Monday, August 8, 2022

Remembering Louise Brooks, who passed away on August 8, 1985

Remembering Louise Brooks (November 14, 1906 – August 8, 1985), dancer, actress, writer, and inspiration to many. She is a 20th century icon. She is gone, but not forgotten. HERE is a link to her "Find a Grave" page. Why not visit the page and leave some virtual flowers.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Unlikely Louise Brooks, number 1 in an occasional series

This post is the first in an occasional series focusing on unusual finds, unusual material, and unusual connections all related to Louise Brooks - even if only tangentially. I run across these sorts of things regularly... and this a way to share them with my few readers.

Motion Picture Reviews was one of a handful of small-time publications which reviewed films back in the day. It was issued by the Motion Picture Committee of the Women's University Club, which was the Los Angeles Branch of the American Association of University Women. (Did other branch's around the country issue printed reviews? I don't know.) Well anyways, this slight, unillustrated and rather plain monthly publication was aimed at parents who wanted to know which films were "best" for children. Here is their statement of purpose from their first issue, which is dated January 1930. 

And here is a statement from their third issue, which states that the films they reviewed were shown to them by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences courtesy of the Association of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All of which suggests that as a group, they had some credibility. 

I read a number of scattered reviews, and must admit that they contain little of interest -- EXCEPT WHEN THEY THREW SOME SHADE,which they occasionally did, as in the write up for The King of Gamblers, shown below. Sounds like a real recommendation to me. Below is a page of reviews from 1930. The review of the Lon Chaney reissue, The Phantom of the Opera, caught my eye. As did the write-up for Playing Around (1930), an Alice White film. It sounds fun. I wonder what they said about Dracula (1931), or Frankenstein (1931). Check out the run of the magazine HERE.

As far as I can tell, the publication ran from 1930 to 1944, which puts it somewhat out of range as far as Louise Brooks' primary career is concerned. But still, I found a few things of interest. Brooks three films from 1931, It Pays to Advertise, God's Gift to Women, and Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, were all covered. It is interesting to me that Brooks was not mention in the piece on Windy Riley; certainly, she was a bigger name than Jack Shutta, who played the title role?

Motion Picture Reviews did not review Brooks' sole 1936 film, Empty Saddles, but they did cover the the two films from 1937 which are part of her filmography, When You're in Love, and The King of Gamblers. The latter is a doozy. BTW, this publication also didn't bother writing up the other Louise Brooks' western, Overland Stage Raiders (1938). Who knows? Perhaps they didn't care for cowboy flicks, or westerns, or serials? Which is odd, because kids sure did.

This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Loves of Lulu - the First American Lulu (not Louise Brooks) part 3

This post is a brief follow-up to the two previous posts about Margot Kelly, the first American actress to play Lulu. Kelly played Wedekind's famed character in The Loves of Lulu in New York in May, 1925 at the time Louise Brooks, who would play Lulu in the 1929 film, Pandora's Box, was performing in the Ziegfeld Follies and taking on a bit part in her first film, The Street of Forgotten Men

Margot Kelly in 1913

Camille Scaysbrook, a longtime member of the Louise Brooks Society noted on Facebook, she searched in vain for a positive review of the provocative play. "I tried in vain to find a positive review, given that everyone from Alexander Woolcott down seems to have considered it the stinker of the year. Amazingly, the only one who liked it was the great George Jean Nathan. His might have been the sole positive review, as it's quoted in advertisements. He also wrote positively (and insightfully) of it in Arts and Decoration."

Inspired by Camille, I went looking for more commentary on the play, and can confirm her findings - everyone hated The Loves of Lulu. Not only did Alexander Woolcott dislike the play, so did another famous critic of the time, Edmund Wilson. And so did John Mason Brown, who, writing in Theater Arts Monthly, called it an "unpardonably bad production." Critic Philip Hale stated, " The audience on the first night of The Loves of Lulu (Wedekind's Erdgeist) laughed ironically and coarsely, guying the whole performance." The New Yorker said it was "played for farce value, perhaps unintentionally."

Writing in The New Republic, Wilson said the play "failed so completely." In Vanity Fair, Woolcott said it lacked "perversion." Ouch! Even Picture Play magazine, which generally focused on films, got in on the massacre. Before noting The Loves of Lulu "played about a week to all but empty houses," Picture Play stated, "It was adapted from a German play called Erdgeist, by Wedekind, which in the original is a morbidly interesting work of real force and coherence. But the translation was so garbled and the acting so bad that it landed in the same heap with its almost illiterate neighbors."

In fact, many of the bad reviews the play received criticized the translation, which was by Samuel Eliot. His translation was the only translation into English at the time. And, according to Peter Bauland's 1968 book, The Hooded Eagle: Modern German Drama on the New York Stage, Margot Kelly's The Loves of Lulu was something rare -- the only professional production of a Wedekind play in New York for many years. Bauland writes, "Between the closing of The Awakening of Spring in 1917 and the off-Broadway performance of Erdgeist as Earth Spirit in 1950, the only professional production in New York of a play by Frank Wedekind came on May 11, 1925. This was Samuel A. Eliot, Jr.’s translation of Erdgeist known as The Loves of Lulu. The German play, written in 1894, was first produced in Leipzig in 1898; its first successful staging was Max Reinhardts 1902 presentation in Berlin. It was Erdgeist and its sequel, Die Biichse der Pandora (Pandora s Box), not granted a permit to be performed in Germany until 1919, that earned for Wedekind his notorious reputation: that of being nothing more than the prophet of a cult which maintained that all human action was the product of tyrannical sex drives, and that in the face of this pressure, man cannot have both happiness and dignity. The reputation was undeserved, for despite Wedekind’s insistence on the power of glandular forces, this is certainly an oversimplification of his motives, and he seldom dealt with sex naturalistically."

All of this got me to wondering, how familiar with Wedekind's original German play could all of these critical critics have been? About the only middling review the play received was in The New Leader, a socialist weekly newspaper. Here is their review.

As I mentioned in the last blog, all this is interesting to me as background on the way Louise Brooks role as Lulu was received in the United States just four years later.

This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Loves of Lulu - the First American Lulu (not Louise Brooks) part 2

A follow-up to yesterday's post about Margot Kelly, the first American actress to play Lulu. Kelly played Wedekind's famed character in The Loves of Lulu in New York in May, 1925. Despite its groundbreaking, provocative nature, the play received poor reviews. Burns Mantle, one of the most famous drama critics of the time, called it ugly... "an ugly story of ugly people, with a nasty suggestiveness common to one type of German drama." Mantle suggests he doesn't understand the play, but from his description, I think he does - even alluding to Countess Gerschwitz, a "mannish woman."


Despite the play receiving poor reviews, actress Margot Kelly was evidently enthusiastic about the Frank Wedekind's drama, so much so she bought the rights to it.

The lovely Margot Kelly, pictured in the 1920s

A month after The Loves of Lulu opened, Kelly sailed for England, and before departing, announced that Pandora's Box would be staged in the Fall. I don't believe it ever was. Perhaps the critical drubbing was too much.

And lastly, another bad review of The Loves of Lulu. This one appeared in Percy Hammond's column, though was not written by the famed critic. Instead, it was penned by Charles Belmont Davis.

As I mentioned in the last blog, all this is interesting to me as background on the way Louise Brooks role as Lulu was received in the United States just four years later.

This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Loves of Lulu - the First American Lulu (not Louise Brooks) part 1

Recently, while doing some research on Louise Brooks' first film, The Street of Forgotten Men, I came across a 1925 magazine clipping mentioning the The Loves of Lulu, which reportedly was the first American stage presentation of Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays. Notably, the play opened in New York City in May of 1925 - at the same time as Brooks was dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies and The Street of Forgotten Men was in production just across town. How's that for historical overlap?

I was intrigued to find out more, and to learn more about Margot Kelly, the actress who first played Lulu in America. She has a few film credits, but seems primarily to have been a stage actress. Below, is a rather striking photo of Kelly as Lulu. Notably, this photo was taken by Edward Thayer Monroe, who also photographed Brooks. How's that for coincidence?

Interestingly, I also came across a 1924 letter from the Nobel Prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill to Kenneth Macgowan in which O'Neill mentions Margot Kelly and his interest in the Lulu plays. O'Neill writes, "I've been going over, with the English translations of the separate plays as a trot, the combination made by Wedekind himself of Erdgeist & Pandora's Box which he called Lulu. Margot Kelly dug up a copy of it in Library of Congress. It looks good. I'm strong for it, provided we can get a good translator. I'll even promise to help on the dialogue. This Erd-Pandora work of Wedekind's ought to be done somehow. It's the best thing of its kind ever written and we ought to do it at the P.P." [Provincetown Playhouse] Ah, what might have been.

Kenneth Macgowan, to whom the letter was addressed, ran the Provincetown Playhouse as its producer, and with Eugene O'Neill as a business partners. In the 1930s, Macgowan went into film as a producer, and even won an Academy Award. Later, he authored a notably early history of film titled Behind the Screen (1965). While it briefly discusses G. W. Pabst, it does not mention Louise Brooks. 

Well, anyways, here is another striking portrait of Margot Kelly. While looking her up online, I came across another portrait, which looks like it was taken ship-board. Kelly, it seems, had been to England, where she played Lulu. The caption on the back of the photo reads, "American actress too daring for London stage Margot Kelly returns from London where she received the "cold shoulder" in the play Loves of Lulu which was a big hit in this country but too risky for Englishmen." She seems like quite a personality.

I have dug up some more on Margot Kelly and her role as Lulu which I will post in the next blog. All this is interesting to me as background on the way Louise Brooks role as Lulu was received just four years later.

This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Louise Brooks in the summertime on Instagram

I hadn't realized how many pictures I have of "Louise Brooks in the summertime" when I started a recent  series of posts on the Louise Brooks Society account on Instagram. (That account, by the way, can be found at @louisebrookssociety.) If you haven't check out Instagram or the relatively new LBS account there, please do so. As of today, it has gathered 978 followers. 

A few weeks ago, back in June, the weather was warm and I thought to post a pic or two of Louise Brooks hanging around outdoors. Something summertime.... That was followed by some pictures of the actress at the beach, playing tennis, modelling summer fashions, and going for a swim.  More will follow.

My approach to Instagram is to get an idea about something, an announcement, or a theme, or whatever, and post pics on that topic until I don't. What follows are just a couple of the pics I have posted so far. If you want to see more, be sure and "follow" the LBS insta at


This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Back at it, with a new Louise Brooks treasure in hand

I haven't blogged in a month, taking a bit of time off in order to work on my current book project, The Street of Forgotten Men: From Story to Screen. It is coming along splendidly, and I have approximately 122 pages and more than 21,000 words done. The finish line is still a ways off, but is now beginning to come into sight.

This project arose and interjected itself into my life while I was contributing to the restoration of The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), which debuted at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May. That was a splendid, even historic event. I wish everyone could have been there to see Louise Brooks in her first film. I have been told that screenings of the restored film will likely take place elsewhere in the Fall. And as for a DVD release, who knows?

While I was at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I had a chance to meet the esteemed film historians Richard and Diane Kosarski. That was a thrill, not only because they signed a stack of books for me - so cool, but because Richard had met, interviewed and corresponded with Louise Brooks.

I have been in touch with Richard Kosarski since then, and just recently, he sent me a small treasure from his archive which I received today. It is a flyer for a 1982 Louise Brooks retrospective, "Career of a Comet: Louise Brooks." I have scanned it and reproduced it below. The retrospective took place at the Astoria Motion Picture and Television Foundation, which is housed at the old Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, where Louise Brooks filmed The Street of Forgotten Men. Kosarski has long been associated with the foundation.

The retrospective featured a number of Brooks' films, divided into four parts over four days: "Brooks in Astoria" (The Show Off and Love Em and Leave Em), "Brooks in Hollywood" (A Girl in Every Port and Beggars of Life), "Brooks in Berlin" (Pandora's Box and Interview with Louise Brooks - a NYC premiere), and "Brooks Exotica" (Interview with Louise Brooks - reprise showing, Windy Riley in Hollywood, and Overland Stage Raiders). Unfortunately, The Street of Forgotten Men was not shown, as it NOT in circulation then.

Richard also sent a short note, which I will also share with everyone. I hope Richard won't mind. He wrote, "Found this in my archive from 1982. When I sent this to Louise she wrote me to send any info on Windy Riley ASAP, to her editor, because she didn't remember a thing about the picture."

 This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited, especially by shithead blog aggregators who have ripped off this blog in the past. How pathetic.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

These Movie People, by Dan Thomas - Louise Brooks edition

In the 1920s, Dan Thomas was a syndicated movie columnist whose articles appeared in newspapers across the country. Thomas' pieces were less gossipy than other columnists, and usually more substantial. He wrote about Louise Brooks on a few occasions.

Thomas' "These Movie People" column profiled various personalities associated with film. On June 12, 1928, he profiled Louise Brooks. This piece, notably, includes bits of an interview Thomas seemingly conducted with the actress.


This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Louise Brooks as Lulu in Pandora's Box screens 3 times in July

What's better than one screening of Louise Brooks as Lulu in Pandora's Box? How about two screenings? And what's better than two screenings? How about three screenings! In July, the British Film Institute in London, England will screen the classic 1929 film three times during the month, on Saturday July 2, Saturday July 16, and Saturday July 31. More information about these showings can be found HERE. (Tickets go on sale today, June 9.)

According to the BFI: "Louise Brooks dazzles as the dangerously appealing seductress in GW Pabst’s classic adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays."

Saturday 02 July 2022 15:10   NFT3
Saturday 16 July 2022 12:20 NFT1
Sunday 31 July 2022 15:20 NFT1
With Peer Raben score (2 and 16 July) or live piano accompaniment (31 July)

"GW Pabst’s celebrated adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s two plays about the unintentionally destructive actions of the effortlessly seductive Lulu centres on a rightly acclaimed performance by Brooks, who oozes careless vivacity and irresistible charm as Lulu captivates the Berlin bourgeoisie. But the direction is also brilliantly meticulous, making memorable use of Günther Krampf’s fluid camera and expressive lighting."
Of course, Pandora's Box was not always considered a classic in the UK. What follows are a few early clippings from around the time the film was first shown; it was variously censored ("chaotic form") and derided as "liberalistic" and "marxist".

London Observer 8-24-30

Daily Telegraph, 8-14-34
This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Louise Brooks - Getting it wrong again and again

There is all kinds of  misinformation about Louise Brooks and her films. Some of it goes way back, to the 1920s, and some of it is only a few days old. There are factual errors, like getting a date wrong or misidentifying a character in a film, and there is "fake news" - like the photoshopped nudes in which some idiot has placed Brooks' head on someone else's body. Despite it being kinda pathetic and rather obvious, those images still circulate on eBay and Facebook. . . . Just last week I noticed a picture postcard of Clara Bow on eBay which was identified as Louise Brooks, despite the postcard being labelled as Clara Bow! 

For as long as I have been reading about / researching / collecting material about Louise Brooks, I have come across instances of mistaken information about the actress. Perhaps the most famous example is her being credited with a role in The Public Enemy (1931). That belief lingered for decades, and at one time was repeated in the New York Times.

Recently, while looking at some newly digitized vintage newspapers, I came across an instance where the same newspaper got it wrong again and again and again - at least three times and over a period of a few years. I am referring to the Banner-Herald from Athens, Georgia. This first example dates from March 23, 1927, at the time Love Em and Leave Em was showing at the local Palace theater. The captioned picture on the left identified as being Evelyn Brent ain't; and who know who is the women in the advertisement for the film on the right. Perhaps the same beret-wearing actress?

This next example from the Banner-Herald dates from just a few month's later, specifically August 2, 1927. Rolled Stockings was showing at the Palace, and the local newspaper managed to find a flapper-looking type and identify her as Louise Brooks. Which it ain't.

I can't figure out why this happened. Didn't the Banner-Herald have a picture of Louise Brooks on hand which they could use? Or did all youthful, flapper-type actresses look alike to the layout department? Or was the image substituted deliberately? This last example dates from May 17, 1928, at the time A Girl in Every Port was showing at the Palace. And again, an incorrect image is used.

If anyone knows who the incorrectly attributed actresses are, I would appreciate hearing about it. They do seem familiar. . . . Please post a comment.

This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Louise Brooks film Beggars of Life screens in UK June 8

The 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life, will be shown at the Studio, Hull Truck Theatre in Hull, England on June 8. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Jonny Best, who will improvise his score. More information about this event can be found HERE.

According to the venue website: "Louise Brooks is best known today for her starring roles in GW Pabst’s 1929 classics, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, but before that pair of masterpieces, she teamed up with one of early Hollywood’s greatest action directors, William Wellman, a former WW1 flyer with a reputation for hard drinking, punch-ups, and dangerous stunts. The Beggars of Life shoot was notorious for all of these and the speeding train stunts still startle today - Brooks herself was nearly thrown beneath the wheels during one shot.

Based on an autobiographical novel by Jim Tully, Louise Brooks plays Nancy, who goes on the run disguised as a boy and falls in with a handsome young hobo, Jim, played by Richard Arlen. Amidst all the action thrills, Beggars of Life is a tender, touching story of unlikely love and in it we see the first inkling of the Louise Brooks who would go on, two years later, to become not just an international star but an imperishable icon.

As usual, the film will be brought to life by Jonny Best’s live, improvised score."

Dir William A. Wellman | 1928 | United States | U | 100 mins | Silent

Want to learn more this riveting film? My 2017 book, Beggars of Life: A Companion to the 1928 Film, looks at the film Oscar-winning director William Wellman thought his finest silent movie. Based on Jim Tully’s bestselling book of hobo life—and filmed by Wellman the year after he made Wings (the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar), Beggars of Life is a riveting drama about an orphan girl (played by Louise Brooks) who kills her abusive stepfather and flees the law. She meets a boy tramp (leading man Richard Arlen), and together they ride the rails through a dangerous hobo underground ruled over by Oklahoma Red (future Oscar winner Wallace Beery). Beggars of Life showcases Brooks in her best American silent—a film the Cleveland Plain Dealer described as “a raw, sometimes bleeding slice of life.” This first ever study of Beggars of Life includes more than 50 little seen images, a mention of the Dodge Brothers, and a foreword by actor and author William Wellman, Jr. (the director's son). 


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Louise Brooks Wants to Film in Norway

Norwegian film buff and researcher Tor Lier came across an interesting article about Louise Brooks which he generously allowed me to share here on the Louise Brooks Society blog. The article, "Louise Brooks Wants to Film in Norway," is dated September 7, 1929 and comes from a defunct Oslo newspaper. Tidens Tegn. Tor also translated the article from its original Norwegian into English.

As Tor noted on Facebook, the article begins with an assessment of her current "cult" status, as the newspaper writer (identified as Achmed) puts it, and includes an analysis of her personality. Lastly, the journalist mentions a hitherto unknown Norwegian film project Brooks was reportedly offered. (The validity of this offer cannot be confirmed.) That offer is a curious one, in that both Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl were banned in Norway. 

I tried to track down information about the author of this article, Achmed (a likely pseudonym), but was stumped. Interestingly, this article includes interview style content, which makes it uncommon, as Brooks did not give many interviews -- or just wasn't asked. (The authenticity of this interview, which likely took place in Germany sometime between between June 17 and July 26, 1929 while Brooks was shooting Diary of a Lost Girl, also cannot be confirmed.) Nevertheless, here is the article in its original form. Tor Lier's translation follows.

Louise Brooks wants to film in Norway.

The famous movie star talks to "Tidens Tegn"

For the past half year a veritable Louise Brooks fever has taken Middle Europe. Everyone seems to have gotten the pert little American movie star on the brain. It's all but impossible to open a magazine or newspaper without seeing at least one picture of her — in big evening dress, in walking clothes, in pyjamas, in skimpy dancing costume, in a veil, or in absolutely nothing.

Of course Louise Brooks has achieved a considerable popularity through her American Paramount films, but the cause of this overwhelming cult surely lies in the enormous success she enjoyed as Lulu in the film of Wedekind's "Die Büchse der Pandora", the first film she made in Europe.

The German director G. W. Pabst here made his masterpiece, a film with a penetrating artistic intensity with passages of great beauty. Louise Brooks is not exactly the type one imagines as the dangerous Lulu, but she possesses that peculiar charm which carries her safely over all hurdles. It's not that she is more beautiful than many another girl, but she is considerably more spicy. Most of all it is her look, her expression, that is so unique and personal. This inquisitive, searching, wondering look which unites in a strange mixture of complete innocence and wordly wisdom. Before the camera she may pose in the most natural manner and totally disarm the viewer with this extraordinary innocent-but-not-so-innocent look.

The Berlin critics were actually rather merciless about Louise Brooks' Lulu — some virtually took it as an insult to the nation that an American woman was summoned to embody the famous vampire, however the public was much more delighted. It's a long time since a German film has achieved such an enthusiastic and overwhelming reception. Everywhere the film was screened, nationally or abroad, not only did audiences fully embrace the film, but so did the other critics. An artistic film one seldom if ever sees the likes of, that was the general judgement.

Here in Norway, of course, the film has been banned. We honestly thought we had passed the kindergarten stage of film censorship, and it's painful to acknowledge this return to the intolerable guardianship of the medieval prudes. There's no justification for denying adults the opportunity to see a film which can't be faulted artistically, just because it deals with daring topics. Wedekind has been presented on the stage here — with "Frühlingserwachen" — so why deny him access to the silver screen. The censorship board has every reason to reconsider its decision.

The charming American movie star likes Europe so much that she has recently completed her second European film — shot in Paris — and has now returned to Berlin to make her European film no. 3, under the direction of Pabst.

Your correspondent was successful in securing a short interview with the young lady.

— It pains me to to hear that "Die Büchse" has been banned in Norway, says Miss Brooks, who by the way is a Mrs, but already divorced from her first husband, a Hollywood director. The film has done so well everywhere, and Pabst's work is of such a high quality that it's a damn shame it's being denied. But the ban doesn't have to be final, does it? Is there no court of appeal?

— The film has been discussed in all offices, it seems.

— I can't understand that, says the young movie star, I have such a good impression of the Norwegians, I never thought they were so prejudiced and narrow-minded?

— Then you have some knowledge of Norway?

— I've never been to Norway, but I almost went there. After filming "Die Büchse" I received an offer from some Norwegians about a part in a film that was to be partly filmed there. And on that occasion, we had a long talk about Norway and the Norwegians. The script, which I still have lying around, was extraordinarily interesting. I was most intent on this Norwegian adventure, but even before we had gotten to the point of discussing the contract, something happened that ruined any possibility of my participating. As far as I know, the film was never made, so perhaps there might be a chance this winter. So many lousy scripts are filmed every year, and this script was so exceptionally good that it really deserves to be made.



Here's a link to the original Norwegian  newspaper:


This blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society ( Original contents copyright © 2022. Further use prohibited.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Louise Brooks film It's the Old Army Game to screen in Denver, Colorado

Louise Brooks is happy to return to Denver, where she first appeared in person in 1922
as a member of the Denishawn Dance Company

After a two-year hiatus, the Denver Silent Film Festival is set to return with a series of screenings at the Sturm Family Auditorium inside the Denver Botanic Gardens in Denver, Colorado. This year's festival theme, "We Need to Laugh," features 11 short and feature-length comedies from the silent film era including the must see Louise Brooks / W.C. Fields film, It's the Old Army Game (1926).

The Denver Silent Film Festival was established in September, 2010. Its mission is to present a broad spectrum of silent films by programming "a lively and thought-provoking mix of educational and entertaining films" including American and foreign classics, as well as lesser-known rare and restored films. However, like much of the world, things have been on hold during the Covid pandemic. More information about this year's event can be found HERE.

Here is the line-up of films, each of which features live musical accompaniment:

May 20 - The Cameraman (1928) with Musical Accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

May 21 - Comedy Shorts Package with Musical Accompaniment by The Dollhouse Thieves

May 21 - The Strong Man (1926) with Musical Accompaniment by Hank Troy

May 21 - Max the Circus King (1924) with Musical Accompaniment by the CAM Student Orchestra with Donald Sosin & Joanna Seaton

May 21 - It's the Old Army Game (1926) with Musical Accompaniment by Hank Troy, and an introduction by DSFF’s David Shepard Honoree Richard Koszarski

May 22 - Two Timid Souls  / Les Deux Timides (1928) with Musical Accompaniment by Rodney Sauer

May 22 - So This Is Paris (1926) with Musical Accompaniment by Hank Troy

May 22 - The Kid Brother (1927) with Musical Accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton 

It’s the Old Army Game is a comedy about a small town druggist (played by W.C. Fields) who gets involved with a real estate scam. Louise Brooks plays the druggist’s assistant. The film was Brooks’ fourth, and it reunited her with Fields, the film’s star. The two had worked together in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925.

It’s the Old Army Game received mostly positive reviews, though some critics noted its somewhat thin plot. Algonquin Round Table playwright Robert E. Sherwood (who would go on to win four Pulitzer Prizes and an Academy Award) was then writing reviews for Life magazine. His pithy critique read, “Mr. Fields has to carry the entire production on his shoulders, with some slight assistance from the sparkling Louise Brooks.” Ella H. McCormick of the Detroit Free Press echoed Sherwood with Fields scored a splendid triumph in this picture. A great part of the success of the offering, however, is due to Louise Brooks, who takes the lead feminine part.”

When It's the Old Army Game first played in Denver, Colorado in June of 1926, Betty Craig previewed the film in the Denver Post. She singled out Brooks, noting “In the meantime the young fellow from the big town has fallen in love with the lovely creature that serves as the store’s only clerk, who is none other than the captivating Louise Brooks.” The following day, Craig penned her review, stating “W. C. Fields is very amusing, and Louise Brooks, featured with Mr. Fields, gives a dandy performance.”

The film, especially its interiors, were shot at Paramount’s Astoria Studios on Long Island (located at 3412 36th Street in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens), and in Manhattan. Location shooting, including exteriors, was done in Ocala and Palm Beach, Florida in late February and March, 1926. (Ocala is an inland farming community near Gainesville, Florida.) 

For this special Denver Silent Film Festival screening, the film will be introduced by Richard Kosarski, the leading authority on film production at Paramount's Astoria studio. Koszarski not only interviewed Louise Brooks about her East Coast film work, but has authored two related, must read books, Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff and The Astoria Studio and Its Fabulous Films: A Picture History with 227 Stills and Photographs. At the recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I had the chance to meet Richard Koszarski and his wife Diane, and talk with them about their work (and Louise Brooks). It was an honor.


I would enjoy hearing from anyone who attends the festival and the It's the Old Army Game screening.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

At the end of The Street of Forgotten Men, Louise Brooks first film, a clue

As mentioned in my previous post, the new restoration of The Street of Forgotten Men was well received when it was shown recently at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The large crowd responded positively throughout, especially when Louise Brooks made her first brief appearance on screen. She  garnered a smattering of applause, and when the film concluded, there was a brisk round of applause as well as a few cheers and hollers from the audience.

Bridgeport White-Eye and his Moll (played by Louise Brooks)

Previewing the film ahead of its Festival screening, Michael Barrett wrote in Pop Matters, "Restored this year by the Festival, this Paramount production is missing its second reel, which deteriorated decades ago. The best they could do was 'reconstruct' this reel via dialogue and still images. It’s too bad this reel is missing, but the rest of this splendid print makes an impact as only far-fetched silent melodramas can."

I came across a few other notices of note. Writing on Facebook, film commentator Matías Antonio Bombal noted, "This is one of the most visually perfect prints to be screened this year at the festival, looking exactly as silent films did when brand new.  Exquisite contrast and sharp detail." And on his regular radio broadcast "Matias Bombal's Hollywood" (on KAHI AM and FM in Auburn, California), Bombal stated The Street of the Forgotten Men was "fantastic" and the "absolute highlight" of the Festival. Bombal also singled out Harold Rosson's "stunning photography" seen in the film.

Lincoln Spector, writing on Bayflicks, gave The Street of Forgotten Men a respectable "B" grade. He described the film as "A window into New York’s Bowery – Hollywood style. The concept is based on the probability that panhandlers make more money when they’re disabled, or at least if they’re faking their disabilities. It’s a heart-wringing melodrama and is reasonably entertaining. This film was rare for a long time, and the second reel is completely lost (this restoration uses stills and intertitles to help you get through the missing part). A not-yet-famous Louise Brooks pops up near the end."

I will conclude this post with something a bit unusual.... 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been looking at The Street of Forgotten Men quite closely, sometimes frame by frame. The screen capture shown above caught my interest for reasons which I will explain. It comes from near the end of the film, just before the fight breaks out between Bridgeport White-Eye and Easy Money Charley. "Whitey" and his moll (Louise Brooks) are sitting at a table which has a newspaper on it. Easy Money Charley approaches, and casts a shadow on the white newsprint as he looms over the table. At first unaware, Whitey and his moll are startled. Brooks' character retreats, and a fight breaks out between the two men.

I have been looking at and identifying some of the props and decor in the The Street of Forgotten Men. And to me, this newspaper looked real. And it is! As far as I can tell, this is an actual copy of the New York Evening American  Journal-American, a Hearst newspaper, which dates from early May, 1925. 

Since this particular newspaper is not online, I can't tell the exact date of publication, but I can narrow it down to sometime following May 6 and perhaps before May 11. I am guessing so because I found an very similar page (both in terms of layout and content) published on May 11 (see below). Notably, the Nell Brinkley cartoon "Could Such Things Be" is dated May 5, which leads me to guess this page of syndicated content was published the following day or very soon thereafter. (Besides the Nell Brinkley cartoon, there are a number of advice columns from Beatrice Fairfax.)

I will go out on a limb and guess that legendary cinematographer Harold Rosson had the idea to film the shadow hovering over the table, and needed a white-toned surface on to which to cast a shadow. Someone might have had that day's newspaper, or the previous day's paper, and it was used as a kind-of prop. All of which leads me to guess that the scene in which Brooks was featured was filmed sometime following May 6th and perhaps before May 11th.

If anyone can get access to the New York Evening American to pin down the date of publication of the page in question, that would be great. I believe it is available on microfilm at the New York Public Library.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Report on The Street of Forgotten Men at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival


Not only was it great to see the newly restored Louise Brooks film, The Street of Forgotten Men, on the big screen at the Castro Theater, it was also swell to see old friends and make a few new ones at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This festival was the first in three years due to the Covid pandemic; it also marked my first visit to San Francisco in just as long a time. Much has changed. Much remained the same. It was great to be back. I have populated this blog with a few snapshots from the occasion.

Von and I at the Castro

As I have been blogging of late, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has recently restored this little seen Herbert Brenon film, for which film preservationist Robert Byrne created a filmic bridge in place of the missing second reel. He did a great job - which made the missing part to the story easy to follow. That missing material includes the death of two significant characters, including a dog (Lassie) in the care of Easy Money Charley (played by Percy Marmont). What's more, when the dog is killed by Bridgeport White-Eye (played by John Harrington), I heard a few sighs in the audience - which suggests Byrne effectively "painted" the scene. Congratulations to Rob Byrne and his team, and a big thanks to Ira Resnick, who made it possible. It was great to see Ira at the Festival.

Courtesy of Donna Hill

Also doing a great job was Jennifer Miko, who worked on the film imagery. The film looked great on the big screen - crisp and clean despite its problematic history - especially the cinematography of legendary cameraman Harold Rosson. The crowd oohed and awed at Rosson's live action street scenes on 5th Avenue, and were wowed at other times, like the shot of the dancing silhouettes at the garden party. Jennifer also gave an informative and well considered introduction which acknowledged my small contribution to the restoration project. I was also pleased when Jennifer recommended everyone read my essay on the film in the hefty program. (I had two pieces in this year's program. The other was an interview profile with the members of the Anvil Orchestra - formerly the Alloy Orchestra.) It was also nice to hear my name from the stage! I was especially pleased to meet and speak with Jennifer before and after the film; I suspect she is a bit of a Louise Brooks' fan, as she asked me for one of my Louise Brooks Society pin-back buttons. I obliged.

Jennifer Miko and Thomas Gladysz

All in all, The Street of Forgotten Men was very well received. Everyone I spoke with liked it, and the large crowd (hundreds of people on a Tuesday afternoon) reacted positively throughout. There was a smattering of applause when Louise Brooks first came on the screen, and when the film completed, there was boisterous applause and even a few hoots and hollers. Here are a few (sadly fuzzy) shots from the slide show which preceded the film.

Louise Brooks (far left)

I was also pleased to make the acquaintance of the esteemed film historians Richard and Diane Koszarski (thank you Ira Resnick for the introduction). They generously signed copies of some of the books they authored which I had brought with me from Sacramento, including a couple of which I used in researching and writing my essay on The Street of Forgotten Men. (Richard Koszarski's Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff and The Astoria Studio and Its Fabulous Films were essential, as is Hollywood Directors 1914-1940 and An Evening's Entertaiment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928.) We had a very pleasant chat, talking about books, Dover Publications, Stanley Applebaum, Astoria Studios, Herbert Brenon, Erich von Stroheim (Koszarski authored an early biography, The Man You Love to Hate) and more, including Louise Brooks. Kozsarski interviewed the actress (regarding the Astoria Studios) in the late 1970s, and he told me something I don't think I had known about Brooks - that she was a big fan of Robin Williams and Mork and Mindy. Who da thunk? What a great pleasure it was to meet Richard and Diane Koszarski.

Richard and Diane Koszarski & Thomas Gladysz

Though I was only there for an afternoon, it was great to be attend this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival - my 25th time and the Festival's 25th anniversary! It was also swell to see old friends like Ira Resnick, Donna Hill, Mary Malory, Jordan Young, Karie Bible and others. I missed some others I would have liked to have said hello to, but when you are a Sacramento Cinderella (just as Mary Brian was a Bowery Cinderella), you sometimes miss out. I am so glad my wife, Christy Pascoe, attended with me. She is also acknowledged in the restoration credits on The Street of Forgotten Men - as she is on the preservation print of Now We're in the Air, another Louise Brooks film we helped on. Thank you for all of your help my love.

At dinner with friends Mary Mallory, Donna Hill, Jordan Young

Christy and one of her favorites, Von

The end

Powered By Blogger