Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nothing and everything to do with Louise Brooks

As part of my ongoing series of posts on recently found material - some of it related to Louise Brooks, some of it not - I am showing here a couple of pages which I just recently came across and which have nothing and everything to do with the actress. The first is a late 1920s German magazine page which features some of the then current international film magazines ("The international Filmpress").

To me, this page is fascinating because it suggests in which magazines I might look for material on Louise Brooks, just as it tells a Clara Bow or Pola Negri or Rudolph Valentino or Buster Keaton or Colleen Moore fan where they might look. I have seen examples, if not long runs, of most of the magazines listed above, either online or via microfilm loans. The only two titles new to me are De Rolprent (from Holland) and Cinema d'Orient. I will try and track them down.

I have been researching Louise Brooks for a couple of decades, and regularly come across material new to me about the actress - whether it is a review of a film, a foreign advertisement, or even a photo of the actress. How somethings end up where they do sometimes baffles me. I have found a previously unseen image of Brooks from her Ziegfeld days which was published in Europe (before her film career began), and a rare images of Brooks in The Street of Forgotten Men (in an uncredited bit part in her first film) which was published in Latin America. And then there are the images of Brooks taken in Germany which were sent only to Japan! 

Even though Brooks was only a second tier star in the 1920s, she still had an amazing international presence which speaks not only to her appeal and popularity, but also to the inter-connectivity of the world back then, especially the film world. Of course, all of this material will end up in my forthcoming book, Around the World with Louise Brooks, which I plan to finish by the end of the year.

The advertisement pictured above is from Kinematograph, a German film magazine. The section at the bottom for Kinematograph notes in which countries and at what price this important German trade magazine could be gotten, suggesting the magazine had a worldwide readership. There are listings for America, Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, and the even the former Tschechoslovakia, etc.....

The other magazine pages I came across, pictured below, were even more revelatory. These pages are from the Portuguese-language version of Paramount Messenger, the studio's in-house organ for spreading the Paramount brand in Brazil, Portugal and the Portuguese speaking world. (Its contents were similar, but not an exact match, to the Spanish-speaking version of this publication; the differences were articles of interest to readers in specific nations served by the different publications.)

All but two of Brooks' American silent films, and two of her talkies (It Pays to Advertise, and King of Gamblers), were Paramount releases. Which is fortunate for me as this map of "Imperial Paramount" tells me where they might have played. According to the map's legend, the Paramount logo represents "places where the company's territorial representative is based. In the United States there are twelve centers and the general headquarters in New York." The stars on the map indicate "leasing or sub-central agencies, of which there are 44 in the United States and Canada, as well as numerous in other countries." The legend also notes that Paramount had studios in Hollywood, New York, London and Paris.


Paramount  was serious about conquering the world, at least cinematically. The map legend indicates the various distribution hubs the studio had around the world. For example, Sydney was the hub for Australia as well as New Zealand, Java (
Island in Indonesia), Estados de Malacca (Malaysia), and Siam (Thailand). To date, I haven't been able to find evidence of Brooks' films having been shown in Thailand, but now, knowing that Paramount films were in fact shown there, I will have too redouble my efforts.

The map legend, shown below, also notes that Rome was the hub for not only Italy, but also Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. Shanghai (an international city), was the hub for China and the Philippine Islands. Havana was the hub for Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the West Indies. Paris controlled France, Belgium, and French colonies in North Africa. While Berlin controlled Germany, Holland, parts of Eastern Europe, Finland and the Baltic nations, etc....

To me, this is fascinating material, suggesting new countries and regions to research. So far, I have been able to document Brooks' films having been shown in nearly five dozen countries, including some which no longer exist and some which were yet to come into existence. There are city-states, like Danzig, now former colonies (like Algeria and Morroco), and countries renamed. This newly found map should help to point the way to even more film history treasure.

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