Thursday, February 28, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks - a Postcard Biography from Spain

Here is something you don't see everyday, a Spanish cigarette card with a brief biography of the actress -- her identified as Luisa Brooks - on the reverse. (Generally speaking cigarette cards are smaller than postcards. They were, as you might guess, tucked into a pack of cigarettes.) This card dates to around 1930, perhaps 1931. (Can does reader of this blog know the history of these particular cards?This one is series K, number 19.)

I have transcribed the text on the back. In Spanish, it reads: "Linda y gentil como ninguna, la belle Luisita se ha especializado en los papeles picarescos, en los cuales no hay que decir que convence al mas esceptico en gustos cinematograficos. Sin traspasar nunca los limites del descararo, Luisa Brookss la muchacha moderna, atrevida y valiente, que lo mismo conduce un automovil a toda marcha, que se declara al hombre qu le gusta y lo rapta, si es preciso, que sostiene un pugilato de boxeo con el atrevido que osa ofrenderla. La vimospor vez primera en la pantalla en "La Venus americana" y mas tarde se mostro gran actriz en "Amalos y dejalos" y otras producciones del mismo genero de fina comedia de salon. Ultimamente ha interpretado "mendigos de Vida", en la que hace un papel sentimal, "Quien la mato?", intrigante produccion de crimen y misterio."

My rough Google assisted translation reads: "Cute and gentile like no other, pretty Luisita has specialized in picaresque roles, in which it is not necessary to say that she convinces the most skeptical of cinematic tastes. Without ever going beyond shameful limits, Luisa Brooks the modern, daring and brave girl, who drives a car at full speed, declaring to the man what she likes and kidnaps him, if necessary, that holds a boxing match with the daring of one who dares to offer it. We saw her for the first time on the screen in "The American Venus" and later she was a great actress in "Love Em and Leave Em" and other productions of the same genre of fine salon comedy. Lately she has interpreted "Beggars of Life", in which she plays a sentimental role, "The Canary Murder Case", an intriguing production of crime and mystery."

This card and dozens of others from across Europe, as well as cards from Africa and South America, are depicted in my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks. Please see the four earlier posts for even more from this new book.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks: Brazil

Here are some rather nifty pages from Cinearte, one of the leading Brazilian film magazines. Louise Brooks seemed to have been especially popular in that Latin American nation. I say that because she received a fair amount of coverage in that Portuguese-speaking nation. One of the earliest international profiles (2 plus pages) of the actress appeared in Brazil, as well as one of her earliest appearances on the cover of a magazine.

Just about each page below features an image of Brooks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks : With Thanks

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have been working on a long-in-the-making project, a book titled Around the World with Louise Brooks. I have been working on this book on-and-off for almost 20 years, and am determined to finish it this summer. I have nearly 600 pages completed. The book will be larger format, 8" x 11" in size with many full page images. The are dozens of countries represented (a few didn't yet exist - while others no longer exist as nations), with material coming from every continent except Antarctica. It has been challenging to gather material from Africa, but I did so from four countries.

I have uncovered a lot of material, some of it interesting and some of it mundane. I have also come across a number of little seen images of Brooks. Some are American publicity portraits and film stills sent to European publications, and apparently never printed in the United States. At least, I have never seen them before. Others are images of the actress taken in Europe and published there, but never in the United States. I think fans of Louise Brooks will be pleased, and hopefully as fascinated as I am. I can say that I have uncovered a few items that in effect rewrite particular points in Brooks' history. They will be revealed in the book itself.

Well anyways, I have uncovered a lot of material and just can't use it all. And so, I figured I would post some of the lesser material. It is neat stuff none-the-less. Here are three portraits from a Spanish magazine.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before

I have been working day and night on my latest book project, Around the World with Louise Brooks: the making of an international star. And as of today, I have nearly 550 pages completed, and hope to have the book finished in a few months. Perhaps because I have been so focused on this project, last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before.

Onchi Koshiro "Movie Theater (Hogaku-za)" 1929 *

I dreamed I was at a screening of the lost Louise Brooks' film A Social Celebrity (1926). Since it is lost, no one today really knows what the film "looked like." But there I was in my dream, viewing whole scenes and anxiously wondering how to record what I had seen. What was this dream, this fevered pitch? Was A Social Celebrity somehow transmitted to me through our collective unconsciousness and through time? If so, who sent this dream to me?

A street scene is vivid in memory, though I don't know that there is any sort of street scene in that particular film. There is such a scene in The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), and perhaps in my dream logic I was conflating the two early Brooks' movies. I have seen that earlier film, and recently came across a remarkable foreign clipping depicting a production still (depicting a street) taken during the making of The Street of Forgotten Men. Below is that production shot. I wonder who the solitary, short haired young women might be in the lower center of the image? Standing apart, day dreaming....

* The print shown above was made by the Japanese artist Onchi Koshiro. It depicts a woman on a movie screen inside the Hogaku-za movie theatre in Toyko. The work is dated 1929, the same year that The Canary Murder Case was shown to great acclaim in that very theatre. Koshiro once said "Art is not to be understood by the mind but by the heart." I think the same can be said for dreams.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A bit more on Louise Brooks inspired film, The Chaperone

From the writer / director of Downton Abbey and star Elizabeth McGovern comes The Chaperone, a Louise Brooks inspired film in which the future film star is a major character. The film tells the story of the summer Brooks (played by Haley Lu Richardson) went to New York City to study dance in the presence of a chaperone (played by Elizabeth McGovern).

The film premieres in New York City on March 29th and expands across the country throughout April! It opens in Los Angeles on April 5th. No word yet on when the film will be shown on PBS.

From PBS: "The Chaperone takes place against the backdrop of the tumultuous times of the early 1920’s. A Kansas woman (Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey) is forever changed when she chaperones a beautiful and talented 15-year-old dancer (Haley Lu Richardson, Split) named Louise Brooks to New York for the summer. One of them is eager to fulfill her destiny of dance and movie stardom; the other is on a mission to unearth the mysteries of her past.

MASTERPIECE’s first feature film will reunite the writer, director and star of Downton Abbey. The Chaperone, based on Laura Moriarty’s best-selling American novel, will be scripted by Julian Fellowes, directed by Michael Engler, and star Elizabeth McGovern, who played Lady Grantham in the hit series."

Otherwise, check out this story on the Town and Country magazine website: "Watch Downton Abbey Star Elizabeth McGovern in an Exclusive Trailer of The Chaperone

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Upcoming Kansas Silent Film Festival

The 2019 Kansas Silent Film Festival is set to take place Friday & Saturday, February 23 & 24, 2018, at White Concert Hall, Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas.

The theme of this year's festival, the 23rd annual event, is "Lost films, recovered or restored." The festival notes, "In thinking about what we wanted to do for our 23rd event it dawned on us that we talk a lot about what is lost—there is a pretty high percentage out there of silent films that are lost and gone forever. But what about the successes? What about the films that were thought lost but were found in foreign archives, with collectors, and in some really lucky cases, tucked in the hay in a barn. All the films showing this year were lost then found, or simply needed restoration to bring them back to life."

It is an admirable theme, one I think also exciting -- imagine seeing something once thought gone forever! My only quibble is that the festival didn't program the recently found Louise Brooks' fragment, Now We're in the Air (1927). It would have been a great fit, and marked something of a return. Kansas is Louise Brooks' home state; the actress was born in Cherryvale, and grew up in Independence and Wichita.
  FREE ADMISSION for all showings
Fri. Feb. 22, 2019, 7:00-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overture by Jeff Rapsis
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
Many of these films were considered lost at one time

14 min.
Edison Company
Music by Marvin Faulwell & Bob Keckeisen
148 min.
directed by Fritz Lang
Music by the
Alloy Orchestra, with intermission
Sat. Feb. 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m.-Noon
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overature by Bill Beningfield
and Intros by Denise Morrison
, Film Historian
  On DVD, a special presentation by KSFF
with Charlie Chaplin
Music by
Bill Beningfield
Hard Luck
23 min.
with Buster Keaton
—Music by
Jeff Rapsis
with Annette Kellerman, partly in Prizma color
—Music by Jeff Rapsis and Bob Keckeisen

Lunch Break (on your own), resuming at 1:30 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 23, 2019, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overature by Marvin Faulwell
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
with Segundo de Chomón
—Music by
Jeff Rapsis
The Cook
20 min.
with Roscoe Arbuckle & Buster Keaton
—Music by Bill Beningfield
a Native American Film
—Music by Marvin Faulwell & Bob Keckeisen


Warm-up Music by Jeff Rapsis
Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

with Francis Ford (courtesy of Keene College)
—Music by Jeff Rapsis
with Harry Carey / a John Ford Film
—Music by Jeff Rapsis


Special Dinner Event, Our Eleventh Annual
Seating begins @ 5:15 p.m.
Dinner: 5:15-7:15 p.m.
Ben Model, who has played piano and organ with us before. His presentation "Undercranking: The Magic Behind the Slapstick" describes a technique which made action sequences (and especially comic action sequences) appear to be running much faster than usual. Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd knew all about Undercranking, but it appears others in the silent film era knew about it and employed it, too. Ben will illustrate his presentation with some incredible film clips.
— This event is by reservation only. Dinner is $40. Contact Bill Shaffer at to reserve your space

Sat. Feb. 23, 2019, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University

by Ben Model

Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
with Laurel and Hardy / Special 16mm film print
—Music by Marvin Faulwell & Bob Keckeisen
with Marion Davies
Music by Ben Model

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Around the World with Louise Brooks : The Enigma of Louise Brooks

It has long been thought that the post-WWII revival of interest in Louise Brooks began in France in the late 1950s. However, some newly uncovered material suggests that while this revival may have flowered in France in the late 1950s, it had its roots in Italy - a country where interest in the actress never seems to have entirely faded.

Consider this rather stunning 1941 magazine page - one page from a four page article published in Italy - which depicts the actress in a rather atypical fashion. Not only does it evidence interest in the actress at a time when she was largely forgotten, but, it describes her as an "enigma" and actress of great dramatic qualities (not just a pretty, alluring flapper-type). The almost violent nature of this imagery is a bit stunning for the time, as is the fact that these images were based on film cells from Pandora's Box (1929), not film stills or publicity photos. [In Italy, Pandora's Box was titled Lulu.]

This post is one in a number of posts excerpting material included in my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks. The entire four page article, which focuses on Brooks and another actress, will be reproduced in my forthcoming book, which I expect will be published this summer.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Official Trailer for Louise Brooks inspired film The Chaperone

A release date has been set and a trailer released for the new Louise Brooks inspired film The Chaperone. According to it's Facebook page and IMDb page and other sources, the film opens in theaters in New York on March 29, and in L.A. on April 5. Following its theatrical release, the film will air on PBS television.

Produced by PBS Masterpiece and based on the 2012 New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone reunites the writer (Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes), director (Michael Engler), and star (Elizabeth McGovern) of Downton Abbey for "an immersive and richly emotional period piece." The film stars Haley Lu Richardson as a teenage Louise Brooks, as well as Campbell Scott, Victoria Hill, Geza Rohrig, Blythe Danner, and Miranda Otto (as dance great Ruth St. Dennis) and Robert Fairchild (as dance great Ted Shawn). A website for the much anticipated film has also been established at (There is also an old PBS webpage.)

The Louise Brooks Society and the Louise Brooks community has long anticipated the release of The Chaperone. (We're fans of the novel, and in fact, the Louise Brooks Society provided the cover image for the hardcover and softcover editions of the book in the United States, as well as other editions released around the world.)

The Chaperone takes place against the backdrop of the tumultuous early 1920’s. A Kansas woman (Elizabeth McGovern in the title role) is forever changed when she chaperones a beautiful and talented 15-year-old dancer named Louise Brooks (played by Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer. One is eager to fulfill aspiration of dance stardom; the other is on a mission to unearth the mysteries of her past.

PBS Distribution puts it this way: "Louise Brooks the 1920s silver screen sensation who never met a rule she didn’t break, epitomized the restless, reckless spirit of the Jazz Age. But, just a few years earlier, she was a 15 year-old student in Wichita, Kansas for whom fame and fortune were only dreams. When the opportunity arises for her to go to New York to study with a leading dance troupe, her mother insists there be a chaperone. Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), a local society matron who never broke a rule in her life, impulsively volunteers to accompany Louise (Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer. Why does this utterly conventional woman do this? What happens to her when she lands in Manhattan with an unusually rebellious teenager as her ward? And, which of the two women is stronger, the uptight wife-and-mother or the irrepressible free spirit? It’s a story full of surprises—about who these women really are, and who they eventually become."

Besides a Facebook page, there are also Twitter account and Instagram account to follow the latest on this new film release.

Want to find out more? Check out this 2012 interview with Chaperone author Laura Moriarty by Louise Brooks Society director Thomas Gladysz on the San Francisco Chronicle website. There is also a related LBS blog posted at the time we had the privilege of introducing Laura Moriarty at one of her author events around the time of the book's release. Stay tuned to this blog and the Louise Brooks Society website and Twitter account for the latest news on this exciting new release.

What's a Louise Brooks Society blog post without a gorgeous picture of Louise Brooks? Here is a portrait of the 16 year old dancer (and future film star) taken during her first season (spoiler alert) with Denishawn dancing alongside legend Martha Graham (who is not a character in the new film, though was likely present during some of the NYC scenes depicted in the film). I think Haley Lu Richardson looks the part.

Of all her fellow dancers, Brooks looked up to Martha Graham the most. In later years, she told Kenneth Tynan, “Graham['s] genius I absorbed to the bone during the years we danced together on tour.”

Brooks, apparently, also made an impression on Graham. In her autobiography, Blood Memory, Graham wrote, “Louise Brooks was a member of the Denishawn Company and breathtakingly beautiful. She wore her hair always in that pageboy. Everything that she did was beautiful. I was utterly absorbed by her beauty and what she did. Even before she was introduced to me, I remember watching her across the room as she stood up with a group of girls from Denishawn, all dressed alike. Louise, though, was the absolute standout, the one. She possessed a quality of strength, an inner power that one felt immediately in her presence. She was very much a loner and terribly self-destructive. Of course, it didn’t help that everyone gave her such a difficult time. I suppose I identified with her as an outsider. I befriended her, and she always seemed to be watching me perform, watching me in the dressing room. She later said, ‘I learned how to act by watching Martha Graham dance.”

Thursday, February 7, 2019

BBC Radio 4 to air Louise Brooks radio drama on February 9

BBC Radio 4 will air an original radio drama about Louise Brooks on February 9. The 57 minute piece, titled Opening Pandora's Box, was written by Katie Hims. More information can be found HERE.

Opening Pandora's Box

How do you turn a celebrated silent film into an audio drama? Wedekind's controversial 19th Century Lulu plays formed the basis of the 1929 German movie, Pandora's Box. Its star, Louise Brooks, will forever be associated with her iconic performance as Lulu, the ultimate 'femme fatale'. 90 years on, writer Katie Hims wonders what on earth to do about Lulu.

The Writer/Lulu ..... Kate O’Flynn
Justin/Alwa ..... Joseph Ayre
Simone/Geschwitz ..... Ayesha Antoine
Kerry ..... Kerry Gooderson
Dr. Schön ..... Tony Turner
Schigolch ..... Michael Bertenshaw
Piani ..... Ronny Jhutti
The Kind-Faced Man ..... Christopher Harper
Rodrigo ..... Don Gilet
Dr. van Zarnikow ..... Sam Dale
Charlotte ..... Franchi Webb

Written by Katie Hims
Original Music by Neil Brand
Directed by Toby Swift

Friday, February 1, 2019

R.I.P. Jan Wahl - author extraordinaire and friend of Louise Brooks

With great sadness, the Louise Brooks Society marks the passing of Jan Wahl (1931-2019), author extraordinaire and friend of Louise Brooks. The Toledo Blade noted the esteemed children's author passed away on January 29 at the age of 87. (Read the Blade newspaper obit HERE.) As all fans and devotees of Louise Brooks know, Wahl and Brooks were longtime friends and correspondents. A generous, 200 page collection of letters from the actress to the author (with helpings of Wahl's commentary) can be found in Wahl's Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks (Bear Manor Press, 2010).

My interest in Louise Brooks brought Wahl to my attention, and me, apparently, to him. (Wahl was not on the internet, so how he heard about me and the Louise Brooks Society I don't really know. I think someone told him about me - and that someone may well have been his niece or nephew from Atlanta, Georgia, with whom I was briefly acquainted.) Shortly before Dear Stinkpot's official release in early 2010, Wahl sent me an autographed copy - the first he signed - of his then new book. It is something I will always treasure.

Later on, I wrote an article about Wahl's book - which I love and have read two or three times -  for Huffington Post. That piece and another I wrote on an earlier Wahl book, Through a Lens Darkly, appear in my most recent book, Louise Brooks: The Persistent Star.

I also had the privilege of exchanging a few letters with Wahl as well. And, we also spoke on a phone a few times, with Wahl regaling me with stories of his friendship with Brooks. A few of those stories could / can never see print. The last time we spoke, a few years ago, Wahl called to ask my opinion of the worth of Alfred Stieglitz portrait of Louise Brooks. He wanted it to find a good home.

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog post about Jan. I am including it here in it's entirety....

"I just got off the phone with Jan Wahl, the celebrated children's book author and longtime friend of Louise Brooks.

We talked about many things, including books, old theaters, the movies - both classic and contemporary, and of course Brooks herself. This is the first time Jan and I have spoken on the phone, though we have exchanged letters and books. (I also met Jan's niece some years back.)

Jan recounted a number of stories about the Brooks, some of which were included in his books and other writings, and some of which I had never heard before (and wouldn't dare repeat).

Jan has known and befriended many interesting and famous people over the years. He several months working with noted filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer during the filming of Ordet (The Word), and later turned that into a fascinating book from the University Press of Kentucky. He was also for a time the personal secretary to Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), the celebrated novelist and short story writer.

In the course of our 30 minute conversation, Wahl also recounted anecdotes of encounters with the likes of artist Jasper Johns, sculptor Alexander Calder, and photographer Edward Steichen.

His very first book, Pleasant Fieldmouse (1964), was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Another early book, Cobweb Castle (1968), was illustrated by Edward Gorey, whom he knew.

I want to encourage everyone to seek out Jan Wahl's books. They are recommended, and he is a gifted writer and storyteller. These two books by Wahl, Dear Stinkpot: Letters From Louise Brooks, and Through a Lens Darkly, belong on the bookshelf of every Brooks fan. Go get a copy today!"


Just a few years ago, I tracked down a nice hardback first edition copy of Wahl's 1978 collection of stories called Youth's Magic Horn. Wahl authored many book, most of which were for kids. This one was for adult readers, and what's more, uniquely so, it is dedicated to Louise Brooks. I regret I never sent it to Jan to autograph, and that I never told Jan how much I liked it. (Proving themselves as writers is a BIG theme in Dear Stinkpot.) I think he would have liked to have heard that. 

Powered By Blogger