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!

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