Saturday, May 30, 2020

Richard Sala (1959-2020), friend of the Louise Brooks Society

With much sadness the Louise Brooks Society mourns the passing of Richard Sala (1959-2020), an acclaimed cartoonist, illustrator, and comic book creator and longtime friend to the LBS. Sala was found dead in his Berkeley, California home, having died on May 7th. He was only 61 years old.

One of Sala earliest comics was Night Drive, which he self-published in 1984. Soon afterword, he was "discovered" by Art Spiegelman and others, and he was published in RAW magazine in 1986. Sala's many admirers included his fellow cartoonists, such as Daniel Clowes, the author of Ghost World. Clowes  penned a moving tribute to Sala, a close friend, in Comics Journal. Other memorial pieces include those on Boing Boing, Comics Beat, and CBR.

Sala loved all manner of popular culture, where it was pulp illustration, silent movies, German expressionism, science fiction and horror, or mod music. I first became aware of Sala around the time he published Peculia (Fantagraphics, 2002), whose plucky heroine was loosely inspired by Louise Brooks. (Peculia is a mysterious girl whose name is a reference to a childhood misspelling of the Spanish word "pelicula," or "movie"). In a 2007 interview with Comics Reporter, Sala stated:
So, I sat down and began to create model sheets for characters -- the kind you see that are done for animation -- just so I'd have a guide to what my characters would look like from every angle. The more I drew women, the more they evolved into whatever it is they've become. I really like the way women were drawn in old comic strips and early "golden-age" comic books, so I was looking at those. I also referred to photos of silent movie actresses like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks -- women who were spunky and sexy and cute and strong and innocent and smart -- all at the same time. And I looked at vintage illustrations of flappers, which captured that same spirit -- often in drawn in what seems like a single graceful, gently curving line from head to foot. So that became the basic type for many of the female characters.
Around the time Peculia was published, I was managing an author event series in San Francisco. Enthused by Sala's new book, I begged his publishor for an event with the artist, but Sala wouldn't do it. I never understood why until later, when I learned of his crippling anxiety and agoraphobia. We exchanged a few emails back then (more senseless begging for an event by me, and chat about Louise Brooks), and a few years later, with the rise of Facebook, we connected once again, occasionally liking and commenting on each other's posts. It has been a long time, but I think I sent him a copy of my first book, the Louise Brooks edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl. I guess Louise Brooks is my Peculia.

For more about this singular talent, check out his Facebook page, or his blog/website titled HERE LIES RICHARD SALA. Though we never met, I consider you a friend, a kindred soul. Good passage Richard.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Some Charlie Chaplin news, and a bit of Louise Brooks too

First off, let me thank long-time friend Rena Azevedo Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Film Museum for sending me a pair of Louise Brooks face masks. What an unexpected delight. They should help fend off the coronavirus. I think they are very groovy, and they are much liked in this stay-at-home, go-out-very-little California household. Here are the two, modeled by yours truly.


Speaking of the Niles Essanay Film Museum. . . . the Fremont, California museum will be hold their annual Charlie Chaplin Days on June 26 through June 28, about a month from today. Unlike the real world events of the past, this year's event is going virtual due to the you know what. There are a bunch of activities planned, and I would encourage everyone to check things out come June.

And speaking of Charlie Chaplin . . . . author and Chaplin authority Dan Kamin has a new interactive presentation available called Red Letter Days Live. It is a complement to his superb book, Charlie Chaplin Red Letter Days, which I wrote about for Huffington Post back in 2017. (Read that piece HERE.) Red Letter Days Live is a multi-media work which looks at the public and private worlds of the comedic legend and how the great comedian affected the WWI and the "war to end all war" affected him. What follows is a short video by Kamin about his new work.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Video Diary of a Lost Girl - Louise Brooks homage from Pandora's Talk Box Productions

Here's something unusual from, a Louise Brooks homage titled Video Diary of a Lost Girl from a indy film group called Pandora's Talk Box Productions. This 2012 video, which I only recently came across on YouTube, described itself as "A rock and roll horror fantasy where we meet the immortal Louise and her beloved Charlie. Unfortunately due to Louise's supernatural origins, every man she sleeps with must die so that she can survive! A heart felt love letter to 80's horror, punk, VHS and German expressionism." 

I think most fans of Louise Brooks will pick-up on the various allusions relevant to our favorite silent film star. The cast includes Priscilla McEver as Louise, Chris Shields as Charlie, Casey Puccini as Michael, Monica Panzarino as Jane, and Erica Gressman as Emily. Video Diary of a Lost Girl was named  given an Audience Award at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, and named an Official Selection at the Brisbane Underground Film Festival, an Official Selection at the South Texas Underground Film Festival, and an Official Selection: Dark Carnival Film Festival. Here is the trailer, which should give you a taste of the film:

I understand there has been a video release. Also, Video Diary of a Lost Girl screens on TruIndie TV. However, back on March 19, the film's Facebook page announced "While everyone is quarantined for the next few weeks (or months?), Video Diary of a Lost Girl will be available to watch for free on Youtube! The link below is unlisted, so all I ask is to share the link with a friend who is bored and needs a good laugh and/or scare! Happy Apocalypse my fellow demon babies!" The link to the temporary free full version on YouTube can be found HERE.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

As seen on TV - Louise Brooks the Persistent Star gets screen time during LA news story.

My book, Louise Brooks the Persistent Star, received some screen time the other day during a news story on Los Angeles TV.  The 2018 book can be seen over Jeff Mantor's right shoulder throughout the short news segment on Larry Edmunds bookshop. The online text version of this news story can be viewed HERE, while the video can be viewed HERE.

The Larry Edmunds Bookshop has been a Hollywood landmark since 1938. Now, it is the last of its kind. Like many small retailers, including and especially bookstores, the Larry Edmunds bookshop is struggling to make ends meet. Just recently, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to make ends meet. It is a worthwhile cause -  especially if you love books & film, and one I would suggest everyone contribute at least a little to. Already, everyone from director Steven Soderbergh to screenwriter Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to film historians James Curtis (W. C. Fields) and Donna Hill (Rudolph Valentino) to and the czar of film noir Eddie Muller and have made donations. And seemingly, so have the spirits of Fred Astaire and Rock Hudon. As well as the Louise Brooks Society.

If you would rather order a book, why not do so? Chances are, the Larry Edmunds bookshop has the film book you are looking for. Some of their current selection is how below. Check out their website HERE. Or check out their Facebook page HERE.

At the end of February, I did one of the very last events put on by the store before the Covid-19 pandemic closed things down. It was a book signing in conjunction with the showing of Pandora's Box at the American Cinematheque / Egyptian theatre in Hollywood. I left some autographed books with Jeff which were put on sale. And that's why Louise Brooks the Persistent Star is on display at the bookshop. Jeff should have autographed copies of each of my recent books. See this EARLIER BLOG.

Speaking of my books, I want to thank the CMBA (Classic Movie Blog Association) for featuring my titles on a recent April blog post, "Books, Books, Books, 7th edition." Be sure and check it out.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Update on Around the World with Louise Brooks

This blog post is my first this month. Instead of blogging regularly, I have been concentrating my efforts on my two volume book project, Around the World with Louise Brooks, which I hope to finish by September and publish by November. Volume one is subtitled "The Actress." Volume two is subtitled "The Films." I have completed about eithy percent of the books. And can say both volumes will contains hundreds of images and ten of thousands of words of text. New information will be revealed, some of it a bit startling (at least to those deeply interested in Louise Brooks). I expect each 8" x 10" volume will run between four hundred to five hundred pages.

Around the World with Louise Brooks is something different, even unprecedented. This is not the story of Louise Brooks, Kansas-born American silent film actress. Rather, this is the story of Louise Brooks, international movie star. Most all of the images in each book have been sourced from international publications - and all together, they tell Brooks story from a  different perspective.

Lately, I have broke new ground in unearthing material for the first time from Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Bermuda. Here is an image I just came across from Argentina, which I would like to share. It was colorized, and appears below as it did in 1928. I am not sure if it will appear in my new book, but if it does, it will appear in black and white, as the interiors of Around the World with Louise Brooks are in black and white.

In fact, Around the World with Louise Brooks will feature material from more than 50 countries including The Ukraine, Vietnam, Poland and Iceland. There is material from a few nations which no longer exist, like The Free State of Danzig, and a few countries yet to be born, like Indonesia.

Did you know that a portrait of a young Louise Brooks first appeared in Europe nearly half a year before she made her first film? Or that the uncredited actress was pictured in film stills published in South America which were used to promote The Street of Forgotten Men, her first film? Or that her sensational 1929 film Diary of a Lost Girl was shown in Japan under a different title not long after its release in Germany? Or that the French-made Prix de beaute was shown in Haiti on a number of occasions in the early 1930s? Or that Brooks name appears in advertised credits in New Zealand for King of Gamblers, a film from which her role was cut? All this and more in Around the World with Louise Brooks.

As mentioned, most all of the images in each book have been sourced from international publications. The only exception is a chapter from volume one, "Mit Anderen Worten: Louise Brooks en los Estados Unidos," or "In Other Words: Louise Brooks in the United States." It surveys the actress career through America's many non-English language ethnic and emigre newspapers and magazines. Just lately I have added a few "exciting" pieces from Hungarian-American and Slovenian-American newspapers. They join Russian, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish-American publications. Want to know how the German-made Pandora's Box was promoted in the German-American press when it first showed in the United States? You can find out in Around the World with Louise Brooks. Admittedly, there are a few English-language clippings in this chapter, but they hail from American territories like the United States Virgin Islands, and a Japanese-English newspaper serving the population of pre-statehood Hawai'i. Here below is something remarkable, a bilingual English-Yiddish clipping about Brooks' marriage to Eddie Sutherland which leads off "Mit Anderen Worten: Louise Brooks en los Estados Unidos." It appeared in the Jewish Forward, which was published in New York City.

A cleaned-up version of the above piece appears in the book. A Yiddish piece that won't appear (there is too much other material) which is shown below is this remarkable conglomeration of 1928 advertisements featuring Howard Hawks' A Girl in Every Port, William Wellman's Wings, and an early stage adaption of Dracula, with immigrant Bela Lugosi in the title role.

Besides "Mit Anderen Worten: Louise Brooks en los Estados Unidos," other chapters in the first volume include "New Zealand’s Shaped Text Ads" (a visual delight for typographers) and "Louise Brooks as Modan Gāru" (which looks at Brooks' popularity in Japan in the 1920s). There are also individual chapters featuring vintage postcards from around the world, trade ads, and magazine covers - each with dozens of examples. There is also a chapter of magazine portraits, one of curiosities and odds 'n ends, and another looking at Brooks' long running relationship with Canada. Did you know that Canada was the first foreign country Brooks ever visited, as well as one of the last she ever visited....
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