BFI uncovers rare Technicolor footage of Louise Brooks

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The BFI announces the discovery of extremely rare Technicolor film fragments from the 1920s held by the BFI National Archive, including previously unseen footage of iconic American film actress and dancer Louise Brooks dancing in colour. The very image of the modern woman, this tantalising glimpse of Louise Brooks comes from The American Venus (1926), her first credited film role and is one of the only images we have of her in colour.

The fragment from The American Venus (1926) was found alongside material from The Far Cry (1926), The Fire Brigade (1926) and Dance Madness (1926) within a copy of Black Pirate (1926), donated to the Archive by The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1959.

In the same print of Black Pirate, there is also a test shot for historical drama Mona Lisa (1926) starring Hedda Hopper, the ‘Queen of the Quickies’ and legendary acerbic Hollywood gossip columnist for the LA Times, whose biting wit was recently portrayed by Judy Davis in award-winning TV series Feud. The fragment shows Hedda Hopper as Mona Lisa in repose, one assumes, about to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci. No other material from Mona Lisa is currently held by any film archive.

Edited clips with contextual voiceover by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive silent film curator.