Saturday, August 30, 2014

Homage to Louise Brooks: Teatro della Lulu

Mars Toyko is a visual artist working in miniature 3-D diorama who has created "Teatro della Lulu (Homage to Louise Brooks)." The artist sent an email to alert me to her work. She wrote, "I have been a fan of Louise Brooks for years and have created an Homage to her."

This photo was taken with a macro lens attachment. The original diorama is only 3" wide, 4.5" deep, and 4" high. For me, this piece evokes the work of the American surrealist Joseph Cornell - one of my favorite artists and an inspiration to Mars Toyko. (Cornell was famously obsessed with certain ballerinas and actresses - most notably Hedy Lamarr - and he created elaborate shadow boxes in their honor.) Toyko's collage and constructions also bring the work of Betye Saar to mind. Those wishing to see more of the artist's efforts should visit

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bobbed hair as a mask

I came across this striking 1924 photo of a stage actress sporting a rather exaggerated bob. I have never seen such stylized cut - especially in the way the points of the bob reach across Jean Bodine's face. And look at her eyebrows, extended to touch the hairline. The effect quite nearly looks like a kind of disquise, or mask. I thought "a haircut performing as a mask." Or is this image a kind of masque?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Louise Brooks Society celebrates 19 years online

The Louise Brooks Society celebrates 19 years on the internet. Since its launch in August of 1995, more than two million people have visited this pioneering website. The New York Times said, "The Louise Brooks Society is an excellent homage to the art of the silent film as well as one of its most luminous stars." The LBS has also been praised in the pages of USA Today and other newspapers and magazines.

The LBS was founded as a fan-site, and over the years has evolved into a comprehensive on-line archive and hub for "all things Lulu." This 250-page site features an array of information about the actress including a filmography, commentary, links, bibliographies, vintage articles and memorabilia, portrait galleries, and contributions from fans from around the world. The LBS has a long-running blog (with 2000+ posts), Facebook page, new YouTube presence, active Twitter account, as well as its own Louise Brooks themed radio station, aptly named RadioLulu.

The mission of the Louise Brooks Society is to honor the actress by stimulating interest in her life and films; by fostering and coordinating research on her life, films and writings; by serving as a repository for related material; and by advocating for the preservation and restoration of Brooks' films. To date, the LBS has co-sponsored screenings and events (including one with Barry Paris), mounted exhibits, "inspired" a documentary, published a book (The "Louise Brooks edition" of The Diary of a Lost Girl), and generated wide spread media interest in the actress.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Louise Brooks' first film review on this day in 1925

On this day in 1925, Louise Brooks received her first notice as an actress.

Though not listed in the film’s credits, the Los Angeles Times took note of Brooks' brief appearance in The Street of Forgotten Men when its anonymous critic wrote, "And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed." The paper was referring to Brooks, who’s brief appearance in the Herbert Brenon-directed film was uncredited. It was Brooks’ first role, and she played the part of a moll (the girlfriend of a gangster). Her screen time lasted just a few minutes.

Prior to August 31, 1925 - Brooks had only been mentioned in newspapers and magazines in connection with her appearances as a Denishawn dancer and as showgirl with the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies. She also had a knack for showing up in various New York City gossip columns. The Los Angeles Times review was her first notice in connection with a film.

The article, titled “Marmont Metropolitan Star,” stands out not only as the first review to reference Brooks but as the only review for The Street of Forgotten Men to note her appearance in the film. One wonders who that anonymous critic might have been?

The Street of Forgotten Men is an underworld romance set among professional beggars in New York’s Bowery. It is a singular film, and received uniformly superb reviews when first released. Leading man Percy Marmont was singled out for his exceptional performance and director Brenon was praised for his realistic depiction of Bowery life.

The National Board of Review named it one of the 40 best pictures of 1925, and it was picked as one of the best films of the year by the Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Tacoma Times, and Topeka Daily Capital. In many reviews and advertisements, The Street of Forgotten Men was compared to The Miracle Man, a similarly themed 1919 Lon Chaney film about a gang of criminals.

The Street of Forgotten Men
was long thought lost. However, six of seven reels were later found at the Library of Congress (which is where I saw it). Among the surviving footage (the second reel is missing) is the scene that includes Brooks. Part of that scene is excerpted in the outstanding documentary, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Street of Forgotten Men - a round-up of reviews

The Street of Forgotten Men, Louise Brooks' first film, was officially released on this day in 1925. The film is a drama, an underworld romance set among professional beggars in the Bowery of New York City. 

The film stars Percy Marmont as Easy Money Charlie, Mary Brian as Fancy Vanhern, Neil Hamilton as Philip Peyton, John Harrington as Bridgeport White-Eye, Juliet Brenon (the director's niece) as Portland Fancy, and Louise Brooks in an uncredited role as a Moll. Also uncredited in the film is Lassie, a dog.

The film is based on a short story by George Kibbe Turner which appeared in Liberty magazine only a few months earlier, on February 14, 1925. The Street of Forgotten Men was quite well regarded upon release, and Percy Marmont was singled out for his dramatic performance. Director Herbert Brenon was also praised for his realistic depiction of Bowery life. Brenon, who the year before had directed Peter Pan (1924), would go on to direct such classics as Beau Geste (1926), The Great Gatsby (1926), and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928).

The Street of Forgotten Men was long thought lost, but six of its seven reels were found at the Library of Congress. Among the surviving footage is a scene which includes Brooks. I've seen it. The film is very good, and deserves to be widely released. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive. [Here is the movie herald for that 1925 film. The front and back and the interior are pictured.]

Day, Dorothy. "Herbert Brenon Contributes Absorbing Film at Rivoli." Morning Telegraph, July 20, 1925.
--- "An absorbing story, done by a cast of people who really know how to act and directed in a skillful manner by Herbert Brenon."

Spain, Mildred. "Marmont Wears High Hat and Tin Cup in Rivoli Film." Daily News, July 21, 1925.
--- "The Street of Forgotten Men dips into the dark pools of life. It shows you the beggars of life - apologies to Jim Tully - and in showing them it shows them up."

Miles, Connie. "Reel Reviews." New York Evening World, July 21, 1925.
--- "A gripping story of the sordid side of life up to Broadway's Forties . . . one of those too rare offerings that have everything to be desired in a film production."

Nangle, Roberta. "You'll Like This Tale of Bowery Underworld." Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1925.
--- "It is a startling tale of Bowery life, of the soiled, tawdry ladies and broken men of the underworld. . . . Direction and photography are splendid, making the movie decidedly worth seeing."

Sewell, C. S. "Paramount Offers Very Out-of-the-Ordinary Story of the Underworld That Should Please Majority." Moving Picture World, August 1, 1925.
--- "This story is decidely impressive, out-of-the-ordinary and interesting and we believe that it will be quite generally liked."

anonymous. "The Street of Forgotten Men." Film Daily, August 2, 1925.
--- "Percy Marmont as a fake cripple beggar adds a choice one to the select list of outstanding character-creations of the screen."

Burrows, Dudley. "Granada's New Feature Tops Unholy Three." San Francisco Call and Post, August 10, 1925.
--- "Perhaps it is because The Street of Forgotten Men is more legitimately dramatic, and less frankly melodramatic than The Unholy Three."

Gillaspey, A. F. "Marmont Gives Wonderful Performances in Granada Film." San Francisco Bulletin, August 10, 1925. (United States) *
--- "For fine dramatic detail, for unusualness, for giving us a glimpse into a world we never see and into the other sides of characters we simply pass in pity on the streets, The Street of Forgotten Men is a photoplay revelation."

Warren, George C. "Best Available Films Offered Screen Fans - Greater Movie Season." San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 1925.
--- "The Street of Forgotten Men, to which Herbert Brenon has lent the magic of his skill at direction, his ability to poeticize even the most sordid theme."

Carroll, Carroll. "The Reel Stuff." Judge, August 15, 1925.
--- "The Street of Forgotten Men is to a certain extent a de-hokumized Miracle Man."

anonymous. "Palace - The Street of Forgotten Men." Washington Star, August 17, 1925.
--- "Percy Marmont, as a bogus crippled beggar . . . has a role that is more closely akin to his great interpretation of Mark Sabre in If Winter Comes than any since the Hutchinson novel was put upon the screen. All of which means that this artist again has an excellent role for the display of his rare genius."

Talley, Alma. "The Street of Forgotten Men." Movie Weekly, August 22, 1925.
--- " . . . a film of real artistic merit, but it is sordid."

anonymous. "Marmont Metropolitan Star." Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1925. 
--- "And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed."

Boyd, Leonard. "Old Bowery Seen at Metropolitan." Los Angeles Examiner, August 31, 1925.
--- "Herbert Brenon has striven for realism but not morbidness. His interpretation throughout is sincere even to avoiding a sugar-coated ending."

Feldkamp, Frances V. "Movie Reviews." St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 7, 1925.
--- "Personally, it is depressing."

anonymous. "Underworld is Theme for Film at The Liberty." San Jose Mercury Herald, September 25, 1925. (United States) *
--- " . . . there is a series of smashing scenes that reveal the genius of Herbert Brenon."

K., K. T. "Asbestos." New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 25, 1925.
--- "Others in the cast are thoroughly competent. Neil Hamilton is quite charming."

B., M. "The Street of Forgotten Men - Paramount." Photoplay, October, 1925.
--- "Herbert Brenon, with the aid of a fine cast, headed by Percy Marmont, has made a gripping and entertaining picture."

anonymous. "Famous Screen Dog." New York Times, January 16, 1927.
--- "Lassie has acted with Percy Marmont in The Street of Forgotten Men. . . . It is said that the death of Lassie in The Street of Forgotten Men was so impressive that person were convinced that she must have been cruelly beaten. Her master, Emery Bronte, said that the dog seemed to enjoy acting in the scenes, and that after each 'take' she went over to Mr. Brenon and cocked her head on the side, as if asking for a pat or two." 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Valentino Is Dead

It was 88 years ago that Rudolph Valentino died. His passing made headlines across the United States and the world. Here is but one example. 

Louise Brooks - then a young actress - was acquainted with the "Latin Lover." They had met at a party. At a funeral mass in New York City - held just a few days after Valentino's death, one newspaper reported that Brooks was seen crying. Film buffs and the world shared her grief.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Miss Europe postcards

The 1930 French film, Prix de beauté (also known as Miss Europa), tells the story of a typist named  Lucienne (played by Louise Brooks) stuck in a dull job whose life changes when she wins a beauty contest. The film was based on a screenplay by Augusto Genina, René Clair, Bernard Zimmer, and Alessandro de Stefani from an original story idea by René Clair and G.W. Pabst.

The story plays out against the backdrop of a "Miss Europe" beauty contest, an actual event just beginning to take hold in the European consciousness. According to its Wikipedia entry, "Miss Europe" was a beauty pageant among female contestants from European nations established in February 1929 by Maurice de Waleffe. It was first held at the Paris Opera where delegates from 18 countries participated. Here is another page about the history of the contest. And this page has a lot of images of vintage postcards. More images will show up on a Google image search.

For many years, "Miss Europe" proved a popular event. And picture postcards depicting the various participants were issued on annual basis. (A handful of cards from around the time of Prix de beauté are shown below). RadioLulu even features a Polish song from the 1930's celebrating "Miss Polonia" (Miss Poland).

Miss Denmark, 1929
Miss Poland, 1929
Miss Greece, 1930
also Miss Europe, 1930

Miss France, 1931
also Miss Europe, 1931