It gives me great pleasure to introduce special guest contributor: Thomas Gladysz! Thomas is an arts journalist, author, founder of the Louise Brooks Society, and great friend of STARTS THURSDAY!
|The American Venus (1926)|
The film was billed as a “novel and magnificent beauty-comedy special.” What made it special was not only its all-star cast, but also the fact that some scenes were filmed in Technicolor. “The American Venus” was one of the earlier films to feature the then new color process.
Parts of “The American Venus” were shot at the 1925 Miss America contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey - where Oakland, California resident Fay Lanphier was crowned that year’s Miss America. It’s her image depicted on the coming attraction slide.
|Exhibitor's manual for The American Venus|
The cast includes lovely Esther Ralston (nicknamed the “American Venus”), San Francisco-born leading man Lawrence Gray, comedian Ford Sterling, and up-and-comer Louise Brooks in her second film. Renowned artist W.T. Benda, character actor Ernest Torrence, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. also have supporting roles.
In the 1920’s, national beauty contests were a recent phenomenon. And in this age of ballywho, considerable press coverage was given over to just about every facet of the contest. That’s why Lanphier – then enjoying the peak of her celebrity – was featured on the glass slide. This was the nation’s chance to see moving pictures of the current Miss America!
|Promotions price list for The American Venus|
Fay Lanphier enjoyed considerable fame after winning the 1925 Miss America contest; she wrote articles, judged local beauty contests, and made personal appearances around the country – many in conjunction with the screening of “The American Venus.” However, her movie career never developed. Lanphier appeared in only one other film, a Laurel and Hardy short entitled “Flying Elephants” (1928). Later, the honey-blond beauty worked as a stenographer in Hollywood.
Today, “The American Venus” is considered a lost film. All that remains are its ephemeral material culture – like glass slides, lobby cards, movie heralds, and a couple of trailers uncovered in Australia in the late 1990’s.
Trailer for The American Venus
Thomas Gladysz is an arts journalist and author. Recently, he wrote the introduction to the new “Louise Brooks edition” of Margarete Böhme's classic novel, The Diary of a Lost Girl (PandorasBox Press). He writes and blogs about early film from his book and DVD filled apartment in San Francisco. Gladysz loves reading and writing and old movies. More at www.thomasgladysz.com.