splash  In her last starring role and last European film — a French production titled Prix de beauté, Louise Brooks plays a typist stuck in a dull job who wins a beauty contest. Like Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, Prix de beauté is a tragedy in which misfortune befalls the character played by Brooks. In a sense, the film can be seen as the third in a European trilogy starring the actress. The film is notable for being the first sound film to feature Brooks, although her dialogue and singing were dubbed, as well as one of the earliest French sound films.

Production of Prix de beauté was problematic. Intended as silent film and based on a story by G.W. Pabst and Rene Clair (with the French Clair as the intended director), funding for the project fell apart, and its production delayed. This was at the time when the European cinema was transitioning to sound. Eventually, Prix de beauté was released as a “talkie” under the direction of Augusto Genina, an Italian, with the Polish-born Rudolph Maté acting as cinematographer.

In June, 1930 Morris Gilbert wrote an article on the changing French film industry for the New York Times. He noted that a handful of American stars were appearing in French productions, including “Louise Brooks, a product of young Hollywood, is starring in the French Prix de beauté.” Gilbert’s mention was one of the first the film received in the United States.

That same month, writing in the British journal Close-Up, Charles E. Stenhouse gave the film one its first English-language reviews. Stenhouse wrote, “Louise Brooks [was] looking very photogenic as Miss France but not acting as well as when directed by Pabst. Never has one of Pabst’s discoveries achieved more than when under his inspiring influence. Greta Garbo! Brigitte Helm! And now Louise Brooks! The big trick in Prix de beauté is its remarkable ending, which redeems the previous passages whose very mediocrity emphasizes the ending’s splendour. An exceptional one and for once not a happy one. . . . A trick – but really one of beauty and irony, and at last a morsel of true sound-film technique.”

Variety reviewed the film on September 3, 1930. Writing about the Berlin screening, Magnus gave Prix de beauté a mixed notice. “In itself this talker is neither better nor worse than most others. . . . It shows the right conception for facts, a natural way of looking at things and reality. . . . This talker is very interesting, if only for the scene when the little girl has sunk back dead in her chair and her tune-picture continues singing from the screen. . . . Owing to bad synchronization this talker is a failure. . . . The acting is very good. Louise Brooks looks charming and she knows how to move.”

Miss Europa, as it was titled in Germany, did poor business, and reportedly only played for five days in August 1930. The film played across Europe — from Iceland to Poland, as well as in now former French colonies, like Algeria and Haiti. The film was not shown in the United States until decades later.

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STORY SYNOPSIS:
Lucienne, a typist, decides to enter the ‘Miss Europe’ pageant sponsored by a French newspaper. Her jealous boyfriend violently disapproves and tries to get her to withdraw, but it’s too late; Lucienne is named Miss France and quickly whisked off to the Miss Europe finals, where admirers swarm around her. Among them is a maharajah and a prince. Andre shows up and gives her an ultimatum — return to France with him within the hour, or their relationship is over. Lucienne is torn, but chooses Andre. They return to their previous life, but Lucienne is miserable and longs for the life of glamour for which she seemed destined.

PRODUCTION HISTORY:
The film was shot mostly around Paris between August 29 and September 27, 1929, specifically at the Studios Joinville, Joinville-le-pont, Val-de-Marne, France. The scenes of the Miss Europe beauty pageant held in San Sebastian, Spain (an actual event) were filmed in Paris at the Jardin d’ Acclimatation, where thousands of spectators had gathered.

CAST:

Louise Brooks
Lucienne Garnier
Georges Charlia
André
H. Bandini
Antonin
André Nicolle
Newspaper publisher
M. Ziboulsky
Manager
Yves Glad
Maharajah
Alex Bernard
Photographer
Gaston Jacquet
Duke de la Tour Chalgrin
Jean Bradin
Prince Adolphe de Grabovsky
Fanny Clair
(uncredited) .
Henri Crémieux
(uncredited) .
Hélène Regelly
voice double for Louise Brooks (uncredited) ..
Raymonde Sonny
 (uncredited) . . .

CREDITS:

Studio:
SOFAR Film (La Société des Films Artistiques)
Distributor:
SOFAR-Location
Producer:
Romain Pines
Director:
Augusto Genina
Assistant Director:
Edmond T. Gréville
Writing Credits:
René Clair and G. W. Pabst (story), Augusto Genina, René Clair, Bernard Zimmer, and Alessandro de Stefani (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Rudolph Maté, Louis Née
Sound Editor:
Horace Shepherd
Sound Recordings:
Hermann Storr
Sound Montage:
E. Kratsch
Musical Editor:
Francis Salsbert
Musical Adaption:
Horace Shepherd
Original music:
Wolfgang Zeller, René Sylviano, and Horace Shepherd
Set Design:
Robert Gys
Costumes:
Jean Patou (for Louise Brooks)
Casting:
Fernard Lefebvre
Format:
Silent – black & white | sound – black & white
Running Time:
88 minutes (silent version 109 minutes); reported as 2368 meters
Premiere:
May 9, 1930 at the Max Linder-Pathe in Paris, France
Release date:
August 20, 1930
Country of Origin:
France

ALTERNATE TITLES:
Under it’s French title, Prix de beauté, documented screenings of the film took place in Algeria, Belgium, Haiti, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been exhibited or written about under other-language titles including Vanidad (Argentina); Miss Europa (Czechoslovakia); Der Schönheitspreis (Czechoslovakia); Beauty Prize (England); Miss Europe (England); Miss Europa (Germany); Preis der Schönheit (Germany); Der Schönheitpreis (Germany); Fegurdardrottning Europu (Iceland); Miss Europa (Italy); Premio di bellezza (Italy); Regina di bellezza (Italy); Premija par skaistumu (Latvia); Miss Europa (Der Schonheitspreis) (Luxembourg); Miss Europa (The Netherlands); Schoonheidsprijs (The Netherlands); Skjønhetskonkurransen (Norway); Kobieto nie grzesz (Poland); Nagroda pieknosci (Poland); Nie Grzesz Kobieto (Poland); Prémio de Beleza (Portugal); Nagrada za lepoto (Slovenia); Zrtev velike ljubezni (Slovenia); Premio de belleza (Spain); Güzellik Ödülü (Turkey – contemporary); Приз за красоту (U.S.S.R.); Beauty Prize (United States); Miss Europe (United States); Vanidad (Uruguay); and Vanidad (Venezuela).

STATUS:
The film is extant. Over the years, the sound version has been released for home video on VHS and DVD. Prix de beauté has been restored in a silent version by the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna from a silent copy with Italian inter-titles from the Cineteca Italiana and a French sound copy from the Cinémathèque française. The silent version has been shown at various festivals, including the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2013 and International Istanbul Silent Cinema Days in 2015. The silent version has not been released on home video.

REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES:
— articles to come

TRIVIA: about the film

— For the European market, Prix de beauté was released in four languages – French, English, German and Italian. Brooks’ voice was dubbed by Hélène Regelly (in French) and Donatella Neri (in Italian).

— The film’s cinematographer was Rudolph Maté. Born in Poland, he worked throughout Europe before moving to Hollywood in the mid 1930s. His European credits include several of Carl Th. Dreyer’s films, including The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Vampyr (1932). In America, his credits include Dodsworth (1936), the Laurel and Hardy feature Our Relations (1936), Stella Dallas (1937), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and Gilda (1946). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in five consecutive years, for Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940), Alexander Korda’s That Hamilton Woman (1941), Sam Wood’s The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Zoltan Korda’s Sahara (1943), and Charles Vidor’s Cover Girl (1944). In 1947, Maté turned to directing. His credits include the film noir D.O.A. (1950), the sci-fi classic When Worlds Collide (1951), and the influential epic The 300 Spartans (1962).

— In an early scene, Louise Brooks is seen singing “Je n’ai qu’un amour, c’est toi.” As she did not speak French, Brooks’ singing was also dubbed. There has been speculation as to who the performer might be, as the film does not credit anyone. Some have suggested Edith Piaf. In actuality, the singer was Hélène Caron. Her recording of “Je n’ai qu’un amour, c’est toi” was issued as a 78 rpm on the Parlaphone label. Additionally, in 1930, Berthe Sylva and Marthe Coiffier also recorded the song – a charming chanson of love and jealousy. (In 1990, Les Primitifs du Futur, a French musical group whose members include the cartoonist Robert Crumb, recorded a new version entitled “Chanson pour Louise Brooks.”)

— On June 15, 1930 Morris Gilbert wrote an article on the changing French film industry for the New York Times. He noted “Louise Brooks, a product of young Hollywood, is starring in the French Prix de beauté.” This marked the first mention of the film in an American publication. Prix de beauté, however, was not shown in the United States until decades later.

— For two weeks in June 1930, while Prix de beauté was showing at the Max-Linder in Paris, another Brooks’ film, Trois pages d’un journal (Diary of a Lost Girl), was showing at another Parisian theater, the Colisée.

— In 1932, Editions Jules Tallandier published an illustrated novelization of the film as part of its Cinema-Bibliotheque series. Boisyvon, who would go on to establish himself as a film historian and critic, wrote the story.

Prix de beauté was still in circulation as late as 1933, where screenings of the film took place in Haiti.

— In 1974, Kenneth Anger produced an Art Deco film festival in San Francisco that featured Prix de beauté.