Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves

Here is a book well worth recommending, Robert Florey, the French Expressionist by Brian Taves. Originally published in hardback by Scarecrow Press in 1986, Taves groundbreaking work was reissued last year in softcover by BearManor Media.

Florey is a director of great accomplishment perhaps best known to fans of Louise Brooks as the director of King of Gamblers (1937), a terrific little proto-noir crime film in which Brooks had a small role. (Her part was later cut).

King of Gamblers is a low-budget gangster film in which Akim Tamiroff takes an unusual featured role as a slot-machine racketeer whose bombing of an uncooperative barber shop leads to a murder charge. (The film was also known as Czar of the Slot Machines.)

By her own account, Brooks accepted a bit part in the film because the director "specialized in giving jobs to destitute and sufficiently grateful actresses," referring both to herself and to Evelyn Brent , who also had a role. King of Gamblers is extensively discussed in Taves' book. (During his career, Florey also worked with actress Anna May Wong. That's her on the cover.)

From the publisher: "Discover the remarkable film career of Robert Florey, in Robert Florey: The French Expressionist by Brian Taves. During almost a half-century in the movies, from 1916 to 1963, Robert Florey directed sixty five features and 220 television films at most of the major studios. His greatest success came in thrillers, scripting the original Frankenstein and directing such horror classics as Murders in the Rue Morgue with Bela Lugosi and The Beast with Five Fingers with Peter Lorre.

Robert Florey (far left) looks over Louise Brooks shoulder,
as Evelyn Brent (far right) looks on.

Displaying skill in many genres, Florey also co-directed two renowned comedies, The Cocoanuts with The Marx Brothers and Monsieur Verdoux with Charlie Chaplin. Florey was always known as an artist, gaining fame first through his experimental avant-garde shorts, such as The Life and Death of 9413 - a Hollywood Extra, and he is renowned for directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.

His features remained distinctive for integrating European filmmaking styles into the Hollywood studio system. Author Brian Taves takes advantage of numerous primary sources, including studio archives, interviews with associates, and access to all of Florey's papers. Taves thoroughly analyzes and locates Florey's films within the context of the times, relating them to such topics as the influence of expressionism and other techniques, the realm of the "B" film, the position of the contract director in the studio system, and the transition of movie talent to television.

This new edition of a book out of print since 1995 delves more deeply into Florey's remarkable career. In addition to a Bibliography, the book contains several appendixes, including a Filmography, a Television Filmography, and "Charles Chaplin's Tirade Between Takes of Monsieur Verdoux" (transcribed by Robert Florey), as well as an Index."

"A book on Florey is long overdue… Now the job has been done, and done magnificently…. I’ve already used the book in one of my film history courses, and I hope it’ll find is way on to a lot of university shelves. And for the film history enthusiast, it’s a must…. Worth every penny…” -- William K. Everson, Films in Review

 "A crucial biography in the study of film history. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist reveals deep insight about the important director thanks to skilled writing and access to rare archival materials." -- Gary Rhodes, Film historian and Bela Lugosi biographer

“One of the most ambitious studies of a director who worked largely in B filmmaking…” -- Kristin Thompson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Essential…. An epic work that every horror fan should own…. The depth of interpretation of Florey’s style, his background, his detailed film career as recreated by Taves is simply gripping in its detail.” -- Gary J. Svehla, Midnight Marquee

About the author: Brian Taves is author of a range of books on film history and popular culture, from the silent cinema to the era of television, on genres from science fiction to historical adventures. Taves earned his doctorate in Cinema-Television Critical Studies at the University of Southern California in 1988 and has been a film archivist with the Library of Congress since 1990.

The newest book by Taves, Hollywood Presents Jules Verne, chronicles more than a century of adaptations of the science fiction pioneer's stories to the screen. Taves has been the author of countless articles on Verne over the last thirty years, and edited and coauthored The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (1996), a Locus nominee for Best Nonfiction Book. Taves is currently editing the Palik Series, stories and plays by Verne never before translated into English, for the North American Jules Verne Society, published by BearManor Fiction.

Taves wrote the first biography of the acclaimed silent movie producer, Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer (University Press of Kentucky, 2011) , a volume named to the "ten best" film books of 2011 on Huffington Post, and chosen by Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) as their "book-of-the-month" for January 2012.

Examining different film making professions, Taves wrote his first book on director Robert Florey. Taves explored the career of P.G. Wodehouse as a screenwriter, commentator on Hollywood, and the source of numerous screen adaptations (McFarland, 2006).

In a series of volumes, Taves offered the first scholarly examination of the historical adventure genre. He examined the genre first in film and television, in The Romance of Adventure (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), then delineated one of its most distinctive authors, Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure (McFarland, 2005), following it with a critical anthology of Mundy stories, articles, and poems which had never appeared in book form before, Winds From the East (Ariel Press, 2006).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Louise Brooks co-stars: Alice Roberts & André Roanne together

Here is something a little unusual, a couple of film stills featuring Louise Brooks' one-time European co-stars, Alice Roberts & André Roanne, in a scene from the French film, Quand nous étions deux (1930). Roberts & Roanne are the leads in this Léonce Perret directed production. Each image is currently for sale on eBay.

Alice Roberts (29 July 1906 – 29 October 1985) was a Belgian actress active from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. She is best-remembered for her role in G.W. Pabst's German silent, Pandora's Box (1929). The film was memorable due to the overt lesbian overtures between Roberts' character, the Countess Geschwitz, and Brooks' character, Lulu.

André Roanne (22 September 1896 – 4 September 1959) was a French actor. He began his career playing in short films, and acted in 91 films in total, most notably those of Fernandel. Most of his films were French productions; he did, however, also appear in German and Italian works. He also served occasionally as an assistant director, screenwriter, technician, and film editor. Roanne is best known in these circles as the dissolute Count Nicolas Osdorff in G.W. Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl (1929).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top Ten Louise Brooks character names

Longtime Louise Brooks Society member Mark Armstrong-Roper, from Melbourne, Australia, composed a top ten list of Louise Brooks character names. Mark emailed "I composed the list below for my own amusement, thought you might like it too." 

Top Ten Louise Brooks character names:

Lulu (Pandora’s Box)
Snuggles Joy (City Gone Wild)
Fox Trot (Evening Clothes)
Mademoiselle Godiva (A Girl in Every Port)
Kitty Laverne (A Social Celebrity)
Thelma Temple (It Pays to Advertise)
Thymiane (Diary of a Lost Girl)
Boots Boone (Empty Saddles)
Lucienne (Prix de Beaute)
Miss Bayport (American Venus)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pandora's Box, aka LouLou, aka La Boite de Pandore - starring Louise Brooks

Pandora's Box, aka LouLou, aka La Boite de Pandore, screens today at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.  And coincidentally, today, this colorful vintage Belgian movie poster (measuring 23 x 32 inches) was listed for sale on eBay at $18,500. Its a lulu all-right. (Notice that Alice Robert, a Belgian actress, was given second billing ahead of Fritz Kortner, an already well established German actor.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks plays in Rochester, New York on April 21

The George Eastman House in Rochester, New York will be screening the classic 1929 German silent, Pandora's Box, on April 21st. The film, which will be shown in the Dryden Theater at 8pm, stars Louise Brooks as Lulu. (Undoubtedly, Louise Brooks watched this film in this  theater.)

Here is what the GEH website says:

(Die Büchse der Pandora, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germany 1929, 133 min., 35mm)

"For James Card, there was only one Louise Brooks. The cineaste referred to his lifelong infatuation as an emotional devotion that had begun at the age of 14, calling Brooks an inadvertent femme fatale who could in no way be coquettish or even deliberately seductive—ideal for the role of Lulu in Pandora’s Box, heroine of Frank Wedekind’s beloved German plays. An innocently immoral sexual predator, Lulu discards and destroys men as she tries to get ahead, until she meets Jack the Ripper. The steamy story is a tangled web of intrigue and deception—the camera work, sets, and direction brilliantly economical, powerfully simple."

“Pabst’s was the keyhole system: I’ll put your eye to the keyhole—become a voyeur of this scene and make of it what you will. A viewer is forced to participate intellectually in a Pabst film.” – James Card

Live piano by Philip C. Carli.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Louise Brooks Society - new cards

Here is one of the new Louise Brooks Society business cards. Methinks its looks good.... Also please note the new email address for the LBS. (Apologies to those who may have sent email to the old email account and had their message bounce or lost. The LBS account had been overwhelmed by spam in the recent past. Curses to spammers everywhere!)

Front of card

Back of card

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin, from the Louise Brooks Society

Happy birthday to Charlie Chaplin, from the Louise Brooks Society. In this excerpt from the 1986 BBC Arena documentary on Louise Brooks, the actress looks back on her summer long affair with the famed actor.

Listen to Louise Brooks on Arena describe her two months summer romance with Chaplin, during one of his visits to New York for the premiere of 'The Gold Rush' in 1925.

From: Louise Brooks (1986). Directors: Charles Chabot and Richard Leacock. Series editor: Anthony Wall. Narration by Linda Hunt.

Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin! (16th of April 1889)Listen to Louise Brooks on Arena describe her two months summer romance with Chaplin, during one of his visits to New York for the premiere of 'The Gold Rush' in 1925.From: Louise Brooks (1986). Directors: Charles Chabot and Richard Leacock. Series editor: Anthony Wall.#arenaoftheday
Posted by BBC Arena on Thursday, April 16, 2015