Friday, May 22, 2015

New book: The Five Sedgwicks: Pioneer Entertainers of Vaudeville, Film and Television by Michael Zmuda

I enjoy reading about the silent film era. Biographies are my favorite. That's why I was delighted to received a new book from McFarland, The Five Sedgwicks: Pioneer Entertainers of Vaudeville, Film and Television, by Michael Zmuda.

"Individually and together, The Five Sedgwicks are among the unsung heroes of early filmmaking in Hollywood. Their work took them from vaudeville to silent film, through the studio era and into the Golden Age of television. By the late 1920s the Sedgwick siblings were well-known motion picture personalities: Edward was satirized by actor Harry Gribbon as an enthusiastic comedy director in King Vidor's 1928 silent comedy hit Show People; Josie was a star of Western films and was presented the honorific title of "Queen of the Roundup"; Universal Films promoted Eileen as their "Queen of the Serial." This book details the family's extensive contributions to the entertainment industry."

The Sedgwicks worked with just about everybody, including Hoot Gibson, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, William Haines, Joan Crawford, Anita Page, Joe E. Brown, Robert Taylor, and many others of note, including later years Red Skelton and Lucille Ball. They also worked with Louise Brooks' one-time co-stars, like Will Rogers (Ziegfeld Follies), Neil Hamilton (Street of Forgotten Men) and Sally Blane (Rolled Stockings).

One of the Sedgwicks even appeared in a Louise Brooks' film, though you wouldn't know it. As author Michael Zmuda notes, Eileen Sedgwick's brief role as "the little Dutch girl" in the 1928 Howard Hawks' directed film, A Girl in Every Port, was under the name Gretel Yolz. Eileen Sedgwick's onscreen appearance lasts for slightly over two minutes, just long enough for viewers to notice her presence as she helps introduce a key theme of the movie - rivalry between two men for the same woman.

A Girl in Every Port is discussed over the course of four pages. In The Five Sedgwicks: Pioneer Entertainers of Vaudeville, Film and Television, Zmuda writes "In an effort to reinvent herself, Eileen took the exotic sounding name of Gretel Yoltz. Although the name change was leaked to the public through the pres, it likely fooled many, and may have even helped her get a role in A Girl in Every Port, a film that many contemporary critics recognize as a significant American film."

Zmuda continues, "According to Eileen she went to interview with Howard Hawks concerning a part in the film. She recollected in the April 1928 issue of Photoplay that Hawks said, 'I want a girl like Eileen Sedgwick, only not so heavy.' 'What's your name?' he asked her. Eileen responded, 'Gretel Yoltz.' (She thought that Hawks was kidding and gave him the first name that she could think of - that of a former maid.) 'Gretel' got the part. Still thinking that Hawks was joking, Eileen kidded him about not realizing who she really was. He seemed amused, but seriously advised her to keep the new name."

Eileen Sedgwick appeared in three other films as Gretel (or Greta) Yoltz, including two with Patsy Ruth Miller, Beautiful but Dumb (1928) and Hot Heals (1927).

Though I have only dipped into The Five Sedgwicks: Pioneer Entertainers of Vaudeville, Film and Television, it looks really good. Author Michael Zmuda has done his homework. The book is richly detailed, and features a bunch of nicely reproduced photographs. I look forward to reading more.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Louise Brooks is sophisticated

Louise Brooks is sophisticated according to A Girl in Every Port co-star Robert Armstrong. This article appeared in late, 1928.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rick Geary to debut LOUISE BROOKS: DETECTIVE at Denver Comic Con

For the past two decades, NBM Publishing has released Rick Geary's The Treasury of Victorian Murder and Treasury of XXth Century Murder series. And over the years he’s chronicled such iconic true crimes as Jack the Ripper, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti.

This weekend (May 23-25), Geary will attend the Denver Comic Con and will be premiering his latest 80 page book, Louise Brooks: Detective (NBM Publishing).

This new graphic novel (set for official release on June 1st) is a fictional story centered on Louise Brooks and is spun around her actual brief meteoric career as a smoldering film actress. Geary fantasizes about her coming back to her home town of Wichita where she becomes intrigued by a murder involving a friend, a famous reclusive writer and a shady beau. Not before she gets herself in great danger will she emerge with the solution the police fail to grasp.

"Stepping away for a bit from his growing and impressive body of work in the Treasury of Murder true crime series, Geary creates a fictional story around a favorite actress: Louise Brooks. Spun around her actual brief meteoric career as a smoldering film actress who popularized bangs, Geary fantasizes about her coming back to her home town of Wichita where she becomes intrigued by a murder involving a friend, a famous reclusive writer and a shady beau. Not before she gets herself in great danger will she emerge with the solution the police fail to grasp!"

Be sure to check out the book and meet Rick Geary, who will be exhibiting at TABLE H-32.

Rick Geary is an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator. He is the author and illustrator of several books, including the other titles in the Treasury of XXth Century Murder series. He has worked for Marvel Entertainment Group, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Heavy Metal magazine, and has contributed to National Lampoon and the New York Times Book Review. He lives in Carrizozo, New Mexico.

Monday, May 18, 2015

New Louise Brooks Society website in the works

To celebrate 20 years online as the leading source for all things Lulu, a new Louise Brooks Society website is in the works! Until its launch, the domain is under construction. Please check back as a new and improved website is made ready. Contact info is pictured below.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My First Time in Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp

I just received a new book in the mail that I am especially excited about. It is My First Time in Hollywood, by Cari Beauchamp. I think it is a book every fan of early Hollywood will want to read. Go get a copy today!

Beauchamp is the author of such acclaimed books as Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood  (IMHO required reading for every film historian), Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years (which I named to my best film books of 2009), Anita Loos Rediscovered: Film Treatments and Fiction by Anita Loos, Creator of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", and as editor, the fascinating Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s.

Beauchamp is a fourth generation Californian who brings her love of history and dedication to women's rights to her writing about film. Her award winning books have been named to many "best of" lists (New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and and she is an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Scholar. She was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for her documentary, Without Lying Down: The Power of Women in Early Hollywood, which she wrote and coproduced for Turner Classic Movies.

In My First Time in Hollywood, over forty legends of the film business (from Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd to Gloria Swanson and Cecil B. DeMille) recount their first trip to Hollywood. Actors, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, and editors recall the long journey, their initial impressions, their struggle to find work, and the love for making movies that kept them going. Also included in this wonderful anthology is Colleen Moore, Norma Shearer, Marie Dressler, Mary Astor, Hedda Hopper, and Louella Parson, among others. Though Louise Brooks is not included, alas, readers will get a sense of what she experienced when she arrived in Hollywood in 1927.

Drawn from letters, speeches, oral histories, memoirs, and autobiographies - and illustrated with over sixty vintage photographs and illustrations - each story is intimate and unique, but all speak to our universal need to follow our passions and be part of a community that feeds the soul. This anthology is edited and annotated Beauchamp, the only person to twice be named as an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scholar.

"What every film fan years for-first-hand, eyewitness accounts of a Hollywood none of us can remember and all of us wish we'd known. Completely fascinating." -- Kevin Brownlow

"What a priceless parade of evocative and highly entertaining memories. Once you start reading you won't want to stop." -- Leonard Maltin

"Through the first-person voices of some of the most fascinating, insightful, funny, ego-maniacal, and brilliant people, Cari Beauchamp's My First Time in Hollywood chronicles the years when Los Angeles became the Hollywood of the world's imagination and movies our internationally shared mythology. Essential reading for anyone interested in film history." -- John Landis

My First Time in Hollywood ( Asahina & Wallace) is available through and better bookstores everywhere. Author Cari Beauchamp will also be signing books at the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival in the mezzanine of the Castro Theatre on May 30th at 5pm.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On this day in 1931, Pandora's Box screens in Newark, New Jersey

On this day in 1931, Pandora's Box (with a synchronized soundtrack) began a short run at the Little theater in Newark, New Jersey. The occasion marked the last known screening of the film in the United States until the 1950's. Pictured below is an advertisement for the occasion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

1950 classified ad mentions Louise Brooks

Here something I recently came across, a 1950 newspaper ad promoting classified ads which also happens to mentions Louise Brooks! That year marked a real low, not only in the actresses personal life, but also in her reputation. Brooks, who had not appeared in a film in 12 years, was leading a pretty quiet life in New York City. That an advertisement mentioned her is rather unusual. This piece  is a rarity.