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.

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 -- 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, and there are follow buttons in the right-hand column.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Facts matter: Louise Brooks and some mistaken eBay listings

As there are with other movie stars and other cultural icons, there is a fair amount of misinformation floating around the internet regarding Louise Brooks. This misinformation ranges from simple inaccuracies regarding how many films the actress appeared in (was it 24, or 25?) -- or the date of a particular film's release (Pandora's Box is sometimes listed as a 1928 film, though released in 1929), to the mistaken identification of the actress (just because the subject of a portrait or film still is wearing bobbed hair doesn't mean it is Brooks). And then there are the various fake nudes.... which I've written about in the past HERE.

With all the attention Brooks has been getting of late with the release of The Chaperone, it is important to keep the facts straight. A few articles about The Chaperone, as well as a few related Facebook postings about the PBS film, have included a bit of inaccurate information. The film itself even contains a few historical anomalies. Read more about those HERE.

The Louise Brooks Society is intent on providing accurate information -- as well as pointing out inaccurate and mistaken material. Fact matter, after all - despite all the fake news coming out of Washington.

Recently, I've come across a handful of examples of inaccurate and mistaken material regarding the actress on eBay. It is hard to say whether these sellers are simply mistaken, suffering from wishful thinking, or are intent on deception. (As Lee Israel was when she faked letters from Louise Brooks and others as depicted in the recently released film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) You be the judge.

To me, and to most Louise Brooks fans, the above photo does NOT depict Louise Brooks, despite the fact she was a Ziegfeld girl in the 1920s and was photographed in a similar fashion by Alfred Cheney Johnston. It is not even close.

In all fairness, the seller of this photo is uncertain (hence the question mark), but still willing to mention Brooks by name in the item descriptor. [Does anyone know which film this still is from? I wasn't able to track down the identification numbers in the lower left hand corner.]

Again, just because a woman is wearing bobbed hair doesn't mean it is Brooks.To my eyes, this women looks nothing like Louise.

This one is a hoot. No, that is NOT Louise Brooks and Fred Astaire. That is Cyd Charisse (meant to look like Louise Brooks) and Gene Kelly in a scene from Singin' in the Rain. Here is a better image from the celebrated 1952 film, and in color (not colorized, but that is a whole different debate).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Diary of a Lost Girl starring Louise Brooks to show twice at BFI Southbank in London, England

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks' film Diary of a Lost Girl will be shown at the BFI Southbank in London, England in June as part of the Weimar Cinema 1919-1933 series. Diary will be shown twice, on Thursday, June 13 and Saturday, June 15, 2019. More information about this event, including ticket availability, can be found HERE.

Diary of a Lost Girl / Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

Iconic silent movie star Louise Brooks plays a woman who suffers at the hands of men, but refuses to be victim.

Germany 1929
Director G.W. Pabst
With Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert
113min / Digital / English subtitles
Certificate PG

Louise Brooks gives a performance of radiant vitality and real depth as a young woman who suffers at the hands of a grotesque assortment of men, but refuses – despite everything – to be a victim. Pabst scathingly depicts the poverty and hypocrisy by which women’s lives are routinely destroyed. A heady cocktail of lurid eroticism, knockabout humour and genuine pathos.

Print and permission courtesy Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.
With Javier Pérez de Azpeitia score (June 13), with live piano accompaniment (June 15).
The screening on Thursday 13 June will be introduced by film critic Pamela Hutchinson, author of a recent and rather excellent book on Pandora's Box.

Monday, May 6, 2019

New Book Features Louise Brooks - Women of the 1920s: Style, Glamour, and the Avant-Garde

A new book, Women of the 1920s: Style, Glamour, and the Avant-Garde by Thomas Bleitner, looks at the lives of seventeen influential women of the Jazz Age -- one of those seventeen is Louise Brooks. Bleitner's 176 page book will be published by Abbeville in September. A bit more information can be found HERE.

According to the publisher, "It was a time of unimagined new freedoms. From the cafés of Paris to Hollywood's silver screen, women were exploring new modes of expression and new lifestyles. In countless aspects of life, they dared to challenge accepted notions of a “fairer sex,” and opened new doors for the generations to come. What’s more, they did it with joy, humor, and unapologetic charm.

Exploring the lives of seventeen artists, writers, designers, dancers, adventurers, and athletes, this splendidly illustrated book brings together dozens of photographs with an engaging text. In these pages, readers will meet such iconoclastic women as the lively satirist Dorothy Parker, the avant-garde muse and artist Kiki de Montparnasse, and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, whose stories continue to offer inspiration for our time. Women of the 1920s is a daring and stylish addition to any bookshelf of women's history."

"Experience the glamor and excitement of the Jazz Age, through the lives of the women who defined it." Among the other notable women profiles in Women of the 1920s: Style, Glamour, and the Avant-Garde are Zelda Fitzgerald, Nancy Cunard, Tamara de Lempicka, Lee Miller, Claude Cahun, Clara Bow, Anita Berber, Josephine Baker, and Elisa Schiaparelli.

Thomas Bleitner is a writer and bookseller based in Hamburg, Germany. I found the image below online, and am not sure if it is an alternative cover, or what? I am sure that I like it.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks shows in Denver, Colorado on May 9

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks' film, Pandora's Box, will be shown at The Preservery in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, May 9th. More information about this event, as well as ticket availability, can be found HERE.

Silent Films at The Preservery: Pandora’s Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks

Thursday, May 9th, 2019
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Denver Public Library and Denver Film Society have teamed up for this silent film series hosted by The Preservery. Showtime is 7pm, but arrive early to order special appetizers, drinks and entrees inspired by the films. Louise Brooks shines in this masterpiece directed by G.W. Pabst. It’s daring and stylish and a testament to Brooks’ unique presence on film.

The Preservery
3040 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80205

Alas, the image used on the information page comes not from Pandora's Box, but from Diary of a Lost Girl.  That incorrect image is shown above. And alas again, it is a common mistake. Instead, here is an image from Pandora's Box.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Tonka of the Gallows and other points of interest and revelation at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival

There are a number of really fine films being shown at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Some of them may be familiar to silent film buffs (like the Buster Keaton and Lon Chaney films), while others are likely not (Victor Fleming's Wolf Song (1929), starring Gary Cooper and Lupe Velez, or the films from Bali and Japan). For me, it's those little known gems which prove themselves a revelation. And make attending this world class festival necessary. I detailed the schedule of films in an earlier LBS blog HERE.

I haven't seen all the film which will be shown, but I have seen a handful of them. The Ukiah Daily Journal just published my article on one of the films which will be shown, Clarence Brown's The Signal Tower (1924). Louise Brooks devotees might take note that the film's two stars, Virginia Valli and Wallace Beery, also appeared in later Brooks' films. Valli appeared in Evening Clothes (1927), while Beery appeared in another "train film," Beggars of Life (1928). Both actors are pictured below in one of the film's most dramatic scenes.

The director of Beggars of Life was William Wellman. His earlier film, You Never Know Women (1926), will also be shown at the Festival. Long thought lost, this backstage story is a bravura work - and according to his son, the success of this film got Wellman assigned to direct Wings (1927), the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. I enjoyed You Never Know Women immensely. If you can't attend the Festival, be sure and track down the DVD, recently released by Kino. It is brilliant! Really brilliant stuff!

For me, the one film I saw that proved a revelation was Tonka of the Gallows (or Tonka Šibernice), from 1930. It is a Czech film which stars Ita Rina, an attractive Slovenian ingénue. This rarely seen gem -- a parable of the cruelty that comes from small-mindedness -- tells the story of a country girl who becomes a prostitute in Prague where an act of selfless generosity -- spending the night with a condemned man -- marks her as a pariah. This exceptionally filmed film also has a Louise Brooks connection. Prague-born actor Josef Rovenský, Thymian’s father in Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), plays the condemned man in Tonka of the Gallows. The SFSFF sums things up when it states "Made as sound was taking over the industry, Tonka of the Gallows is a tour-de-force of silent-era filmmaking from Czechoslovakian director Karel Anton, who here has made his best work, always tempering style to serve the larger story." Tonka of the Gallows is a moving film, one which I hope to see many times in the future.

G.W. Pabst, who directed Louise Brooks in both Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora's Box (1929), directs another of the films to be seen at this year's festival, The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927). Set against Russia’s post-revolution civil war, the story follows Jeanne Ney (Édith Jéhanne) who flees to Paris when her diplomat father is killed after receiving a list of Bolshevik agents from the duplicitous opportunist Khalibiev (Fritz Rasp) -- a list that contains the name of Jeanne’s lover (Uno Henning)! Rasp played the villainous seducer of Thymian in Diary of a Lost Girl. He has one of the more memorable faces in early German film.


Ahead of time, I also had the chance to see the Monta Bell directed Light of Old Broadway (1925), starring Marion Davies, as well as Brownie's Little Venus (1921), starring Baby Peggy, but found both not as enjoyable as I have other films starring either Davies or the diminutive Baby Peggy. King Baggot's The Home Maker (1925), starring Alice Joyce, was interesting from a sociological point-of-view. It tells the story of a frustrated housewife who must go to work when her less than successful husband is disabled. She is a success, and the tables are turned.

One other film which I enjoyed a great deal and which also proved to be something of a revelation was the John Stahl directed Husbands and Lovers (1924). Lewis Stone is the not-so-doting husband to Florence Vidor’s devoted wife in this splendidly nuanced, briskly directed comedy that features the quintessentially caddish Lew Cody as the other man. For me, Vidor's performance was an eye-opener. She is appealing and has a manner that draws one into her character. I certainly want to see more of her films.

I am looking forward to this year's Festival, which starts later today. I am also looking forward to seeing some films for the first time -- like the Italian diva vehicle Rapsodia Satanica (1917), and the first ever Italian feature, L'Inferno (1911). And though I have seen it before, once a number of years ago after meeting Fay Wray, I am also excited to see the Paramount restoration of Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March (1928), starring Fay Wray; this special presentation will be introduced by Wray's daughter, Victoria Riskin.

And there's also Ernst Lubitsch's The Oyster Princess (1919), starring Ossi Oswaldo, and another early German film, Opium (1919), starring Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt, and Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), which the Village Voice described as “A knockout. Shimizu’s stunning tale of passion, crime, and decadence [is an] exhilarating triumph of ... experimental style [and] also a precious portrait of the great port city of Yokohama.” And there's . . . . .

For those interested, I will be signing copies of Louise Brooks the Persistent Star following the Saturday, 10:00 am showing of the Marion Davies film, The Lights of Old Broadway. My book signing is expected to start around 11:15 am.More information HERE.
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