Today is the birthday of one of my role models—Louise Brooks. Born on November 14, 1906 in Cherryvale, Kansas, she conquered New York as a teen, dancing first with the famed Denishawn Dance Company before joining the casts of the George White Scandals and the Ziegfeld Follies.
When the movies came calling, Brooks answered although she found the whole process rather boring. Usually cast as care-free flappers in light fare, Brooks got the chance to display some serious acting when she played a girl disguised as a boy on the run from the authorities in William Wellman’s Beggars of Life (1928).
With her stick-straight dark bob, pale skin, and lithe figure, Brooks epitomized the new woman of the 1920s. And she also had the flapper’s devil-may-care attitude in spades. Always a rebel, she insisted on living life on her own terms, even when her decisions were detrimental to herself. And so when G.W. Pabst asked Brooks to come to Berlin to make a film, she hightailed it out of Hollywood and headed for Europe where she made Pandora’s Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Prix de beauté (1930). Although not a hit at the time, Pandora's Box is now considered one of the best films of German cinema.
When she returned to the States, Brooks made a few B movies but her career was over, and she faded into obscurity. It would take a few decades before she was rediscovered by film lovers, prompting the French cinephile Henri Langlois to declare, "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich. There is only Louise Brooks." In her later years Brooks turned to writing, publishing a well-regarded collection of essays, Lulu in Hollywood, in 1982 before she passed away on August 8, 1985.
I’ve long admired Brooks' talent, her personal code, and her style (one of the reasons why I wear my hair bobbed) so I am happy to say, Happy Birthday, Lulu!