Monday, December 21, 2020

Update on Around the World with Louise Brooks, forthcoming in 2021 provided we all survive the pandemic

At the beginning of this year, I was determined to finish my book project, Around the World with Louise Brooks, by the end of the year. I had by then accumulated a few hundred pages of draft material, and was managing to keep a steady, near daily pace of writing and editing, selecting images, fact checking, and writing and editing. And then the pandemic struck. . . . And despite the fact that I was sticking close to home and had extra time on my hands, anxiety about the future (and Trump's grievous mishandling of just about everything) dampened my enthusiasm about nearly everything. A pall hung in the air. 

Work on the project slowed, and though I have made a good deal of progress, the finish line still looks a ways off. Alas, Around the World with Louise Brooks won't be completed by the end of the year. Thus, I am pushing back the book's expected publication date, to the Summer or Fall of 2021. That should give me the time and the (mental) space to complete this large work, my most ambitious project yet. With that said, I wanted to give everyone an update on where things stand, and to share a bit of what I have so far accomplished. I hope you will be intrigued. 

As I have mentioned previously, Around the World with Louise Brooks will be a two volume work. Each thick volume will be oversized, measuring 8 x 10 inches. The first volume will be devoted to "The Actress," and the second volume to "The Films". I expect each to run around 450 to 500 pages, perhaps more, with each featuring hundreds of images and some 50,000+ words of text. Lately, I have been concentrating on the first volume, and have put together 45,000 words of text spread over 469 pages. For the second volume, I have less accomplished but still have 20,000 words written and 484 pages compiled. Always in fear of project creep, I am trying to keep everything in focus, and I may end up cutting things here and there. Here are the expected covers for each volume.


At this reduced size, the background text on each cover is a little hard to make out. However, I can tell you that the background text design is based on material drawn from each book. The text on the cover of volume one features variant versions of Brooks' name from around the world, while volume two features alternative foreign titles for Brooks' films. What follows is some descriptive copy I wrote about each book.

Around the World with Louise Brooks (volume 1), The Actress  

Louise Brooks was known by many names: in Czechoslovakia she was Louise Brooksová, in Latvia Luīze Bruksa, in Russia Луиза Брукс, and in Spain the more familiar Luisa Brooks, except in Catalonia where she was sometimes Loma Brooks. 

Around the World with Louise Brooks is a groundbreaking, two-volume, multilingual look at the life and career of an international icon. Through ephemera and hundreds of vintage magazine and newspaper clippings, this first volume traces the sometimes surprising way the actress was depicted in more than four dozen countries across six continents. Along with collecting dozens of vintage postcards and just as many magazine covers, this volume sketches Brooks' special relationship with Canada, notes her depiction as Modan Gāru in Japan, and documents her inclusion in New Zealand's unique shaped text ads, while a chapter on the United States locates the actress in the pages of America’s non-English ethnic and émigré press. Among the book's many highlights – many of which have not been seen in decades – are Brooks' first portrait in a European publication (dating from before her movie career), her 1929 message to her Japanese fans, and the only known advertisements for King of Gamblers which name the actress – despite the fact she had been cut from American prints of the film. Suggesting she might have included in overseas prints ... ? Around the World with Louise Brooks is a cinematic gazetteer of sorts, taking readers back in time to Australia, Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Romania, Uruguay and elsewhere.

The chapters in volume one are:

 1    Introduction   
 2    European Soul   
 3    Portrait of a Star   
 4    Postcards of a Star   
 5    Mit Anderen Worten: Louise Brooks en los Estados Unidos
 6    Canada: Neighbor to the North   
 7    New Zealand’s Shaped Text Ads
 8    Louise Brooks as Modan Gāru   
 9    Trade Ads from Around the World     
10   Magazine Covers                 
11   Odds & Ends              
12   Further 

Around the World with Louise Brooks (volume 2), The Films 

Louise Brooks' films were shown just about everywhere – in the Canary Islands, in Iceland and Palestine and Estonia, in Dutch Guiana and French Algeria and British Malaysia. BUT, not all of her films where shown everywhere, and not at the same time, and not under the same title.

Around the World with Louise Brooks is a groundbreaking, two-volume, multilingual look at the transnational career of iconic actress. Through various documents as well as hundreds of vintage newspaper and magazine clippings, this second volume focuses on each of Brooks’ 24 movies, showing when and where and under what title each were shown – from grand movie palaces in Berlin and Bombay to humble open air spaces in Singapore and Darwin (Australia). The little known though rich exhibition history of the German-made Pandora’s Box, the actress’ greatest screen triumph, is newly documented through scarce material from Cuba, Indonesia, Japan, Poland, Portugal, and the Soviet Union. Also well represented are Brooks’ two other European films, Diary of a Lost Girl and the French-made Prix de beauté, each of which circulated with success in Asia and Latin America, with the latter making its way to Haiti, Turkey, Ukraine, and even Madagascar. Along with little seen movie posters from Belgium and Sweden, one of this book's other highlights include a rare still of Brooks in an uncredited part in her first film which was published not in the United States, but elsewhere; there are, as well, newspaper ads documenting the last known public screenings (sometimes years after their first release) of the actress’ now lost movies. Around the World with Louise Brooks is a kind of cinematic travel guide, taking readers not only around the world but also back in time to Argentina, Bulgaria, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, India, Jamaica, Mexico, and South Africa – as well as to nations which no longer exist and countries yet to be born.

The chapters in volume two are:

 1    Introduction
 2    The Films Around the World
 3    The Street of Forgotten Men
 4    The American Venus through The Show-Off
 5    Love Em and Leave Em and Just Another Blonde
 6    The Four Films from 1927    
 7    A Girl in Every Port through The Canary Murder Case
 8    The Three European Films
 9    Into the Sound Era: The Films of the 1930s  
 10  Further

This two page spread from Around the World with Louise Brooks shows four Dutch-language newspaper ads which were part of a week-long advertising campaign on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia).

Louise Brooks was and still is an international star. And though it borders on being a cliché, it’s true that this singular actress is more popular and better regarded in Europe than she is in the United States, the country of her birth and the place where she made the majority of her films. 


With Around the World with Louise Brooks, my intention is to tell the story of Brooks and her career not as it is usually told – not as Barry Paris so masterly tells it in his acclaimed 1989 biography – but differently, though the collective voice of the world. Gathered in these two volumes are newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and clippings of all kinds as well as various examples of material culture (postcards, posters, sheet music, publicity manuals and other ephemera) which document the mechanics of Brooks’ stardom. The actress’ international reputation – both popular and critical, is surveyed, as is the manner in which her films were exhibited and reviewed in numerous countries on six continents. 

This "where are they now" type piece comes
from Chile, and is dated to 1932.

Each volume contains more than a handful of images which few if anyone has seen in nearly 90 years. Volume one features rare portraits and productions shots taken in Europe as well as more than 80 different postcards, cigarette cards and other product cards of the actress and more than 70 vintage magazine covers from nearly 20 countries. Volume two includes a full record of all of the alternative / overseas / foreign language titles of Brooks' films, something never before fully documented. As volume two also documents, Brooks' American films were not released overseas on their American release dates; in fact, they were released on different dates in different countries and sometimes one or two or even three years after they were first released in the United States! And sometimes, they were released out of order, with a 1927 films showing ahead of a 1926 film. And sometimes, they were advertised with different artwork, some of it originating overseas, making it a bit different if not unique. (Or in other words, American films were tailored to the audiences to the audiences to which they were shown.)

Most importantly, film titles were often but not always translated into the local language, and sometimes wholly different titles were given to a film. Take for example 1926 film, The American Venus. In England, it was sometimes shown under its American title, but also under The Modern Venus, a significant tweak which might well have been intended to broaden the film's appeal. Another example is Now We're in the Air, the 1927 film starring Wallace Beery and Raymond Hatton. The two actors had teamed up for a series of popular comedies, and as a buffoonish duo had earned the nicknames Riff and Raff. In many Spanish speaking countries, the film went by the title Reclutas por los aires, which translates into English as “Recruits in the air.” Similarly, in Sweden, the film was shown under the title Hjältar i luften, which translates into English as “Heroes in the air.” Both of these titles are not so different from the film’s American title. However, in other European countries, the title of the film was changed to some variation on the nicknames of the two main characters. In Austria, Now We're in the Air was shown as Riff und Raff als Luftschiffer, in Greece under the title O Riff kai o Raff aeroporoi, in Romania as Riff es Raffal a foszerepekben, etc…. Notably, I also found that a few films were shown under two or even three alternate titles, and sometimes in different languages in the same country, as when Brooks’ American films was shown in Poland under both a Polish and a German title depending on the ethnicity of the region. In compiling a record of the titles of Brooks’ films in other languages, I never translated a title from English and assumed it was the title used in the past. Instead, I have relied solely on the actual titles found in vintage articles, reviews, or advertisements.

Europe is best represented in these two volumes, with the most material coming from the two countries where Brooks was and still is best regarded, Germany and France. As well, there is a good deal of material from Latin America and the Caribbean, but not as much as I would like from Central America.  Japan and China, as well as Australia, are each well represented, though I wish I could uncover more from Southeast Asia. There are a few clippings from islands in the Pacific ocean. Africa and the Middle East are least represented for reasons I discuss in the book.

A rare German-language advertisement from the Free City of Danzig, present day Gdansk, Poland where the 1929 film Pandora's Box opened at the same time as the 1928 film A Girl in Every Port (Blaue Jungen - Blonde Madchen).

In fact, Around the World with Louise Brooks includes material from 50 of the 77 sovereign states recognized as independent nations in 1930. A few, like Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia, have since split into two or more countries, while others have been renamed or, like the Free City of Danzig, no longer exist as an autonomous entity. Time has not only shifted borders, but also changed how we think of peoples and nations. Included in this two volume work is material from various colonies and protectorates administered by England, France, and The Netherlands – including India and French Indochina (present day Vietnam) and the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia). Additionally, there is a bit of material from territories under the control of the United States, such as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the then territory of Hawai’i, and the Panama Canal Zone. 

In detailing Brooks' career, I have largely avoided material from the United States. The sole chapter on America, "Mit Anderen Worten: Louise Brooks en los Estados Unidos," is made up of material from non-English language publications – including the German, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese language press. Like their overseas counterparts, they too offered a different perspective. 

A New York City advertisement from the Jewish Daily Forward

Around the World with Louise Brooks includes all manner of new and unusual information. There is a record of Brooks' travels outside the United States, as well as a bibliographical essay highlighting her inclusion in a surprising number of books published in Europe and elsewhere. With various aspects of Brooks’ career newly revealed, a few commonly held beliefs are called into question. For example, how well received overseas were Brooks’ early American films? And was Brooks herself much noticed? Did director G.W. Pabst cast Brooks as Lulu after seeing her in the Howard Hawks film, A Girl in Every Port, as is often said, or was it some other film? Or not a film at all? (I uncovered a 50 year old account which sheds new light in this question.) Also, was Pandora’s Box as much a failure outside Germany as is sometimes thought? Was Diary of a Lost Girl completely withdrawn from view after it was first censored? Was Prix de beauté as much of an international failure as has also been suggested? And lastly, was it only in France where Brooks’ reputation was revived in the 1950s, or did other countries like Italy and Poland play a role?  Around the World with Louise Brooks sheds light on these questions and reveals a different Louise Brooks. 

Brooks was a significant star in Japan, where most all of her films were well advertised.
Around the World with Louise Brooks contains a number of similar ads, each boldly graphical.


  1. They'll be so worth waiting for, whenever they're released. Well done!

  2. Cannot wait for this project!!!!!!!!! It looks to be wonderful and in depth. Please consider quality paper and binding....perhaps even a slip cover. -Dan

  3. Thank you. I will think about a hardcover version.


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