27 September 2012
Praised for her silent films, you usually don’t associate Louise Brooks with sound. But she did make a few second-rate talkies before finally calling it quits in Hollywood. There are some interviews with the actress later in life in which she talks up a storm but they aren't the same as hearing a young Louise speak in a black and white film.
Her first speaking role was in Windy Riley Goes Hollywood in 1931. A comedy short, it's the story of braggart Windy Riley (Jack Shutta) who, while in a race from New York to San Francisco, accidentally ends up in Hollywood where he finds himself in the publicity department at a movie studio assigned to help revive the career of the studio’s star Betty Grey (Louise Brooks) who’s been receiving some bad press. His efforts lead to near disaster but in the end Riley manages to save the day.
This film would be forgettable today if not for two things. First is director William Goodrich who was none other than Fatty Arbuckle, the great comedian who was unjustly accused of killing actress Virginia Rappe in 1921. After the scandal the disgraced Arbuckle was forced to use a pseudonym if he wanted to work hence William Goodrich.
Then there is Louise Brooks. While the part of Betty Grey isn’t much, you get to hear Louise's voice for the first time. She appears to hesitate a bit, like many actors did in the early days of sound, but the quality of her voice is just fine, clear with perfect diction. She is lovely as ever in the film even though she appears without her trademark bangs (something that I never get used to). You also get to see a snippet of her dancing, which is a huge bonus.
The film is an extra on the Kino DVD of Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). But you can also watch the full film here. So if you haven't heard Louise speak, check it out and enjoy!