrom," a television show on the local PBS affiliate (KPTS Channel 8) in Wichita, Kansas. In the thirty minute show, Moriarty discusses the mission of her novels. She also talks about The Chaperone, the novel she wrote about a certain Kansas-born film star that has been made into a new movie.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

A few biblio-curiosities: unrelated vintage books with the titles of Louise Brooks' films

As most fans know, a handful of Louise Brooks' films, like Beggars of Life and The Canary Murder Case, were based on once well known books of the same name. Other films were based on well known stage plays, like The Show Off and It Pays to Advertise, each of which were also published in book form.

Researching Brooks and her films can turn up some rather unusual items.... And over the years, I have come across a few examples of vintage books which also share the title of a Brooks' film - but otherwise have no real connection to the film itself. They are, to say the least, biblio-curiosities.

The Street of Forgotten Men (1925) is the title of Brooks' first film. Directed by Herbert Brenon, it was based on a short story, "The Street of the Forgotten Men" by George Kibbe Turner, which appeared in Liberty magazine earlier in 1925. [Remarkably, thirteen of Turner's stories or novels were turned into films between the years 1920 and 1932.]  

The Street of Forgotten Men was also the title of a book by John Vande Water. The book's full title, The Street of Forgotten Men : ten years of missionary experience in Chicago, pretty much explains what it's about. This "other" book was published by Eerdmans, a publisher of religious books based in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the copies I've seen have no date of issue - but to my eye, look to postdate the 1925 film. (I've emailed the publisher, which is still in business, asking for a date of issue.) Besides it's title, skid-row / Bowery setting, and theme of redemption, the book and film are unrelated. Anyone interested in reading or just checking out Vande Water's book can do so HERE.


A "street of forgotten men" is a catchphrase, and the name sometimes given to those parts of a town where the homeless would congregate. Street of Forgotten Men was, as well, the name given to a 1930's short film which "toured" the Bowery and it's unfortunate denizens. It is not listed on ImDb, but can be viewed below.


Another catchphrase or idiom which became the title of a Louise Brooks film and a later book is "a girl in every port." The 1928 Brooks' film by that name was directed by Howard Hawks, and was based on a story by Hawks and James K. McGuinness, with a scenario by Seton I. Miller.

So far, I've come across three works titled A Girl in Every Port. The earliest seems to be Forrest Additon's book of poems and drawings, which is subtitled "The Odyssey of a Deep-Sea Sailor." As you might expect, this 1938 vanity press publication is a collection of slightly saucy sing-songy poems which recount various encounters with women around the world. Many of the poems are accompanied by one of Additon's sometimes saucy drawings. In a foreword, the author takes pains to assure his readers these are not his stories, oh no, but just those he has heard from sailors the author has encountered during his travels.

It is difficult to choose the "best" piece in this volume, but here at least is a representative one. It is called "Wolly Golly."



The author, in case you are wondering, was a self-published writer and amateur artist who worked for many years in the furniture manufacturing business in Flowery Branch, Georgia. He is also credited with authoring the Illinois state song. When Additon died in 1958, Florida's Fort Lauderdale News considered him enough of a local celebrity (he had retired to Florida) that it ran an obituary on the front page.


I am lucky enough to own an autographed first edition copy of this Additon's self-published book. (The publisher is Henry Harrison, a poetry publisher based in New York City. The New Yorker described Harry Harrison as a vanity publisher who charged authors to publish their work, a la the Vantage Press.) I am not sure why I own a copy of this title, but I do. I guess it's because I am a book collector of sorts. My hardcover copy (pictured below) is in it's original dustjacket, and is in very good condition. Laid in are a couple of pieces of author related ephemera, including a reproduction of a 1937 drawing of Joseph C. Grew, the one-time ambassador to Japan. "T.M.I." you may say. Ok, I'll move on.


I also own an ephemeral booklet titled A Girl in Every Port. Published in 1942 by the Dramatic Publishing Company of Chicago, this 30 page, one act comedy by James Fuller continues the theme of randy sailors and their romantic adventures in various ports of call. The playlet calls for one man, named Jim "who loves them all," and seven women named Marilyn, Mary, Mimi, Mandy Lou, Maude, Tina (a maid), and Miss Margrave. Mmmmmm..... My copy is pictured below.

 

One other vintage book I've come across titled A Girl in Every Port is a 1942 work of fiction by William McClellan published by the Phoenix Press (a renowned publisher of mysteries, westerns, and genre fiction during the 1930s and 1940s). McClellan also author Waterfront Waitress (1937), Lady Interne (1939), Midnight in Morocco (1943) and other works, each of which was published by the Phoenix Press. I don't know anything else about A Girl in Every Port except that it seems to continue the same cliched trope of sailors on the loose around the world. As did, no doubt, Donald R Morris' 1956 paperback subtitled "Sailors & Sex in the Orient" published by Berkley (not pictured).


Lastly, here is a rare French book titled Prix de beaute. Published in Paris by Editions du Petit Echo de la Mode sometime in the 1920s (possibly in 1929), this 158 page work by C. N. Williamson shares its title with the 1930 French film starring Louise Brooks. I don't know much else about it, as I am awaiting the arrival of the copy I have ordered from France.


I will end this rambling post with the yet unrelated work of fiction, except that this one depicts Louise Brooks on it's cover! The book is Loot by Rob Eden, published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1932. Rob Eden was the pseudonym of Robert Ferdinand Burkhardt, a genre author whose works include Honeymoon Delayed as well as other pulp plots like The Girl with the Red Hair, Blond Trouble, Short Skirts, and In Love with a T-Man. The copy on the front of the dustjacket reads "Torn between loyalty to her newly found brother and love for his enemy, Robin Moore makes her choice!" Sounds like a great read, doesn't it!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Lulu: The Louise Brooks Story - a new musical coming to the UK

1928 Limited presents

Lulu:The Louise Brooks Story

October 3, 4, 5, 2019
at the Doncaster Little Theatre in Doncaster, England  
 

A new musical, set in the glamorous excess of the 1920s, telling the story of iconic movie star Louise Brooks.

We join Louise on location during the making of the 1928 movie Pandora’s Box, a movie in which there are uncanny parallels between the life of Lulu, the main character in the movie, and Louise, the actress.

A tempestuous star with a reputation as an unrepentant hedonist, Louise harbours a secret which holds the key to her apparently self destructive behaviour. A secret well hidden in a whirlwind of sexual adventures, and a party lifestyle which defined the roaring 20s.

Tickets and additional information HERE.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, airs June 3rd on TCM (Turner Classic Movies)

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks film, Pandora's Box, will be shown on June 3rd on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in the United States and Canada. The German silent, directed by G.W. Pabst, will air at 5 pm Pacific and 8 pm Eastern. For Monday's complete schedule of films, please visit HERE.


This is Louise Brooks' best known film. And for good reason. Brooks lights up the screen as Lulu,a lovely, amoral, and somewhat petulant showgirl whose behavior leads to tragic consequences. As Brooks biographer Barry Paris put it, her “sinless sexuality hypnotizes and destroys the weak, lustful men around her.” And not just men. . . Lulu’s sexual magnetism had few bounds, and this once controversial film features what may be the screen’s first lesbian character.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Louise Brooks segment on "Positively Kansas" TV show

Louise Brooks can rightly be called a persistent star. And with the recent release of The Chaperone, this now more-famous-than-ever silent film actress is enjoying renewed attention. As Positively Kansas host Sierra Scott says, "She is once again a movie star more than 30 years after her death."



A segment devoted to Louise Brooks featured on a recent airing of Positively Kansas is now online. This episode of the Wichita TV show is worth watching, and not just because it includes your's truly, Thomas Gladysz, director of the Louise Brooks Society (via Skype), as well as local Kansas commentators.


Episode 509 of Positively Kansas was first broadcast on KPTS Channel 8, the PBS affiliate in Wichita, Kansas on May 31, 2019. The episode's descriptor reads in part, "See why a famous silent film star from Wichita is more popular than ever, decades after her death." The show gets most all of it's facts right, except for one glaring error. During the segment discussing Brooks' childhood, an image of a young girl is shown that is NOT Louise Brooks. This image has shown up elsewhere and is said to be a youthful Brooks, but it ain't. It's just a sweet looking girl with a dutch boy haircut.



Otherwise, the approximately eight minute segment devoted to Brooks has a good selection of images along with brief film clips from Pandora's Box and It's the Old Army Game.

Do all local PBS affiliates have their own local interest show? Has WXXI, the PBS affiliate in Rochester, New York done anything recently on the timelessness of Louise Brooks? Brooks lived in Rochester during the last decades of her life, and used to watch a fair amount of television, especially old movies, cultural programs, and informational shows like they might have shown on PBS in the 1960s and 1970s.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Clarence Brown : Hollywood's Forgotten Master (and some Louise Brooks connections)

One of the pleasures of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is opportunity to meet some of the authors, scholars, and film world personalities in attendance at the annual event. I haven't missed a summer festival since it began in 1995, and over the years I have met everyone from actors Fay Wray and Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's son) to authors like Anthony Slide and Kevin Brownlow. There are others, including some with connections to the world of Louise Brooks.

Pamela Hutchinson and Thomas Gladysz
This year I renewed friendships with authors William Wellman Jr. and Pamela Hutchinson (author of the BFI book on Pandora's Box), and made a new acquaintance, film scholar Gwenda Young. She is a professor of film history and lecturer in film studies at University College, Cork, Ireland. Gwenda is also the author of numerous articles about film history, including three articles about Clarence Brown, and co-editor of two books of critical essays. In 2003, along with Kevin Brownlow, she curated a retrospective of Brown's films at the National Film Theatre, London.

Gwenda was on hand to promote the release of her excellent new book, Clarence Brown : Hollywood's Forgotten Master (University Press of Kentucky). It is a good read, well researched, and full of fascinating bits about early Hollywood, including Louise Brooks. It is highly recommend.

I won't attempt to summarize the book, but will instead offer this publisher synopsis: 
Greta Garbo proclaimed him as her favorite director. Actors, actresses, and even child stars were so at ease under his direction that they were able to deliver inspired and powerful performances. Academy–Award–nominated director Clarence Brown (1890–1987) worked with some of Hollywood's greatest stars, such as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Mickey Rooney, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy. Known as the "star maker," he helped guide the acting career of child sensation Elizabeth Taylor (of whom he once said, "she has a face that is an act of God") and discovered Academy–Award–winning child star Claude Jarman Jr. for The Yearling (1946). He directed more than fifty films, including Possessed (1931), Anna Karenina (1935), National Velvet (1944), and Intruder in the Dust (1949), winning his audiences over with glamorous star vehicles, tales of families, communities, and slices of Americana, as well as hard-hitting dramas. Although Brown was admired by peers like Jean Renoir, Frank Capra, and John Ford, his illuminating work and contributions to classic cinema are rarely mentioned in the same breath as those of Hollywood's great directors.

In this first full-length account of the life and career of the pioneering filmmaker, Gwenda Young discusses Brown's background to show how his hardworking parents and resilient grandparents inspired his entrepreneurial spirit. She reveals how the one–time engineer and World War I aviator established a thriving car dealership, the Brown Motor Car Company, in Alabama―only to give it all up to follow his dream of making movies. He would not only become a brilliant director but also a craftsman who was known for his innovative use of lighting and composition."

In a career spanning five decades, Brown was nominated for five Academy Awards and directed ten different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. Despite his achievements and influence, however, Brown has been largely overlooked by film scholars. Clarence Brown: Hollywood's Forgotten Master explores the forces that shaped a complex man―part–dreamer, part–pragmatist―who left an indelible mark on cinema.

Clarence Brown's other early films include Trilby (1915), The Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Eagle (1925, with Rudolph Valentino), The Goose Woman (1925), Flesh and the Devil (1926), Kiki (1926), A Woman of Affairs (1928), Anna Christie (1930), Romance (1930). The last three starred Greta Garbo, and for the last two, Brown received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Another early effort is Brown's 1924 film, The Signal Tower, which was one of the films being shown at this year's event. (I had written an article for the Ukiah Daily Journal on The Signal Tower, which was filmed in Northern California.)

Any silent film buff should be well acquainted with Brown's body of work. (I have seen about ten of the above mentioned films, and wish to see more.) However, what piqued my interest in Gwenda Young's book were mentions of Louise Brooks. Young notes the Jazz Age's sometime preference for androgynous women (including Brooks), and later quotes the actress on John Gilbert's feminine masculinity. Young also quotes Brooks on Clarence Brown dislike of lesbians, despite his having worked with Garbo and other not-so-straight actors so often.

Quoting from Brownlow's interview with Brown, Young also discussed the director's racial attitudes. "Even more revealing, perhaps, was an anecdote he told about a feud he had with actress Louise Brooks over an incident that occurred back in the 1920s. While attending a party at her house, he had been shocked that she permitted her black guests to share the swimming pool with whites: 'If I've been sour to Louise Brooks it's because she and Eddie Sutherland [Brooks's then husband] didn't draw the color line'."

Gwenda's book is a honest portrayal of a flawed human being who was also a great director. And rightly so, the book has received a good deal of praise. The Wall Street Journal called it "A sweeping and elegantly written biography. It is as gracefully told, as delicate and memorable, as the best work of its subject. Young's book effortlessly portrays a man who never let the Hollywood system interfere with his filmmaking instincts." While Emily Leider, author of Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, said "Gwenda Young's research for her study of the films directed by Clarence Brown is beyond excellent. It is extraordinary."

I was very please to meet Gwenda Young at this year's Festival (she had come all the way from Ireland) and have her sign my book. UK film historian Kevin Brownlow, who wrote the foreword to the book and was also in attendance at this year's event, also signed my copy. My double autographed copy of Clarence Brown: Hollywood's Forgotten Master is a book I will long treasure!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Colleen Moore celebration at Niles Essanay Film Museum

If you are a fan of Louise Brooks, chances are you also have an appreciation for Colleen Moore. . . . On May 25, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California is celebrating the great bobbed-hair actress with a day of her films. It is an event you won't want to miss!


Saturday, May 25, 3:30 pm
A Special Day with Colleen Moore
Hosted by Joe Yranski
Book signing by Jeff Codori, author of Colleen Moore: A Biography of the Silent Film Star

Suggested member donation $5, not yet member $7 BUY TICKETS

Frederick Hodges (piano)
So Long Letty (1920, Christie Film Company, DVD) In this farce comedy based upon the hit stage play, Colleen Moore and T. Roy Barnes are a seemingly mismatched couple living next door to another couple, Walter Hiers and Grace Darmond, of similar temperament. The couples switch partners in the pursuit of happiness. First time on our screen.

Preceded by: A Tribute to Colleen Moore (1979) A special reel of rare clips.


MORE COLLEEN MOORE
Saturday, May 25, 7:30 pm
Suggested member donation $5, not yet member $7 BUY TICKETS

Jon Mirsalis (Kurzweil keyboard)
Her Wild Oat (1927, First National, 35mm) Colleen Moore plays the owner/operator of a lunch wagon who decides to splurge on a vacation among the rich at the Hotel Coronado. She is snubbed at first by the other guests, but when she impersonates a duchess, things heat up. First time on our screen.

Preceded by shorts:
Life in Hollywood #2 (1927, Goodwill Pictures) Colleen Moore
A Roman Scandal (1919, Christie) Colleen Moore


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

From Louise Brooks to Downton Abbey to The Chaperone to Downton Abbey and back to Louise Brooks

The new trailer for the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie has just been released, and guess what, Lady Mary Crawley (played by charming actress Michelle Dockery) has a keen Louise Brooks hairstyle. It's so smashing, in fact, that yesterday InStyle magazine penned a story titled "Michelle Dockery Has the Most Covetable Baby Bangs in the Downton Abbey Movie."

It has been three years since the acclaimed television series went off the air. And the InStyle story notes a couple of the changes that have taken place since last we saw the show's much beloved characters: "Another prominent shift between the beloved PBS drama and its upcoming theatrical reboot? Michelle Dockery’s hair! Dockery (aka Lady Mary Crawley) has elevated her flapper-esque bob in the years since the series’s finale — she now has that coveted micro-fringe blanketing the top of her forehead. Though a retro style, the daring look has found a modern audience among stars like Emma Roberts and Charlize Theron."

Lady Mary Crawley has worn her hair short in the past, but this new look with bangs is something a little different. As W magazine put it, "it’s 1927, and the Crawleys are more modern than ever. Lady Mary wears a vest! She also sports a very cute Louise Brooks bob."


Though sometimes obscure, there are many connections between Downtown Abbey and Louise Brooks. The show's creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, is enamored with the story of Louise Brooks. In the past, he has noted how much he appreciated Barry Paris' 1989 biography of the actress, and has also noted that his mother wore bobbed hair and was said to resembled the silent film star. Besides penning the TV show, Fellowes also penned the script for The Chaperone, the new film from PBS Masterpiece which tells the story of Louise Brooks 1922 trip to New York City.

The Chaperone came about when Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern was hired to read the audio book version of Laura Moriarty's novel of The Chaperone. (The Louise Brooks Society provided the image of Louise Brooks which adorns the cover of both the book and the audio version.) McGovern liked Moriarty's book so much she bought the film rights and went on to produce The Chaperone film. Besides recruiting Fellowes to write its script, McGovern also brought Downton Abbey series director Micheal Engler on board to direct the film.



The one other Louise Brooks connection to Downton Abbey is actress Shirley MacLaine. Like Fellowes, she is an admitted devotee of Louise Brooks, having once hoped to play the silent film star in old age. In Downton Abbey, she plays the mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character, who is the mother of Michelle Dockery's character.

The Downton Abbey movie opens in theaters on September 20.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Refurbished Louise Brooks Society blog - check it out!

The 17-year old Louise Brooks Society blog -- located at http://louisebrookssociety.blogspot.com/ -- has been recently refurbished, brought up-to-date, and made spick-and-span. Notably, new functionality has been added to the right-hand column, including links to other silent film sites, additional blog subscription options, a "recent visitors" widget, a Patron button, and more.


This LBS blog has more than 240 followers, while dozens of others subscribe to posts through  BLOGLOVIN and other services. Which one do you use?

Scroll down the right-hand side of the blog and you'll find comprehensive hyperlinked lists to other blogs devoted to early film, as well as early film podcasts & message boards, film festivals & venues, and silent film websites. (The "silent film links" tab at the top of the page contains even more links, to websites devoted to early film actors and actresses, as well as a set of links to Jazz Age sites.) There is also a "In the News" link list  and a tab devoted to the media the Louise Brooks Society has received over the years IF YOU KNOW OF ANY DESERVING SITES NOT ALREADY INCLUDED ON THESE LISTS WHICH YOU THINK SHOULD BE LISTED, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL AND WE'LL TAKE A LOOK.


One new addition is a PATRON button for those who would like to support the Louise Brooks Society and it's many activities. I started the Louise Brooks Society website back in 1995, and have been running it as a labor of love ever since. But heck, I could sure use your support. If you don't wish to support the LBS at even a dollar a month, how about treating yourself and showing your support by buying a one of the books issued by the Louise Brooks Society. They are pictured in the right-hand column; there is also a "Books for Sale" tab with even more goodies.
I appreciate all the web traffic this blog receives. Each post receives visitors numbering in triple, and since I installed a blogger hit counter ever so long ago, this blog has received more than 1,300,000 visitors. One of the most fascinating new items in the right-hand column is the "recent visitors / flag counter" widget.

Free counters!

What I love about it is how it shows that individuals from around the world have visited this blog, including many from Australia and Great Britain. There are also numerous visitors from Italy, France, and Canada, as well as a few from India, Ireland, Korea, Greece, and Norway. If you are reading this blog, I expect your country is represented.

I've also tinkered with other bits and pieces of this blog, including tidying up the various tabs.  Please explore all that this blog has to offer. It is one point of entry into the 'swonderful world of silent film which exists both on the internet and in the world itself.


I would also like to encourage everyone to follow the Louise Brooks Society on Twitter. To date, more than 4,900 individuals have done so. The LBS Twitter account is located at https://twitter.com/LB_Society, and there are follow buttons in the right-hand column.

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