Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Erling Bergendahl and Pola Negri and Clara Bow but not Louise Brooks

A follow-up to my June 9th post which centered on the Norwegian journalist and filmmaker Erling Bergendahl.... in which I had mentioned that I had come across a June 1928 article, "Ungdom og Stjernetitler," or "Youth and Stars," which appeared in Bien, a weekly Danish-language newspaper published in San Francisco, California. The article, as I mentioned, appeared on a page of news about Los Angeles, and was penned by Erling Bergendahl, a young Norwegian writer who lived for a short time in the United States.

Bergendahl's long article looks at the film careers of a handful of up-and-coming Paramount actors, including Ruth Taylor, Charles Rogers, Nancy Carrol, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, James Hall, Lene Chandler, Mary Brian, Jack Luden and Louise Brooks. Bergendahl assesses the work (so far) of each actor. In the paragraph on Richard Arlen, Bergendahl states, "Louise Brooks, Arlens Hustru, har ikke haft nogen særlig optræden endnu, og forfatteren av denne artikel har ingéh ovedreven tro paa hendes stjernefremtid. Det samme gjælder James Hall," which translates into English as "Louise Brooks, Arlen's partner, hasn't had any special performances yet, and the author of this article has no great belief in her future stardom. The same goes for James Hall." Fair enough, I said then, as Brooks' best performances - including A Girl in Every Port and Beggars of Life and her three European films, were still ahead of her.

My earlier blog recounted Bergendahl's notable efforts as a film journalist and filmmaker, two career paths he followed when he returned to Norway. I also lamented the fact that I could not find a picture of Bergendahl, and wondered if he ever met Brooks - either in the United States or in Europe.

Last week, I was surprised and delighted to received an email from Norwegian great granddaughters, who said she had read my blog while recently looking into the life of her illustrious grandfather. Kit, who lives in Norway, wrote "Last month you wrote an article about the fragment of a connection between Louise Brooks and a Norwegian journalist, one Erling Bergendahl. You lamented briefly the lack of a photo of Mr Bergendahl to include with the article. I'm one of Mr Bergendahl's great granddaughters, and at my parents' I found a photograph of Erling Bergendahl with a woman who looks a tad bit like Louise Brooks: in fact I found your website trying to determine if my great grandfather had ever interviewed Brooks, because of the resemblance. My parents wish to identify the woman, so I've made a quick snap with my phone. The quality isn't great, but I hope that with your trained eye you might be able to determine whether it is in fact Louise Brooks, or if you might be able to give us some pointers on who it might be. If it turns out to actually be Brooks, I can see with my parents if they'd be willing to make a higher-quality scan that you could use to illustrate your article on my great grandfather (forever commemorating our shame at his mistaken prediction that Brooks wasn't destined for stardom, etc.). In any case, thank you for your time and your article about my great grandfather, which had details on his life my parents were unaware of!"

Here is the photo Kit sent of her great grandfather, sitting beside a women I identified as being Pola Negri, the Polish-born star who also worked for Paramount. Kit believes the photo was taken in the United States, but is not 100% sure. I wonder if any Pola Negri experts have ever seen this picture before?

I wished I could find out more about Erling Bergendahl and his work in the United States, beyond the few facts I uncovered and wrote about in my earlier post. (A search for "Erling Bergendahl" at LANTERN, for example, turned up only three hits, two from issues of the Film Daily Year Book dating from the 1930s, and one from Motion Picture Herald dating from 1953, while a search at LANTERN under just the keyword Bergendahl turned up a few more passing mentions referencing "E. Bergendahl.")

I don't know why I didn't check my other sources when I first wrote about Bergendahl, but I did manage to find some more bits and pieces about Bergendahl's few years in the United States. This piece, for example, about how Clara Bow drew the cover for a book by Bergendahl, was pretty remarkable! Do any Clara Bow experts know anything about the Norwegian author and the IT girl that might be of interest to Kit?

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