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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

STAR OF THE MONTH: Louise Brooks

For February, the month of hearts, let us pay tribute to one of the broken ones: Louise Brooks.

"Brooksie" is a truly confounding individual. She had the talent and charisma within her to take the world by storm, which she did, and the opportunity to luxuriate in fame and fortune, which she did not. Louise wasn't interested in the trappings of stardom, mostly because she wasn't interested in being "trapped." What she loved was freedom, liberty, and the experience of all things powerful, pleasurable, and sensual, (both mentally and physically). Growing up in a home devoid of any real emotion or nurturing, Louise learned to take care of herself and to explore life through a purely cerebral and animal way. There was no room for vulnerability or romance, and love was a word that her vocabulary failed to define. Her early sexual abuse also led to her social disenfranchisement, which left a vacancy within her-- something she couldn't quite understand, a void she could never fill. She would search in vain for an anchor but was always sent adrift in a sea of questioning and doubt.

This inner turmoil was unrecognized by the public, who ate up Louise's unparalleled, photogenic face and lightning bolt, onscreen presence like forbidden fruit. A born dancer, Louise enjoyed cinema but never wanted to be an actress. Movie stardom, it turns out, needed her more than she needed it. On a sort of whim, Louise took on the challenge of acting, probably out of curiosity but mostly for the money-- she loved to spend money on books and clothes, the only things worth having in her opinion. She would eventually be renowned for her fashion sense and especially for her "Buster Brown" haircut, the definitive flapper look, which all young girls began to copy. Her films in America were normally lackluster, noteworthy only because of her presence. After she had had enough of Paramount and the sadistic B.P. Schulberg, she journeyed to Germany and did the best work of her life with the influential G.W. Pabst. Pandora's Box and The Diary of a Lost Girl, though panned during their own time, are hailed as cinematic classics today and are some of the best silent works of art to ever come out of celluloid.

Louise was hard on her career failures, and after returning to America, she made a few more paltry films, mostly westerns, (yes, really), and returned to Kansas and the family that had formed her into a hungering curiosity. She wandered listlessly, dancing awhile, then finally found salvation in the written word back in her beloved NY. She penned many articles-- all highly praised-- on cinema, its stars, and its social implications, most of which were printed in foreign film magazines. Her "bio," Lulu in Hollywood, re-awakened the Louise Brooks fervor, and in her last years she became a sensation once again, but this time for her more personally valued intelligence and talent and not her beauty.

Louise remains a mystery, mostly because all of the seeming advantages she had within her grasp, she flippantly and even coldly turned her back on. She was always at once strong and doomed-- desperate to be loved and intensely afraid of it. She never understood her purpose or her impact on the public, and so she could not trust it. An enigma, an alluring vixen, a heartbroken child, Louise was everything and all at once. It was this sense of her intensity and energy that drew audiences to her like moths to a very, VERY hot flame. We are still drawn, searching endlessly in the beautiful faces of "Lulu," "Thymian," and "Fox Trot" for the lost secrets of Louise Brooks.




  1. I really learned alot from your post .Louise seemed to have it all. She kinda got lost during that silent to talkie era yet she remains one of the most famous stars of that time. Unlike Garbo I’m not sure they knew what to do with her. A gal ahead of her time.

  2. I learned a lot about her too during the last month. She was truly remarkable and perplexing!! A fascinating subject. I now adore her. As Tertulias says: simply wonderful :)

  3. Hey! I just wanted you to know that I nominated you for an award!