Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Reminder : Louise Brooks film THE SHOW OFF to screen in New Hampshire

A New Hampshire theater will host a relocated version of the Kansas Silent Film Festival, an annual vintage film event cancelled this year due to Covid-19. In honor of the scrubbed Kansas festival, a three-day program of classic silent films with live music will be shown on the last weekend of February at the Town Hall Theatre, a two-screen independent movie house in Wilton, N.H. 

The "Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire," running from Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28, will feature vintage comedies and dramas starring performers with ties to the Sunflower State.
Among highlights is Louise Brooks in 'The Show Off' (1926); notably, a couple of the other films scheduled for the festival feature other personalities Brooks worked with, such as Wallace Beery, Ford Sterling, and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
 
 
The festival also includes a rare screening of 'The Little Church Around the Corner' a 1923 melodrama featuring Kansas-raised Claire Windsor and actor Walter Long, a native of Milford, N.H. 
Also on the festival's program: the original silent film version of 'The Wizard of Oz' (1925), with comic Oliver Hardy playing the Tin Man. 
 
All screenings will feature live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who travels each year to perform at the Kansas Festival, held at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas."When this year's Kansas festival was cancelled," Rapsis said, "we figured we could stage a tribute event here in New Hampshire, where movie theaters are able to show films while observing Covid-19 safety precautions."
 
 
The Town Hall Theatre, a well-known independent movie house, reopened in July. It currently shows only classic films and other specialty programs due to the lack of first-run features in release. The theatre follows all recommended Covid-19 safety guidelines.
 
All "Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire" screenings are free and open to the public, with no tickets needed or available in advance. Donations are welcome, with proceeds going to support the Kansas Silent Film Festival, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Organizers plan to add Kansas flavor to the event by bringing in selected local delicacies from the Sunflower state. Between screenings, movie-goers may sample sunflower seeds alongside Porubsky's hot pickles, to be shipped in from an iconic Polish deli in Topeka. 
 
 
In Kansas, in lieu of live performances this year, the Kansas Silent Film Festival will host a program of virtual screenings for online viewing. For more info, visit www.kssilentfilmfest.org. In New Hampshire, each day of the relocated tribute festival includes two feature films separated by an intermission.
 
• Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, 7:30 p.m.: Claire Windsor in 'The Little Church Around the Corner' (1923) and Fatty Arbuckle in 'The Round-Up' (1920). Kansas-born star Claire Windsor stars in 'The Little Church Around the Corner' (1923), a labor relations melodrama with a role for Milford, N.H. native Walter Long; followed by 'The Roundup' (1920), a rarely screened feature film starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (also from Kansas) that wasn't released in the U.S. following accusations of murder against the comedian, leading to a notorious series of court trials that exonerated Arbuckle, but left his career in ruins.
• Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, 7:30 p.m.: Silent screen icon Louise Brooks in 'The Show-Off' (1926) and Kansas-born actress Zasu Pitts in 'Casey at the Bat' (1927). In 'The Show Off,' actress Louise Brooks (from Cherryvale, Kansas) stars in the story of a working-class family's reluctance to accept their daughter's suitor. The film also stars Ford Serling in the title role, and Lois Moran. In 'Casey at the Bat,' Zasu Pitts (from Parsons, Kansas) stars with Wallace Beery, Ford Sterling and Sterling Holloway  in a cinematic retelling of the classic baseball story.
• Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, 2 p.m.: The original silent 'Wizard of Oz' (1925) plus Buster Keaton in 'The Navigator' (1924). In the final program, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore with the original silent version of 'The Wizard of Oz,' starring comedian Larry Semon as the scarecrow and featuring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man! Then it's the timeless visual comedy of Kansas-born Buster Keaton, often called the most silent of the silent comedians. In 'The Navigator' (1924), Buster sets sail on a deserted ocean liner, riding a high tide of hilarity. Classic silent film comedy! 
 
 
For more about the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., please visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com or call (603) 654-3456. For more about the Kansas Silent Film Festival, visit www.kssilentfilmfest.org. For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.
 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Louise Brooks film to screen online as part of Hippodrome Silent Film Festival

This year, the annual Hippodrome Silent Film Festival celebrating silent film and music will include the seldom seen silent version of the outstanding 1930 Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté. Originally set to run last year in Bo'ness, Scotland but cancelled due to the pandemic, this year's HippFest is set to run over the internet (via Indy on Demand) between March 17th and March 21st -- and what's more, the Prix de Beauté program will feature a short introduction by silent film expert Pamela Hutchinson as well as Stephen Horne's recently recorded score, which will be making it's internet debut! For more information on the 10th HippFest, go HERE.

According to Alison Strauss, Arts Development Officer, for this year's virtual HippFest "we have tried to create a comparable cocktail of screenings with music, workshops, events and activities to sweep you up in the marvelous magic of early cinema." It looks like they will succeed. Among the other offerings are films starring Paul Robeson (whom Brooks once met), Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich & Fritz Kortner, and others. Check out the complete schedule of films, talks and introductions

Prix De Beauté (1930)
Drama • 1h 48m

SILENT FILM WITH MUSIC – Stephen Horne
Q&A - Stephen Horne & Pamela Hutchinson
SAT 20 MAR, 14:10, 1H 33M

Limited capacity This film has limited viewing only. To register your interest in having this film added to your Festival Pass, please email hippfest@falkirkcommunitytrust.org with Prix de Beauté in the subject line.

"Iconic star of the silent era – Louise Brooks – lights up the role of Lucienne, a spirited, carefree, working woman who enters a beauty contest and is introduced to the alluring world of fame and the freedom it affords. Chafing under the disapproval of her idealistic but controlling boyfriend she is torn between the tantalising glimpse of glamour and a life of domesticity.

Based on a story by René Clair and G.W. Pabst the film was released as a talkie but this HippFest presentation is of the glorious, beautifully restored silent version, which eschews some crude pasted-on sound effects and awkwardly post-synched dialogue scenes, and lets the stunning cinematography and Brooks’ electric performance shine for themselves. Brace yourself for the devastating finale, deftly handled by Stephen Horne’s brilliant score."


Dir.: Augusto Genina | France | 1930 | N/C PG | 1h 48m | Italian intertitles with English surtitles
With Louise Brooks, Georges Charlia, Jean Bradin, Augusto Bandini

Music accompaniment: score composed and performed by Stephen Horne
Recording commissioned by Film Podiu
Screening material courtesy of Cineteca del Comune di Bologna

Pamela Hutchinson is a freelance writer, critic, film historian, and editor of the silent cinema website Silent London. She contributes regularly to publications including the Guardian, Sight & Sound and Little White Lies, and DVD releases including the Criterion Collection, BFI and Artificial Eye. She is a member of the London Film Critics’ Circle. Her publications include a monograph on Pandora’s Box, published as part of the BFI Film Classics series and 30-Second Cinema. She is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme and has also appeared on Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 5 Live, the World Service, and BBC TV News. [Read a LBS interview with Pamela Hutchinson here.]

Stephen Horne started accompanying silent films at BFI Southbank over 25 years ago. He has recorded music for several DVD releases and regularly plays at major international festivals. Although principally a pianist, he often incorporates flute, accordion and keyboards into his performances, sometimes simultaneously. Recently Stephen won ‘best screening with a single accompanist’ for the sixth year in a row at the Silent London Poll. stephenhorne.co.uk [Read a LBS interview with Stephen Horne about
Prix de Beauté here.]


Sunday, February 14, 2021

On this day in 1930, Louise Brooks' 1920s films were still showing here and there in the USA

Like the actress herself, Louise Brooks' films had legs. Even in the United States, and even into the sound era, Brooks' late 1920's films like A Girl in Every Port (1928), Beggars of Life (1928), and The Canary Murder Case (1929) continued to be shown in theaters.

As a matter of fact, on this day in 1930 (that is February 14th) one of the very last recorded theatrical screenings of A Girl in Every Port (following its initial release) took place at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana. The film was shown again on the 15th, and then it disappeared from American screens for nearly 30 years! What is remarkable is that this screening took place two years after this SILENT film was first released, and well into the sound era.

 
A Girl In Every Port had premiered on February 18, 1928 at the Roxy Theater in New York City, where it proved to be a huge hit. As they did back then, the film slowly opened across the United States, and eventually made its way to Valparaiso, Indiana, where it debuted locally on May 13, 1928 following a short run of another Louise Brooks' film, The City Gone Wild (1927).
 

Speaking of one Brooks' film following another -- and speaking of Brooks' earlier films still showing in 1930. . . . The Canary Murder Case (1929) had its moment in the sun in Bradford, Vermont on February 15th of that year at a venue called Bradford Colonial Events. I am going to guess and say that this small town venue was a hall, rather than a regular or dedicated movie theater, as it also held concerts and a nearby small town, White River Junction, had a dedicated movie theater called the Lyric. What is notable in this ad is that another Brooks film, Beggars of Life (1928), is scheduled to be shown a week later, marking it another instance of this William Wellman directed film showing nearly two years after it was first released. Admittedly, I don't know which version -- the silent of the hybrid sound version of this film was being shown, but still, there it is. Happy Valentine's Day from the Louise Brooks Society.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Louise Brooks and famous Black entertainers of the 1920s

To mark Black History Month, I thought to put together a blog noting some of the African American entertainers who Louise Brooks met in the 1920s, or whose careers intersected with Brooks in some way. So here goes. . . . To begin in the past, I have written about Edgar "Blue" Washington, the only African American actor to have appeared in one of Brooks films, namely Beggars of Life. He had an interesting life and career, and my earlier blog about Washington appeared in 2018 and can be found HERE.

Black Mose, played by Edgar Washington, carries an injured hobo in Beggars of Life

One of the most famous African American entertainers of the inter-war period was Josephine Baker (1906-1975). She was a singer, recording artist, dancer, and actress. In Lulu in Hollywood, Brooks reminiscences about her time in Berlin and her role as Lulu in Pandora's Box, writing, "Collective lust roared unashamed at the theatre. . . . In the revue Chocolate Kiddies, when Josephine Baker appeared naked excerpt for a girdle of bananas, it was precisely as Lulu's stage entrance was described by Wedekind." Seemingly, Brooks suggest she saw Baker perform in Chocolate Kiddies, or did she? She doesn't actually say so. . . .  It is known that Baker and the Chocolate Kiddies revue performed in Berlin in 1925, and Baker herself returned there without the revue in 1928 or 1929. And of course, Baker performed, most famously, in Paris, another city where Brooks resided for a short time. But still, we don't know for sure whether Brooks actually saw Baker perform and conflated that performance with Baker's best known stage show, or whether Brooks was simply making a comparison based on something she had read about or been told about. I think it likely that Brooks did see Baker perform as some time, perhaps even in her banana girdle. In his biography, Jean-Claude Baker writes about Josephine's time in Berlin in 1928, and even references Brooks and the quotation above. However, he does not state that Brooks and Baker ever encountered one another.


I thought to write this particular blog because just the other day I was looking through a database of African American newspapers when I came across a mention of Brooks! The mention occurred in the Inter-State Tattler, an African American newspaper based in Harlem. In the June 14, 1929 issue, columnist Lady Nicotine penned a piece titled "Alberta Hunter Returns" in which she states that the famed African-American jazz and blues singer Alberta Hunter (1895-1984) had met many celebrities in Europe, including Alice Terry, Ramon Novarro, Cole Porter, and Louise Brooks. Beyond that, we know nothing else. I would only guess that their meeting took place in Paris sometime in May, where Brooks spent most of the month.

A bobbed Alberta Hunter

Brooks' name has popped up in other African American newspapers, but usually in relation to one of her films showing in a particular city or town. For instance, in Baltimore in February of 1927, the Royal Theater was screening Love Em and Leave Em, and performing at that same theater was great Clara Smith (c. 1894 – 1935), an African America blues singer billed as the "Queen of the Moaners."


The Royal Theater was one of Baltimore's finest theaters, and one of a circuit of five such theaters which featured Black entertainment. (Its sister theaters were the Apollo in Harlem, the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Regal Theatre in Chicago, and the Earl Theater in Philadelphia.) Over the years, the biggest stars in jazz and blues performed at the Royal. Another instance of a Brooks film showing along with a performance by a significant African American singer was when Valaida Snow (1904 - 1956) was on the bill along with A Social Celebrity. The occasion was a showing at the famed Carlton Theatre in Shanghai, China in September, 1928.

In what was billed as an "extraordinary attraction," Snow and "5 Red Hot Masters of Syncopation" performed live on stage, followed by A Social Celebrity on the screen. Snow, a female jazz trumpeter, became so famous that she was nicknamed "Little Louis" after Louis Armstrong, who called her the world's second best jazz trumpet player. Snow played concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia. From 1926 to 1929, she toured with Jack Carter's Serenaders, performing not only in Shanghai but also in Singapore, Calcutta, and Jakarta. 

There are other instances of a Black entertainer performing on stage ahead of a Louise Brooks film, including, once, the nearly blind pianist Art Tatum (1909 - 1956). But let's get back to closer encounters of the personal kind, in this case the acclaimed concert artist and stage and film actor Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976). 

Paul Robeson, by Carl van Vechten
 

Brooks and Robeson first encountered one another sometime around April 21, 1925, when the two met at a party at the apartment of writer & photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880 - 1964). Brooks, then just a Ziegfeld showgirl, is not known to have ever mentioned having met Robeson, then an emerging star who just finished appearing in a revival of The Emperor Jones, by Eugene O'Neil. Robeson, however, recalled meeting the 18 year old Brooks, who he noted in his journals was "very conceited and impossible."

Brooks and Robeson came close to another encounter in March of 1932. On the 19th, syndicated columnist Maurice Dancer noted Brooks was among the many celebrities who had visited the Yeah Man jazz club in Harlem within the last week. Among the other celebrities mentioned by Dancer were famed jazz musicians Louis Armstrong & Earl Hines, and Paul Robeson.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, a certain overlap

Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and Louise Brooks. Those are two names not often, if ever, associated with one another. Louise Brooks was an American movie star whose heyday was the 1920s, the silent film era. Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character from the Victorian era, a master sleuth, and the creation of the celebrated English author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). They would seem to have nothing in common, and little overlap. Except that they did, on at least a couple of occasions that I have come across (so far). The game is on.

The first bit of overlap took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 1928, when the First National Film Just Another Blonde (1926) was shown at the local Grand Theatre. This "tip-top picture", which starred Dorothy Mackaill, Jack Mulhall, and Paramount loan-out Louise Brooks (not named) in a supporting role, was playing around the same time as the one and only Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was giving a couple of in-person lectures at the local City Hall on the subject of life after death. If I read this ad correctly, Doyle's second lecture, on November 26th, featured 40 slides. 

The other overlap betwixt Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, which I just came across, took place a world away. The occasion was a screening of The Canary Murder Case (1929), the film version of S.S. van Dine's celebrated murder mystery. Louise Brooks starred in the film in the title role, as "The Canary." The film played in Madison, Wisconsin in March 1930. And the advertisement for the screening of the movie at the Majestic ran next to an ad for a stage appearance by William Gillette (1853 – 1937) at the local Garrick theater. Gillette achieved great fame for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage, and later in a 1916 film. The then elderly Gillette, who would pass away 7 years later, was then on his farewell tour, playing the role of Holmes in a stage play authorized and adapted by Gillette from a draft by Doyle.

 

To me, it is remarkable that Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, two icons, should overlap in time, if only coincidentally.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Louise Brooks film to screen at Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire

This month, a New Hampshire theater will host a relocated version of the Kansas Silent Film Festival, an annual vintage film event cancelled this year due to Covid-19. In honor of the scrubbed Kansas festival, a three-day program of classic silent films with live music will be shown on the last weekend of February at the Town Hall Theatre, a two-screen independent movie house in Wilton, N.H. 

The"Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire," running from Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28, will feature vintage comedies and dramas starring performers with ties to the Sunflower State.
Among highlights: Kansas-born starlet Louise Brooks in 'The Show Off' (1926); and Buster Keaton (born in Kansas when his parents were in a traveling medicine show) in the classic silent comedy 'The Navigator' (1924.)
 
 
The festival also includes a rare screening of 'The Little Church Around the Corner' a 1923 melodrama featuring Kansas-raised Claire Windsor and actor Walter Long, a native of Milford, N.H. 
Also on the festival's program: the original silent film version of 'The Wizard of Oz' (1925), with comic Oliver Hardy playing the Tin Man. 
 
All screenings will feature live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who travels each year to perform at the Kansas Festival, held at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas."When this year's Kansas festival was cancelled," Rapsis said, "we figured we could stage a tribute event here in New Hampshire, where movie theaters are able to show films while observing Covid-19 safety precautions."
 
 
The Town Hall Theatre, a well-known independent movie house, reopened in July. It currently shows only classic films and other specialty programs due to the lack of first-run features in release. The theatre follows all recommended Covid-19 safety guidelines.
 
All "Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire" screenings are free and open to the public, with no tickets needed or available in advance. Donations are welcome, with proceeds going to support the Kansas Silent Film Festival, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Organizers plan to add Kansas flavor to the event by bringing in selected local delicacies from the Sunflower state. Between screenings, movie-goers may sample sunflower seeds alongside Porubsky's hot pickles, to be shipped in from an iconic Polish deli in Topeka. 
 
 
In Kansas, in lieu of live performances this year, the Kansas Silent Film Festival will host a program of virtual screenings for online viewing. For more info, visit www.kssilentfilmfest.org. In New Hampshire, each day of the relocated tribute festival includes two feature films separated by an intermission.
 
• Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, 7:30 p.m.: Claire Windsor in 'The Little Church Around the Corner' (1923) and Fatty Arbuckle in 'The Round-Up' (1920). Kansas-born star Claire Windsor stars in 'The Little Church Around the Corner' (1923), a labor relations melodrama with a role for Milford, N.H. native Walter Long; followed by 'The Roundup' (1920), a rarely screened feature film starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (also from Kansas) that wasn't released in the U.S. following accusations of murder against the comedian, leading to a notorious series of court trials that exonerated Arbuckle, but left his career in ruins.
• Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, 7:30 p.m.: Silent screen icon Louise Brooks in 'The Show-Off' (1926) and Kansas-born actress Zasu Pitts in 'Casey at the Bat' (1927). In 'The Show Off,' actress Louise Brooks (from Cherryvale, Kansas) stars in the story of a working-class family's reluctance to accept their daughter's suitor. The film also stars Ford Serling in the title role, and Lois Moran. In 'Casey at the Bat,' Zasu Pitts (from Parsons, Kansas) stars with Wallace Beery, Ford Sterling and Sterling Holloway  in a cinematic retelling of the classic baseball story.
• Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, 2 p.m.: The original silent 'Wizard of Oz' (1925) plus Buster Keaton in 'The Navigator' (1924). In the final program, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore with the original silent version of 'The Wizard of Oz,' starring comedian Larry Semon as the scarecrow and featuring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man! Then it's the timeless visual comedy of Kansas-born Buster Keaton, often called the most silent of the silent comedians. In 'The Navigator' (1924), Buster sets sail on a deserted ocean liner, riding a high tide of hilarity. Classic silent film comedy! 
 
 
"Thanks to everyone at the Kansas festival for giving us permission to stage this socially distanced tribute," said Rapsis, who has attended every Kansas Silent Film Festival since 2000. "We may be 1,500 miles away, but our hearts are in the same place." For more about the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., please visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com or call (603) 654-3456. For more about the Kansas Silent Film Festival, visit www.kssilentfilmfest.org. For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.
 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark sings of Louise Brooks in Chile two years ago today

Two years ago today -- which seems like an eternity, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark played a concert at teatro La Cúpula in Santiago, Chile. During their show, they performed a bunch of their greatest hits including the much loved "Pandora's Box." That 1991 song, a tribute to the silent film star Louise Brooks, is known far and wide. As can be seen in this 2-2-19 concert clip, OMD fans in Santiago sing along in English to this song of Lulu. 


O.M.D. LIVE IN CHILE - Pandora's Box (Saturday, Feb. 2nd 2019)

It is worth noting that more than a handful of fans of Louise Brooks in the United States and England and Canada and elsewhere around the world have told me that their path to discovering the actress began with this OMD song. That is also the case with this Portuguese fan, who said as much during the recent listening party on twitter. 


 

A few days before OMD performed in Chile, they gave a concert in Lima, Peru at Domos Art, Costa Verde. And again, the crowd sang along in English.

  

OMD en Lima Peru "Pandora's Box"
( The Punishment of Luxury Tour )

SEARCH this Blog