Sunday, January 31, 2021

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on Louise Brooks and Pandora's Box

During yesterday's online listening party for the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album Sugar Tax, I tweeted lead singer Andy McCluskey a question about "Pandora's Box" - and he responded instantly.


"Pandora's Box" -- a tribute to the silent film star Louise Brooks, is the second track on Sugar Tax (1991). It is also a longtime concert favorite. Here is an rather delicious early live version from UK television, from the popular "Wogan" show from 1991. (As well, check out the image of Brooks on the laminated badge hanging on the lanyard of the black keyboard player in this "Top of the Pops" video, also from 1991.)


While "Pandora's Box" was streaming, OMD lead singer Andy McCluskey tweeted out a few more rather interesting comments. 



"Pandora's Box" has remained a fan and concert favorite, as have the song's association with Louise Brooks. Here is concert footage of the band performing live in 2007, with images of the actress featured prominently.


A few more comments regarding "Pandora's Box" followed, including the desire by their American label to NOT feature imagery of Louise Brooks.


Speaking of that original music video, here it is from way back in 1991. It remains, and shall always be, a great song.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Challenge of Researching Louise Brooks and Silent Film

I continue to look for any sort of documentation of Louise Brooks films showing around the world. Not just in Europe or the Americas, but also in Asia, the Middle East, and north Africa. I have to date found a few advertisements and other clippings from Turkey, Palestine (now Israel), Egypt and Algeria. I was fortunate to do so because the actress or one of her films was mentioned by name either in English or French, or Turkish.

 

I was not so fortunate while searching through the Tangier Gazette, an English language newspaper based in Morocco. I thought to post the image below which shows the difficulty in documenting film exhibition in some countries. This 1929 ad, for example, which is nearly identical to ads I found from 1928, shows that the American films screened in Tangiers were not named. Instead, it was just movies made in America at 6 pm and 10 pm. And notably, they were not shown in a cinema, but rather in a casino hall. What films were they? We may never know.


Is anyone able to come up with an image of this venue? I would be interested to see something. I have been able to find images of theaters which showed Brooks' films -- not just in Europe, but also in India, Vietnam, Mexico, etc....

Monday, January 25, 2021

A poem on the theme of love, and an advert of a Louise Brooks film on the theme of love

Late last year, I ran a short series of blogs highlighting some of the new and unusual material I have come across while researching Louise Brooks' life and career. This was research conducted over the internet during the stay-at-home doldrums of the 2020 pandemic lock-down. My research has continued into 2021, as have the stay-at-home orders. Thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society supporter Tim Moore, I have recently come across a handful of new and unusual items which I wish to share. This post kicks off another short series of blogs highlighting that material.

Here is a little something I recently came across which caught my eye, an advertisement for the Louise Brooks film, Love Em and Leave Em (1926), which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, a newspaper published in Newark, New Jersey. Next to the ad is a poem on the theme of love by Louis Ginsberg, the father of the famed poet Allen Ginsberg. Together, the poem and the film ad make for an interesting juxtaposition.

Unlike his son, Louis Ginsberg is not considered a major poet. Rather, he was an accomplished versifier whose poems appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Masses, the New York Evening Post, Argosy, and other periodicals and newspapers, as well as in Modern American Poetry: A Critical Anthology, Third Revised Edition (1925) and Modern British Poetry, both edited by Louis Untermeyer.

Though not shown, the poem printed above is titled "Reasons" and it was dedicated "(For Naomi)" -- Louis Ginsberg's first wife and Allen Ginsberg's mother. As indicated, it appeared in Anthology of Magazine Verse For 1926 And Yearbook of American Poetry, edited by William Stanley Braithwaite.

Let me end with another curious Louise Brooks-Beat Generation overlap.... On Dec. 15, 1948, Lowell, Massachusetts journalist (and future Jack Kerouac in-law) Charles Sampas mused about the silent film star in his newspaper column, writing “I can remember Way Back When and actress named Louise Brooks was the Number One favorite of the Square Beaux….”

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A little more about Erskine Gwynne and the Eskimo

While writing my previous post about Erskine Gwynne, Louise Brooks, and the Eskimo, I was intrigued to learn more about Gwynne, a somewhat obscure figure in history. Despite his accomplishments as an American writer and publisher in early 20th century Paris, there is no Wikipedia page devoted to him. His sister Kiki Preston, née Alice Gwynne, has her own Wikipedia page, but Erskine does not.

Last night, I continued to dig around through various newspaper archives in search of  anything more about Erskine Gwynne. I found a couple of profiles of Gwyyne (shown below), articles about his publication The Boulevadier, including one about the time it was banned as being too "naughty," as well as a 1928 clipping which explicitly states that it was Gwyyne who gave "the Eskimo" (Carl Wijk) his "cold" nickname.


Here, is lieu of a biography of Erskine Gwynne, are a couple of Parisian newspaper articles which sketch his life till then. The first dates from May, 1927 and comes from the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune. The second dates to February, 1928 and comes from the Paris Times, one of the English-language newspapers in French capitol serving the many Americans and English speaking expats then living there. (When Gwynne died in 1948, the New York Times published a short obitiuary. It can be found HERE.)


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Louise Brooks, a Berlin caricature and an historical nexus

Late last year, I ran a short series of blogs highlighting some of the new and unusual material I have come across while researching Louise Brooks' life and career. This was research conducted over the internet during the stay-at-home doldrums of the 2020 pandemic lock-down. My research has continued into 2021, as have stay-at-home orders. Thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society supporter Tim Moore, I have recently come across a handful of new and unusual items which I wish to share. This second post continues a short series of blogs highlighting such material.

In the early 1930s, a well-connected American (related to the Vanderbilt family) named Erskine Gwynne wrote a column called "The Cavalcade" for the Paris-based European edition of the New York Herald (later known as the International Herald Tribune). It covered things of interest to Americans not only on the continent, but also back in the States. The Paris-born Gwynne, no doubt a man about town, was also the publisher of a monthly magazine titled The Boulevadier, as well as the creator of a famed Jazz Age cocktail also called "The Boulevadier." He was also the author of self-published novel, Paris Pandemonium, a 1936 title whose pre-publication blurbs vowed that the city’s “loosely moraled married women and their gigolos will be faithfully etched,” but was panned for delivering “only rudimentary devilishness.”

Erskine Gwynne
 
What brought Gwynne to my attention was his New York Herald column from September 2, 1933. It mentions Louise Brooks, and "the Eskimo." Gwynne's column begins this way: "BERLIN --- This city certainly has changed. It is difficult for anyone who has been here scores of times, but always on a flying visit, to judge. But every German I see, and invisible ones around me too, whisper "'Don't you think Berlin has changed?' The Nazi uniforms, of course, are there. . . . "

Gwynne's look-around-Berlin column continues. "What I like about the Eden Hotel is that facing it is the aquarium. On its walls are sculpted various kinds of unpleasant monsters, dinosaur, etc., and they are the first thing I see in the morning on getting up. I fear more and more that the day will come when I'll wake up to find them crawling around all over my bed. Then it'll be 'Quick, Watson, the needle'.  There are also funny things on the wall inside the hotel bar. Jimmy, the barman, has a gallery of important customers caricatured. Several years ago one Carl Wijk, better known as the Eskimo, was in Berlin. His face figured prominently in Jimmy's collection with Noel Coward and Louise Brooks. The last two mentioned are still there. The Eskimo has been thawed out."

Of course, the Eden Hotel is known in Louise Brooks lore as the place where the twenty-year old actress stayed for five weeks while filming Pandora's Box in late 1928. Brooks even mentioned the famed hotel in Lulu in Hollywood, writing "Sex was the business of the town. At the Eden Hotel, where I lived, the cafe bar was lined with higher priced trollops. The economy girls walked the street outside...." But wow, I hadn't known there was a caricature of Brooks hanging in the Eden, not to mention still hanging four years after she had made her last film in Germany. I WONDER WHAT THAT CARICATURE LOOKED LIKE, AND WHERE IT IS TODAY?

Brooks arriving at the Eden Hotel in 1928, greeted by a bell-hop wearing a Eden Hotel cap.

What also surprised me was mention of "the Eskimo." In Louise Brooks lore, he is a somewhat mysterious figure, a hanger-on who Brooks met in Paris after making Pandora's Box. He also hung around Brooks while she was making Diary of a Lost Girl, and later, was with her when she returned to Paris between films. In his biography of Brooks, Barry Paris tentatively identifies him thus, "He was half-Swedish and half-English.... His real name appears to have been Karl von Bieck, and he was supposedly an impoverished baron." I wonder, could the Eskimo referenced in Gwynne's column be the same mentioned in the Paris book? They are both associated with the Eden Hotel and Brooks, and their first names are similarly Carl / Karl, though spelled differently.

I haven't been able to learn much about Carl Wijk, except that there was a Baron named Carl Wijk who in July 1931 married Catherine (or "Kitty") Kresge, daughter of S. S. Kresge and heiress to the 5 and 10 cent store fortune. In articles from the time, Carl Wijk is described as both a "naturalized British subject" and as the "eldest son of Lady Reginald Barnes of Devonshire, England." Reportage from the time also suggests that Carl Wijk and Kitty Kresge met through her sister Ruth, who was friends with the famed Jazz Age illustrator Ralph Barton, who killed himself in May of 1931.

Is Carl Wijk the same person as Karl von Bieck? Might their identities have been conflated? I don't know. (In Richard Leacock's filmed interview with Brooks, she identifies the Eskimo simply as Baron Beek, never spelling out the name). Here is a picture of Brooks at Joe Zelli's famous Parisian nightclub. The person sitting close to the right of her might be the Eskimo, as he is a young man and blonde. The man sitting on the far right is Joe Zelli. The man to the far left is unknown.

Brooks at Joe Zelli's in Paris, October 1929

Back to Erskine Gwynne. I don't know that Gwynne and Brooks ever met, but it is possible as both were likely in Paris at the same time. Brooks was a popular figure in Paris in 1929 and 1930 -- both as a personality and a film star; and Gwynne was certainly aware of her in the years before he penned the above mentioned column. (Gwynne seems to have known just about "everybody." His wife was fashionable, and was once photographed by  Hoyningen-Huene for Vogue. Gwynne himself shows up in pictures from the time with likes of Jack Pickford and Marilyn Miller, among others, each of whom also knew Brooks. He also seems to have known Leon Erroll, Brooks' Louie the 14th co-star. And too, Gwynne was the brother of Alice "Kiki" Gwynne, a rich, charismatic beauty and famed American socialite and the alleged mother of a child born out of wedlock to Prince George, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V. She also reportedly had affairs with the likes of film star Rudolph Valentino and writer Evelyn Waugh.)

As mentioned earlier, Gwynne was the publisher of a monthly Paris-based magazine titled The Boulevadier, which ran from 1927 to 1932. It is described as a Parisian New Yorker type magazine. In its day, it had a small reputation, and was read on occasion by the likes of Janet Flanner and other American expatriates. According to the New Yorker article referenced below, it "did not leave much of a legacy, other than commissioning a few illustrations by Alexander Calder and—par for the course for vanity magazines run by Americans in Europe—once or twice publishing Hemingway." Nevertheless, I hope to track down copies to see if Louise Brooks was ever mentioned. This vintage advertisement for Gwynne's magazine certainly has the air of liquor about it.


As also mentioned, Gwynne was the creator of a still popular Jazz Age cocktail called "The Boulevadier." If you look it up on the internet, you'll come across a surprising number of references, articles, blogs, and webpages about the drink. In 2019, the New Yorker named it the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail. Did Louise Brooks ever drink one? Who knows. She preferred gin, later in life, and the picture of her celebrating at Zelli's shows her table stocked with champagne. 

The Boulevardier’s origins trace back, at least on paper, to the 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails by Harry McElhone, the raconteur proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Harry's was a celebrated drinking establishment, one favored by socialites and expats including Ernest Hemingway. Here is the way the recipe for the drink as it is given in McElhone's book (which is pictured below). 


The Boulevardier that has come down to us today has remained pretty much the same. It still uses Bourbon, and features an equal parts combination of the whiskey alongside Campari and sweet vermouth. (An alternate recipe can be found at the bottom of the New Yorker article referenced above.)

30ml Bourbon
30ml Campari
30ml sweet vermouth
Orange or lemon twist garnish

Stir the ingredients together over ice, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with your choice of an orange or lemon twist, expressing the peel over the glass.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Criterion version of Louise Brooks' film Pandora's Box streams online

The Criterion version of the 1929 Louise Brooks' film Pandora's Box is streaming online through Alamo on Demand. Individuals may purchase the film for $14.99, or rent it for $2.99. More information about this offer may be found HERE.


The film is described thus: "One of the masters of early German cinema, G. W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst’s lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora’s Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora’s Box is one of silent cinema’s great masterworks and a testament to Brooks’s dazzling individuality."

Writing on BayFlicks.net, longtime blogger Lincoln Spector wrote: "Nearly 70 years after her last film, cinephiles still debate whether Louise Brooks was a first-class talent or just a beautiful woman in the hands of a great director. Either way, her oddly innocent femme fatale wins our sympathy and our lust as she sends men to their destruction without, apparently, understanding what she’s doing. A great example of what the silent drama could do in the hands of a master; in this case, G.W. Pabst. Gideon Freudmann will provide musical accompaniment on an electric cello."

 


Friday, January 15, 2021

Nazi hatred of Charlie Chaplin, along with mention of a Louise Brooks film

Late last year, I ran a short series of blogs highlighting some of the new and unusual material I have come across while researching Louise Brooks' life and career. This was research conducted over the internet during the stay-at-home doldrums of the 2020 pandemic lock-down. My research has continued into 2021, as have the stay-at-home orders. Thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society supporter Tim Moore, I have recently come across a handful of new and unusual items which I wish to share. This post kicks off another short series of blogs highlighting that material.

In the past, the UK newspaper Daily Telegraph ran a regular feature called "London Day by Day," featuring short news bits about and related to life in the English capitol. In August of 1934, it ran a piece on the English-born actor Charlie Chaplin, followed by a piece on the German actor Fritz Kortner (Brooks' co-star in Pandora's Box), who was then a recent emigrant to England. These two piece reveal the tenor of the times.

Chaplin’s movies were banned in Germany because of the actor’s suspected Jewish heritage. Though Nazi hatred of Chaplin is well known, their deep contempt for the widely loved comedian is still surprising, even shocking, after all these years - especially when one reads the Nazi description of Chaplin as "A nasty little Jew, not yet hanged." This clipping, it is worth noting, came 6 years before Chaplin satirized Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940).

Also surprising to me is the mention of Pandora's Box (a silent film) having shown in Berlin in 1934, some five years after it was first released - that is, four to five years into the sound era and a year after the Nazis assumed power. What also surprised me is the description of Pandora's Box as a "distinctly Liberalistic, if not Marxist" film. (It is unclear to me if that is the attitude of the Nazis, or the newspaper.) The clipping also mentions that Pandora's Box was one of the last films shown at the Camera theatre before it was closed by the Nazis, implying that this "world famous pocket cinema" was shuttered because of the films it showed.

The director behind Pandora's Box, the Austrian-born G. W. Pabst, was known as a left-of-center film-maker, and a number of his films contain subtle and not-so-subtle critiques of German society. (Pabst's critical attitude toward German society is also apparent in the other film he made with Brooks, Diary of a Lost Girl). Despite, or perhaps in addition to Pabst's leftist politics, what likely got the Camera theatre shuttered was the fact that Brooks' co-star in Pandora's Box, Fritz Kortner, was Jewish. (No doubt, Kortner left Germany in 1934 because the Nazis prohibited Jewish individuals from working in the film industry. Also exiled because of the Nazi ban were members of Syd Kay's Fellows, the small jazz band seen playing at Lulu's wedding in Pandora's Box.)

Fritz Kortner looms over Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box. A Menorah  sits on the shelf to the left.

I don't know much of anything about Die Kamera theater, now demolished, except for what can be found on its Cinema Treasures page. Built in 1928, the theater
was badly damaged by Allied bombs during World War II. It was not reopened, and later the Russian Embassy was built at its site. If any reader of this blog knows more, I would certainly be interested to learn what I might about its existence in the early 1930s. I would also be especially interested in obtaining any vintage newspaper advertisements from the time, especially for Pandora's Box. I wonder which German newspaper might have carried them?

Cinema Treasures has a couple of image of this historic theater, one an interior view, and another 1936 image of an exterior, street view. (That image, the image shown below, is a cropped from this Wikipedia image.) Its name, Kamera, can be seen behind the lamp pole above the door in the middle of the image. Another image of the theater, dating from 1934, and with Nazi flags hanging from the building exterior, can be found HERE.

For more on a 1933 screening of Pandora's Box, see this earlier LBS blog, "Amazing letter from Theodor Adorno to Alban Berg," in which the famous philosopher recounts seeing the film in a letter to the famed composer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Louise Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men, part 3

The public domain is just starting to catch up with the film career of Louise Brooks. As of January 1, 2021, copyrighted works from 1925 have entered the United States public domain, where they are free to use and build upon. These works include celebrated books such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, silent films featuring Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, and popular songs by “Ma” Rainey and Fats Waller. 

The public domain also now includes a short story, "The Street of the Forgotten Men," by the author & muckraking journalist George Kibbe Turner. It was first published in 1925, and served as the basis for the highly regarded film made later that same year titled The Street of Forgotten Men. As Brooks' fans know, that film was the first in which the actress appeared. In an uncreditted bit part that lasts only about five minutes, Brook plays a gangster's moll with aplomb. Despite her brief role, The Street of Forgotten Men is a terrific, almost Lon Chaney-esque silent film deserving greater recognition. (See my 2012 Huffington Post piece, "Strange Silent Film Screens in Syracuse," for more about Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men.)

Not unlike later Brooks' films such as Beggars of Life (1928) and The Canary Murder Case (1929), much was made of the literary origins of  The Street of Forgotten Men. To reinforce the association of the story and the film, the story's appearance in Liberty magazine was included and at times emphasized in the film's marketing,  advertising, and coverage. Here, for example, is a two-page spread which appeared in Motion Picture News. Notice that both of these Paramount ads reference Liberty magazine, with the second even including the magazine's original black and white art.



On occasion, George Kibbe Turner's story was referenced in newspaper advertisements, as with this Poli's theater ad from a rainy Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

References to Turner's story and its appearance in Liberty magazine also turned up in editorial content, as with this captioned photo of star Percy Marmont in a Minneapolis newspaper.


And then there is this, perhaps my "favorite" review of The Street of Forgotten Men. It appeared in the New York Daily News. It mentioned the Turner story and Liberty magazine. And, it is my fave because it also mentions Jim Tully's Beggars of Life, which was just a couple of months away from being staged on Broadway. Brooks would go see the play with Charlie Chaplin, and later starred in the film adaption in which she played a little tramp of the female variety!


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Louise Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men, part 2

The public domain is just starting to catch up with the film career of Louise Brooks. As of January 1, 2021, copyrighted works from 1925 have entered the United States public domain, where they are free to use and build upon. These works include celebrated books such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, silent films featuring Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, and popular songs by “Ma” Rainey and Fats Waller. 

The public domain also now includes a short story, "The Street of the Forgotten Men," by the author & muckraking journalist George Kibbe Turner. It was first published in 1925, and served as the basis for the highly regarded film made later that same year titled The Street of Forgotten Men. As Brooks' fans know, that film was the first in which the actress appeared. In an uncreditted bit part that lasts only about five minutes, Brook plays a gangster's moll with aplomb. Despite her brief role, The Street of Forgotten Men is a terrific, almost Lon Chaney-esque silent film deserving greater recognition. (See my 2012 Huffington Post piece, "Strange Silent Film Screens in Syracuse," for more about Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men.)


This blog concludes a serialization of the original George Kibbe Turner story, presented in two parts, of an illustrated version of "The Street of the Forgotten Men," as it was originally published in Liberty magazine. It is, as it claims, "A Romance of the Underworld -- The Strange Story of a Bowery Cinderella and a Beggar Who Lost Himself for Love."

 



 
Tune-in tomorrow for a bit more about George Kibbe Turner's "The Street of the Forgotten Men."

Monday, January 11, 2021

Louise Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men, part 1

The public domain is just starting to catch up with the film career of Louise Brooks. As of January 1, 2021, copyrighted works from 1925 have entered the United States public domain, where they are free to use and build upon. These works include celebrated books such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, silent films featuring Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, and popular songs by “Ma” Rainey and Fats Waller. 

The public domain also now includes a short story, "The Street of the Forgotten Men," by the author & muckraking journalist George Kibbe Turner. It was first published in 1925, and served as the basis for the highly regarded film made later that same year titled The Street of Forgotten Men. As Brooks' fans know, that film was the first in which the actress appeared. In an uncreditted bit part that lasts only about five minutes, Brook plays a gangster's moll with aplomb. Despite her brief role, The Street of Forgotten Men is a terrific, almost Lon Chaney-esque silent film deserving greater recognition. (See my 2012 Huffington Post piece, "Strange Silent Film Screens in Syracuse," for more about Brooks and The Street of Forgotten Men.)

This blog begins a serialization, if you will, of the original George Kibbe Turner story, which will be presented in two parts. Here begins an illustrated version of "The Street of the Forgotten Men," as it was originally published in Liberty magazine. It is, as it claims, "A Romance of the Underworld -- The Strange Story of a Bowery Cinderella and a Beggar Who Lost Himself for Love."


 

Tune-in tomorrow for the second half of George Kibbe Turner's "The Street of the Forgotten Men."

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society

Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society. Best wishes to everyone who reads and follows this blog and the LBS website at www.pandorasbox.com. To mark the occasion, here are a few little seen images from the Louise Brooks Society archives. To learn more about the LBS, visit the "About the Louise Brooks Society" tab just above.



For all the latest from the Louise Brooks Society, be sure and follow this blog (see right hand column), or follow the LBS on Facebook and Twitter, or YouTube or LinkedIn. And again, Happy New Year from the Louise Brooks Society!

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