It’s that time of the year when critics, journalists, bloggers and others issue their “Best of” lists – the year’s recommended new releases in the world of books, movies, music and more. Here’s the best of 2012 with a twist, exceptional new releases for fans of the silent film star Louise Brooks.

Like last year, 2012 saw the release of a small but distinguished number of new releases related to the legendary silent film star. Prominent among them is Laura Moriarty’s widely acclaimed bestselling novel, The Chaperone, as well as a handful of DVD‘s including the first ever DVD release of Brooks’ last film, Overland Stage Raiders. Fans of the actress will want to check out all of these recent releases.

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here are few pop culture icons like Louise Brooks . . . and Andy Warhol. Each is legendary. Each, in ways, symbolize their time.

The silent film star and the pop artist come together on November 2 when the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania screens the gender-bending 1928 Louise Brooks’ film, Beggars of Life. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by Pittsburgh’s Daryl Fleming and friends.

Brooks’ singular beauty, charisma and naturalness helped make her a popular star in the 1920s. The bobbed hair actress was best known for her roles in light romantic comedies like Love Em and Leave Em (1926) and A Girl in Every Port (1928). Her dramatic role in Beggars of Life proved to be something different.

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In the 1920s and 1930s, Jim Tully was a celebrity.

He was a writer. And his writings — a singular brand of rough and tumble fiction and non-fiction — were both popular and critically acclaimed. In his day, Tully’s books appeared on bestseller lists, were adapted for the stage, made into movies, and got reviewed and discussed in major publications across the country. One of his most controversial books was even banned, and a large part of its first edition destroyed. The essayist and editor H.L. Mencken wrote, “If Tully were a Russian, read in translation, all the Professors would be hymning him.”


Despite his celebrity, few today have heard of Tully. In the years following WWII, his reputation waned — but not because he was considered out-of-date. If anything, Tully was years ahead of his time. Some consider Tully a precursor to the “hard-boiled” school. In the 1920s, Tully wasn’t writing about the glitz and glamor of the Jazz Age like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rather, his sinuous and sometimes muscular prose concerned petty criminals, addicts, hobos and other misfits of society. Charles Willeford, one of the leading hard-boiled crime fiction writers of the post WWII era, has praised Tully and written of his influence.

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Normally, I’m not one to pay much attention to student films. They are what they are. Some are amusing, and some are interesting. And some are merely the work of beginners just learning their craft. But recently, I came across an 11 minute work which I think is so good it transcends the category of “student” work. Sure, it has flaws — but I find it so charming I want everyone to know about it.

It’s called Loving Louise Brooks, and it’s recently debuted on the internet. It’s the work of Sebastian Pesle, an 18 year old recently graduated French high school student. He has crafted a very true film well worth watching.

It’s a short work which speaks not only to the vagaries of young love, but also to cinematic obsession — and the times when those two forces collide. As a student effort, it is especially mature and rather impressive. It remands me of the work of Woody Allen.

Loving Louise Brooks was made in late 2009 and early 2010. It is a wordless sound film, in effect a “silent film,” and a homage to the filmmaker’s own infatuation with the movies. There is a musical soundtrack.

The film has popped up on Daily Motion, and a few other video sharing sights. There is a small French-language website for this student project at

Loving Louise Brooks features Pesle as a young cineaste obsessed with the silent film star. In a couple of scenes, he is shown sitting in a movie theater watching the 1929 Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl. And in another scene, he can be spotted reading a soft cover edition of Brooks’ memoir, Lulu in Hollywood.

His charming girl friend, longing for his affection, is played by Malvina Desmarest. In the end, she must effect Brooks’ appearance (a la the character she played in Diary of a Lost Girl) to get his attention. Whether this ploy works or not, I won’t tell. You will have to watch the film to find out. And by the way, the characters in this short work are themselves making a film. Also in the cast are Alexis Garin and Yannis Letournel. All are, or were, film students, I believe, at the Lycee Jean-Batiste Corot in France. The story is by Lauranne Launay. Click here for the video: Loving Louise Brooks




Is there any silent film star as popular as Louise Brooks? The actress, best known for her bangs and signature black bob, seems to be just about everywhere these days.

On July 14, Pandora’s Box (1929), the film for which Brooks is best remembered today, played twice in the United States. One screening took place at the 800 seat Music Box Theater in Chicago. The other before a crowd of 1,400 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where a gorgeous new restoration of the G.W. Pabst masterpiece was shown.

Before that, on June 23, another Brooks’ film — a restoration of the silent version of Prix de Beaute (1930), screened outdoors in front of a large crowd gathered in a plaza in Bologna, Italy. That screening was part of Il Cinema Ritrovato, a major European festival. Notably, the Prix de Beaute screening coincided with an exhibit at the Palazzo Incontro in Rome of the art of Guido Crepax, whose long-running Valentina comix were inspired by Brooks.

And before that, at the beginning of June, Riverhead released The Chaperone, a novel by Laura Moriarty that became a bestseller. It tells the story of the woman who chaperoned an irreverent, 15-year-old Brooks in New York City in 1922. Brooks, who appears on the cover of The Chaperone, drew a fair amount of attention to Moriarty’s splendid story, which was featured in O Magazine and named the USA Today‘s #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer.

Moriarty’s book spurred a handful of articles about Brooks, including a widely read piece by Susan King in the Los Angeles Times and an even more widely circulated piece by Janet Maslin in the New York Times. Maslin selected Brooks’ Lulu in Hollywood to this summer’s Hot List of must read books. That’s not bad for a 30-year old memoir.

The latest attention coming Brooks’ way takes place August 1st, when the Cinefamily theater in Los Angeles shows Beggars of Life (1928). Considered Brooks’ best American film, it is also her most atypical American effort; until then, the actress had usually portrayed flappers, gold diggers and the pretty girl next door.

Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life. Image courtesy of the Cinefamily theater.

Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life. Image courtesy of the Cinefamily theater.

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Rare screening of Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté

The infrequently screened film, Prix de Beauté, starring Louise Brooks, will be shown on June 23rd as part of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy. The prestigious international event is put on by the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero and Cineteca di Bologna.
For this special presentation, the silent version of Prix de Beauté will be accompanied by the noted pianist and composer Timothy Brock, who will direct the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna in a performance of Brock’s original score. (Timothy Brock has composed scores for two other Brooks’ films, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl.) The Prix de Beauté score was commissioned by the Orchestre national de Lyon in collaboration with l’Institut Lumière. Prix de Beauté will be screened outdoors in a public square, the Piazza Maggiore. [read rest of article…]