Happy Birthday, Brooksie.

The great art of films does not consist in descriptive movement of face and body, but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation.
~ Louise Brooks

On this day 101 years ago, Louise Brooks, patron saint of unrepentant flappers, was born. By all accounts, she was a fiercely intelligent and complicated woman who would not suffer fools in an industry that consists of nearly nothing but. She made only 25 films before being blacklisted walking away from Hollywood at the height of her career, and remains one of the most iconic, (in)famous starlets of all time.

Although she is perhaps better known for the trademark black bob that launched a thousand Red Hot Mamas, Brooks also happens to be one of the most remarkable actresses, um, well… EVER. Onscreen, the one-time Ziegfeld dancer carries herself with effortless grace. Brooks understood that great acting was more about reacting than anything else. In stark contrast to many of her mawkish, mugging co-stars, she seems more comfortable, more real, somehow.

In particular, the nuanced performances coaxed out of her by German Expressionist director G.W. Pabst in the two 1929 films they made together, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl are painfully beautiful. Despite (or maybe because of) Brooks’ prickly real-life demeanor, her innocent, doomed Lulu is one of the most tragically lovable figures ever committed to celluloid.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://youtube.com/v/KeHGLHGjLQI” width=”400″ height=”330″ wmode=”transparent” /]

Upon their initial release, both of these films went overlooked, largely due to being silent films in an era where “talkies” were already taking over. Both were strictly censored due to racy sexual themes and Pabst’s harsh criticism of hypocritical societal norms. It wasn’t until the 1950s when French film historians started rhapsodizing about her that Brooks (who had since worked as a department store clerk for 40 bucks a week, among other odd jobs) began to get the accolades she so richly deserved.

Some links of interest, photos, and quotes from the birthday girl:

How often do we change the whole course of our lives in pursuit of a love that we will have forgotten within a few months.

I have a gift for enraging people, but if I ever bore you it will be with a knife.

I never gave away anything without wishing I had kept it; nor kept it without wishing I had given it away.

A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world.

I believe absolutely that the reader cannot understand the character and deeds of the subject unless he is given a basic understanding of that person’s sexual loves and hates and conflicts.

When I went to Hollywood in 1927, the girls were wearing lumpy sweaters and skirts…I was wearing sleek suits and half naked beaded gowns and piles and piles of furs.

Every actor has a natural animosity toward every other actor, present or absent, living or dead.

Love is a publicity stunt, and making love – after the first curious raptures – is only another petulant way to pass the time waiting for the studio to call.

Most beautiful dumb girls think they are smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren’t much smarter.

In my dreams I am not crippled. In my dreams, I dance.

12 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Brooksie.”

  1. nadyalev Says:

    I love her! She’s amazing. I recently saw a documentary about her called “Lulu in Berlin” in which she gave an interview. She was clever, intelligent and graceful. There is only one Brooks!

  2. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I never knew. I’m smitten.

  3. john colby Says:

    She looked good til the day she died.

  4. john colby Says:



  5. k paul blume Says:

    Thank-you — I have always adored (in every sense of the word) Brooks and only wish I had run into her while still living in the same city.

  6. D Says:

    Quite stunning. I’d never have gotten interested in her without a short story by Gaiman.

    Anyone know who shot those images of her with a long pearl necklace in black on black?

  7. E. Black Says:

    I was just thinking about Louise Brooks yesterday. A beautiful woman who I absolutely adored also.

  8. theremina Says:

    D, those shotswere taking by Eugene Robert Richee, who probably photographed her more than anyone else.
    She had a wry quote about him, too: “Eugene Richee used to take sixty shots in two hours. We never said a word to each other. Perfect relationship.”

  9. Twosixteen Says:

    My god but she is beautiful.

  10. D Says:

    Theremina, thank you. (That does sound like a good relationship.)

  11. Tanya Says:

    She also wrote a lovely book, with a sharp and sarcastic tone entirely her own. In fact, she really could have stood up to Dorothy Parker when it came to cutting down some of her contemporaries.

  12. theremina Says:

    Tanya, you’re referring to “Lulu In Hollywood” right? (Linked to above.)
    I love that she can be witty and spiteful in one breath, and deeply compassionate the next. So unpredictable.