Augusto Genina’s Prix de Beauté (Beauty Prize) 1930 features the luminous Louise Brooks in her last major role. It tells the story of bored Parisian typist Lucienne, who enters a newspaper beauty contest as a lark only to find herself the winning contestant. Glamour and romance beckon, including a royal suitor, Lucienne is caught between the opportunity to escape her mundane life and the desires of her jealous boyfriend.
As Dennis Harvey wrote for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival:
Beauty pageants were still a relatively novel object of public curiosity at the time, and Genina brings a near documentary feel to much of the early film. More novel still was the ambitious script’s gender dynamic [written by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and René Clair]. While a typical movie of the era (and for many years after) found the career girl coming to her senses and realising that all she really wants is to stay home and do hubby’s washing, here Lucienne is clearly oppressed by André’s controlling love.
Prix de Beauté was produced over the period when cinema was transitioning from silent to sound, and two versions of the film were completed, with the rather clunky early sound film more generally available. This presentation, with live accompaniment by David Bailey on the Gallery’s 1929 Wurlitzer organ (originally housed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre), showcases recent restoration by the Cineteca di Bologna of the superior silent version.
The free screening is part of the Australian Cinémathèque’s ongoing program ‘Live Film and Music’, at GOMA. Prix de Beauté screens on 31 August at 11.00am.