Louise Brooks, forever Lulu

Louise Brooks.

The American actress and writer who became one of the most famous faces of silent film in an artistic career that barely lasted 13 years


She was the perfect incarnation of the fatal woman, one of the most emblematic faces of silent cinema, who has gone down in history for her character as Lulu, a vampire who dragged all men to perdition in the movie ‘Pandora’s Box ‘(1928), by GW Pabst.

American Louise Brooks (Cherryvale, November 14, 1906 – Rochester, August 8, 1985) was an American actress and writer who became one of the most famous faces of silent film in an artistic career that lasted just 13 years. Brooks became an excellent dancer in her teens. After settling in New York to complete her training and lose her local accent, she began her career in show business as a dancer and under the protection of influential friends, she managed to enter the Broadway ‘Ziegfeld Follies’ where she was soon discovered by Paramount. , the studios for which he made the vast majority of his American films.

His first film was’ The Street Of Forgotten Men ‘, from 1925. Shortly after, he began to play leading roles in different comedies over the following years:’ The American Venus’ (1926) by Frank Tuttle, ‘A Social Celebrity ‘(1926) a Malcolm St. Clair comedy starring Adolphe Menjou,’ Love’em And Leave’em ‘(1927), another film directed by Tuttle or’ A love in every port (1928), film directed by Howard Hawks , in which she was already playing a vampire, which helped her become known in Europe. What is considered his best performance in an American film was in “Beggars for Life” (1928) by William Wellman, in which he plays a sexually abused small town girl who runs away with two homeless people. At that time in her life she was moving in high society circles and was a regular guest at parties at William Randolph Hearst’s mansion. In 1926 she married director A. Edward Sutherland, with whom she worked on “It’s The Old Army Game” (1926), a comedy starring WC Fields. In 1928 Sutherland and Louise were divorced. In 1928 she had an affair with William S. Paley, and she was also related to Charles Chaplin. With her medium hair and short dresses, Louise Brooks was a fashion icon, who perfectly embodied the ‘flapper’ of the 1920s, those emancipated young women who shocked puritan American society. Her hairstyle had created style and many women cut their hair in imitation of her. Over the years, the comic ‘Valentina’ would be inspired by her face and haircut.

With the triumph of talkies and now free of his contract with Paramount, Brooks decided to go to Europe to shoot under the orders of the German expressionist director Georg Wilhelm Pabst, who had claimed it years before, to which Paramount had refused. In Germany, she will star in Pabst’s film ‘Pandora’s Box’ (1928), taking the role from a little-known Marlene Dietrich, in which she plays Lulu, a sexual vampire who ends up being murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper, after dragging all his lovers to perdition. This was the movie that made Louise Brooks a myth. The film is interesting for its modern treatment of sexuality, introducing the appearance of lesbianism on the screen for the first time. He then shot the social drama ‘Three pages of a diary’ (1929), again under the command of Pabst, another silent film masterpiece, and in France ‘Prix de Beaute’ (1930). The three films were severely censored due to their content being considered too ‘adult’ and the scandal caused by the open treatment of sexuality, in addition to their strong social criticism. They went unnoticed by the general public because at that moment there was the emergence of talkies, silent films quickly losing all its appeal.

When she decided to return to Hollywood, after her European adventure, she found that the studios had blacklisted her, so she did not enjoy the success she had before leaving for Europe, although she would still make seven films before resigning. to your career. In 1938 he permanently retired from the cinema dedicating himself to dance, writing and painting, activities that he practiced until his death. In the early 1950s, French film historians rediscovered the figure of Louise Brooks in a silent film retrospective at the French Cinematheque and proclaimed her a film icon. This renewed interest in his figure led to various retrospectives that managed to rehabilitate his situation in the United States. Brooks moved to Rochester (New York) in 1956, invited by the International Museum of Photography, which preserves the largest collection of his films. With their help, he began a more than notorious and prestigious career as a chronicler of the silent film era and writing his autobiography. After living many years alone, Brooks died on August 8, 1985 of a heart attack, at the age of 78, having suffered from arthritis and emphysema in her later years.