Monday, April 26, 2021

A tenuous connection between UK nobility and Louise Brooks

In the 1920s, various European nobility including a few members of the British nobility came to the United States either on vacation or in exile. And a few even married Hollywood film stars, as when Gloria Swanson married Henri, Marquis de la Falaise, and Mae Murray married Prince David Mdivani.

With the recently passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in mind, I was surprised to come across a passage in a biography of Philip's Uncle, Louis Mountbatten, commonly known as Lord Mountbatten. (If you want a feel for how he fits into the story of the current British royal family, watch a few of the last episodes of The Crown, where he is a prominent, behind-the-scenes character and a mentor to Charles, Price of Wales.) The biography I am referring to is The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves by Andrew Lownie. In the book, the author discusses a trip Mountbatten's wife, Edwina, took to the United States: 

"In February 1930, Edwina sailed to New York with Marjorie and her husband Brecky, criss-crossing the country via Chicago to California and Mexico to New Orleans and Florida. She now had two new film-star admirers, Ronald Colman and a good-looking friend of Douglas Fairbanks, called Larry Gray. Gray was then at the height of his career as one of Hollywood’s leading men, playing opposite Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Marion Davies and Norma Shearer, and it was he, rather than Colman, who captured Edwina’s heart and accompanied her when she stayed with Randolph Hearst – whose mistress was Marion Davies – at his fantasy home, San Simeon. ‘Italian villas, French chateaux and Greek Temples all thrown into one,’ as Edwina told Dickie."

The reference to Brooks is what caught my keyword attention, though apparently, Brooks and Edwina likely never met. Edwina was also a good friend of the UK newspaper baron and later cabinet minister Lord Beaverbrook, who did know Brooks during her days with the Scandals in 1924 -- that is, before Brooks herself went to England where she danced at the Cafe de Paris in London before who knows who of the British upper crust.

Brooks herself, seemingly, maintained something of an interest in the British nobility throughout her her life. Her notebooks for October, 1957 for example contains entries of her watching television coverage of Queen Elizabeth's visit to the United States. However, it wasn't really nobility that interested Brooks, but rather women in power and how they acted and how they were treated.

Louise Brooks, holding court later in life

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Announcement of National Silent Movie Day!

 

Image Credit: Gloria Swanson in The Affairs of Anatol (1921)
Image courtesy of Bruce Calvert, Silent Film Still Archive.

FILM ARCHIVISTS ANNOUNCE SEPTEMBER 29 AS NATIONAL SILENT MOVIE DAY

Apr. 20, 2021 – A group of film archivists with a passion for silent movies has established September 29 as National Silent Movie Day—an annual day to celebrate silent film history and raise awareness about the race to preserve surviving silent films.  With an official proclamation from National Day Archives naming the day, the inaugural National Silent Movie Day will be held on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

Established by film archivists Chad Hunter, Executive Director of Video Trust and Director of the Pittsburgh Silent Film Society; Brandee B. Cox, a Senior Film Archivist at the Academy Film Archive and Steven K. Hill, Motion Picture Archivist at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the trio met virtually in January to discuss the need to raise greater awareness about silent film history.  “It seems like there is a national day for almost everything - and we thought, why not silent movies?  We were actually sort of surprised there wasn’t already one,” said Hunter.

Decades before the popularity of television and the age of computers, cell phones and Netflix, silent movies reigned supreme. For roughly 40 years between 1890 and 1930, going to see silent movies in theaters was the most popular form of entertainment in the world, and made global stars of Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo, Paul Robeson, and Anna May Wong.

Yet tragically an estimated 80% of all American silent feature films are now considered “lost” forever. Films from the silent period were printed on flammable nitrocellulose film stock, and rather than risk deadly fires, theaters and studios often destroyed or reclaimed silver content from prints after their theatrical runs were completed. Nitrate film decays over time as well, and archives around the world are in a race with time to preserve the few silent films that still exist.

Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of the great silent film comedian and actor Harold Lloyd, has been managing his legacy of romantic comedy films for 50 years and agrees that silent movies deserve a national day of celebration. “We at Harold Lloyd Entertainment are absolutely delighted to help announce—on Harold’s 128th birthday—the first annual National Silent Movie Day. Archives and theatres from around the world have championed preserving and screening important films, and in doing so, have kept the vibrant and remarkable silent film tradition alive. This is a wonderful event that Harold would be so proud and honored to be a part of, and I am very happy to be able to represent Harold on National Silent Movie Day.”

 “Anyone can participate in National Silent Movie Day—you can ask your local art house cinema to show a silent movie with live music; you can host a virtual watch party; make a social media post about your favorite silent film or star; or organize a petition to help save a silent movie or silent movie landmark—the possibilities are endless,” said Cox. 

LOTS more information may be found at https://www.nationalsilentmovieday.org

Image Credit: Silent film stars Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis
Image courtesy of Harold Lloyd Entertainment.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Even More Vintage Movie Star Recipes, including Clara Bow, Fay Wray and Charlie Chaplin

As mentioned in my last couple of blogs, on Sunday April 18th I'll be a guest on Hollywood Kitchen, Karie Bible's entertaining video blog featuring recipes, a bit of cooking, and conversation about Hollywood's Golden Age. The show will stream live at 12 noon (PST - Pacific Standard Time). It will also be archived on its website. More about this program can be found on its website at https://www.hollywoodkitchenshow.com/  

And as promised in my last blog, I said I would post more vintage celebrity recipes. (Recipes associated with Brooks can be found in earlier posts.) So here goes. Let's begin with Clara Bow take on Welsh Rarebit (I think Winsor McCay would approve!), followed by Clara's baked macaroni. (The second clipping also has recipes associated with Ruth Chatterton, and Nancy Carroll.)


And here's one from the great Fay Wray, one of the few stars of the silent and early sound era who I once had the opportunity to meet! (It was at a party at the home of the daughter of an Oscar winning movie director. . . . ) The actress's Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge sounds tempting.

And here is a rarity, an advertisement for Crisco shortening which includes a recipe for Charlie Chaplin's Steak and Kidney Pie. Crisco was in June 1911 by Procter & Gamble, and this newspaper ad appeared just a few years later. I wonder if Charlie knew about this one?

And finally, here is one of the rarest recipes from my small collection of stuff (that is a technical term meaning "stuff") associated with dancer Ruth St. Denis. It is for Chicken Creole, which is described as an East Indian dish. Had Louise Brooks stayed with the Denishawn Dance Company, she would likely have traveled with them to Asia when they toured Japan, India and elsewhere. And who knows, she might well have eaten this dish at one time or another.

Monday, April 12, 2021

More Vintage Movie Star Recipes

Ahead of my April 18th appearance on Karie Bible's Hollywood Kitchen video blog, I thought I would post a few more vintage recipes by Louise Brooks' co-stars and colleagues, most of whom were associated with Paramount, Brooks' studio. More information about this program, as well as more vintage movie star recipes, can be found at https://www.hollywoodkitchenshow.com/  

Movie star recipes, movie star cookbooks, and general kitchen and household advice from Hollywood celebrities was a thing in the 1920s and 1930s. I have run across numerous examples in the old film magazines and newspapers I have looked through while searching for material on Louise Brooks. I have as well collected a few Hollywood cookbooks and pamphlets. Here is one example.

 

Stay tuned for another post in a few days, in which I will post yet more recipes including one from Ruth St. Denis, and a couple from Clara Bow including her take on Welsh Rarebit.

This first clipping in this post includes recipes by Jean Arthur (Canary Murder Case) and Mary Brian (Street of Forgotten Men). It is followed by another Mary Brian recipe, as well as a couple by two European stars, Pola Negri and Emil Jannings, who came to work in the United States (both at Paramount).



Thursday, April 8, 2021

Louise Brooks on Hollywood Kitchen, a second helping

As mentioned in my last blog, on April 18th I'll be a guest on Hollywood Kitchen, Karie Bible's entertaining video blog featuring recipes, cooking and conversation about Hollywood's Golden Age. More about this program can be found on its website at https://www.hollywoodkitchenshow.com/  

What's for lunch?

In my last blog, I also mentioned I would post another recipe ascribed to Louise Brooks, namely "Tomatoes Stuffed with Pineapple." Here it is, as clipped from a 1927 newspaper.


As I love tomatoes every which way, and sometimes enjoy fruit cocktail on cottage cheese as a lunch time treat, I figured I would give this dish a try. It is easy to make, and wasn't so different from what I already like. I went out and bought a fresh pineapple, something I seldom do, as well as a large tomato suitable for stuffing. The only thing I didn't have which the recipe calls for is Gelfand's mayonnaise, and so, I substituted Gelfand's for the mayo I had on-hand.

(Gelfand's is still around. If they are reading this blog and wish to send me a free jar, I would give this recipe a second go. I also found that individuals collect old jars with product labels, and I noticed this Gelfand's jar for sale on eBay.)

Back to "Tomatoes Stuffed with Pineapple." It took less then ten minutes to prepare. Besides the mayo substitute, the only other alteration to the menu I made was not peeling the tomato. That can be a bit tricky, and anyways, I don't mind tomato skins. Chef's choice, as they say.....

The dish turned out well. The mayo helps dampen the acidity of both the tomato and the pineapple, and the nut meats (aka nuts) added a pleasant crunch. Would I make it again? Maybe, though I prefer the simplicity of fruit and cottage cheese. One thing I remain a bit curious about is the clipping's reference to this dish coming from an old French cafe in New York. Might anyone be able to trace this dish to something comparable in French cuisine?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Louise Brooks on Hollywood Kitchen

On April 18th, two weeks from today, I'll be a guest on Hollywood Kitchen, Karie Bible's swonderful and oh so delicious video blog podcast featuring recipes, cooking and conversation from Hollywood's Golden Age. More about this well worth checking out program can be found on its website at https://www.hollywoodkitchenshow.com/  I encourage everyone to take some time and explore some of the program episodes already streamed over Facebook and YouTube. "Try it, you'll like it."


A Polish newspaper clipping depicting Mary Brian and Louise Brooks in a Hollywood Kitchen.

Past episodes of the show have featured Mary Pickford's Hollandaise Sauce, Vincent Price's Rice-Stuffed Green Peppers, Cary Grant's Grandma's Apple Pie, Oliver Hardy's Baked Apples, Bela Lugosi's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Rudolph Valentino's Spaghetti Sauce, and many others. Not only does each episode focus on a film star and a particular recipe or two, it also includes a film historian, author, or expert on that star. And that's where I come in. I will be talking about Louise Brooks. Earlier, I shared a couple of related recipes with host Karie Bible, and she plans on making one of them, likely the Knickerbocker Chicken. Be sure and tune-in on April 18th to see how things turn out. And to hear us chat about the one and only Louise Brooks.

On my next blog, in a couple-three days, I will post another recipe ascribed to Louise Brooks which I made recently. Its "Tomatoes Stuffed with Pineapple."  Check back to see how it turned out.

Back in 2015, I went to the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, where I spent a few days reading as much as I could of Louise Brooks journals. I came across all kinds of fascinating material including her 1973 recipe for "Brooks' cookies." Here it is. If you make it, please post something in the comments section about how your cookies turn out.

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 table spoon milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
dates and nuts. lemon rind
350 degrees 45 minutes cut to squares

 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Lost films of Louise Brooks, a survey

Every April 1st, that is every April Fools Day, someone in the silent film community posts something about one of Lon Chaney's lost films being found, like London After Midnight (1927). Other legendary lost films also get mentioned, like original Great Gatsby (1926), directed by Herbert Brenon (Street of Forgotten Men) and starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson (The Show Off) and William Powell (The Canary Murder Case). 

This got me thinking about Louise Brooks' lost films. None have turned up since Rob Byrne found a fragment of Now We're in the Air (1927) in Prague back in 2017. And before that, little else has turned up, except for a couple of coming attraction trailers for The American Venus (1926), which I believe were uncovered in New Zealand. 

As of now, five of Louise Brooks' films are considered lost. Two others, the aforementioned Now We're in the Air as well as Just Another Blonde (1926), are partly extant (about 20 minutes survives of each), while her first film, The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), is mostly extant. Which of the five lost films or two partially extant films would you like to have found?  


 

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