Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vintage Books {Lulu in Hollywood}

Along with ZaSu Pitts in Greed, Lillian Gish in The Wind, Renée Jeanne Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc and Janet Gaynor in Sunrise, Louise Brooks in her two Pabst films are among the best performances by an actress in silent films. I think a lot of people have seen pictures of Louise Brooks and have never seen her films (of course they aren't that widely available).
When I first read this book, the only one of her films that I'd seen is the library's badly stretched VHS of Pandora's Box and I instantly saw her appeal and her potential for becoming the greatest actress. I think I was reading the Barry Paris biography at the same time, but I felt that I learned more about her by reading her own words. When I was rereading the essays this week, I can't help but want more. The seven essays that Louise Brooks wrote are some of the most marvellous essays that I've ever read. Like Colleen Moore's book, Miss Brooks focused on her life until she retired from acting.
Her essays are extremely witty, very detailed, well-written and highly controlled. We do get a sense of her personality and her motives behind her decision to quit the movies (she said that she hated Hollywood) but she is also very guarded about her life and so she only tells us what she wants us to know. There are seven essays in this book (and as far as I can find out, these are her only published works since she burnt her autobiographical novel) however, only three of them are specifically about herself.
There's her childhood and becoming a Denishawn dancer and a Ziegfeld Girl both while she was a teenager, there's an account of shooting Beggars of Life on location and then her tale of how she walked out on her Paramount contract and went to Europe to make three films.
The other four essays are about people that she knew in the Twenties and her account and more importantly, her analysis of certain events or just their personalities and a record of their method of working. The one that I find most interesting, in terms of film history, is how easily she was able to explain why Miss Gish's star dropped at the same time that Garbo became Garbo.
Louise Brooks was definitely ahead of her time, but she still took the time and care to observe and remember her time and it is her writing which has helped to make her a legend. And perhaps, she is ahead of even our time.

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