Charlotte Gainsbourg: Somerset House, London, July 2012

After seeing Charlotte Gainsbourg’s first London concert at the Shepherds Bush Empire in 2010, I definitely wanted to see her again when she played the Somerset House on 19 July 2012.  It was a different band this time as Charlotte was playing with Connan Mockasin who she had worked with on Out of Touch; this made it a very fun concert as Mr Mockasin (or is it Keith Lemon?!) is quite amusing and has a very talented and quirky group of musicians.

The set list (which I managed to get at the end of the concert) is an odd mix of old and new – a large part of the 5:55 (2006) tracks were missing, but I was, of course, more than happy to hear some of the Charlotte For Ever (1986) Serge Gainsbourg compositions.  The majority of the tracks came from the two Beck Hansen written/produced albums, IRM (2009) and the most recent release Stage Whisper (2011), with a couple of Connan Mockasin tracks thrown in for good measure (It’s Choade My Dear and Forever Dolphin Love), plus a cover of David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes, which was surprisingly good.  The concert was excellent and thoroughly recommended.  Roll on the next album and tour!

Aside from my signed Charlotte Gainsbourg photograph at the top of this article, all photographs were taken by Dave Tinkham of Datapanik Design who probably won’t thank me for my lack of discrimination and simply uploading all the photographs!

Charlotte playing the drums on Connan Mockasin’s Forever Dolphin Love

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My Favourite Stuff: La pilule – Antoine

I’m a big fan of Antoine and Antoine et les Problèmes – great look (like a human Banana Split); great dance moves; great lyrics; and a great philosophy of life too.  Definitely a lot more than the joke most people take him for.  Anyway, this little item here is a rather wonderful (if somewhat aged and dirty looking) Antoine keyring, which appears to have been made by Disques Vogue as a novelty publicity item to tie in with Les Elucubrations d’Antoine, a song in which Antoine sings about being asked by the President how he could improve the country; Antoine’s suggestion was to put the pill on sale in the Monoprix supermarkets.  This caused a bit of a stir at the time, of course – it was 1966 and times were different then.

But then, as Antoine said, everything should change all the time – we might be able to get the pill over the counter in pharmacies nowadays but we have yet to see Johnny Hallyday in a cage at the zoo!

The keyring was yet another find from the flea market at St. Ouen.  Here’s a couple of other views of the keyring with an absolutely dreadful sketch of Antoine with his long hair and flowery shirt and you can just about see the blue “pill” rolling about inside the box there.  The sticker on the box helpfully says “Not to be taken internally” – just in case.  You never know…

I’ll definitely be including some more Antoine items on here at some point in the future as I have some nice vinyl in Italian to show off, o yeah!

My Favourite Stuff: Michel Polnareff keyring

My original 1970’s Michel Polnareff keyring – I can’t tell you anything more about this other than I bought it at the flea market in St-Ouen.

I used to use it for a while until I realised that (a) it was too heavy – it’s solid metal – and (b) it was going to get damaged.  So now it’s just stored away with all the other bits and pieces for safe keeping.  Nice photo – you can read my palm whilst looking at the keyring if you like!

 

Jane Birkin: Carving a Statue

Jane Birkin is another favourite with Hero Culte, so expect to see a lot about Jane on here (eventually!).

Jane made her theatrical debut in 1964 in Graham Green’s play Carving a Statue.  Jane had just spent several months in Paris staying with a Mme Pouget in boulevard Lannes – according to an interview in J. Ph. Thomann’s Jane Birkin, this was the same building where Edith Piaf lived, so presumably it was at no. 67.  Jane was staying there when Piaf died, which was in October 1963, so she must have been just short of 17 years old at the time – when the news of Piaf’s death broke, crowds began to assemble outside the building and Jane says she was mistakenly identified as Françoise Hardy when, as a resident, she was allowed to gain access to the building.

After her break in Paris was over, she joined her father for a trip to Italy, taking in Venice, Rome and Florence.  Whilst there Jane took the opportunity to spend some time on the set of her cousin Carol Reed’s film The Agony and the Ecstasy, which was filming at Dino De Laurentiis’ Cinematografica Studios in Rome.  Jane asked her cousin if he thought she had any chance of being successful in film and he offered her the following advice: “The important thing is, it’s not about being good or bad, it’s whether the camera falls in love with you. That’s all; it’s a love affair between the camera and you.”

Jane Birkin in Rome during the filming of The Agony and the Ecstasy, photograph taken by Penelope Dudley Ward (Lady Reed), the wife of Carol Reed

Upon returning to London, Jane met with theatre manager and producer Binkie Beaumont – a friend of her mother, the actress Judy Campbell – who advised her to go to an audition immediately.  He advised her not to take acting lessons in case the techniques destroyed what she had and he told her that it was possible that she would be chosen instead for her “defects”.

Jane went to audition for a role in Carving a Statue, in which Ralph Richardson would take the lead role.  In J. Ph. Thomann’s Jane Birkin, Jane recounts what happened:  “I saw all the girls who had come directly from drama classes, there in the corridor chewing gum.  Me, I was wearing a very simple dress, decorated by my father with a rose, which made me look like a starry-eyed romantic.  It was because of my naivety that the others let me go and audition first.  Them, they had the time!  I forgot the text that I had learned so well; I wanted to leave immediately.  They replied that, in any case, for this play the text was not important because the role of the girl was a deaf-mute role.  They just asked me if I was light because I would have to be carried by an actor in the play.  The actor chosen for the role lifted me without difficulty and I was engaged.  I was told that I was lucky because I was having to symbolise innocence, not to speak, and to die crushed by a bus at the end of the first act.  That was my first role, I was almost eighteen.”

The actor who had to carry Jane Birkin was none other than The Sweeney‘s Dennis Waterman!  The text Jane completely forgot was from Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not for Burning, which she had been practising with her mother.  It also appears that Jane was actually going to an audition for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie but she turned up at the wrong theatre and at the Haymarket, where she arrived in error, they were auditioning for Carving a Statue.  In Gérard Lenne’s Jane Birkin, Jane is quoted as saying she arrived at the wrong time as well and “I wasn’t made for that – it was insanity!” – so she obviously didn’t see herself as being a natural for that line of work but, somehow, despite everything she seems to have made herself a very long, successful career in acting (amongst many other things).

There were other problems to face though as Jane arrived for her new career with septicemia in her leg.  Rather than telling anyone about it, for fear of losing her role, she soldiered on until her condition was discovered by one of the dressers.  She asked the dresser not to tell anyone but, fortunately, she did and Jane was sent off to hospital for an operation – she was supposed to be acting that evening and was concerned that the role would be passed on to her understudy who she thought was better for the role than she was anyway, but, again, luck was on her side as the role was still hers when she recovered and returned to the theatre.

Jane appeared in Carving a Statue for five months and the play was a success, possibly in some way due to the scandal caused by the scene where Ralph Richardson’s character, working on a statue of God, had to sculpt God’s genitals!

Here is the programme for the Brighton run of Carving a Statue, which started on 31 August 1964 at the Theatre Royal:

The information for this article was taken from the following publications and translated from French by me (please excuse any mistakes as I am not fluent – yet!):

  • Jean-Philippe Thomann, Jane Birkin, PAC Editions, Paris, 1979 – information taken from pp25-30
  • Gérard Lenne, Jane Birkin, Editions Henri Veyrier, 1985 – information taken from pp11-12

My Favourite Stuff: Pop-Up Francoise Hardy

Many years ago I found this Françoise Hardy album at a record fair in Birmingham.  I wanted it for all the German language tracks I didn’t have (see track listing below) but what made it even more desirable was the fact that it is a gatefold album with a pop-up Françoise inside it.  I had never seen the album before and I have never seen another copy since (other than a couple of shots of it on the internet) so it has become one of the items I am most proud of in my French singers collection.  Here’s the rather spectacular pop-up:

The track listing is as follows:

  • Die roten Russenstiefel (German language version of Des bottes rouges de Russie)
  • Bald ist so lange her (German language version of Soon is Slipping Away)
  • Er muß reisen (German language version of Il voyage)
  • Fremde Schatten (German language version of Strange Shadows / L’Ombre)
  • Das tut weh (German language version of Les doigts dans la porte)
  • Souvenirs der ersten großen Liebe
  • Träume
  • Einmal, wenn du gehst
  • Zeig mir bei Nacht die Sterne (German language version of Let It Be Me / Je t’appartiens)
  • Was mach’ ich ohne dich (German language version of It Hurts To Say Goodbye / Comment te dire adieu)
  • Wie im Kreis (German language version of All Because of You)
  • Höre auf den Nachtwind (German language version of Song of Winter / Fleur de lune)

The title track to the album, Träume, was performed on an episode of the TV show Sacha Distel : Sylvie Vartan, 29 December 1969.  It’s a wonderful song and the performance, which is very reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich in Der blaue Engel, can be found on the official DVD Françoise Hardy Le temps des souvenirs (Virgin / EMI):

I was also delighted to hear the song featured in Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes (Water Drops on Burning Rocks), a film by François Ozon based on a play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

I will include more of my Françoise Hardy items on here shortly as I have quite a nice collection of 1960s sheet music, some original photographs and a lot of vinyl in a variety of languages.

Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy in Le lapin de Noel

This is both the third part of Françoise Hardy on Film and also a Serge Gainsbourg film review rolled into one, as they both feature in this Christmas special film from Dim Dam DomDim Dam Dom was a French TV series, running once a month on a Sunday, aimed mainly at women but also with themes that might be of interest to men too (Dim = dimanche / Sunday; Dam = dames / women; Dom = d’hommes / men).  It ran between 1965 and 1970 and it was a very stylish TV show, consisting mainly of music, with each segment being introduced by a presenter (usually a female singer or actress) – there is one particularly mischievous episode of Dim Dam Dom (10 March 1968) where the presenter keeps interrupting a recording of the singer PP Arnold apparently laughing at the fact that her name is PP (or pipi, meaning wee in English); very infantile but also very funny.  As I recall it’s the same episode where they keep inserting the long “oooouuuu” build up to Michel Polnareff’s Y’a qu’un ch’veu into other people’s recordings, like The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin.  That episode is well worth a watch – especially because it includes Serge Gainsbourg looking gorgeous and performing the wonderfully sinister Monsieur William – although inexplicably it seems to have an agricultural theme and the farmyard animals they had in the studio were severely manhandled on occasion (I was very upset about one of the male dancers pulling a pig around by its tail).  More amusingly, Jacques Dutronc was chased around the studio by a cow!

Anyway, I’m digressing… back to this particular episode of Dim Dam Dom and the Christmas film Le lapin de Noël (The Christmas Bunny):

Le lapin de Noël (first screened 10 December 1967, dir Georges Dumoulin)

Cast:  Jean Rochefort = Taxi driver / Grégoire Alexandrovich, Prince Potemkine; Haydée Politoff = Véronique; France Gall = Traffic policewoman; Françoise Hardy  = Assistant to the Chief of Police and expert in torture; Serge Gainsbourg = Russian roulette player;  Hugues Aufray = Prisoner; Annie Philippe = Prisoner; Cathy Rosier = Glamorous concierge;  Régine = Lady in Tsarevitch club; Jean Yanne = Man who identifies Anastasia;  Fernando Arrabal  = Chief of Police;  Zouzou = ?; Dani = Lady with a whip; Les Charlots = The gang moving the clock.

Summary of story:  Le lapin de Noël is a Franco-Russian surrealistic Christmas story about a young girl called Véronique (played by the lovely Haydée Politoff) and the preposterous Christmas Eve she spends trying to get to the Bibliothèque Nationale but instead being taken on a series of strange adventures through space and time by a Russian taxi driver (Jean Rochefort).

Of course, I bought this film – which is available to download from the INA website for just €2,99, but be warned that there are no English subtitles – because it features Serge and Françoise, but I was rather excited to discover that I might have found a new hero in the form of the film’s writer Roland Topor.   It’s amazing how, suddenly, it dawns on you that someone has been involved in loads of things you are interested in:  Topor wrote Le Locataire chimérique which was adapted for the cinema as The Tenant by Roman Polanski; he collaborated with René Laloux on La Planète Sauvage ; he played the role of Renfield in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre alongside one of my other film heroes, Klaus Kinski; he designed the magic lantern in Fellini’s Casanova; he also designed the credits and appeared as an actor in William Klein’s Qui êtes-vous Polly Magoo?, amongst many more things.

It’s interesting that Topor was involved in Qui êtes-vous Polly Magoo? because that’s not the only coincidence: Jean Rochefort also appeared in Polly Magoo (and his character was called Grégoire in both films– in Polly Magoo he was Grégoire Pecque!), as did Arrabal (who co-founded the Panic Movement with Roland Topor and Alejandro Jodorowsky, and even more exciting for me is the fact that he was in Michel Houellebecq’s La possibilité d’une île).  Whilst the two films are not overly similar, there is a similarity in the feel of the films – the female protagonist adopting different wigs throughout; the question mark over who the female protagonist is; a Russian prince pursuing the female protagonist.  Maybe this is all just in my imagination, but even on my first viewing of Le lapin de Noël I was immediately reminded of Qui êtes-vous Polly Magoo?

*SPOILER WARNING* contains plot details

The story is rather surreal anyway, but with no English subtitles at times I’m not totally sure I understood everything and I’ve probably missed some of the subtleties of the dialogue.  Anyway, here’s my vague understanding of the film:

Véronique wakes up on Christmas Eve and gets herself ready to go out to the Bibliothèque Nationale.  Downstairs she bumps into her glamorous concierge:

Outside she waits to cross the road and is assisted by the traffic policewoman:

Then she is thrown off the bus by a stern conductress who seems to be saying the bus is in the service of his majesty:

(Is this Zouzou? I don’t think it is, but if it’s not then I’m not sure where Zouzou appears in the film as I have now watched it three times and could not recognise her anywhere)

Finally Véronique decides to take a taxi instead and is picked up by a Russian taxi driver.  On the journey she reads her newspaper and asks the taxi driver to turn the radio down.  The taxi driver turns the radio up and as Véronique looks up from her paper she realises that it’s not the radio she is hearing but a Russian band in the street:

She gets out of the car and magically appears in a new wig and outfit.  The taxi driver addresses her as Catherine II of Russia, but she corrects him and tells him she is Véronique.  He seems to ignore this and tells her he is Grégoire Alexandrovich, Prince Potemkine.  It seems that time is on the blink; Véronique thinks they are in 1967 but Grégoire clearly thinks they are in the 18th century.

Some Russian dancers appear:

Then their journey continues, by horse and carriage rather than taxi, and on the way they have bizarre encounters with two men with bandaged heads:

With a gang of chained men (Les Charlots singing Hey Max) pulling a clock along and being whipped by Dani as they do so!

Then they see some people in a field, amongst them are a group of men who are amusing themselves by watching a man with his leg tied to a tree who is trying to reach a slice of bread on a plate which moves away each times he moves towards it.  Véronique is so disgusted by this cruelty that she gets out of the carriage and cuts the string tied around the man’s leg.  The gang of men are annoyed by this and accuse her of being a Bolshevik, taking her away in Grégoire’s carriage.  Grégoire is left behind shouting that she wanted to go to the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Véronique is taken to prison for her crimes and there she meets other prisoners including Annie Philippe:

And Hugues Aufray:

Véronique is taken to see the Chief of Police, who removes her wig.  Véronique is now wearing a Kiev t-shirt (a bit like the Polly t-shirt in Polly Magoo):

Véronique reminds the Chief of Police that they are in 1967 but he is not convinced by this.  He wants Véronique to talk and he calls for his assistant, an expert in torture:

The Chief of Police’s assistant tells Véronique that she is as beautiful as an icon but she will make her age by 30 years.  Véronique is not sure how she will do this – the answer is she does it with make-up!

Whilst Véronique talks throughout the entire process, she does not tell the Chief of Police what he wants to hear and by the end of the “torture” the assistant declares that it was a failure:

The Chief of Police has another method he decides to employ – dabbing honey on Véronique’s face and letting wasps loose!

At that moment Grégoire arrives and he kills the wasp.  He then dances with Véronique and sings a sad French song to her which moves the guards (men in chains, topless, wearing just gold shorts) to tears.  Véronique and Grégoire escape:

Then Grégoire is a ballet school tutor and Véronique appears as a petit rat but unfortunately her performance with a male ballet dancer is not to Grégoire’s taste and she is dismissed by him.  Véronique can’t understand why Grégoire doesn’t recognise her but he tells her she has to leave anyway:

Grégoire then appears at the Tsarevitch club with Régine and Serge Gainsbourg.  Grégoire and Régine talk and she slaps his face.  The sad Russian violin music obviously affects Serge’s Russian sensibilities; without a word he rises, finishes his drink, smashes the glass, reaches into the ice bucket to retrieve a gun, swivels the barrel, shoots and kills himself:

Grégoire and Régine laugh at this.  Then Véronique appears and sings a cappella in the club, which regains Grégoire’s attention.  He recognises a gesture Véronique makes of touching her eyebrow and mistakes her for someone called Anastasia; she goes along with this, instead of correcting Grégoire and telling him that she is Véronique.  They dance out of the club together:

Grégoire takes Véronique along to see Jean Yanne, telling him that he has found Anastasia.  Jean Yanne studies Véronique’s face and tells Grégoire that Véronique can’t possibly be Anastasia as she looks nothing like her; this despite the fact that the photos of Anastasia are actually Véronique.  Grégoire asks Véronique if she’s Anastasia and she says no.  He leaves in disappointment and Véronique follows  him out of the building:

When we next see the return of Véronique, she and Grégoire are in a spaceship in 2967.  Véronique is wearing a The Girl on a Motorcycle style outfit.  She recognises Grégoire and calls him Potemkine.  He tells her that she can call him Grégoire and then they kiss:

The glamorous concierge makes a final appearance in a space-age chainmail outfit:

Several clocks appear and explode:

When time explodes, Le lapin de Noël comes to an end.

I really enjoyed Le lapin de Noël and would definitely recommend seeing it, even if it is totally nonsensical!

 

 

Francoise Hardy on Film: L’Homme qui venait du Cher

For the second part of Françoise Hardy on Film we have L’Homme qui venait du Cher (dir Maurice Dumay, 1969).  This film is a little bit of a mystery to me because I haven’t yet been able to see it in full.  It’s a French TV movie, more a music special really, which has been made as a sort of comedy western from what I can gather.  It’s supposed to run at 55 minutes, but I have only seen 28 minutes of the film and what I have seen is pretty nonsensical really.

I signed up to Melody TV online to try and see the entire film as it shows up on their programmes list, but unfortunately it appears to be currently unavailable; I just have to hope that one day they will repeat it and I will be able to see the film in its entirety.  With a cast including Antoine and some of his colleagues from Les Problèmes, here under the guise of Les Charlots (not really my cup of tea, I’d much rather have a Problem than a Clown…), as well as Françoise Hardy and the wonderful Aphrodite’s Child, this is a film I really want in my collection.  Instead I had to make do with snippets from the film that someone had filmed on their TV set and then uploaded to YouTube; they should be thanked for this service of course, but sometimes the image moves out of frame and with there being another 27 minutes or so of the film missing it ends up becoming quite frustrating to watch.  And sometimes the sound is terrible too.  O dear…

Another complaint, this time aimed at the director/DOP, whilst I appreciate the fact that it’s hard work to film entire sequences in what appears to be just one uninterrupted take, it’s not necessary to shoot nearly all of the scene in extreme long shot or long shot (see Béla Tarr for details!) so you can’t even tell who the character is.  Is this Françoise Hardy?  Qui peut dire?

Well, it is.  Apparently.

I can’t really share the plot with you, as such, as I’m not entirely sure what was happening.  As things stand I didn’t see Antoine at all, except as a poster:

So I’m not sure what Antoine did in the film.  In fact, it’s not quite clear what Françoise’s role is either, but I was rather pleased to see her entering a church where Aphrodite’s Child perform End of the World (one of my favourites).  She just sits and watches them in silence:

When the track ends, she leaves the church immediately.  Maybe she was concerned, perhaps with good cause – basically, if a big hairy man says to you, “You should come with me to the end of the world, without telling your parents and your friends,” it’s probably best if you don’t go.  I would though – to quote Beverly in Abigail’s Party, “I like Demis Roussos.”

After the pleasures of Aphrodite’s Child, poor old Françoise goes outside and has to endure Eddy Mitchell singing at a podium:

Now, you’ll notice that there’s a strange symbol on the podium there – arrows pointing in opposite directions.  There was also a symbol with arrows on the Aphrodite’s Child drum kit:

And earlier in the film, a gang rode up on motorbikes and sprayed this symbol on a barn door for no apparent reason:

And this symbol was in another scene:

I have to say, yet again, I haven’t the foggiest idea what all this means.  I ceased to notice the symbols after a while anyway, so it ceased to bother me.

Anyway, next up Françoise serves tea to a group of men:

And then she leaves a building, singing Comment te dire adieu and is abducted by a gang of men on motorbikes:

The chap on the motorbike doesn’t look best-pleased (is it Herbert Léonard? I’m not 100% sure). But after walking past Memphis Slim, who is playing piano and singing outside an old house, Eddy Mitchell comes to the rescue and beats up all the gang and frees Françoise who was tied up and left in a room upstairs.  Eddy takes Françoise by the hand and tries to drive her away in a car which doesn’t appear to want to start.  Then the film ends suddenly:

What does it all mean?  I just don’t know.  And what does any of this have to do with Cher anyway?

This is not exactly a piece of excellent film-making, more like a fun TV special.  A few more close-shots wouldn’t have gone amiss either.  Anyway, if I ever get my hands on a full-length better quality copy I’ll update this.  And maybe the next Françoise Hardy on Film will be something a bit more serious.

Letter from an anti-hero: Louise Brooks

For years I have loved the actress Louise Brooks who I believe was quite possibly the most beautiful woman ever to have walked this earth. See what you think:

(Art photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston, 1924, from Jan Wahl collection)

But, although I still count her amongst my list of “heroes”, the more I have got to know her over the years by reading biographies and autobiographical articles I have found that it was also quite possible that she wasn’t that “nice” as a person.  That’s always hard to take when it comes to your heroes but I accepted it because I had the lovely Clara Bow to admire as a wonderfully warm person and (it has to be said) as the better actress of the two.  So, I’ve adopted Louise Brooks instead as my ultimate beauty and as one of my anti-heroes.

I have collected quite a few of Louise’s films over the years and probably in excess of a hundred photographs of her, as well as a few articles about her from film magazines of the era but for quite some time I was unable to get my hands on an autograph for my collection; Louise Brooks memorabilia is incredibly expensive.  Recently, though, I finally managed to scrape a few potatoes together and by some lucky coincidence I found a signed letter which was supposedly sent from Louise Brooks to someone called Ken.  The letter was within my price range but although I bought it from a reputable autograph dealer I still had nagging doubts in my head about whether or not the letter was genuine.  Of course I wanted to believe that it was, but then just the fact that it was signed Louise Brooks rather than Louise made me doubt; the fact that it was sent to Ken (was this really supposed to be Kenneth Tynan who she was known to be friendly with?) made me doubt; the fact that it was typed and then signed made me doubt.  But I tried to put those doubts to the back of my mind because, obviously, without getting a personal autograph signed in front of my very eyes (impossible) how was I ever going to be certain?

Anyway, here it is:

After scanning the letter and putting it away carefully for safe-keeping, I kind of forgot about it until my boyfriend bought me Jan Wahl’s fabulous book Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise Brooks (BearManor Media, USA, 2010).  Jan Wahl was a young student, working in the stills department at the Danish Film Museum and writing film articles for a magazine called Kosmorama when he met Louise Brooks in 1957.  They started a very long correspondence on the subject of film, dance, art and, something they both had in common, becoming a writer.

The letters were selected by Wahl from his collection spanning a period of 20 years, when it’s fair to say there were many ups and downs during the correspondence.  From reading Louise’s letters to Wahl and his explanations as to what lies behind some of her writings, you get the impression of someone who is pretty grouchy and sometimes just a little bit cold-hearted and cruel.  Wahl, on the other hand, comes across as a totally delightful young man; I should add that none of this is because of the way he writes about himself, in fact, the man does himself down if anything.  He comes across as being patient, sympathetic, understanding, peaceful and totally and utterly in love with film, which is always a point in anyone’s favour as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, aside from thoroughly enjoying Jan Wahl’s book, basically, it made me think that quite possibly my letter might be genuine after all – something about the tone of Louise’s letters; the red pencil; the layout; and, finally, the fact that the other side of the page had previously been typed on as part of a planned play, but the typing had been struck through with crosses.  As Wahl demonstrated in his book, Louise Brooks too was trying to work on her writing during that period…

From what I can make out of the struck-through text, it seems to indicate that it was to be p28 of a play and it was to be Act III, Scene IV – this it what it seems to say:

The [indecipherable text].  The stage is divided in half. The right-hand side represents Miss Vipond’s bedroom.  The left-hand scene is the corridor outside it. 

Maybe this was part of one of Louise’s planned plays or autobiographical writings, I don’t know, but it adds further interest to the letter.

Referring back to the letter to “Ken”, I am only guessing but the George mentioned by Louise could be George Pratt who was assistant to Louise Brooks’ one-time love James Card, both of whom worked at George Eastman House.   The Hearst ranch, of course, being the William Randolph Hearst castle, which Louise visited with her friend Pepi Lederer who was Marion Davies’ niece; Marion Davies was a silent movie actress herself but seems to be better known for being the longtime mistress of Hearst, who was a newspaper tycoon who wanted to make her famous.  She was an okay actress as it happens, but I guess some people take all the help they can get in whatever form they can get it.  Dorothy MacKail is Dorothy Mackaill, the silent movie actress, who was in Alfred Santell’s Just Another Blonde with Louise in 1926.  I am guessing that the Lasky book is I Blow My Own Horn by Jesse L Lasky, who was a film producer and one of the founders of Paramount Pictures.

The letter is quite a scandalous read but that makes it very interesting reading – I’m proud to have it in my collection of items from my heroes and I am keeping the faith that it is genuine after all!

I would suggest you all go off and buy Jan Wahl’s book now or treat yourself to some of the available Louise Brooks DVDs – there are quite a few out there.

Francoise Hardy on Film: What’s New Pussycat?

One of my favourite French singers is the wonderful Françoise Hardy.  Aside from her extensive career as a singer and songwriter, she works as an astrologer and from time to time has also made appearances in feature films.  Here on Hero Culte I will bring attention to some of the films Françoise Hardy has appeared in – Françoise Hardy on Film part one focuses on Clive Donner’s film What’s New Pussycat? (1965):

In the book Françoise Hardy – superstar et ermite by (Françoise Hardy superfan) Étienne Daho and Jérôme Soligny (Jacques Grancher, Paris, 1986), Françoise Hardy said:

“I was asked to participate at the end of the film and I agreed in the hope of glimpsing Peter O’Toole.  But the filming was so fast that I have no recollection of it.  I know that it took me an afternoon and I got paid 2,500 francs, which was a lot at the time; I thought it was good pay for meeting Peter O’Toole.”  (p31)

Apparently due to the shortness of her appearance, she insisted that her name should not appear on the credits to the film although it does now appear on the credit listing on IMDB.

It was a great choice of film to appear in, with a ridiculously silly script by Woody Allen (another hero of mine, but that’s another story…) and a top-class cast including the gorgeous Romy Schneider, the even more gorgeous Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers (looking like he was auditioning to be in a garage punk band with his large glasses and Prince Valiant haircut and velvet suit)  and the fabulous Howard Vernon, amongst many others.

The DVD of the film is readily and cheaply available if you should want to see it.  Expect to wait a long time for Françoise Hardy’s appearance, however, as she really does appear at the end of the film (1hr 42 minutes into a film lasting only 1hr 48 minutes including the credits) and then it is just a very short appearance:

Françoise is the Mayor’s Assistant who records the marriage of Michael (Peter O’Toole) and Carole (Romy Schneider) and somehow manages to come between the newly-weds when Michael refers to her as “Pussycat”, as a result Carole tells him that he can go on the honeymoon alone.

As Michael and Carole argue, Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers) takes the opportunity to introduce himself as the witness and best man.  He tells the Mayor’s Assistant that his name, for the record, is Fritz Wolfgang Sigismund Fassbender and she tells him, “I can’t spell Sigismund.”

Dr Fassbender decides that her inability to spell “that naughty name” Sigismund indicates a sexual block and as a result he takes her on as his new patient.

Michael and Carole continue to argue in the background and the credits roll.  That is your lot.  But it’s such an entertaining film and the soundtrack music, which would seriously have benefited from a track by Françoise Hardy, is arranged by Charles Blackwell, who worked fairly extensively with Françoise back in the 1960s.  And, of course, Françoise looks fabulous so What’s New Pussycat? is a must for any Françoise Hardy fan.

That’s all for now, Françoise Hardy on Film part two to follow at some point in the near future, so come back soon!

(The English translation of the quote from Françoise Hardy – superstar et ermite is by me, mistakes and all; I try my best, folks!)